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How You Can Tap Into the Lucrative U.S. Hispanic Market Segment
How would you like to leverage sales into a largely untapped market segment of potentially lucrative customers that number in the millions and are convenient to target? The segment we recommend is the growing U.S. Hispanic market. According to the current U.S. Census, Hispanics are now officially the nation’s largest minority at nearly 40 million consumers, or 13.7 % of the U.S. population, having surpassed the African-American market in size during just the past two years. And this group, which surged 58% between 1990 and 2000, continues to grow unabated. Younger on average by ten years compared to the rest of the population, and with larger households by almost a third, Hispanics are the customers of today and tomorrow.
REACHING THE HISPANIC BUYER
U.S. Hispanics, often also referred to in the West and Southwest as the Latino market, are a target group unlike any other in the American experience. The difference is that Hispanics acculturate to their life in the U.S., but they are not assimilating in the same way as our Irish, Italian, Polish, German and myriad of other forbears who became Americans by being blended in the famous “Melting Pot.” The key for this difference is the Spanish language. Multiple studies from firms like Roslow Research and Synovate show consistently that two-thirds of all U.S. Hispanics prefer Spanish for communicating at home and at work, even after they become bilingual. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but chief among them is the development of a national U.S. Hispanic media infrastructure, something that no other ethnic group has ever enjoyed. Hispanics have the ability to find news, entertainment and information in Spanish on the numerous stations of national television networks like Univision and Telemundo that help Latinos prosper in their lives in the U.S. Additionally, other burgeoning Spanish-language media in the U.S. includes over 600 Spanish-language radio stations, multiple national magazines, major metropolitan newspapers and the Internet. These media reinforce in Spanish the Hispanic culture all Latinos share, while providing Latinos living ties to each other and to their respective home countries.
And speaking of the country of origin, it is most often México, just across the U.S. border, and so close that the ties that bind are not broken by a separation of an ocean, as in the case of immigrants who came through Ellis Island. So whether these U.S. Hispanic consumers hail from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina, or México, they are living the American dream while keeping the connection to family and friends in their home country.
Look around. For example, in key markets all over the country, the construction and service industries are teaming with Latinos. In the booming construction industry alone, the National Association of Home Builders has estimated that Hispanic immigrants are filling half of the labor jobs shortfall.
That’s not all. Next to women-owned businesses, the highest rate of all new business start-ups nationally is among Hispanics. If you operate in one of the ten major urban areas where 75% of all Latinos live, there is no getting around the fact that Hispanics are either part of your clientele, or should be, if you want to continue succeeding in the years ahead. Even in more rural areas, the growth in the Hispanic population is palpable. In fact, Hispanic Business Magazine publishes an annual look at the fastest-growing Hispanic businesses in the U.S., and it reads like a perfect prospecting list no matter what your product or service specialty. From residential builders to air conditioning contractors to road construction, to janitorial and maintenance companies, to financial and telecommunications suppliers, Hispanic businesses are making powerful inroads into every facet of business and industry.
So how can you take this recommended target segment and translate it into a strategy to more of your products and provide more of your services to Hispanic customers?
A SHORT HISTORY LESSON
In order to gain perspective on the Hispanic buyer, you only need to recall the day the first members of your family landed on the shores of their new land as immigrants. With little or no knowledge of the American culture, your forbears suffered from broken familial ties, the lack of a familiar social infrastructure and little resource awareness. Most daunting of all, probably they did not speak English. If they wanted to cross over into American society, they were the ones who had to reach out.
You can be sure that they all were looking for the some measure of respect and acceptance in their new country. They were seeking to improve their lifestyle, and they wished to raise their families in an environment that promoted equality and stressed the value of education.
In the same way, the most basic tenet of doing business with those of Hispanic heritage is to have empathy for their situation. Recognize that in order to gain a significant share of their business you must treat and speak to them with dignity and respect. Recognize as well that your potential Latino customer is in a land and culture that is not totally comfortable to them yet. But also accept the fact that unlike previous immigrant groups, Hispanics in the U.S. can operate in Spanish just as comfortably as if they were back in their native country. In other words, you must reach out to them, or they will do business with those who do.
HOW TO BUILD HISPANIC SALES WITH A FIVE-STEP PROCESS
1.Gain their attention in the approach by reaching out to Latinos in Spanish. This does not take a heavy-duty language course. Quite the contrary, simple phrases and everyday language will be greatly appreciated, and they demonstrate your interest, as does signage in Spanish that welcomes them into your retail establishment. Phrases as simple as “Buenos días. ¿En que puedo ayudarle a usted?” (“Good morning. How may I help you?”) are enough to make the most basic connection. These phrases will relax the Spanish-speaking buyer and help them see they are in a friendly environment, while you build personal trust and credibility in their mind.
Better yet, if you already have Hispanic employees in your workforce why not utilize them as an integral part of the buying experience your company offers Hispanics? You will profit on two levels. First, you will energize your Spanish-speaking employees by letting them know their value to your business, empowering them in a way they may not have been before. In addition, the Hispanic customer will immediately recognize the value you place on their business since you have Spanish-speaking sales associates.
2.In the interest step, gain the commitment of the Hispanic prospect to engage in a dialogue. Ask clarifying questions such as “What exactly are you looking for?”, or “What is your need?” or, “May we help you with something?” These are vital questions to build on the connection you established earlier and to qualify how you can assist them.
3.Now explain what the product or service does which provides the answer to their requirements. The presentation must be delivered so that the Hispanic buyer understands what you are showing them, and how their need will be satisfied. It is essential that you make certain any gap in meaning is closed, especially since the Hispanic may lack the same level of command of English. This is where Spanish-language or bilingual sales literature can be extremely useful. Finally, listen intently and ask if you can restate what you just heard, as this is crucial to gain understanding – both for you and the Hispanic speaker. It also serves to eliminate or reduce confusion, while clearly demonstrating your personal respect to the customer.
4.At the agreement step ask the question, “Does this product or service look like it will do the job?” If they say “yes,” let them know you will now create the agreement for the product or service. Should they seem hesitant or say “no,” ask them to further explain to you what they have in mind. By all means address the customer with empathy, patience and respect while avoiding a frustrated style of communication. Your role, no matter what the buyer’s native language, is to make them feel comfortable with you and be willing to engage you in a positive fashion.
5.The satisfaction step is vital for two reasons. First, a satisfied customer will at some point in time be a repeat customer. And if another Hispanic asks a satisfied Hispanic where they can satisfy a similar need that you can fulfill, they will definitely recommend you. Keep in mind Hispanics depend on “word-of-mouth” recommendations from family and friends much more than General market customers. Their recommendation means you are the first (and most likely) the only source they will go to for that product or service.
Remember the least expensive form of advertising is word-of-mouth and the best lead source is someone who knows you. Combined with social proof these are the most powerful reasons people buy. Without them you could be spending time, money and energy to build a market that could be available to you without the need for excessive promotional campaigns. Can you think of a better way to build market share than by ensuring a pleasant and positive buying experience for Hispanics?
In the customer experience everything matters. That means from the point of the greeting and introduction, where you are taking a sincere interest in having the Hispanic prospect as a customer, all the way to the point of satisfaction. The so called ‘touches” or interactions make the buyer experience positive or negative. It matters even more in the Hispanic market segment where you are trying to gain a foothold. Remember this universal truth: It takes 80% longer to sell a new customer than an existing one. If part of your company strategy is to attract and retain the Hispanic customer, then every experience, whether large or small is either contributing to achieving this goal or detracting from it. Any experience a buyer has with you will determine how many people they tell – in this case the members of their Latino community.
Cultural diversity is a fact of the evolving U.S. business world. Therefore, be proactive with your staff. Insist they treat every customer equally with dignity and respect. Spend time in a company staff meeting reinforcing the notion that courteous, patient listening is the key to improved business. Point out to your staff that successful communication is, and has always been the key to improved sales. And, unsatisfactory communication means lost sales. These truths endure not just for the base of customers you have today, but also for the additional base of customers you wish to attract among the growing Hispanic market.
This article was co-authored with Joe Albonetti.
Joe Albonetti is Founder and President of Latino Landia USA, Inc., which is a Hispanic marketing and communications firm specializing in assisting companies reach the growing Latino market.
He may be reached at (949) 502-8822 or [email protected]
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