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Marketing to the Hispanic Community

By Nancy Drexler and Sam Neuman

America's population is changing. More and more people are bilingual, and Spanish is the second most spoken language in the nation. In many areas, Spanish has replaced English as the preferred language for everything from personal conversations to conducting business transactions.

The U.S. Census figures make this clear: The Hispanic population is America's fastest-growing minority group, with an increase of more than 40 million in the four-year period from 2000 to 2004. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2012, one in five Americans will be of Hispanic descent.

According to a recent article in an industry trade publication1, Bank of America Corp., one of the nation's largest financial institutions (and Cynergy Data's bank), recently began actively courting the Hispanic market. Cynergy plans to help the bank succeed.

The bank has waived fees for all funds transfers from Chicago to Mexico and hopes to expand this policy to apply to all major U.S. cities.

In addition, the bank is making an effort to reach out to recent immigrants with less established credit (still a major segment of the Hispanic population, although the Hispanic middle class is growing every day) by offering debit card and money transfer capabilities to customers who previously relied on check-cashing services instead of bank accounts.

As an ISO/merchant level salesperson, in order to stay competitive and keep profits growing, begin marketing your business to Hispanic and Spanish-speaking merchants in earnest. Ignoring this vital, rapidly expanding segment of the marketplace could be a recipe for financial disaster. To put it simply, not marketing to Hispanic merchants is no bueno.

Don't Get Lost in Translation

The census results indicate that in approximately 50% of American Hispanic homes, Spanish is the preferred language of communication. If you want to form a bond with Hispanic merchants, it helps to approach them in the language with which they're most comfortable speaking.

When you're ready to produce marketing materials in Spanish, don't take the easy way out with a quick translation of your existing English-language materials. For example, say you are creating a brochure to distribute to Spanish-speaking merchants. The brochure describes what sets your company apart from other processors and ISOs.

The first line of copy is:

"Our company offers credit and debit card processing at low rates, plus access to state-of-the-art equipment and terminals."

Rather than pay for a translator, you decide to use one of the free English-to-Spanish translation tools readily available on the Web, such as . After entering your copy into the site and selecting translate, the result is:

"Nuestra compania ofrece el crédito y el débito tarjeta que procesa en tasas bajas, mas el acceso al equipo y terminales de lo mas moderno."

It looks good, so you print this on the cover of the brochures and start distributing them. Unfortunately, you skipped a step. Using the same free translation site, now enter your Spanish sentence to get its English translation:

"Our company offers the credit and the debit card that processes in low rates, more the access team and terminals of it more modern."

Copy that sells? I don't think so. You definitely need a translator. Also, resist the temptation to ask an employee who simply speaks or reads Spanish to do the job because, as the example provided demonstrates, literally substituting Spanish words for their English equivalents can result in an incoherent jumble.

A professional translator will understand proper English and Spanish grammar and be able to communicate the meaning of your words, not only their literal translations.

Translation Is Only Step Numero Uno

Customized marketing materials and a Spanish-speaking sales rep can close deals with Hispanic merchants, but to keep the merchants processing with your company, employ staff to help them with any problems or concerns in a language that they understand. If you advertise that you have a fully bilingual staff, make sure that you have a staff at your disposal to back up the claim.

"Fully bilingual customer service and technical support" means someone who can converse intelligently in English and Spanish, and answer questions about processing as well as every other customer service employee, is available during every hour that your phone lines are open.

It does not mean that a part-time staff member took three years of high school Spanish and will try to help with a call in the unlikely event that a Spanish-speaking merchant needs assistance.

The conversational Spanish that many of us have picked up through class work, travel, social events or trips to the local Mexican restaurant is not sufficient to make someone a successfully bilingual salesperson.

Not only will you need to know the Spanish for "hello" and "good morning," you'll need to explain complex concepts like mids and nons clearly and simply, which is not even an easy task in English!

The extra effort required to find Spanish-speaking staff members (or to brush up your own Español) will pay major dividends if you make it known to members of the local Hispanic community that they can count on you to provide reliable, cost-effective service that truly speaks the merchants' language.

Make your office a place where Hispanic merchants feel comfortable well past their initial sign-up date, and you will guarantee long-term business and lifetime residuals from an underutilized segment of the merchant market.

Choose the Right Channel

Once you overcome the language barrier, make sure your message goes directly to your target audience by choosing the proper marketing channels. In any marketing campaign, the medium is as important as the message, and marketing to Hispanic merchants is certainly no exception.

If you or one of your reps is a charismatic, natural Spanish speaker, you will likely have the most success going door to door in largely Hispanic neighborhoods. Do you have a direct mail campaign with a Hispanic focus? Sort your distribution list by ZIP code to keep merchants in Spanish-speaking areas grouped together.

Did you create an ad with convincing Spanish copy? Check newsstands or the online Yellow Pages to find local newspapers and magazines published specifically for Spanish-speaking readers.

Don't throw away valuable leads; instead, use targeted marketing to reach merchants with whom you're unable to effectively do business in English.

The next time you make telemarketing or in-person sales calls, and it's clear that a merchant with a traditionally Hispanic last name doesn't speak English well, don't cross his name off the list; rather, add it to a new database of merchants to contact using Spanish-language marketing materials.

What are you waiting for? Here's your first Spanish vocabulary word: dinero. Money talks in every language. Buena suerte!

What cities in the United States have the highest population of Hispanic/Latinos?
The following are the "Top 10" U.S. cities with the highest numbers
of Hispanic/latinos according to the U.S. Census Bureau
(USA Counties CD-Rom 1996; U.S. Census basic Quick facts 2001: ):
    1. New York, NY - 1,783,511
    2. Los Angeles, CA - 1,391,411
    3. Chicago, IL - 545,852
    4. San Antonio, TX - 520,282
    5. Houston, TX - 450,483
    6. El Paso, TX - 355,669
    7. San Diego, CA - 229,519
    8. Miami, FL - 223,964
    9. Dallas, TX - 210,240
    10. San Jose, CA - 208,388

Nancy Drexler is the Marketing Director and Sam Neuman is the Communications Specialist of Cynergy Data, a merchant acquirer that distinguishes itself by relying on creativity and technology to maximize service. Cynergy offers its ISOs: VIMAS, a cutting edge back-office management software; TrackIt, a ticketing system that makes responses to customers fast, accurate and efficient; Brand Central Station, a Web site of free marketing tools; plus state-of-the-art training, products, services and value-added programs, all designed to take its ISO partners from where they are to where they want to be. For more information on Cynergy e-mail Nancy Drexler at .

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