May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. So what better time to learn more about this diverse community and how to better serve your current and prospective Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individual clients?

Perhaps more than any other group, the AAPI community presents opportunities for dental insurance brokers who sell directly to individuals.

That’s intriguing. But when we say “AAPI,” who are we talking about, exactly?

While this can be a complicated and somewhat divisive question, AAPI is all people of Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander ancestry, according to The Asian Pacific Institute.

This can include people with origins from:

  • East Asia (including China, Japan and Korea)
  • Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam)
  • South Asia (including India and Pakistan)
  • Central Asia (including Afghanistan and Mongolia)
  • Hawaii and the Pacific Islands

In all, more than 50 countries fall under the AAPI umbrella.

Wow, that covers a lot of people. How do I cater to such a diverse group?

Not surprisingly, finding a “one-size-fits all” approach to attract and support AAPI clients probably isn’t realistic. For example, different Asian American and Pacific Islander groups vary widely in terms of income, education level, languages spoken and English fluency, and determining the specific needs of the AAPI population in your area will require some research on your part.

That said, a recent Nielsen report found some commonalities among Asian American consumers’ demographics, media preferences and buying habits.

They’re asking about you.

Broker tip: Building loyalty with your AAPI clients is important, not only to retain their business but also to attract new customers from their network of family, friends and neighbors.

When it comes to doing business with the AAPI community, positive recommendations — from friends, family and the internet — are critical.

  • More than 40% of Asian Americans surveyed said family members influence their buying decisions
  • Almost 30% said that they prefer to buy products and services their friends approve of
  • Almost 75% said that they read online reviews by others before making a purchase 

Speaking of family, AAPI households tend to be large. And affluent.

Broker tips:

  • Successfully attracting one AAPI client could potentially lead to a lasting business relationship with the client’s extended family.
  • Discuss dental plans for families and for seniors.

The AAPI community has a higher-than-average household income of $85,000, compared to $60,000 for the total population. Asians also have the highest top and median incomes among any U.S. population.

An important caveat is that there’s a large income disparity among specific groups within the AAPI community. For example, a recent Pew Research study found the following:

  • Asians at the top of their income distribution earn more than 10 times more than Asians at the bottom
  • Indian households have a much higher than average household income and rate of college graduation ($100,000 and 72%)
  • For certain Southeast and Central Asian populations, the poverty rate is as high as 35%

One of the reasons AAPI households earn more on average than the overall population is size. They’re 17% larger than the average U.S. household and are often multigenerational.

The multigenerational element is important, because heads of AAPI households are more likely than other populations to make purchase decisions for the entire household, including their spouses, children, parents and relatives.

The AAPI community loves technology and media.

Broker tips:

  • Consider targeted television and internet advertising to attract new clients.
  • Maintain an online presence, including social media accounts and an attractive, useful and up-to-date website optimized for mobile use.

Not only do AAPI households tend to be larger than the U.S. average, these households also tend to be wired. Among AAPI households:

  • 99% have internet access
  • 97% have a smartphone
  • 89% have a computer, which is 13% higher than the overall population

And they use these devices. A lot. AAPI households spend more time than average surfing the web on their computers, social networking on their smartphones, watching video on both computers and tablets, and shopping online.

  • The AAPI community shops online at a rate 34% higher than the total population
  • Almost 90% have purchased a product or service online in the past year

The AAPI community also spends another 23 hours per week watching television — more than any other group in the U.S.

Language can be tricky.

Broker tips:

  • Determine both the ethnic groups and age groups within the AAPI community you want to target.
  • Depending on which demographic you want to reach, advertising on native-language media outlets, such as cable channels, radio, magazines, newspapers, and online and social media, might make sense.
  • To attract younger clients, conventional English-language advertising, or a mix of both, might be more effective.
  • If you have a staff, determine whether anyone speaks a relevant language and if not, consider hiring someone who does.

For both marketing and interactions, language can be a challenge. Unlike other groups that share a single language, the AAPI community speaks more than 50 languages and thousands of dialects.

Of course, many members of the AAPI community also speak English — among native Hawaiians, that number is nearly 100%. But English literacy differs greatly between immigrants and those born in the United States. 

The key factor here is age. For example, among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under the age of the 35:

  • 34% were born outside the U.S.
  • 95% percent speak English well or exclusively

Contrast that with ages 55 and older:

  • Approximately 85% were born outside the U.S.
  • For several communities, such as Thai and Vietnamese, the number who were foreign-born approaches 100%
  • 56% have limited English proficiency (and more than 85% for certain groups, such as Vietnamese and Hmong)
  • Only 15% speak English at home

Attracting and working with older AAPI clients might then seem daunting. But a bit of community research can help. Find out who the largest AAPI population is in your community and focus on them. If there are several, Bill Imada, Founder and Chairman of AAPI-focused ad agency the IW Group, advises starting with one group, learning from your experience, and then using the lessons learned to focus on others.

And when you advertise, be sure to feature images of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. A recent Porter Novelli report found that people who didn’t feel represented in a company’s marketing were less likely to support that company.

Finally, if you have a staff, find out if anyone is at least partly fluent in a relevant language — you might already have an invaluable resource and not even know it!

Being able to communicate effectively with these clients is important. That’s because insurance brokers often play an essential role in the providing the AAPI community with access to the health and dental coverage they need. For example, according to recent data about California’s insurance marketplace, most Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese enrollees buy plans through certified insurance agents, as opposed to community groups or the Covered California website.

Support the AAPI community

Broker tip: Support your local community and work with organizations that serve it.

Family and community are very important to the AAPI community, and more than half said they’re more likely to purchase brands that support a cause they care about.

With that in mind, a great way to promote yourself and your business is to support local and national organizations that help the AAPI community. Certainly, a cash contribution is always welcome, but other suggestions for getting out and making a difference are:

  • Working with a local organization to expand dental access to the community
  • Volunteering or collaborating on an outreach project to help recent immigrants navigate the individual health and dental insurance market
  • Advertising or sponsoring an event to promote dental care

Some local and national organizations that serve the Asian and Pacific Islander communities include:

That’s helpful. But what else can Delta Dental do to help me?

Older Asian Americans and recently arrived immigrants can face challenges accessing oral health care. They might be unfamiliar with the U.S. health care system and have difficulty communicating in English.

Fortunately, Delta Dental offers materials and services that can help you make it easier for them:

  • The Language Assistance Program. Through this free service, your clients can get professional translation and interpretive services. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more. They can even request in-person interpreter services for dental visits, with 72 hours’ notice.
  • The Find a Dentist tool. Your clients can search for dentists who meet their specific language needs, such as Chinese or Tagalog. You can even use the directory to compile a list for them.

Supporting an individual client base as diverse as the AAPI community can be a challenge. But with some research and some help from Delta Dental, you can create strong relationships that can last for years, and perhaps even generations, to come.