The cr?me de la cr?me, the cream of the crop, the Holy Grail, the cat’s whiskers: high-net-worth seniors. Whatever term you place on them, high-net-worth seniors are the clientele many advisors hope to attain but aren’t sure if they can. Reaching this market niche, however, may not be as difficult as you think.

In many ways, HNW seniors are much like middle-income seniors. David Levine, director of national sales at GunnAllen Financial, a national network of 900 independent financial advisors in Tampa, Fla., says he works with many HNW seniors who don’t have comprehensive financial plans, trusts to transfer wealth to their heirs or long term care insurance. In the same respect, HNW seniors want what any senior wants: a financial advisor they can trust, good health care and retirement security.

But to reach this market niche successfully, you need to understand what wealthy seniors are all about – how they got to where they are today, what they like to do and what they envision for their futures.

Stacey Haefele, president of High Net Worth Inc. in New York, a marketing services and software solutions company for the financial services sector, is the first to admit that you can’t make generalizations about HNW seniors. Her Web site, www.hnw.com, makes it clear: “Wealthy individuals can no longer be captured by a single demographic profile. What they do share is a mindset: the focus on top performance, lightning speed and impeccable service.”

With a focus on quality, Haefele says that HNW seniors share a few overriding characteristics: They’re usually self-made, they love their jobs (the boomers never really plan to retire completely), and they’re intellectually curious and active. Knowing this will help you form an effective marketing strategy.

So let’s start with the basics: Your target audience is the HNW senior. The younger ones who are still working love their jobs, and the older ones who aren’t “working” in a conventional sense often are still busy with their professions or other activities. Either way, it’s important to note that they’re time poor. Your marketing strategy needs to accommodate this. And the best way is through the Internet.

Tech-savvy seniors
Not having a Web site these days is like watching the game from the stands. Whether you’re a financial planner, a hotel owner or a dog walker, if you don’t have your own Web site you’re not looked at as a legitimate business (or a business worth looking at).

Haefele says advisors who use the excuse that seniors are not online are just plain wrong. “They have a propensity to be online,” she says. “The older they get, the more online they are.”

According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life project, the number of seniors online has increased 50 percent in the last four years. In fact, the study shows that almost 60 percent of younger seniors, age 50 to 64 are active Internet users.

Edmond Walters, president and CEO of eMoney Advisors in Conshohocken, Pa., a provider of Web-enabled wealth and goal planning solutions, says seniors are the fastest growing demographic on the Internet, and many rely on it for finding information and making purchases. “Nearly 75 percent use the Internet to find health information, and 78 percent make online purchases worth $7 billion annually,” he says.

Walters describes high-net-worth seniors as “technically savvy” and “financially savvy,” concluding, “No innovative marketing tactic should be taken off the table over concerns over their lack of technology or financial expertise.”

So if you’re avoiding getting online because you think seniors don’t use the Internet, think again. Whether you want to attract potential clients and get that first, face-to-face meeting, or you want to enhance existing relationships, the Internet is the latest and greatest way to get you there.

For those of you who are not so technically savvy with all the latest online functions, you may think Internet marketing is exclusive to building a Web site. Not quite. A Web site is only the beginning. There are e-newsletters, blogs, e-brochures, client videos and more.

But despite the growing number of possibilities out there, the Internet cannot replace face-to-face meetings with clients – an essential component in an advisor-client relationship.

“Trust is established through face-to-face meetings,” Walters says, “and there is no substitute for clients, young or old.”

A balanced approach
When it comes to acquiring new clients, however, a balanced approach is better than a sweeping one.

“You have to use a variety of channels,” Haefele says.

And this is where High Net Worth Inc. goes to town. It provides its clients – 15 of the top 30 U.S. financial services institutions in the country – with quality marketing materials, from capabilities brochures to beefed-up PowerPoint presentations and software. High Net Worth Inc. ensures that all of its marketing materials are of the highest standard they can be. Why? Because HNW seniors expect quality. They want to see clean, concise and sleek marketing materials, and that’s exactly what you should give them.

Another effective way to attract HNW clients is by starting a newsletter, whether in print or on the Web. Haefele claims wealthy seniors love great content. They want to read thoughtful, well-written, exclusive pieces that cannot be found anywhere else, she explains. Being recognized as a local expert in your field is invaluable, and this might be a great way to do it.

Making yourself stand out of the crowd is a basic rule you learn in Marketing 101 – a rule that is even more crucial when you’re targeting HNW individuals. Wealthy people control $27.2 trillion in assets worldwide, and that number is expected to reach $38 trillion at the end of 2007, according to High Net Worth Inc. These numbers prove they are people who constantly strive for more. They demand quality; they want to know they’re getting something different and working with someone special.

Through creative marketing techniques, you can prove you are that someone. Starting a newsletter, getting into the local newspapers and making yourself a point of contact for your local journalists is a great start. Jazzing up your actual marketing materials, from brochures to Web sites, is the next step. By showcasing professional materials that are well thought out and presented, you will portray yourself and your business in the most appealing way.

Seminars: yes or no?
As for more traditional forms of marketing, like the seminar, some advisors swear by it. But Haefele has an interesting take on this. In her experience, advisors say seminars are useful, but clients say they’re not. “Seminars are useful for people with less money,” she says. As for the high-net-worth or ultra high-net-worth (those with $5 million or more), they don’t have the time and aren’t interested in attending seminars. At least, that’s Haefele’s take.

Steve Delott, president of Delott and Associates in Rolling Meadows, Ill., credits his information-only seminars as the reason why seniors are the bulk of his practice. As for wealthy prospects, Delott says, “My seminars are absolutely the best way for me to attract high-net-worth clients. The seminar environment gives clients an opportunity to absorb information while in a relaxed frame of mind.”

In fact, Delott requires all of his referrals to attend a seminar before having a confidential meeting and encourages existing clients to attend seminars throughout the year.

“I realize that for each additional seminar my clients attend, the stronger our relationship becomes,” Delott says. “In addition, I conduct annual face-to-face reviews with my existing clients. Sometimes their situation changes and I will make the necessary adjustments. Sometimes the review results in no changes. Regardless, the face-to-face meetings reassure my clients that they can always count on me.”

Seminars, newsletters and media attention are all ways you can expand your marketing. But to be considered a real player, you’ve got to be online. If you haven’t done so already, get yourself a Web site. From there, the online possibilities to grow and maintain your business are endless.