Hispanic Web Marketing - An Emerging Strategy

Major marketers in the United States have recognized the importance of the Hispanic Market since the early 1990's. Back then, only Fortune 500 companies with multi-million dollar marketing budgets started targeting this promising vertical segment through Hispanic TV, radio, and print advertising. Although still in its infancy, Hispanic marketing proved to be a crucial facet of many campaigns as marketers realized that Hispanics consume a disproportionate amount of certain products and services in relation to their discretionary income. This is especially true for industries that provide a connection to friends and family back home- such as telecommunications, wire-transfer services, and travel related services.

Back then I was part of a newly developed Hispanic Marketing Team at AT&T. AT&T had realized that targeting this emerging vertical would mean access to customers who spend almost twice as much as the general market on traditional long distance. Although AT&T had been somewhat successful in reaching this market through traditional media, it had not made any significant inroads in reaching Hispanics through direct marketing.

My challenge at AT&T was to develop new and innovative strategies to reach Hispanics in order to curb the attrition that was occurring as a result of major competitors' aggressive efforts in this market. One of the most valuable lessons that I learned was that in order to acquire and retain these valuable customers, you need to present them with culturally relevant information in their own language. It was not enough to translate materials that were designed with the needs and interests of the general market in mind. This revelation proved to be a very profitable one! Once we started developing culturally relevant copy in Spanish targeted at these specific segments, we managed to stem the attrition from the competitors and our direct mail response rates went through the roof. Hispanics were not used to receiving mail in Spanish that had them specifically in mind. It was not unusual to have response rates of 5% to 10% when traditional general market response rates were only 1% to 2%.

Although much has changed in this market over the last ten years- with the advent of the internet as a new medium to reach this segment- many things remain the same. Hispanics still want and need Hispanic-relevant content and copy in order to make informed purchase decisions. The internet hosts a wealth of opportunities to access cultural markets in the same way that the direct marketing of the early nineties did. But a strong internet marketing presence poses one major advantage over the old strategies: it provides your company with unlimited access to the potential customers you're looking for, as well as the ones who are looking for you.

Many companies are NOT yet jumping on the band-wagon with Hispanic relevant internet content because they perceive the Hispanic Market as being unreachable through this medium or not technologically savvy. This couldn't be farther from the truth and recent studies have proven it. In March 2004, a study by AOL revealed that 14 million plus Hispanics in the United States are using the internet. Moreover, about 20% of that number had just connected to the internet in the six months prior to the study! When the Study surveyed Hispanics who were not yet online they found that over 50% of them expected to have an online connection within the next couple of years. These numbers are staggering. The Hispanic Market is surfing the web in increasing numbers, and only companies that cater to their specific internet habits will reap the benefits of this lucrative segment.

So how can YOUR business capitalize on this phenomenon?

Above all, you have to know your market. This means understanding who your potential customers are and how they use the internet. The Hispanic market spans over a huge demographic. In order to attract traffic and custom-tailor your content, you have to be familiar with your target market's countries of origin, language preference, income level, and a number of other varying factors that may pertain specifically to your product or service. If you aren't an expert in this field, make sure that you perform very thorough research, or hire the services of a professional web marketing firm that specializes in the Hispanic market.

Don't waste your efforts or risk your reputation- you will only attract customers from a particular segment if your message rings true to them. Go for the "low hanging fruit." The Hispanic market has reached critical mass and is there for the taking for those companies that are smart enough to realize it. If you do it right - you will reap the benefits.

Rick Caraballo is the author of this article and the CEO of Avance Web Marketing- http://www.avancewebmarketing.com, a South Florida Web Marketing Firm. An expert in Hispanic Marketing and E-Business Services, Rick has over 20 years of marketing and business experience, including VP of Marketing and Business Development for an internet company, as well as executive marketing positions at companies such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and First Data. Rick has an MBA in Marketing from Baruch College in NY.

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