Digital Marketing To Latino Users: Paul Lima Interviewed

Posted in Interviews, SES New York

Search Engine Strategies has been part of the search marketing conference landscape for over a decade. With a powerhouse trifecta of outstanding speakers, crowds in the thousands, and a three-day agenda of sessions ranging from über techtastic to super social-chic, it’s clear to see why this summit is labeled must-attend for many industry pros.

This year, SES has added a brand new track to the conference agenda: Focus Latino. SES New York, the fourth stop on aimClear’s March Conference Road Trip, will host the debut of the LatinVision Media-sponsored track. Five unique sessions will take place throughout the day, each with a keen focus on Internet marketing to the Latino/Hispanic community. The track will kick off with an Introduction & Opening Keynote, moving into morning and afternoon sessions Reaching Latinos Through SEO, Search & Social Marketing to Latinos: Roundtable, Analytics for the Latino Markets, and finally, Improved Conversions With Web Site Optimization.

I had the pleasure of sharing an interview with one of the marketers behind the much-anticipated Focus Latino track, Paul Lima (@Paul__Lima). Paul, founder of Lima Consulting Group, will take the stage on several panels throughout Day 2 of SES NY. Read on for the fruits of our Q&A.

| aimClear: Paul, thank you for your time today. When perusing your Search Engine Strategies bio, I was fascinated to learn you were a former commander of the Pentagon’s cyber-warfare unit. That seems quite the leap from interactive marketing—an industry in which you’ve been active for over a decade. Tell us a bit about how that career transition came about.

Paul Lima: Each side of my career has helped the other, like an upward spiral you could say. The opportunity to serve in such a specialized unit and with such talented soldiers afforded tactical and operational insights into the underpinnings of the telecommunications infrastructure that all Internet marketers rely on. My role there was no different than my role today as the owner of a digital strategy consulting firm; that is, to find appropriate clients and recruit the best people. But I have to admit, there was something very, very special about working with the institution that funded the Internet, and as one of the Generals I worked for said, innovating new ways to fight and win America’s wars.

| aimClear: Have you noticed certain elements or stylistic approaches from your time at the Pentagon carrying over into your current work?

PL: Absolutely. And not just my last four years there at the Pentagon, but my 17 years wearing the uniform provided a rich context of experiences to relate digital marketing to lessons learned from the military. I like to use examples and stories from the military to explain the strategies we’ve developed. For example, conducting Pay Per Click campaigns in the beginning of a client engagement can be similar to sending out the reconnaissance. Conducting SEO campaigns is similar to sending in a reinforcing element into an attack. But most importantly, the consulting methodology we use is based on methods used for planning attacks based on the Navy’s invention of the Systems Engineering discipline. While the methods are uniquely our own, the underlying steps are consistent with the same steps taken to plan large scale operations, without the bullets of course. Eisenhower used to say that once you launched an operation, the “plans are useless, but planning is priceless.”  To be successful as a digital marketer you need to be able to adapt strategies, tactics, campaigns and technologies quickly to adjust for new threats and competitive responses.

| aimClear: Very fascinating. Your company, Lima Consulting, offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Philadelphia. Clearly, these satellite locations give your team the advantage of tapping into both national and international Latino markets. Have you noted any distinct search and content language preferences for US-based Latinos? Can you share with us differences or similarities between regions?

PL: As far as consumer trends go in Latin America, they are accessing the Internet with a surprising level of access to broadband, they generally use pre-paid cell phones to access mobile ready websites, and they are vociferously using social networks.  For example, for most of 2009 and 2010, Colombia ranked 6th for the number of Facebook users of all countries. I use socialbakers.com to keep track of these trends. Another example of how Brazilians, Colombians and some of the notable emerging countries such as Argentina, Chile and Panama are progressing in how they search is that they are using more keywords in their searches. In the US that number is a bit over 4 words per search; in the counties I just mentioned it’s growing, but it’s still under 2.

In much of Latin America there is also a love affair with open source software that makes adoption of Software as a Service a challenge.  It’s important to understand the nature of the business problem before selecting a tool and we’re finding consulting engagements often precede execution; companies will contact us to implement an open source solution, and we need to help them back up, making sure they are using the right tools and strategies before they deploy.

Here in the US, the groups that standout as most different within their US benchmarks are the teens and twenty and thirty-somethings. For those that have access to broadband and smart phones they over-index in their use of mobile and loyalty metrics in just about every category. For example, Hispanic teenage girls are so far ahead of their non-Hispanic counterparts that every time I see the numbers and relate it to my own family, I chuckle.

| aimClear: Mobile search is on the rise, to say the very least; some are already coining 2011 as “The Year of Mobile.”  Are you encouraging clients to leverage this marketing platform as it continues to expand? If so, how? (Also– do you see a trend in Latino markets, one way or the other, regarding mobile usage vs. desktop computers?)

PL: I like mobile applications for Latinos, but only in the context of the business objectives a company is trying to solve. In Latin America, mobile is powerful for generating awareness and branding, and the leading economies middle classes have cell phones. But when you look at their data plans, they are prepaid accounts and the phones are not smart phones.  I recommend mobile sites in these cases. In Mexico and Brazil, you have much more widespread access to smartphones and tablets, which makes the decision worth a serious evaluation. It’s important to go back to the analytics and see what types of devices your visitors are using before investing in mobile initiatives.

In the US, Hispanics with access to smartphones and tablets are over-indexing in just about every age category. It’s not necessary to create applications in Spanish or Portuguese, although a language selection drop down menu is appreciated and will signal your company’s tip of the hat. But I do recommend that you work with a Latino marketer to get down the messaging and cultural sensitivities – they go a long way towards creating brand loyalty– a benchmark that anyone who works with the Hispanic marketing knows is a strong tendency with us.

| aimClear: Day 2 at SES New York, you’ll help kick off the “Focus Latino” sequence with an opening keynote. This four-session series is a newer addition to the Search Engine Strategies line-up. What does the integration of such a culturally-thematic series in a mainstream search conference mean to you, on a personal and professional level?

PL: My dad is a second generation Portuguese immigrant and my mom is a Cuban immigrant.  They taught me the importance of education and hard work. My grandfather from Cuba waited tables in Queens for years even though he had a college degree when he left Cuba. My hope is that we help ambitious and capable Latinos find access to opportunities, jobs and capital so that talented folks can contribute towards making our economy strong. That’s why I’m trying to do something to help. I’m the Chairman for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and in that role I’ve worked to consolidate and strengthen the voice of Latino business. Marketing to Latinos is good business – we value education, we value entrepreneurship and hard work, and we are getting beyond our cultural differences and organizing ourselves economically, socially and even politically. Our programming for Day 2 is a reflection of our country’s society and the powerful trends we are seeing from the $1 trillion in purchasing power of this growing and organized demographic.

| aimClear: Looking forward to it. Later that afternoon, you’ll take the stage once more on the Analytics for the Latino Markets panel. Tell us a little about what audience members can expect from your presentation.

PL: Implementing best practices for Latino Internet users are similar to those of the mainstream. But there are subtleties in identifying Key Performance Indicators and in the ways we use information when making purchasing decisions. Selling analytics to Latino owned businesses, whether here or abroad, is also very different due to the reliance on open source or free software and the belief that marketing is more art than science. So there is a lot more education and awareness needed to help Latino businesses understand what is possible when it comes to providing optimized online experiences, to personalize ads and content, and to implement the science of marketing into their businesses.

| aimClear: I dig that — more art than science. Personally, I agree! Okay, final question: what type of evolution do you think we can expect from the digital landscapes of US Latinos and Latin American markets over the next few years?

PL: Brazil is entering their Golden Age on the world stage. Their infrastructure is getting a major overhaul with the coming of the Olympics and World Cup within two years of each other. Marketers are ready, the telecommunications infrastructure is there in the major regions of business, unemployment of college grads is next to zero, the mail systems work, which is important for eCommerce businesses. The missing ingredient is the number of competitors within each industry. We’ll see more competitors entering these markets and providing real threats to the Brazilian players there or acquisitions of local players by multi-nationals. And the new administration really needs to get employment law for virtualized companies updated and I’m hopeful that Dilma will put that on her agenda. It’s still illegal for an employee to work at home for example.  What happens in Brazil impacts the rest of the region in many ways, and while it’s not a 100% correlation to what will happen in the Spanish speaking economies, they are bound to rise with the tide. At home, the US Census data indicates that we’re good for business.  I think that Latino and Hispanic ad agencies will continue to be absorbed into the Madison Avenue behemoths, that new specialty players will emerge as stand-alone agencies, and that Hispanic marketing initiatives will enter the marketing budgets of more mid-sized and smaller businesses.  We’ll see mainstream social networks and app exchange networks offering more apps, games and experiences targeted towards Latinos and the ones that will win will focus more on cultural values rather than language.

| aimClear: Inspiring. Thanks for the time, Paul! Really looking forward to the Focus Latino track. Safe travels, and see you in NYC!