“‘Al punto’ means ‘to the point’ in Spanish,” says Bottger, president and executive creative director of the agency that is focused on marketing to Hispanic consumers. “And it’s something still today that’s very relevant to the way we do business. ... When we set out to do business we said, ‘Either we can explain how we do things, either we can gain our clients trust by showing how we think, or we don’t.’ And part of that had to do with being to the point.”
By being transparent with clients and fostering creativity throughout al Punto, Bottger and partner Peggy Goff have grown revenue from $42 million in 2004 to $52 million in 2005.
Smart Business spoke with Bottger about how his agency connects with Hispanic consumers and how he maintains a culture of creativity and open debate.
How should a business target the Hispanic market?
They need to look at this market as they would at any other market — as an investment. I would like them to say, ‘If I put one dollar in, how many dollars am I going to get out?’ If you don’t care where the dollars are coming from, then we have taken the most important step.
After that ... they have to be more open to do things that they are not comfortable with because this market is different. Sometimes the consumer in many ways reacts different to certain products or services in the same geography and at the same time as the general market.
Third would be, do not approach this market as a test. There’s 44 million Hispanics [living in the United States]. There’s more Hispanics in the U.S. than [there are people] in Canada. You would not go to Canada and say, ‘Hey, let’s do a couple of million dollars and see what happens.’ You would not launch a product in the United States with a mentality of, ‘Let’s see what happens.’
The word test is a four-letter word, because the moment you say it is a test, you are not committed to the results.
How do you make sure people will fit in to your culture?
I do get involved with all the hires, and I do like to spend time with the candidates. Regardless of their level, I love to take them out for dinner, lunch or coffee.
I like to talk to them about their personal lives in the sense that I want my employees to have a life. I want my employees to have something to bring to the table, and if you do not have a life, you cannot bring anything to the office.
My style is ‘in person.’ I need to understand how people behave in public, how people relate to other people in a social setting. Of course, we ask all the questions about the task.
And then a lot has to do with how much willingness this candidate has to give the best — how much inner fire they have. Even though they may not have the experience, [they need] to overcome the lack of experience with desire to do the best and desire to show that they can do the best.
How do you foster creativity?
We don’t hire clones. We are always hiring people to bring a different perspective. We love to hire people that haven’t just worked in advertising but people who have worked in different areas.
Several people at the office have had their own business and succeeded or failed. To me, it doesn’t matter in many ways, but ... that showed two things — the desire of being entrepreneurial and doers, to not just wait for somebody to tell them what to do.
They know how hard it is to run a business, so they don’t take a client for granted. They know they need to earn the client’s business every time.
Sometimes that has led to some very heated debates, which is fine — I encourage those. The fact that we don’t hire clones means that everybody’s different and brings a different perspective.
It is an environment where people are not told what to do every day. We expect them to lead their own projects and their own tasks.
How does open debate benefit you business and your clients?
The consumer is not one homogeneous person. So we cannot expect one way to do business, one way to approach our marketing solutions. The debates are very important in the sense that it brings the best out of everybody.
I would be very concerned if everybody agreed with each other. That means two things: Either we’re not thinking hard, or that means somebody’s being quiet, not bringing their points across.
HOW TO REACH: al Punto Advertising Inc., www.alpunto.com