Saturday, February 09, 2008

Penetrating the US Hispanic Business Market (tips that apply to penetrating any minority market

By Ned Barnett - (c) 2008

I just received a vitally-important, strategic question from a Miami-based, Cuban-born American small business-owner client: "How can I best penetrate the U.S. Hispanic business market without having to make presentations in Spanish?"

This reflects a larger issue - how can any American business penetrate the huge - and fast-growing - Hispanic market in the U.S.? Setting aside the issue of legal vs. illegal immigrants, the undifferentiated Hispanic market in the US (made up of Cubans, Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean-area natives, as well as Mexicans, Central Americans, Latin Americans and Americans of direct Spanish descent) is now larger than the African-American market AND larger than the entire Canadian market - both in terms of raw population numbers and the size of the economy (i.e., there are more dollars in the U.S. Hispanic market than there are in the Canadian market). And this growth will continue to increase - at least through the year 2050 - because of births, legal immigration and other sources.

So the question my Hispanic-heritage (but fully American) client is: How do I penetrate this fast-growing market without sacrificing my strong foothold in the larger (i.e., "Anglo") American business market? This becomes more acute (and focused) a question for him because, while his heritage is Cuban and he does speak Spanish, his language-of-choice is English - having grown up in Miami, he's far more comfortable with his adopted nation's language than he is with the language his parents grew up with.

To address the language issue, the way to handle this is to consistently take the bold position:

If you want to penetrate the larger U.S. market, you have to do business in English, which is the language of business in America.”

In this way, no matter who you’re speaking to, you’ll speak in English (except when you’re talking to Spanish-language American media, such as Univision, in which case - especially if this is a broadcast media outlet - you'll need to be fluent in Spanish). This came up some years ago when I was promoting a former Deputy Drug Czar from the Reagan/Bush administrations, a Puerto Rican/American named Diaz, who had to pass on a Univision interview because he literally didn't speak Spanish (as far as he was concerned, he was a New Yorker and an American).

Beyond that issue of language, to penetrate the American Hispanic market, you’ve got to make news among the business news media who reach into this market, and you've got to position yourself as an expert on an issue (or more than one issue, but let’s start with one) that matters both to the media and to your target audience.

This is a fact: Given a choice, people prefer to do business with people - and businesses - that they’ve heard of. And, given a choice among those they’ve already heard of, people prefer to do business with acknowledged experts. There is a bit of a “thrill” associated with doing business with someone who’s seen as an expert (even if that person is not an “expert” in what you hire them for) – especially if that “expertise” has been anointed by the media.

A very personal example, I’ve been featured in eight different History Channel programs since late 2000 (none about PR or marketing). Since these programs began to air, I’ve had clients “brag on me” – telling their friends, families, as well as their own clients, that they’re doing business with “that guy on History Channel.” I used to have one client – a night-owl/insomniac like me – who used to see me on the History Channel (and it's affiliated Military Channel) in late-night reruns … and he never failed to tell me about it via emails that were waiting for me when I got into the office the next morning. He (a CEO of a micro-cap public company) even introduced me to his board as “that guy on the History Channel.” This happens a lot – a lot more than I’d have ever dreamed possible – and it seems to really matter, in a positive way, to some clients that I’m “that guy on the History Channel.”

What that means for someone wanting to penetrate the U.S.-based Hispanic market is this: The more you can generate positive coverage in the U.S. Hispanic business media (even if you’re not talking about your core business), the more likely it is that you’ll be positively viewed by clients and, (in this case, more important), prospects. To succeed, you need to figure out hooks you can use to generate positive business coverage featuring you – even if it’s not about your business – that will position you as a role-model leader in the Hispanic market.

Another factor that’s common among all “minority” groups striving to assimilate into the U.S. business mainstream – success, by their members, in that mainstream is highly regarded by those who’ve not yet achieved a measure of mainstream-market success. Consistently - and common among all identifiable minority business groups - those who’ve already met this goal, who have successfully penetrated the mainstream U.S. business market, are respected - and they are sought out for advice and guidance by those who have not yet gotten out of their core market niche.

Yet a third factor is this: there’s an increasing awareness among members of the mainstream business market (and the mainstream business media that serves this market) who want to figure out how to penetrate what they correctly see as the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic market. They’re just starting to “get it” that the Hispanic market in the U.S., as noted above, is not only larger than the American Black market – but that the U.S. Hispanic market is larger than the entire Canadian market! That remarkable business fact has still not widely “sunk in,” but as awareness grows, demand grows for experts (and you could be one of those experts) who can coach and guide those in the mainstream U.S. business market to enter and cash in on the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic market.

One key to your success could come about by melding these three factors – by not only being seen as a U.S. Hispanic businessman who’s achieved significant success in the larger U.S. Business marketplace, you’ll be respected (and ultimately, sought out) by your target Hispanic-owned business market; and, by being seen as a gateway/guide into the Hispanic market, you’ll raise your reputation among mainstream businesses - and sought out by the mainstream business media.

In the mainstream, that three-in-one score is called a "hat trick" - but the last time I was in Hialeah, that success-times-three was called a “trifecta.”

To do this, you want to position yourself in several different ways.

1. Position yourself with the business media (both the Hispanic business media and the mainstream business media) as an expert in helping/coaching businesses to make the transition from the comfortably-safe (but limited) niche of the Hispanic business market and into the larger (and more challenging – but ultimately more rewarding) mainstream U.S. business market

2. ALSO position yourself with the mainstream business media as someone who can guide/coach mainstream businesses in cashing in on the fast-growing Hispanic market.

3. Position yourself with Hispanic businesses (the potential clients you want to reach) as an expert who’s made the transition from narrow-focus Hispanic Market to broad-focus (without leaving behind the core Hispanic market).

4. Finally, position yourself with Mainstream businesses (other potential clients you also want to reach) as an expert who can help/guide/coach them in penetrating the narrow-focused but fast-growing Hispanic market.

Getting in front of the media (points one and two, above) is relatively easy if you are a living example (i.e. a Hispanic business leader who's successfully penetrated the larger mainstream U.S. business market) of the messages you’d want to convey – you need to reach out to decision-makers in these media and position yourself as a “talking head” expert – a go-to guy they can consult whenever they need your specific angle. This can be done pro-actively – positioning yourself in advance; and it can be done responsively or retrospectively – positioning yourself as an expert when “breaking news” can be made to tie in with your media positions. It can also be done by “creating news” – by conducting online research surveys that can be used to generate press coverage (this approach is easy, and it always works).

Beyond that, you’ll need to have some programs or activities that will generate news – these will give the media yet one more reason to bring you into their discussions – and, in the process, positioning you with your two target audiences. These programs or activities can include (but not be limited to):

a. FIRST – understand this: In each of the ideas below, you will use examples and illustrations from your own business (to subtly remind target audiences of what you do that made you an expert to begin with) – including your clients. While the ideas below aren’t about your business, they’re all based on the lessons you learned while making your business a success – which is what gives you the credibility to be an expert

b. Write articles for both Hispanic and mainstream business media markets (publications, e-zines, etc.) about your core issues - in this case, how Hispanics can penetrate the mainstream business market, and/or how mainstream businesses can cash in on the growth and profit potential inherent in the Hispanic business market)

c. Create a blog or web-zine to be used as a platform for presenting these views. For example, see my blogs on marketing, on PR and on book/author promotion – I use these to put forth positioning ideas and find them useful in creating new business, and you can, too.

d. Begin the development of a book (for your purposes here, you don’t even have to finish it – though finishing and publishing one would be very useful), “(Your Name's) Guide to Going from the Hispanic Market to Mainstream Success (and vice-versa)” – a book that would position you as an expert. (HINT: I’ve ghost-written two of my nine business books – if you’re really interested in this, I can help)

e. Solicit “positioning” speaking engagements with – at least initially – Hispanic business organizations (Hispanic chambers of commerce, seminar producers, etc.) on the topic noted above (the book title)

f. Develop a for-profit seminar, in conjunction, perhaps, with a local college or university - or on your own, or with some other group – to present this “guide” to prospective clients who want to emulate your success

g. Videotape that seminar – or create a made-for DVD/video around a 30-60-90-minute presentation (with audio-only version for those who listen in cars)

h. Develop a subscription-based e-newsletter on the topic noted above – this gives you ongoing visibility and credibility with prospects (and members of the media) and keeps you fresh and top-of-mind

i. With all of these under your belt, begin to solicit “paid” speaking engagements (keynote addresses at business conventions, etc.) – these should be paid gigs that will also help you promote your business (subtly, by weaving your business through your talks as examples of how to succeed). I had one client who literally made 43% of his revenue from paid speaking engagements – and, after a year, he wound up generating roughly 72% of his new clients from among those who’d seen him speak – and you can do this, too.

j. Promote each of these heavily to the targeted media noted above – each of these not only gives them yet one more reason to write about you, but each of these also positions you as a “go-to-guy” expert they can call on to comment on and “position” the news that’s breaking as it relates to cross-cultural business development

Once the media understands what you have to offer, they’ll want to cover you (and to use you as an “expert” when they cover cross-cultural business news). Through them – and directly (there are other ways of reaching out) – once the markets see what you can deliver, they’ll want to do business with you – EVEN (and this is surprising, but true) if you never really focus on the core elements of your own business. It’s enough that you are seen as an expert, one worth emulating – and people will come to you, if only to have the “bragging rights” (or because they think you’re better at what you do) that comes from working with a media-acknowledged expert.

There are a lot of other strategies and tactics that can be done – totally different approaches, as well as refinements of the “initial thoughts” I’ve shared here. However, this is a strong, we'll-proven place to start.