High net worth marketing – what and why?

What’s an HNWI? Anyone know for sure?

This is the abbreviation used for ‘High Net Worth Individual’. Why is this important to your marketing? Most CMOs will tell you that the best way to blow away a target CPA number is to market to high net worth individuals, i.e. promote your wares in front of an audience who can instantly afford whatever it is your company does, not waiting for next pay check, not waiting for a business partner, just ‘I like it, so I’ll have it’. Not only this, but HNWIs have a habit of purchasing goods and services in multiples. This is usually music to the ears of most Sales Directors, ergo the Board.

HNWI definitions vary according to where in the world you happen to be. For example, Investopedia has it as:

“The most commonly quoted figure for membership in the high net worth “club” is $1 million in liquid financial assets.” 1

… whereas other countries have lower definitions, and some specialist agencies significantly higher.

In particular, one regulatory body defines high net worth for investment purposes as having an annual salary over £100,000.00 per annum, whereas an international high net worth agency may define this as high as £5M liquid assets, sterling.

To classic marketers the realm of high net worth marketing may seem like a mysterious target to reach. Many companies have tried and become disillusioned with trying to reach HNWs for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the size of the budgets necessary to achieve it as a standalone firm. Most approach it in the spirit of a customised B2C campaign, or even a B2B campaign if the targets also own significant businesses. However, these approaches have historically reaped minimal success if executed only once or twice.

Depending on your company’s offerings, most HNWs are highly likely to have an advisor, or even several advisors, with whom you must ‘pass muster’ before you will be allowed access directly to them. This can be frustrating for most sales forces, and, unsurprisingly, most sales forces give up due to the fact that they have more pressing targets to meet, thus contributing further to the HNW project challenges.

However, for those lucky to have good timing, or a well-known product and suitably attractive service, direct access can be gained and very quickly they discover what all HNWs have in common. They are all ‘time poor’. They will want to be convinced of your offering, although rarely have time to address it, and are much more likely to stack up a few good things with one of their trusted advisors and crash through them in an afternoon at the Dorchester. So we see also that knowing and cultivating their advisors is key.

You will also quickly discover the immense complexity of each HNWs set up in terms of tax, holding structures, estate planning, philanthropy and more. So be prepared. It might also be wise to have senior sales personnel assigned to these tasks, preferably from a background with which your target HNWs will be familiar. Likewise, it may be beneficial to have in your arsenal several possible offerings as during the cultivation phase of your fledgling relationships you will be uncovering actual needs from your HNW which you may be able to fulfil for them quickly and efficiently. Needless to say, personalised attention, and lots of it, is an absolute must, which leads us to the next challenge.

Time is money, and these approaches take up an inordinate amount of person-hours. If you are unable to commit these kinds of resources to your HNW project, you might consider also a high net worth marketing agency, of which there are surprisingly few, although one of two of them do actually deliver excellent results.
In addition, you may find that most HNWs are averse to risk, especially with the current global economic considerations. Once you have your first HNW client, it’s advisable to spend as much time on and with them as you are able. HNWs usually travel in the same circles, holiday in similar places, know a lot of the same people, and from this first account you may be able to segue others by way of referral. As we all know, word of mouth is the best marketing tool on the globe.

Furthermore, in the early stages of your new relationship with your first HNW you might want to consider taking every conceivable opportunity to demonstrate exclusivity, loyalty, and a willingness to always ‘go the extra mile’. Remember too that discretion is a big word in this space, so not the best of ideas to naturally assume your new HNW client might want to mingle with others, including other HNWs, for many reasons.

Ian Gordon, Head of Banks Research at Investec commented recently:

“In theory at least, your high net worth customer ought to be a source of new business account possibilities,”

“It is about making the whole worth more than the collective individual parts.”

That’s all very well you may think. But this still leaves most companies with the problem of how to start their active efforts in the high net worth marketing stakes. And how to get past the immense effort and number of person-hours required to get things moving properly.

John Winters, a Senior Director at SKS Media Singapore, a global high net worth marketing agency comments:

“We are familiar with the challenges facing most companies looking to enter or expand within the high net worth marketing space globally. It can indeed be daunting at first due to the immense efforts required, which is why many clients come to us to help get them started…..”

As an example, SKS Media have one of the largest high net worth databases on the globe which can be included in client campaigns for HNW attraction in a variety of sectors including luxury goods and services, asset and wealth management, private banking, real estate, and investor attraction for various top drawer offerings. Adding in to the digital efforts, SKS also have a sizeable ‘agent base’ globally who carry client offerings directly to their individual ‘black books’, thus generating interest through this direct one-on-one engagement, and various other channels designed to attract interest to a specific offerings. Digitally, these also include ‘Intellipost’, invented and invested by SKS in 2010 whereby client messaging is left if highly targeted areas of the web known to be fertile for a cause, often exploring new niches for which clients are unlikely to have resource e.g. polo, super yachts, golf, luxury cars, and certain types of financial instruments only ever used by HNWs and UHNWs. They also sport a sizeable HNW social network globally through which client messages can reach their HNW targets, and a HNW Partner Network to match. Interestingly, SKS also offer the PCN (‘Private Capital Network’), through which clients can receive direct referrals via ‘word of mouth’. Also offered are the TV, Radio, Outdoor, Events, PR and Partner Development areas as a full service advertising agency, albeit only in the HNW space.

But given the subject matter, what about the ‘personalised approach’?

Winters continues:

“Once significant interest is collected for a particular client, the strength at SKS is in the pre-qualification and individual ‘old school’ follow up we afford each potential new prospect for a client. In the HNW space this is both expected and prerequisite to any campaign. In this regard we are extremely ‘granular’, as this is proven to be a superior option for direct ROI to the client. Many clients prefer to use us as their ‘marketing/direct sales arm’ for the HNW space as we have been doing this so long now……”

So it may be of some reassurance that whether you are starting out in the HNW space, or looking for increased exposure and direct sales from this potentially lucrative area for your business, there is help at hand so that you don’t necessarily have to incur the enormous cost of doing it alone.

Either way, high net worth marketing is still extremely attractive for many reasons. In fact, it you are going to promote anything it is good common sense to put it in front of an audience who can instantly afford whatever it is, right?