In-Language Materials Essential To Reaching Hispanic Clients

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When a company doubles the assets it receives from a specific segment of the population in six years, that segment is likely to attract significantly more attention than it had previously.

Such is the case at Allstate with the Hispanic market. By 1995 without having made a focused effort to reach the Hispanic market, Allstate had $1 billion in assets from that sector. That year, a number of initiatives were instituted to reach the Hispanic client.

The result is $2 billion in assets from the Hispanic market as of September, says Raymond Celaya, assistant vice president of ethnic marketing, Allstate, Northbrook, Ill.

“Back in 92 Allstate was wrestling with the idea of diversity,” he says. “We decided we would leverage our diversity in Allstate to get a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Part of that effort includes having 2,500 field agents in “Spanish-able” offices, where either the agent or members of the staff speak Spanish.

Being able to communicate in-language is particularly important in communities that are rapidly changing to a Hispanic demographic, Celaya says.

“Many of our communities in Chicago have gone from Polish to Hispanic,” he says. “We have agents who wake up one day and realize that people come to their doors and want to speak Spanish. We have developed a pamphlet for agents wrestling with that.”

The ability to communicate in the clients language is important not only for literal translations, but for translations of foreign concepts as well, Celaya says, because there is little context for the idea of insurance among Latin Americans.

“We have first, second and third generations coming to grips with the role of insurance in society and how it works,” he says. “For many, they understand concepts better in-language.”

Celaya offers as an example a 30-year-old bilingual Hispanic woman from Houston who worked as an assistant principal at an area school. She was part of a focus group conducted by Allstate about five years ago. At the end of the session, she asked for the name of a local agent who spoke Spanish. When Celaya asked why she wanted a Spanish-speaking agent, the woman answered that she understands concepts in English, but feels them in Spanish.

“Its a more emotional context,” Celaya says. “Allstate was reaching out in-language; that was important to her.”

Allstate offices in Hispanic communities try to accommodate the Hispanic clients preference to do business with his whole family present, rather than one-on-one with an advisor, says Leonor Cortez Cockrum, Allstate ethnic marketing director.

“You dont normally see one person coming in to make decisions; you see husband, wife and children,” she says. “So agencies think about that in the way they lay out the office. There are more chairs, bilingual magazines; its a more hospitable environment to the family.”

Many field agents win the loyalty of the Hispanic market by becoming directly involved in the community, Cortez Cockrum says. Among other things, Allstate agents have been known to become coaches of juvenile sports leagues, provide translation services for their clients in areas other than financial services, provide defensive driving courses, and even help build homes.

“They are looked at as role models,” Cortez Cockrum says.

Allstates campaign to reach the Hispanic market includes between 250 and 300 promotional items written in Spanish and English, according to Celaya “because you never know whether the language in the household is English or Spanish.”

Promotional materials include brochures, direct marketing, billboard, radio and TV advertisements, Celaya says. The ads list an 800 phone number that leads callers to a “Spanish-able” agency in their vicinity. Allstates Web site contains that information as well, Celaya says.

In-language marketing materials are part of The Principals campaign to target the Hispanic community as well. Small-to-medium businesses comprise the market targeted by the company, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa.

The translations are both literal and cultural because the priorities of the Hispanic client are often different from those of the mainstream public, says corporate marketing manager Michelle Swanda. Cultural translations are achieved through different visuals that speak to the needs of a specific community.

An example is the high priority many Hispanics place on saving for their familys well-being, Swanda says.

“Its more important for Hispanics to save for their family or extended family than for themselves,” she says.

Becoming a part of the community is among the ways Principal ingratiates itself into the market, Swanda says, because the Hispanic client tends to view a product as valuable and a company trustworthy if it is a familiar part of their lives, she says.

To that end, the company has become a corporate sponsor of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, supporting events on both national and state levels. This support helps agents in the field when joining local chambers of commerce and “to build relationships on a local level,” Swanda says.

The company is also a sponsor of the business series held by LatinaStyle magazine, a national monthly publication targeted at the Hispanic professional woman. The magazines business series brings together Latina professionals and business owners with corporations that provide them with information, goods and services, Swanda says.

Principal began reaching out to the Hispanic market five years ago. It does not have any specific figures as far as financial gain, “but were confident were making an impact and getting our name out there,” she says.

The company looked toward the Hispanic market between 1992 and 1997 when Hispanic businesses experienced 30% growth. The current annual growth rate for Hispanic male-owned businesses is 9%; for Hispanic female-owned businesses its 29%, Swanda says.

The rapid increase in Hispanic-owned businesses is likely a natural progression from the expanding numbers of Hispanics in the U.S.

Twelve percent of the population in 2000 was Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That statistic alone keeps financial services companies busy generating strategies designed specifically to target the Hispanic client.

In order to reach this demographic, Tariq Khan, assistant vice president of multi-cultural marketing, MetLife, New York, echoes the aforementioned need for community outreach.

Khan says that in addition to Spanish-language radio, print and billboard ads, MetLife has sponsored a number of activities in Hispanic communities, including golf tournaments, conventions, Hispanic festivals and a Latin American Business Expo in California.

While the company is establishing visibility in an area, individual agents should become aware of the cultural needs specific to Hispanics, Khan says. They should “listen closely” to what their clients want. If they do so, Khan says, they will likely find that a primary concern among many Hispanics is to secure their childrens education.

Understanding what the client really needs is a priority at MetLife, which is why the company emphasizes face-to-face advising. “This is why understanding the language plays an important role,” Khan says. “That is a big help.”

Khan says that while many Hispanics tend to value providing for their childrens education, it is important to remember that each Hispanic client has his own needs as well.

“A family may be in need of retirement planning, or estate planning, thats why our professionals go over an individual plan and help them, its an intangible service,” Khan says.

Khan feels the Hispanic community is an underserved and growing market.

In fact, Hispanic communities are surfacing in places not typically associated with Latin American populations, says Allstates Cortez Cockrum.

Allstate has made community outreach efforts in Texas, California, Miami, Illinois and New York, but also in North Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, Utah and South Carolina, Cortez Cockrum says.

“We will get requests from these specific regions asking for sponsorship ranging from grass-roots type of activities to corporate events,” she says.

There are two reasons the Hispanic market is an attractive one, she says. Its growing, and “it is a very loyal market. Once (the Hispanic client) does business with a company that meets their needs, they continue, plus they provide referrals. It is also a market that is still underserved in the financial market area.

“The economic trend on this market is tremendous so I think that almost any business thats not looking at the market is leaving money on the table.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 14, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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