Marketing to Asian-Americans For Growth Today And Tomorrow

By

With the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the gates of America opened wide for Asians and other non-Europeans.

Today, Asians are arriving in record numbers with dreams for their future and hopes of economic opportunity. A significant number of these newcomers are young, highly educated and upwardly mobile.

Although many want to maintain their Asian identity and preserve their heritage, they are also very receptive to products that help make their new life in the United States more secure. This makes many Asians enthusiastic first-time life insurance purchasers.

This fact is, of course, no secret to the handful of life insurance companies that are experiencing levels of success and sales growth in the Asian-American market that far outpace results in their traditional markets.

But, Asians willingness to accept an American means of security–life insurance–does not translate to a shedding of a steadfast cultural belief. Namely, that education provides the most promising path to success and financial independence.

These values, when transplanted in a country abundant with economic opportunity, bode well for the next wave of career opportunities in the Asian market–financial planning.

Life insurance companies that have established relationships with this emerging market segment will be well positioned to manage their financial planning needs as they evolve into one of Americas most affluent ethnic groups.

The 2000 census reveals that Asian-Americans represent the fastest growing ethnic segment in the United States with a nearly 20% growth rate over Hispanics, the next fastest growing group. The Asian-American market will reach an estimated 35 million, or 10% of the total U.S. population, by 2050.

Companies entering the Asian market should consider their ability to deliver three key things that Asians tend to place great emphasis upon in the buying process: financial strength and stability; unwavering commitment from the top; solid field marketing strategy.

Companies seeking success in reaching the Asian-American segment should keep the following in mind:

Avoid the quick-fix syndrome. Hiring a consultant or advertising agency to create brand awareness through television, radio and print advertising that promotes incentives, with the aim of earning recognition and community trust overnight, is something that is not likely to achieve a high degree of success.

Rather, companies must engage in serious market research and implement an effective, integrated mix of advertising, public relations, and perhaps most important, community involvement.

Focus on long-term profit not short-term gain. Long-term commitment to an integrated marketing initiative is essential to maintaining sales momentum and customer trust.

Pulling back on advertising budgets and grass-roots programs after a multicultural marketing initiatives initial success can have an adverse effect on sales.

Field team support from the community. Recruit and retain professional financial services representatives from the Asian-American community. The segment prefers doing business with people who understand their culture and speak their language. Communication with, instead of communication to, is a vital key to sustaining success.

Maintain core strengths. Customer needs for financial services mirror those of mainstream customers. An endeavor to create offerings specific to this segment can create confusion among producers. It can also create underwriting and business operations challenges.

Focus on core strengths. Coupled with in-language customer support service and training in cultural sensitivity, core strengths will likely ensure success.

The plethora of financial products and services offered today, coupled with the growing concern for market volatility and financial security, present a specific opportunity among Asian-Americans who want education and advice–many with a preference for conversing in-language.

It should be emphasized that this is probably not an opportunity for most companies unless they understand they must make a considerable investment in commitment, resources and staying power.

is assistant vice president, Multicultural Business Development for New England Life Insurance Company, a MetLife affiliate. You can reach her at Lily Fong/A/TNE@NEF-MLI


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 21, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.