Shelley Lipton decided to turn his passion for Latino culture into commerce when he founded Lipton Communications Group Inc. in 1989 to develop integrated direct marketing programs targeting the Hispanic market. He worked with Fortune 500 clients including Pfizer Inc. and BellSouth before his New York-based company was acquired in 1999 by Nelson Communications Inc., now part of Publicis Groupe.
Lipton, now president-COO of Publicis subsidiary Bienestar LCG Communications Inc., last month was honored as Hispanic Marketing Professional of the Year by The Direct Marketing Association’s Directo: Council for Hispanic Marketing. He recently spoke with BtoB about the burgeoning market of Latino-owned businesses in the U.S.
BtoB: How has direct marketing to the Hispanic community changed in the past several years? Are b-to-b marketers adequately targeting what continues to be a growing market?
Lipton: There is a real opportunity in the b-to-b space for companies targeting Hispanics. The market is just a little more than 10 years old, and companies are just starting to apply direct marketing principles to the Hispanic community. There is an increasing number of lists of Latino-owned businesses that are coming to market.
If you’re a business targeting these companies—which are concentrated throughout Texas, Miami, L.A.—you should know that they tend to employ large numbers of Hispanics. Insurance benefits and human resources materials and communications should be in Spanish, so purchasers can offer the services to the employees. A lot of health insurance providers, for example, don’t have information in Spanish, and that’s a problem when the customer wants to file a claim.
BtoB: What are some of the marketing vehicles that are being used to reach Hispanic businesses?
Lipton: Companies are just starting to recognize the growth of b-to-b companies that are Latino-owned the same way consumer marketers recognized the population growth 10 years ago. The potential target is large enough to make it worthwhile.
For b-to-b there is a small but growing number of highly targeted lists where the marketer can obtain the name of the business and who is the decision-maker. There is a proliferating number of print products, such as Latino Leaders and Hispanic Business, and they frequently run lists and profiles of Hispanic businesses, which are key to the b-to-b marketer.
BtoB: What are the strategies companies need to keep in mind when marketing to the Hispanic community?
Lipton: It’s an extremely entrepreneurial market, and there is a large number of young, independent businesses being developed by Hispanics in an array of industries. The marketing strategies are having the insight into the business and what makes the business unique. It’s not just a matter of carving out [a market segment] with a direct mail piece, but understanding the prospect and the product connection. What is it about my service or product that can be uniquely targeted and help this business?
Having information that is bilingual is critical. If you‘re looking to create an emotional bond, you want people within the sales organization who can understand the market and speak the language.
BtoB: What companies do an especially good job of b-to-b marketing to Hispanics?
Lipton: Gateway Inc. is doing well, as is Dell Computer Corp. Aflac Insurance Co. is doing well on the insurance side. They’re all using print space and direct mail to market. But the best have been the telecoms, such as AT&T Corp., Sprint, Worldcom Inc. A lot of Latino-owned businesses do a high volume of calls overseas and [the telecoms] see the opportunity.
BtoB: Name some of the products and services that may be underserved in the Hispanic community?
Lipton: There’s travel, business travel, insurance and financial services. In terms of loans and lines of credit there’s a whole host of small Hispanic businesses that need these services.
There are some gross misconceptions about the market. Latino business owners have the same needs and wants that every other business wants, so the b-to-b marketer has to ask: What’s unique about this business that’s Latino-owned?