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Multicultural marketing secrets: these top producers have grown their practices based on targeting untapped demographics. How do they make it work?

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One-third of the American population is made up of minorities. That's one-third of the population that's simply not as well understood by many mainstream marketers, and one-third of the population that may be getting the wrong marketing message--or none at all.

By 2050, that number is projected to increase to 54 percent of the U.S. population, making the multicultural community America's new majority.

As these groups continue to grow, it becomes essential for insurance producers to learn how to serve specific audiences in order to grow and provide coverage to a vast number of consumers that are often overlooked.

But where do you start? What's your ideal target market, and how can you reach it? To find out, ASJ spoke with three independent agents who have made a name for themselves marketing to multicultural consumers. Read on to learn about the challenges they faced and how they found success in diversity marketing.

STARTING WITH YOUR OWN CULTURE

Sometimes, the most underserved demographic groups can be your next big niche. that was certainly true for Neil Jesani, who cofounded Beamalife in 2007 and began marketing to South Asian prospects now living in the U.S.

Jesani believes his own background helps him better communicate with his clients--who descend from such countries as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh--as it gives him the unique advantage of understanding their specific problems and needs.

"There are more than 2 million South Asians in America," he said. "Their average per capita income is way higher than the U.S. average. Most of the people are conservative; they also understand the value of life insurance and family."

Jesani explains that his target demographic tends to be more closely connected with their ethnic community. From the television programs they watch to the newspapers they read, everything is linked to their own culture. Because of this, he only advertises with South Asian media,

Because of the challenges Jesani has seen within his own community, he suggests that minority agents may want to market first to their own culture, then branch out to other groups.

"If you want to get into a market you are not associated with, it's not that you can't, but you need to partner with someone involved in that community," said Jesani.

Just like with any sale, Jesani believes that in the insurance world, it is crucial to think first about serving your clients rather than thinking just about growing your business. It's about establishing a comfort level with clients. And only then, he said, will they will be more willing to follow your recommendations.

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SERVING ALL IN NEED

When Tony Mouton moved to Southern California to expand his business in 1990, he feared that his inability to speak Spanish would be a setback.

His father, however, knew better.

Before Curt Mouton passed away in 2004, he told Mouton that he'd probably do well with the Hispanic community because "they love family, love to party, and eat good food." As it turns out Mouton's father was right.

Today, Hispanics make up the majority of Mouton's clients--some of whom don't even speak English. Mouton has learned that the language barrier is not a handicap for sales. As he puts it, people can read sincerity through body language and eye contact.

"A lot of agents don't realize how they come across as salesmen,' Mouton said. "If they come across as 'they will sell anything,' that radiates to people.'

But while Mouton serves a largely Hispanic client base, he tends not to seek out specific groups, instead targeting clients from all income, racial, and ethnic groups and both genders.

"I have just been objective to what people's needs are and demographics that are around me,' he said. "If there is a real need there and I have a real solution, that's what people like, and that's what people stick with."

According to Mouton, the key to his multicultural marketing success has been presenting clients information based on their concerns, their needs, and their priorities. Sales, after all, is about serving the client and giving them what they want.

"Sincerity and listening sounds elementary, but it is true," Mouton said. "Most importantly, you have got to love people. You have got to really care."

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CHOOSING A SEGMENT MARKET

Susan Siflinger grew up in a home full of insurance professionals--which is why it should have been no surprise when her father, Sy, suggested that Susan obtain an insurance license. Sy had owned S&S, an insurance marketing company, since the 1970s, and Susan learned about Medicare, LTCI, and home care from the family business.

After her father passed away 15 years ago, Susan started LifeStages and, in 2000, began mentoring multicultural agents at Allianz Life.

"Twenty years ago, being a woman was a definite disadvantage," said Siflinger. "Today, it is a big-time advantage-because people are looking for balance and relationships. It's not just about the bottom line anymore."

Throughout her career, Siflinger has marketed to the Jewish population, Hispanics, blacks, and women. Two years ago, however, she focused in on the female market after reading a study revealing that women were handling 60 percent of the wealth in the country.

She explains that it is essential for agents to speak with experts within their target markets to better understand their prospects' cultural priorities. Observing the target group and conducting research can also help producers develop a successful marketing strategy. She uses the multicultural agents that she mentors, for example, as the "first line of defense" to overcoming the challenge of dealing with different languages and cultures.

"There is so much opportunity within target markets; you just need understanding, experience, knowledge, and the tools," Siflinger said. "[Marketing] tools are the foundation, and finding the product to do what is best for the client.

Being an independent [agent], you don't have blinders; you can research and shop for [your clients]."

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* MORE MULTICULTURAL MARKETING TIPS

To learn more about mastering the art of working with minority groups, ASJ spoke with Michael Soon Lee, the president of the multicultural sales and marketing company EthnoConnect and the author of "Cross-Cultural Selling for Dummies."

Be sure you know exactly which culture you are marketing to because each may be different in terms of beliefs and even language.

* Hispanics include six major cultural backgrounds: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, South Americans, Cubans, and Dominicans.

* Asians comprise 17 major cultures, including Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, and Japanese.

* Blacks include African-Americans, Africans, and people from many other parts of the world.

Use effective words in your ads.

* Hispanics: "family," 'educational savings," "tradition"

* Asians: "family," "financial security," "wealth preservation"

* Blacks: "community," "unique,' and "customized products"

Use the right images in your ads.

* Don't think that people can't tell the difference between Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, Chinese and Japanese people, and African-Americans and those from Africa--least of all your target markets. If you are targeting a specific cultural background within an ethnicity, use people from that specific culture in your marketing materials.

Remember that marketing can only get you in the door; you must be culturally competent to make the sale.

* Learn to properly meet and greet clients. Let them offer the greeting that's most comfortable for them; then, you can follow suit.

* Many cultures don't like to talk about death, believing that the mere mention can bring bad luck. Instead, focus on the wealth protection and savings features of certain insurance products.

* Don't expect to walk out with a signed policy application on the first visit.

Many cultures want to develop a trusting relationship before they invest, which often takes several visits.

Michael Soon Lee can be reached at seminars@netvistanet or 800-417-7325.

Jennifer Israel is a staff writer for the Agent's Sales Journal.
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Author:Israel, Jennifer
Publication:Agent's Sales Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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