Marketing to the Mass Affluent, Part 1

We get nearly 100 calls a month from contractors who want to market themselves to rich people in need.

It never fails. The same sentiments that have haunted business owners for years still persist.

Willie Loman, who was convicted after numerous successful bank robberies, was asked at his arrest, “So Willie, why did you choose to rob banks?” With more disdain for the seemingly obvious than any soul searching, he answered glibly, “Because that's where the money is.”

At least he had one part right. “Because that's where the money is” is perhaps a core reason for any business to exist, even charity. It is hard to extract much philanthropy from those who don't have it to give.

Rick Warren, author of the blockbuster runaway bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life,” was “called” to his now-celebrated ministry for reasons that would scare most of us, yet it'll perk the ears of any contrarian businessperson.

Warren chose his church location not for the ready population, the busiest street or the most tithing. He wasn't attracted to a building that had been vacated by a popular but moving congregation.

He chose his church location based on the poorest, most crime-ridden community he could find in gangland California. Why? Though spiritually opposite from Loman's answer, Warren's response is conceptually identical: “Because that's where the need is.”

And here's why you've just suffered through perhaps the only column that dare put Loman and Warren together. We get nearly 100 calls a month from contractors who want to market themselves to rich people in need.

The affluent are able to meet more than a few qualifications. The first one is they can pay (a really good trait). Price sensitivity is out the window. Sales cycles are shorter. Repeat sales are more automatic. Bundled, higher margin services and upsales make sense to them, and referrals soar.

The bad news is that if you think you're going to attract the wealthy with the same methods that probably didn't work on the unwealthy then you are in for a rude awakening. Lucky for you, I'm among the rudest of all awakeners.

I know. You're sick of cheap customers and cheaper competitors. So you market to the affluent. You take your “goodness” and aim it at people who care and will pay. Sadly, bankruptcy courts are littered with skilled people, great ideas and rotten applications of both. Your message is not reaching them.

3 things the rich want

The affluent, top-spending customers out there want three things. My rich customers are no different from yours, by the way, and so this serves as a dual example.

One of our top 50 plumbing clients (hint one) sent in another custom job for me. I won't say what he spends here a year, but it's well into five figures.

He doesn't care that he could buy a PowerPack from me and save about $10,000 (hint two). He's building an arsenal of custom marketing weapons that he can “plug in” when he feels like it. Last year alone, he amassed $4.7 million in sales from six letters (hint three).

Some of you who are used to my pushy teaching tactics are searching that paragraph for the lesson. Good. You can check your answers below.

Hint one: Segment your list. Know who is spending what or who is capable of spending what. LTV, or “lifetime value,” of different client segments is important. If you don't know where the money is, just how do you propose to find it?

Hint two: The affluent are less price sensitive and that may sound obvious, but the corollary is also true: They pay more for what they want, regardless of how “cheaply” they could get something “similar” elsewhere. Do you think a Ferrari buyer is looking for transportation? Do you think a Rolex buyer wants to tell time better? My client doesn't want an ad package that “anyone” can buy. Then why in the world do you think your customers “just” want plumbing service and repairs or even a cheap price?

Hint three: The affluent want outcomes from their incomes. If they have to pay more for comfort, service and convenience (all “soft” sale, high-margin benefits as you'll notice), then so be it. They correctly figure, “If I'm paying more for it, I'd better get more from it.” Usually this means saving them time, trouble and headaches. No one values their time more than the wealthy. Why? Their “hourly wage” — regardless of how it's figured — is far higher. A guy making a half-million dollars is getting $250 an hour, every hour of every work week, all year long. Basically, “cheap” is anathema to the wealthy. Quality, prestige and exclusivity are core, not fringe, benefits.

Next month, we'll take the above three lessons and discover how to apply them to achieve the best results.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractor, and author of the recently published Contractor Marketing Secrets. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115. Call 800/489-9099 or check out for other free marketing articles and reports.

TAGS: Marketing