Speaker: Send Mailers to Hispanics in Spanish

NEW YORK — Direct marketers seeking the next big frontier to mail should look no further than the U.S. Hispanic market.

Here's the biggest reason: Spanish speakers per capita receive only 10 mailers in Spanish compared with 100 pieces in English for the average American. If potential's not the deal sealer, what about response?

“You get a 50 percent to 400 percent higher response doing the same thing you do in English [if done] in Spanish,” said Rick Blume, vice president of multicultural list marketing at 21st Century Marketing, Farmingdale, NY.

Blume was addressing attendees this week at the Direct Marketing Association's 10th Annual Directo Days Conference here.

Some of the most active users of Spanish-speaking lists are Catholic fundraisers, health marketers for family programs, credit card companies, telemarketers, publishers, packaged-goods firms and retailers, he said.

But they are among the few that take time to understand the nuances, contradictions and opportunities in the domestic Hispanic market.

Start with the size of available lists. Judging by Spanish-speaking households, the market has 13.1 million names and 10.46 million households. But going by Hispanic-sounding surnames, there are 14.33 million individuals and 7.4 million households. Finally, 2.78 million Hispanic business executives are on files.

For an ethnic segment that accounts for almost one out of seven Americans, it has few lists. There are an estimated 600 Hispanic consumer lists, 50 Hispanic business lists and 150 e-mail lists, according to the Marketing Information Network.

Within those database groups are mail-order buyers from catalogers; subscriber lists from magazines; compiled lists sourced from the Yellow Pages; surname lists and government services. And like most lists, overlap exists.

“Those lists cover 70 percent of the U.S. Hispanic market,” said Mauricio Herrera, vice president of sales at New York-based Hugo Dunhill Mailing Lists Inc. and general chair of the DMA Directo: Council for Hispanic Marketing.

But some of the biggest files are not on the market. Telecommunications companies are notorious for keeping their names close to the vest.

Also, not all Hispanic databases are compiled the same way.

So, the Spanish-speaking files are generated from Spanish-language promotions. Blume considers them good lists because the names raised their hands to receive mail offers in Spanish, a language many Hispanics use at home.

On the other hand, English-speaking surname or last-name files are built on Hispanics who prefer to receive communications and offers in English. And e-mail files mirror the postal.

Marketers must be careful, though. Identifying Hispanics on house files or rented lists requires skill. Case in point: It is easy to confuse a Filipino surname for a Hispanic one. The surname table should be examined closely.

Who is more likely to prefer Spanish communications? Check for first names. A name like Roberto instead of the anglicized Robert gives a hint.

“Bump it up against a database of people that responded to Spanish offers,” Blume said. “Start flagging through customer files.”

Marketers should note that glaring differences often exist between Spanish-speaking lists and surname files. There are more Spanish-speaking files than the surname lists, which tend to have Hispanics preferring bilingual communications.

The audience of Spanish-speaking files tends to be unassimilated since it comprises many immigrants. The surname files are more assimilated, compiled as they are from general lists and telephone entries in directories.

Not surprisingly, Spanish-speaking files garner a higher response rate to Spanish offers. Surname files report lower responses.

Herrera has a few pointers on obtaining a better Hispanic list. Start with the profile. Is it a customer or a prospect? Define whether the objective is leads or sales. Identify the sources of names — mail-order buyers, directory, subscribers and so on. How often these names are updated is another issue.

Also, what selects are available? For Hispanic businesses, it could be SIC codes. For Hispanic consumers it could be dwelling type vs. multiple families.

An important consideration is hotline names, consumers who placed orders most recently. In addition to recency, frequency reaching three orders in the past six months is ideal. Also check the monetary value of those orders.

Marketers also should look at usage of the lists. Financial institutions using the same list gives an idea of how viable they think those names are. If they continue using these lists, it is certain the names respond well to offers.

Herrera suggests marketers merge and undupe two or more lists, a common industry practice. Another simple point is indicating the format in which the marketer would like the list: printouts, disk or e-mail?

Finally, marketers should add decoys to their mailing lists. This will give them an idea of when the mailer was received in home or at office after it was dropped. For e-mails, a blind copy is ideal, too.

“E-mail is where Hispanic [mail] files were 10 years ago,” Herrera said. “We see a lot of growth just because of the penetration of Hispanics online.”

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