Targeting the Online Hispanic Market, Lost in Translation

The Hispanic market has been riding the headlines for the past couple of years as one of the fastest growing sectors of marketing. According to the third annual AOL/Roper U.S. Hispanic Cyberstudy, Hispanics are entering cyberspace at a rapid pace with over 14 million U.S Hispanics online. Yet the companies successfully targeting them online in the direct response arena are few and far between. Why is it that something which seems like such low hanging fruit is so difficult to make successful?

There are too many misconceptions to mention about marketing to Hispanics, such as the thinking that translation is the key. I know many online marketers who have hired a translator to re-write their e-mail, creative or landing page in Spanish and then waited for the leads to come rolling in. Translation doesn’t mean your campaign is going to work fabulously for every Hispanic on the planet.

Know Your Customer

The first thing you need to do is figure out which type of person you are selling to. Geographically speaking, you can split the Hispanic population into 5 major groups, U.S. Hispanic, South American, Central American, European and Caribbean. If you chose U.S. Hispanics, you need to figure out which language they speak, such as Spanish speaking, English speaking or bilingual. Many U.S. Hispanics are recent arrivals to the country so they are more comfortable speaking Spanish only. Many second and third generation U.S. Hispanics prefer either English only or are completely bilingual.

For instance, your campaign for a diet patch may work great for a 27-year-old bilingual professional U.S. Hispanic woman, but will be completely ignored by her Spanish-only speaking grandmother. Likewise, if you translate that diet patch creative into Spanish only, the professional woman who tends to frequent English language Web sites may never see your campaign.

If you do choose to work with Spanish speakers in the U.S., you have to make sure you use the right words. There are many Spanish words that may work well for one Hispanic population but may be highly offensive to another. The same would apply to English, where you can feature losing pounds to Americans in a diet patch, but a pound also signifies money to someone in the UK. You don’t necessarily need to focus on dialects, as that would be too confusing. There are many words that are still highly effective while being all encompassing.

Identify With Your Audience

Your creative should also match your target. People are not easily fooled. When choosing a spokesperson or model for a product make sure they identify with the target demographic. You can still use a generic one-for-all model; just make sure they are presented in a way that the people you are selling to can identify with. The same goes with other elements of the creative. You can make an emotional connection with the colors you use such as warm and vibrant colors from the Caribbean or the Americas, but only if it suits the concept. Don’t just add a tropical spin to a B2B banking offer if you don’t tie it in properly to the concept. When you place your creative in a beach setting, there is a reason for it; do the same here.

Fulfillment in the right language is a must. Back to our diet patch example, if your diet patch offer is not a part of a bigger outfit that includes a Spanish and English Web site as well as complementary brochures and a bilingual help desk, then failure is evident. Once you acquire those highly sought after customers, how are you going to keep them and how are you going to prevent a negative experience from dealing with a non-Spanish speaking customer service department or receiving brochures in English?

Communicating in Their Language

Continuous communication must be in the preferred language. If someone came to your site via a Spanish language creative and he or she signs up for your newsletter, either give him/her the option to choose a preferred language or send it to the individual in the language that first brought him/her to you. After spending marketing dollars acquiring your leads and converting customers, don’t lose them because of badly executed retention measures.

The Hispanic market is ripe for the online marketing industry to target with success. That said, there needs to be proper planning to make sure that you know who you are selling to, how to sell it and how to support it. By planning your strategy well before executing your campaigns, you will be several steps ahead of your competitors who might simply translate a Web site and expect the leads to start rolling in.

Danay Escanaverino is the director of marketing for Global Resource Systems.

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