Terry explains what organizations can do to quickly assess the relative importance of their Hispanic market efforts when there’s no internal traction.
This podcast is also available as an article: Gaining Internal Traction For Targeting Hispanics As Part Of The Company's Growth Strategy
By Terry Soto, Author and CEO, About Marketing Solutions, Inc.
A few years back I along with some colleagues were contracted by the Coca Cola Retailing Research Council of North America to help the council tackle what had become a critical issue among U.S. food retailers: how to successfully market and merchandise to ethnic consumers. The result was the actionable “Grow With America Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising.”
As I thought about how I would begin this 10-month consulting project alongside ten major retailer CEOs, I decided that valuable insights would come from interviewing various stakeholders outside of retail to understand for example, observations among trade publications and trade associations of the state of ethnic marketing among US retailers as well as the experience among CPG manufacturers when attempting to gain retailer support for ethnic consumer programs at retail.
The result was a very frank conversation of the obstacles which directly impact retailers’ ability to successfully plan and execute ethnic trade programs, but the bottom line was that retailers were still in a nascent stage when it came to ethnic marketing and merchandising. Some of the most critical include:
- Limited top-level supermarket management commitment to prioritize ethnic marketing.
- Relatively scarce dedicated management resources to drive ethnic marketing and merchandising initiatives.
- Inability to reconcile efficiency models and the capability to customize offerings to ethnic consumers.
- Mainly centralized assortment decisions versus those that address local needs.
- One size fits all category management volume benchmarks drive assortment decisions with little room for ethnic assortment adjustments.
- Heavy reliance on vendor partners to mine ethnic sales data.
- Mostly tactical store level ethnic initiatives, rather than integrated into the retailers’ strategy.
- Sporadic vendor funded ethnic initiatives comprised mainly of revenue-generating promotions and events.
- Ethnic marketing and merchandising is limited and focused on trade advertising and promotions with minimal focus on ethnic customers.
- Culturally and generationally homogenous retail decision makers and diversity initiatives related to staffing and suppliers are not common.
As I stepped down from the stage at FMI after presenting the results from this behemoth project, I was swarmed, not by retailers, but rather by CPG companies.
Shortly after, I proceeded to make the rounds at major CPGs where brand managers and business directors saw the following opportunities in the findings:
- Top to top meetings between CPGs and retailers to make retailers aware of the wealth of information available through their CPG partners.
- CPG companies identified dedicated and cross functional resources to help retailers understand the ethnic sales opportunity possible through turn-key CPG ethnic programs.
- CPG companies helped retail partners create ethnic store clusters and respective category management filters that consider ethnic assortment requirements and ethnic velocity benchmarks.
- CPGs optimized distribution systems to facilitate efficient DSD distribution systems to help retailers overcome centralized decisions and distribution hurdles.
- CPGs proactively mined Hispanic sales data to help retailers overcome uncertainty about ethnic consumption and size of the opportunity.
- CPGs created yearlong ethnic marketing trade and consumer marketing calendars with proactive retailer input meetings to deliver continuous strategic programs in support of key sales drive periods.
- CPGs pursued more robust diversity goals across their own marketing and sales functions.
Today, retailers continue to struggle with the same hurdles identified eight years ago while being evermore focused on operational efficiencies not the consumer.
However, CPGs have grown increasingly proactively about understanding their retailer customers about their ethnic marketing needs. In doing so, they’ve gained the insights to develop programs which deliver on what retailers, consumers and CPGs value and which are well executed, and isn’t this the true measure CPG and retailer alignment.
Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in helping her clients dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to succeed in the Hispanic market. She can be reached at email@example.com or 818-842-9688.
Terry emphasizes that by simply optimizing current strategies and performing some customer insight work, your organization can have an effective marketing strategy targeting the Hispanic market – without having to develop an entirely new and impo
rtantly a separate strategy.
By Terry Soto, Author of Marketing to Hispanics a Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative and Grow with America: Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising.
In my consulting helping companies assess and improve their chances of success in the Hispanic market, I’m inevitably asked somewhere along the way to share examples of best practices – to share about those companies that “are doing it right.”
I have three things to say about best practices and the role they should and should not play in developing a successful Hispanic market strategy:
1. I caution companies from subscribing to another company’s best practices because I don’t believe that any company’s best practices, however derived and implemented, can ever be adopted in part or in whole to help create success in another company. No company is the mirror image of another. Even within the same industry, there are different corporate cultures, companies are in very different market positions, and different business priorities and strategies simply make it impossible for another company’s best practices to be either effective or efficient elsewhere.
2. Best practices are always in the eye of the beholder. You’ve heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side?” While on surface it may seem as though a company’s best practices are generating success for them, in reality, they may be facing just as many challenges. Consider that when companies’ successes, case studies or conference presentations are made public, they typically highlight the positives and are generally absent of the missteps, the trial and error, the shortfalls and even the resistance or lack of support faced internally.
3) In my experience, internal stakeholders responsible for implementation are seldom as engaged or as committed to adopting, implementing and ensuring the longevity of a best practice or even a strategy they’ve had a minimal role in creating and frankly, which hasn’t been vetted against the reality of their functions, responsibilities and challenges. Stakeholders will always feel greater ownership of solutions which have been generated internally especially when they’ve had the opportunity to provide input in their development.
So while it’s always interesting and even motivating to think there is “a best way” and think we can rely on external best practices, I encourage my best clients to apply the same methods in research, planning and strategy development for the Hispanic market as part of the process employed for the company as whole.
I always tell my clients there are no shortcuts and there are no cookie cutter approaches. I recommend that four key steps to follow:
- Always start with the company’s direction and strategic growth priorities as the foundation.
- Acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know about the Hispanic market and be open to learning and to grow your competence
- Identify and take the time to understand who your most productive Hispanic targets vis-à-vis your current core target characteristics.
- Develop your strategy so it takes into account all consumer with these winning characteristics including Hispanics and align their implementation accordingly.
In short, create your own best practices – practices that have been customized to your specific business situation, goals and existing strategies. I encourage you to take on this approach because it’s the only way to target Hispanics in a manner that will be meaningful to both stakeholders and your consumer targets.
Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in helping her clients dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to succeed in the Hispanic market. For more information please visit www.about marketingsolutions.com or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry speaks to the enormous transformation that has taken place in the Hispanic market and provides 5 important reasons why companies looking for growth now and in the next several years ought to care about making their strategies relevant and successful among their most economically attractive Hispanic segment.