Aftermarket has the opportunity to target a whole new market

Jan. 1, 2020
Playing up your ability to communicate in English and Spanish will be a deal-maker in competing with dealerships.

Relating, not translating, drives marketing to U.S. Latinos.

Hablo Español? If not, you might want to start thinking about taking a Spanish course — that is, if you want to succeed in today's changing aftermarket.

According to the most recent U.S. Census figures, 43.5 million Latinos call the United States home. This makes the Latino population the largest ethnic minority in the United States, and the United States the second largest Hispanic country in the world. By 2020, analysts predict that one in five people in the United States will be Hispanic.

"There are more Latinos in the U.S. than there are Canadians in Canada," says Kelly McDonald, president of McDonald Marketing, who spoke at the 2007 Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium. "If you're hearing more Spanish with your ears and seeing more Latinos with your eyes, trust your instincts. America's Latino population is growing, and soon we're going to be able to feel that population in ways we've never been able to feel it before." And while her statement may have provoked laughter from the crowd, it was meant to drive home an important point — the Latino market is a virtually untapped source of income for aftermarket professionals.

"Latinos are a marketer's dream," McDonald says. She adds that Latinos are the only population in the U.S. that consistently delivers on the "3 L's," meaning that they are "large, lucrative and loyal." Take new vehicle sales as an example. Since 2000, new vehicle sales within the non-Latino market have been down 11 percent, while vehicle sales within the Latino market have climbed 24 percent. In other words, one out of 10 new vehicles sold in the U.S. has been sold to a Latino consumer.

A consumer profile

"Latinos pay for passion," McDonald says. And for many Latinos, that passion includes vehicle audio equipment. In fact, a recent survey she shared with GAAS attendees shows that the Latino population spends 104 percent more on audio equipment than the non-Latino population. But Latinos also spend 22 percent more than non-Latinos on parts and accessories, which is good news for the aftermarket industry.

"Hispanics will buy anything that's in," says McDonald. "They are very trend conscious. But at the same time, they value distinction. For them, a vehicle is more than transportation. It says 'I've made it.' And they will trick that vehicle out with aftermarket (parts) and accessories, because it is their claim to distinction."

Latinos also are very brand conscious, McDonald says, and prefer to purchase well-known brands rather than the less expensive knock-off brands. They place a high value on quality products and trust easily recognizable names. And don't be fooled by stereotypes — this consumer has cash and is willing to spend it on aftermarket accessories to customize their vehicles.

On the other hand, McDonald points out that Latinos underspend in key areas, including miscellaneous service and repairs, body work, brake work and auto repair service policies. But instead of looking at this trend in a negative light, McDonald encourages the industry to consider it a huge opportunity for business growth — if it is savvy enough to tailor services directly to this growing population.

"You need to play up your expertise if you want to steal the dealerships' business," McDonald says. "Market yourself as a specialist, a surgeon. For example, if you do brakes, that's your 'in.' Play up your specialty along with your ability to service the customer in Spanish, and that will be the (deal-maker)."

Rolling out the welcome mat

So, what exactly does it take to reach the Latino population? For McDonald, language is everything — and it will help business owners gain that edge over their competition.

"If you want to do business with the Latino population, you have to hire a bilingual staff," she says. "This will put your customers at ease, which is critical to doing business with this population. Even if you're bilingual, the language that you speak at home is going to be the language of your heart. And if it's the language of your heart, it will be the language of your wallet. For Latinos, it's all about being comfortable in the environment and feeling like they're valued — even if they have to pay a premium to get that service."

Just don't hire the wrong person simply because he or she speaks Spanish, McDonald cautions. But if you have two equally qualified applicants and one speaks Spanish, consider it an extra skill that can help your business grow.

McDonald also recommends advertising with local Spanish media outlets — in Spanish. In addition, she encourages all businessmen and women to push the emotional trigger point of vehicle customization by playing on this consumer group's desire to stand out from the crowd.

"Don't be afraid to emphasize this point with your customers," McDonald explains. "This is a population that values distinction. They want you to look at them at the red light, to see them in their beautiful truck. That vehicle is so much more than transportation to them. It's their point of distinction, a symbol that they've achieved the American dream."

For the Latino consumer, service is king. In fact, service trumps price every time, McDonald says. Not only that, the Latino consumer is extremely loyal and will stick with a service provider as long as he or she feels they are getting the level of service they need — even if they have to pay for it. An added bonus is that Latino consumers bring with them a high word-of-mouth referral rate. If your service is good, people will hear about it.

McDonald also suggests creating a Latino-friendly environment in your shop or store by displaying bilingual signage and presenting key information about products and services in both Spanish and English. Consider offering extended hours or opening the shop on Sundays to attract this target population. But most importantly, take the time to get to know your customers. Participate in grass roots events to make your presence known within the community, and consider recalibrating your product mix to better suit this targeted client base.

"Look for relevant, appropriate marketing opportunities within your particular community," McDonald adds. "For example, get involved in the Calle Ocho Festival if you are doing business with Miami's Cuban population, or do something on the Fiestas Patrias if you're working with a Mexican clientele. Or, you could simply put up flyers outside the town Mercado (market) to advertise your ability — and willingness — to do business in Spanish."

Follow these general guidelines, and McDonald can guarantee your success.

"Face it, Latinos are the future," she says. "They are not a fad, and they are not going away. Learn the market now and you'll gain competitive edge in the future."