The Hispanic Market Isnt

By

For many marketers, the 2000 census data and all the attendant buzz made it clear that the U.S. Hispanic market had arrived. The numbers are staggering. Hispanics have become one of the fastest growing ethnic groups, making up over 13% of the U.S. population in 2000. By 2025, that number will double to 75 million.

The growth in terms of buying power and economic impact is there for all to see as well. Hispanic buying power is up 25% since 2000, to $428 billion this year. Hispanic-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate of that of traditional U.S. businesses.

As a result, Hispanic-focused ad campaigns are up, more and more Spanish language materials are being introduced, and companies are staffing up sales forces with Latin-flavored surnames in an effort to crack into these traditionally close-knit communities.

In our own industry, banks, insurance companies and other financial services players are all moving aggressively to tap into this growing and increasingly successful demographic group.

Seems like a no-brainer, except for one key drawback. The Hispanic market isnt.

Financial service marketers have to understand that the Hispanic market is a mosaic, not a monolith. Its a diverse grouping of Americans from very different countries of origin, with unique cultural characteristics, psychographic preferences and goals.

There are commonalities, of course. But for the most part, Hispanic marketing has failed to gain traction to this point because our marketing efforts have not been as rich, nuanced and relevant as they needed to be.

So, how will insurance pros make inroads with Hispanic consumers? My company has provided insurance and financial services throughout Latin America for more than 90 years, and were finding that many of the lessons learned there translate to the domestic market. There is tremendous market potential, but to really meet the needs of this underserved market, we think successful brands will have to negotiate the following key issues:

Se habla espa?ol (y m?s). Spanish language capabilities are just the ticket of entry. But the mere translation of materials doesnt make a Hispanic marketing program. We know that having Spanish-language materials available registers positively for these consumers.

More importantly, though, we can gain an immediate understanding of our potential consumers by noting their language preference. If theyve been in the States for a shorter period of time, are perhaps older, have more ties to their home country and indicate a strong preference for Spanish-language materials, those factors tell us that a more Hispanic-focused marketing and sales approach is called for.

For younger, more culturally acclimated consumers, Spanish might make an attractive option, a nice-to-have, but they dont want the language theyre being marketed in to overwhelm their basic needs for financial services that fit. In other words, speak (Spanish) softly and carry the right portfolio.

Get specific. Those aggregated numbers fool some companies into thinking about Hispanics as a secondary mass market. In reality, savvy segmentation is called for: Take a look at the country of origin, time here in the States, language preference and typical socioeconomic factors. All these combine to give us a more accurate sense of what the financial goals and needs of a particular customer might be. We dont expect a new Mexican immigrant in Southern California to have the same immediate needs that an established Cuban-American in Miami would have. Be clear on your population and the very specific motivations and goals they have.

Start a long-term conversation. Its not a land grab. Latin Americans treasure the loyalty they have with established brands. That trust will not accrue overnight, and our efforts should be thought of as the opening exchanges in a very long conversation well have with this underserved audience. We know that Hispanics traditionally have been a very upwardly mobile segment, and we know also that they are as much as four times as likely as the typical consumer to refer their friends and family. Get comfortable and plan to stay awhile.

Remove the barriers. Build the capabilities into your normal infrastructure instead of treating it as a completely separate mode of distribution. Make your materials and sales processes simple and easy to follow. Get in front of your potential audience by maximizing personal selling opportunities. Worksite products provide perhaps the best example of this approach.

No doubt, 10 years from now, well look back at the amazing growth in financial services adoption in the domestic Hispanic market. You and I will know, however, that powering those impressive numbers was a host of individual agents working with unique clients with specific needs. Hmm. Sounds vaguely like all our other sales efforts, doesnt it?

is director, U.S. Hispanic Market Sales, at Pan-American Life. His e-mail is jenderica@panamericanlife.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, June 9, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.