In February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Disney is in talks with Univision, the dominant Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States, to start an English-language cable news channel this year that would compete against the likes of Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. The new channel will be aimed at English-speaking Hispanics in the United States, the fastest-growing ethnic demographic in the country.
This is a significant development that signals a change in the way marketers perceive and address the Hispanic market, and life insurance producers with an opportunity to grow in this demographic need to take note.
Hispanics now comprise 16.3% of the total U.S. population, and that percentage is expected to nearly double by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Bilingual Hispanics, defined as speaking English more than Spanish or both languages equally, account for 82% of the total U.S. Hispanic population, according to a report released in 2011 by Scarborough Research.
Clearly this is an emerging demographic that deserves more attention from marketers than it has traditionally received, which is why Disney and Univision are working to create this new channel. Glenn Llopis, a noted expert who focuses on bringing the immigrant perspective to business leadership, says the creation of such a channel is a defining moment. “This development acknowledges the growing influence of the Hispanic audience, and it’s time for the rest of America to carefully pay attention,” Llopis said in a recent blog post. “This potential alliance with Disney can be a game changer that will awaken all media groups to do the same.”
Understanding Mexican values
Let’s drill down a little further demographically. Statistics bear out that people of Mexican descent living in the United States make up the lion’s share of the Hispanic population in the country. In a May 2011 brief, the U.S. Census Bureau reported there were 31.8 million people of Mexican descent living in the United States in 2010 — comprising 63% of the U.S. Hispanic population and 10% of the total U.S. population. This does not include an estimated 7 million undocumented Mexicans living in the United States. With the exception of Russia, no other country in the world has as many immigrants from all countries as the United States has from Mexico alone.
For life insurance producers to effectively target the Mexican-American market, there are many nuances that need to be understood. A good place to start is to know the difference between assimilation and acculturation.
Most Mexicans living in the United States don’t respond well to mainstream marketing tactics because they do not assimilate to American culture in the traditional sense. Assimilation is when immigrants replace their original home culture with their new culture. A term that better describes what most Mexicans living in the United States go through is acculturation, which occurs when immigrants keep their original home culture but also adapt to and accept the new culture. In effect, they become bicultural. While maintaining original customs, they also add customs from their new environment, which enables them to successfully participate in American society.
Do your homework
Michael Ham, a Dallas-based top producer who is also a sales-oriented motivational speaker, knows plenty about prospecting and selling to people of Mexican descent — and that this market has largely been ignored by financial professionals.
“My being a native Texan and immersed in the culture and daily interaction with the Mexican population in our state, I’ve learned to appreciate some of the things not generally understood by ‘gringos,’” Ham says. “Generally, due to the language barrier and cultural differences in how money is accumulated and saved, this huge and growing market is severely underserved in all things financial.”
Ham says that in addition to the lack of information or marketing of insurance targeted to Mexicans, it’s just not part of their culture to buy life insurance. “And as we all know, it’s a financial vehicle that is sold, not purchased,” Ham says. “In spite of the fact that Mexicans are hard-working, religious, family-oriented people, the typical agent is not trained for presenting life insurance to the blue-collar wage earner. It is believed that nearly 9 out of 10 Mexicans would categorize themselves as Catholic. They put family and their faith above material things.”
But the flip side to their traditional image, Ham says, is that more second- and third-generation Mexicans born in the United States are college educated and achieving remarkable success in white-collar careers. And the Mexican-American population grew faster between 2000 and 2010 as a result of births than by immigration, which is a change from the previous two decades.
To market and teach the benefits of life insurance to Mexicans, Ham advises focusing on their close ties to family when reaching out to them with seminars or client appreciation functions. “Host a function that is family friendly and in a location that is familiar to and frequented by the Hispanic community,” Ham says. And while speaking Spanish isn’t required (although it can be very helpful), remember that many carriers now offer sales literature in Spanish.
“Another way to overcome the language barrier with senior Mexicans is to work up the ladder; prospect to the younger generation (the children of Mexican baby boomers), inviting their families to bring the parents and grandparents to your seminar,” Ham says.
He also advises producers to bone up on Catholic holy days and Mexican holidays. “How inconvenient and disrespectful would it be,” he says, “to schedule a seminar or event on March 31 or May 5, for example?”
If you are a producer living in proximity to a significant Mexican population and have not yet approached this demographic, do some homework before jumping in — but don’t ignore this great opportunity.
“Open up your mind and prospecting borders to the fastest growing target market for life insurance and I am betting that your practice will flourish,” Ham says.