Marketing Your Law Firm to U.S. Hispanic Consumers Today, law firms have a unique opportunity to tap into one of the fastest growing consumer segments in the U.S. marketplace – the Hispanic population. Effectively targeting this group can help lawyers expand their client base and increase revenue. The Hispanic market carries significant buying power that law firms cannot afford to ignore. By 2007, Hispanic buying power is expected to reach an estimated $925 billion, which is three times the growth rate of non-Hispanic consumers. These statistics, coupled with the fact that the Hispanic population continues to grow at a rate of nearly 5.4 percent annually, illustrate how critically important it is for law firms to implement marketing strategies specifically tailored toward Hispanic consumers. However, successfully reaching Hispanic audiences requires that law firms shift gears from their traditional marketing efforts and engage in a new way of communication. It is also vital that law firms understand the cultural differences that make the Hispanic population so unique from other consumer segments. Defining the Hispanic Market The first step in expanding your law firm practice to reach Hispanic consumers is to understand who the "Hispanic" and "Latino" markets encompass. The term, Hispanic, comes from the Latin word for "Spain" and is a broader reference that includes all Spanish-speaking people. Whereas, "Latino" is a more specific term and applies only to persons of Latin American origin. These descriptions do not refer to race, but rather define ethnicity or national origin. In general, this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents of the United States. However, depending on the geographic location of a law firm, some ethnic groups more closely identify with one classification over the other. For example, California residents prefer to be called "Latino" as opposed to Texas and Florida residents, who identify more with the "Hispanic" reference. Understanding Your Hispanic Clientele Regardless of the diversity within the Hispanic and Latino populations, the culture as a whole does share a few common traits that lawyers should consider when trying to effectively communicate with this particular consumer segment. Language Language and cultural barriers often prevent many law firms from targeting the Hispanic consumer. If your law firm hopes to compete in this market, you must be willing to "habla español" – at least in your print and online marketing initiatives. In fact, communicating in Spanish is extremely important because even bilingual Hispanics express a preference for making purchasing decisions in their native tongue. However, try to avoid using automated translation services to convert your marketing messages from English to Spanish. Translation mistakes can embarrass lawyers and result in lost business, not only from the client who initially read the translated information, but also from all the family and friends that person tells. An example of a failed translation is as follows: the translation of "we specialize in white-collar crime" resulted in "we specialize in the white crime of the necklace." Invest in a good translator who specializes in the legal industry--it will be marketing dollars well spent. A Family Affair As lawyers, it is your job to carefully guard the privacy of your clients. But, when dealing with Hispanic clients, remember that they are extremely family-oriented and do not always value privacy and/or confidentiality in the same manner as you. In addition, these strong bonds often extend beyond the nuclear family to include grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and other family friends. Therefore, it should not be surprising to have a client attend a meeting with several family members in tow and it’s critical to not ignore any of them, as many or all may be involved in the decision making surrounding a legal issue. How to Effectively Reach Hispanic Consumers Once you understand the unique characteristics of the group you are targeting, the next step is learning how to effectively communicate your legal services to them. As the Hispanic population continues to explode, your potential opportunities will only increase. Those who succeed in tapping into this market will do so because they have developed a marketing strategy that clearly speaks to the Hispanic audience. Effectively reaching Hispanic consumers does not have to be complicated. In fact, there are a few basic strategies you can implement to help ensure that your marketing messages are heard: Learn the demographics of the Hispanic community in your area. Whether the Hispanic population in your community consists of new immigrants or an already assimilated group makes a big difference in the services you provide and your methods of communication. Use Spanish whenever possible. Create a marketing campaign that taps into the general core values and traits of Hispanics, such as family, tradition, cultural pride, etc. Make your marketing communications entertaining, interactive and colorful. Try to incorporate a fair number of pictures. Humor and laughter also can help you connect with the Hispanic audience. Partner with the local media, such as Spanish-language community newspapers, local radio programs and cable television, to help establish your law firm. Taking Your Marketing Messages Online In addition to using print, radio and television to communicate with Hispanic consumers, the Internet also presents another effective means to reach your intended audience. It is estimated that there are more than 50 million Spanish-speaking people online worldwide. Of the 50 million online, 28 percent live in the U.S. That means that if you are not making Spanish content available on your website, you are missing a tremendous opportunity to connect with your target audience. The average Spanish- speaking Internet user spends an average of 9.5 hour per week online, which is one hour more than U.S. residents in general. They typically use the same search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, and also tend to use the same queries as their English-speaking counterparts. However, when Hispanics are given a choice between an English or Spanish website, more than 80 percent said they would prefer to visit the Spanish language site. Given this statistic, can you really afford not to update your website with Spanish content? Once you’re ready to add Spanish content to your site, there’s two methods to consider. One option is to find a translator and translate English content from your site into Spanish. The second option is to write new copy in Spanish. Either option is a fine choice, but the most important thing to understand is that unless the new copy is optimized for search engines in the Spanish language, it may not be found or ranked within search engine results. It’s also important to choose someone who has Spanish legal expertise, search engine marketing experience and someone who understands the online searching habits of the Hispanic population. With such an impressive number of the Hispanic population online and engaging in e-commerce activities, the next step is determining how to drive them to your law firm’s Web site. To achieve this, you must learn the demographics of the Hispanic community in your area; make sure you understand the issues they are facing; create a culturally relevant marketing strategy; and then position your law firm as an expert in these areas through compelling Spanish language content. As the Hispanic population continues to grow, law firm marketers will be challenged with finding new ways to effectively communicate with consumers. However, the firms who are willing to devote the time and effort it takes to capture the attention of the Hispanic market will have a significant advantage over the competition.