Truly Reaching UHNW Customers Online & Off: What We’ve Learned The Hard Way

I recently reread an article Lorre White wrote on Luxury Daily (which I believe is a repost form her website) which talks about something that really needs to be made clear: Reaching UHNW individuals online or off is no easy feat and a large majority of the luxury media doesn’t even come close to reaching the types of people they really want.

lorre white the luxury guru I will fully admit to the fact that even our firm – a leading luxury agency – sometimes struggles in reaching this type of client. Getting a message in front of the UHNW isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t cheap. Of course, not every marketing campaign can be perfect, but over the years we’ve evolved and continue to learn what truly works as the landscape progresses.

Lorre is the real deal. A brilliant marketer and the respect she has comes from a foundation she’s worked hard to build. When she speaks on a topic, especially this one, we tend to perk up our ears and really dig deep into what she says. A lot of the points in her article really got me thinking and I wanted to highlight them and dig a bit deeper.

I’ll even go over some strategies we use in our efforts for clients as well our B2B needs as we’re always looking for the next great client. To be honest, I know a few people who would rather I not talk about some of these topics publicly but there really is no big secret. It’s very hard to get this type of client and it’s costly to reach them, so it takes a lot of time and relationship building to even start. Either way, there will always be people in certain industries that need to attract these clients and I’m happy to help them anyway I can on their journey. That path will almost certainly lead to something Lorre has written so lets see just what needs to be done in order to reach UHNW individuals.

“There are few real luxury media. By that I mean there are very few sources that actually reach the ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) market. It takes more than just pretty pictures to reach the wealthiest demographic. It takes bringing them information that is relevant to them by someone that they trust.” — Lorre White

There are thousands of luxury blogs, newsletters, Instagram influencers, Polyvore accounts and magazines and the reality is you rarely hit the UHNW audience. We’ve learned this the hard way many times with media buys and influencer campaigns for clients with a product that’s well over the $50,000 mark.

The issue to really overcome is summed up and bolded in Lorre’s quote above – someone making a big purchase is going to need to trust you. We’re personally seeing a lot of very expensive purchases online by UHNW clients in the jewelry and watch sectors, but superyacht customers and wealth management are areas that are quite hard to reach.

engaging uhnw clients
Image Credit: Wealth-X

As you’ve guessed, reaching these folks costs a modest marketing budget. It requires its own strategies and it’s not only expensive because it’s the luxury industry. It’s also because there is most likely competition already out there with a lot of exposure, established relationships and media around.

Relationship Building Is Paramount

When we started specifically marketing to the luxury consumer over 10 years ago, it was very hard to get the customer to hit that checkout button. Our reputation online and through word of mouth has brought us a long way since, but still we see new luxury brands struggle with the trust it takes to make a $100,000+ purchase without ever seeing your face or shaking your hand.

“UHNW do not follow news sources, but instead individuals that they trust.”–LW

With so little free time in the day of a typical UHNW individual they’re definitely not chatting on Facebook or browsing Reddit endlessly for hours. Meeting these people will most likely either come from attending the right events or getting a recommendation from someone close in their circle who does go online a good amount. Think wealth managers and lawyers.

Building a relationship with UHNW individuals isn’t easy to do but is getting more and more possible everyday as younger people become wealthy through their families or businesses. Channels are opening up and there are easier ways to more get your brand in front of an UHNW individual in the digital age.

What can be done?

Well for us we provide content that showcases how we think and keep up to date on the latest marketing trends in the luxury industry. This gets the trust going because the people come to us. Not making the first “effort” to connect or “being found” is a fantastic way for a business to build trust with potential new customers. Instead of feeling sales pressure, discussions and relationships are formed. Frankly, it’s the best way to bring in a client as we’re not trying to pitch them but instead enjoy discussing what we’re both interested in.

Event marketing and conferences are honestly some of the best methods for networking, relationship building and tapping into this market. You really are putting – not only your money – but you yourself on the line and having your character tested.

wealth x uhnw global population
Image Credit: Wealth-X

Social media has come a long way in the luxury industry with the usual suspects like Facebook and Instagram, as well as a few private “for the elite” only style of clubs. These networks, like ASW or Luxury Society, are actually quite useful for penetrating the outer rim of the UHNW world.

If you’re in the business of selling to affluent millennials then you’re in a pretty wild west kind of market right now. These young and wealthy love to showoff on Instagram and it presents a real opportunity for brands to monitor their taste and build a profile. Not only that, but brands can now engage them and build real relationships which are more personable and not sales focused.

Highly Targeted Marketing

Certain verticals within the luxury industry – like watches and travel – are easier than others. I’ve never been a finance guy in the slightest and have found this niche is a tricky one. Getting someone to trust you with their money is no east feat, especially when it’s such a large sum. Finding your target audience isn’t going to be easy but it is a must if you want your business to grow and flourish.

The fastest way to bankruptcy for a business in the luxury sector is the use of inappropriate marketing. What I mean by inappropriate is “mass marketing.” –LW

You really have to put yourselves in their shoes and think about what kind of person is going to be attracted to your brand. Talking again about the wealth management sector or, say, people who want to buy a superyacht. We’ve found these verticals to be quite difficult to crack into and have had to endure a lot of trial and error with our clients.

Some areas that are a good place to get your feet wet are:

  • Advertising in private jet terminals in key locations
  • Media buys in magazines that are sent only to UHNW/HNW clientele
  • Conference and events like the Monaco Yacht Show or Baselworld
  • Viral marketing efforts to reach mass audiences in hopes of being seen by a key few
  • Pay up and utilize Wealth-X’s products and solutions

In her article, Lorre is really trying to get it into your head that blowing $20,000 of your marketing budget on luxury blogs and magazines may not be the best bet. If you’re serious about acquiring UHNW clients then get your best suit ready because face to face networking on a global level is in order.

Social media still has to grow a bit and, as younger UHNW come up, they’ll be more adept with technology and be more inclined to be on Facebook and Instagram. Organic Google search is still quite viable as well, I wouldn’t count it out but it’s a long term strategy that needs to be played right from the start.

Know Your Marketing Spend

We recently did a campaign for a very well known brand that wanted to reach supercar owners in key locations. We identified the best ways to do this and presented our outline. With a few key magazine placements, social media influencer campaigns, blog posts as well as Instagram + Facebook ads they were already easily looking at a $20,000 budget. Not to mention event marketing isn’t even on the table and that alone can easily double the budget needed to reach the right audience.

A business cannot expect a customer to pay premium prices if it does not pay the premium cost to market correctly.”–LW

That isn’t cheap. Half of our clients couldn’t even come close to that kind of a budget spend in just a few months and that’s the reality of it. Lorre mentions to “market correctly” and this is also a portion of the quote that is very important.

Your brand is going to have to go through some trial and error to find your way through the threshold. This again comes down to your budget as you’re going to take a hit or three before you have enough data to steer the ship. Literally every product in every niche will play a little differently than the last.

The most expensive marketing reach is to the wealthiest demographic. It costs a lot more to land a whale than a minnow. It takes more skilled and specifically trained marketers, and advertising cost is much higher in media that successfully reaches this group.”–LW

What’s the easy way? I’ll tell you when I figure it out. Here at Luxury Branded we focus a lot on PR stunts, newsjacking and viral marketing for our clients. This can be a fantastic tool for getting a broad reach among the luxury industry news sites and blogs in hopes a UHNW individual catches wind of it.

This method is perhaps best used for penetrating the outer bubble and getting your brand in front of the advisors and influencers to the UHNW population. I’d love to know your thoughts and hopefully hear from others over time on this topic as it doesn’t get discussed that much in the open.

Ryan Clark
[email protected]

Ryan Clark is celebrating 10 years consulting for luxury brands across the globe helping them reach UHNW individuals online and off. He specializes in luxury digital marketing, SEO, PR and luxury viral marketing. Connect with me to talk about your luxury marketing strategy and how our services can help you achieve more this year. I offer a luxury gaps audit to determine where you're falling flat and where I see you can improve in your marketing efforts.   To connect with him online you can follow on Twitter @LuxuryBranded, connect on LinkedIn Ryan R Clark and read his column on Luxe Getaways Magazine where he covers the world of luxury.

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