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How to crack the high-net-worth market

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You would like to build a clientele within the high-net-worth circles in your community, the world where everyone seems to know each other and no one obsesses about prices and fees. There’s one problem. They are inside the circle and you are outside. How do you change that?

Wealthy and successful business owners, professionals and senior executives seem to live in their own private, insulated world. They drive into gated communities. They relax at country clubs. You don’t.

See also: How to attract (and keep!) affluent clients

That’s more fantasy than reality. It implies they never eat out, attend religious services or buy milk. Most are actually quite involved in the community. When you get to a certain social level, there’s a motivation to be a central figure in the community and give back. If they are giving back to the community, by definition, they are involved in the community.

How to network, the HNW way

To meet, mingle and migrate into high-net-worth circles, you must become part of that world. First, you need to identify community organizations likely to draw HNW individuals. Many organizations in town offer the opportunity for you to give back. If your objectives are to give back and mingle with HNW individuals, your ideal organizations need to:

1. Attract HNW individuals. That’s obvious. If you want to meet them, they need to be there.

2. Provide opportunities to meet them. The ideal group puts 200-plus people into a room at least once a month. If they hold one meeting a year, that’s not enough.

3. Are highly visible. The organization should have name recognition. If you have to constantly explain to people what the organization does, that’s not the organization you want.

4. Leave a positive impression. Avoid controversy. You might join an organization because of strong personal beliefs. Once you raise your visibility, you will offend large segments of the local population who share the opposite opinion.

You’ve probably already spotted at least three potential flaws in this strategy — but they’re not really problems. Here’s why:

  • Are you being predatory? Joining something just to get close to people and get business? No. You are giving back to the community where you live and earn your living. If you join an organization just to get business, those HNW individuals will be able to smell it. You won’t get to first base.
  • You’re not an expert on the subject. Won’t they spot that? This isn’t a problem. Passion is useful, but it’s not a requirement. As long as you have a sincere interest in learning and contributing, you will blend in. This interest in learning can be an unexpected benefit. True enthusiasts enjoy sharing their knowledge with newcomers.
  • Isn’t this expensive? This strategy can be surprisingly inexpensive to implement! Plus, it makes sense to invest in your own business.

How to choose the right organization

Consider nine types of organizations found in most large and small communities.

  • Museums and cultural institutions. These organizations are ideal, as HNW individuals are usually involved and the institutions often publish an annual report listing donors and levels. Exhibitions, openings, receptions, dinners and concerts are frequent, and annual membership dues are incredibly low.

Under the radar: The historical society, library, aquarium and zoo are lower profile.

  • Medical charities. Often disease-specific hospitals and research foundations feature local volunteer chapters that raise money for research by running events. Events may be quarterly, not monthly, but you meet and mingle by serving on committees.

Under the radar: Social service charities also raise money and hold events. The SPCA and other animal rescue charities have wide appeal.

  • Business organizations. The chamber of commerce is an obvious example. It’s often populated by high-profile business owners who are boosters of the local economy. The prime benefit you gain is visibility. People connect a face to your name and see you roll up your sleeves to get work done.

Under the radar: People assume there’s only one chamber in town! Often, other chambers co-exist. Some service a specific geography; others are cultural, drawing members from specific backgrounds.

  • Faith-based organizations. Think about your own religious organization. In addition to the weekly services you likely already attend, there are coffee hours, social events and opportunities to volunteer. You give back and gain visibility. You are not “using” your faith to gain business. You are letting people know what you do within the context of meeting them, which everyone else does without realizing it.

Under the radar: Consider volunteer opportunities with shared projects involving different local churches (like a food pantry) or service organizations within your faith that draw from several congregations.

  • Alumni association: Geography plays a big part here. If your school is local, it’s likely to have lots of on-campus events for alumni. If your school is at a distance, your city might have a group of alumni who meet for monthly lunches. Either way, you have access to a group of HNW people with a shared bond — the school.

Under the radar: Your college experience might have involved a fraternity or sorority. College sports are in a category of their own!

  • Homeowners associations. If you live in an upscale community, it’s likely you are surrounded by people in similar economic circumstances. Shared issues provide a rationale to socialize. Unfortunately, meetings often happen at night and they can run late.

Under the radar: Small towns often have planning or architectural review committees staffed by local volunteers. Private communities have committees focused on landscaping or events.

  • Hospitals: They attract the wealthy, but the cost to get involved can be high. If a hospital saved your life, it might be expecting a large donation. Volunteer roles are usually available, but the higher echelon is in a separate category.

Under the radar: Children’s hospitals or disease-specific hospitals can be easier to access.

  • Country clubs. It’s an obvious choice for finding HNW clients, but there are barriers to entry. It must be the club. You must be voted in. You usually pay initiation fees, and monthly minimums follow. It’s expensive, but you are in the right place.

Under the radar: City clubs often struggle for members. Major universities often have clubs in major cities. Smaller clubs may have reciprocal visiting privileges.

  • Special interest clubs. Sports car and private plane clubs come to mind. You must “own the playing piece,” though. Your Ferrari can’t always be “in the shop.” Once you’re in, you are surrounded by like-minded people who (hopefully) can afford their hobby.

Under the radar: Wine clubs are an ideal crossover, attracting HNW individuals without requiring a large outlay.

Your action plan

Now that you have a better idea of which organizations are best, join four, each chosen from different categories. Why? Because joining four museums will put you in front of the same people. Joining four different churches will get you talked about.

Commit one evening per month to each organization. At each event, your mission is to meet six new people while saying hello to people you have met previously. You are simply raising your visibility. Avoid any temptation to run the place. Your objective is to communicate who you are, what you do and why you are good. For each person you meet, learn who they are, what they do and where they work. Take and keep discreet notes.

Why use this approach? You aren’t the first life insurance agent to join the group. You want to get to know people without offending anyone. You haven’t learned the politics of the group yet. Meet the major players (officers) along with the established, influential members. Be respectful. Demonstrate you aren’t a threat. Always dress well. Remember the old saying: “It’s a lot easier to get to where you want to be if you dress like you are already there.” Give people reasons to like and identify with you.

See also: 10 networking mistakes to avoid

Four meetings a month where you systematically meet six people at each event yields 24 introductions a month or 288 annually. Drop one-third from that count. That’s for the people you’ll meet who are charming but don’t have the assets or income you are seeking. They will be great friends, possibly referral sources, but not prospects.

Drop another third. These people have money but can’t stand you. You don’t connect.

This leaves the middle third, about 100 people who like you, share interests in common and are doing well for themselves. They are the ones you tactfully cultivate.

For more, see:

Mass affluent market: Your ideal pool of prospects?

Millionaires’ biggest financial regret

High net worth investors feel dissatisfied


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