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Marketing by the letter

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The Diversity Training Group in Herndon, Va., provides consulting and training to companies large and small to help them hire a diverse work force, serve a diverse customer base, and market to diverse and emerging markets. Coca-Cola and NASA are just two organizations DTG lists as clients. The company’s expertise with diverse markets makes it a go-to player, as it diagnoses problems, designs solutions, implements the training and evaluates the program as it goes along.

Mauricio Velasquez is president and CEO of DTG ( He spoke to us about the four Ps of diversity marketing and much more. While individual advisors may not have the budget to hire a firm to help with marketing to diverse markets, they certainly can take what Velasquez says and apply it to their practices.

Diversity Marketing: Diversity Training Group says the four Ps – product, price, place and promotion – are the most important strategies for diversity marketing. Can you tell me more about them and why are they so important?
Mauricio Velasquez: In our work and in our research and in our experiences, a lot of organizations believe in status quo marketing: doing the same things they’ve always done and expecting better results from their marketing endeavors. When the marketplace is getting more diverse, when media is getting more diverse, they stick to their guns and expect better results. You can’t be product driven. You have to be market driven. The old notion says “build a temple they will come,” but some people don’t worship in a temple. So you have to look at your product mix and possibly come up with different products for different niche markets. You have to look at pricing. Who are you marketing to and is your pricing, let’s say, appropriate for mass market? Is that going to be appropriate for mixed markets.

In terms of place, it’s all about location, location, location. When you look at, for example, the top 100 U.S. cities, the minorities have become the majority. If those are your markets, you may have to look at where you are positioning in those markets. I use the example of Spanish radio. Let’s say you are advertising on traditional radio, a mass market or dominant radio, and you realize the minorities have become the majority in this city and you look at the market and see you need to be in a different place. I was just reading that Clear Channel has changed 29 English-format radio stations to Spanish and seen tremendous feedback because they have changed their place of advertising. The last P is promotion. If people don’t know you exist, they aren’t going to buy your product or service. So, Clear Channel says it’s going to switch 29 radio station formats in the major markets from English to Spanish, and people are beating down their door because they realized the market has changed, the landscape has changed. People are realizing that we have to be seen and heard in different places. Organizations are savvy, but the status quo is not working. They have to change their products, they have to look at how they are priced, they have to possibly move – if they are a business that is consumer retail – to different places, go where the action is. A lot of organizations, if they want to continue growing, are going into urban markets. They have exhausted the suburban and exurban markets. They realize that what is working out in the suburbs isn’t working downtown.

DM: How can advisors on a limited budget fulfill these four Ps?
MV: These target niche markets are all about word of mouth. I’ve worked with financial advisor professionals, life insurance professionals, who basically just knock down doors, call on people, and use direct mail, and they have found what I call an ethnic target market vein. If you sell to the parents, their word of mouth, especially with Hispanic and Latino homes or marketplaces, you get all the business of the children, the cousins. This is actually ideal because ethnic markets show tremendous loyalty. What it means is that you are going to have to knock on doors and interact with people. You are going to have to be comfortable and confident with that. You might have to take up a second language or pick up part of a second language to service these new markets.

DM: Is word of mouth key because of the trust issue?
MV: Absolutely.

DM: My grandmother says that this guy is great, so I’m going to trust him, too.
MV: Right. In Spanish it is “es buena genta,” which means he is a good person. That’s all the person needs. Incidentally, Spanish radio is cheaper in terms of advertising. Spanish newspapers are cheaper, so if you are on a limited budget, it is actually less expensive to target these particular markets, if they show you greater loyalty. If all salespeople are marketing to people just like themselves, and they are all members of the dominant or majority group, then there is tremendous competition for those dominant or majority dollars. But if you are the only person going for these ethnic or emerging markets, you’ve got pick of the litter.

When I get a direct mail piece, how many of those pieces are in English vs. how many of those pieces are in Spanish? It would blow your socks off. There is not a lot of Spanish direct marketing competition.

DM: It sounds like you’re saying the little things make all the difference.
MV: The card, the ability to speak just a little Spanish. I’m kind of focusing on the Spanish-Latino-Hispanic market because that is my niche, but it is true of all ethnic target markets. If you are in Chicago, it might be the Polish community. It varies city to city, but for the business person, and a lot of people are getting this, these markets are actually less expensive as a barrier to entry. You get better returns from relationship building and word of mouth.

DM: You mentioned that place is an important piece of the four Ps. What can advisors do to make people more aware of their location when they are not one of the big companies with a branch on every other corner?
MV: If you are going to a place that has certain stereotypes, certain preconceived notions, but you are the only person going to that place, you have novelty. You have an edge. [People will say,] “This person came to us. Nobody comes to us, nobody calls us, nobody writes to us.” So part of it is your ability to go to the customers. Part of it is your ability to reach out to them. But it is also the novelty of this being the only insurance agency I’ve ever talked to. Or this is the only financial advisor that has ever knocked on my door. I think, again, it is novelty; you are the only person, and so what you are seeing in a lot of organizations is store fronts being put up in places where you wouldn’t typically find them. But they are there because there is an emerging market booming there.

DM: Is it fair to say the key to breaking into these markets begins on a grass-roots level?
MV: The key begins with yourself. Before you can understand others, you must understand yourself. The key begins with asking yourself some tough questions. Why am I uncomfortable marketing and selling to people different from me? Maybe, especially Latinos or Hispanics. Why do I believe that “they” don’t have any money? Where did that notion come from? The toughest questions are asking yourself what are the barriers. What challenges do I have ahead for myself to do this and come across as sincere and genuine and confident? Those are the biggest questions.