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How to market to the ultra rich

High net worth individuals (HNWIs) are often defined as being net United States Dollar millionaires, says Grace Mumo, executive director of Luxury Media Africa. She says that at the current rates of exchange, this means you’ll need just under R12-million in net assets to be the subject of this piece.

That’s fairly breathtaking, so this is going to be put in perspective. While a drive around some of South Africa’s leafiest suburbs might have most of us thinking that the country is awash in HNWIs, it’s interesting to note that the actual number of US Dollar millionaires situated within the 1.2 million square kilometres roughly between the Limpopo and Atlantic is only enough to fill a small stadium.

It’s that 60 000-odd that are our focus. Luxury goods marketing is a discipline in its own right, with HNWIs an especially challenging, yet rewarding, clientele.

HNWIs are usually HNWIs because they haven’t followed the herd. They don’t want to be offered products and services that appeal to the everyday Johns and Janes. Even the word ‘exclusive’ is not what we are after here. What impresses HNWIs is scarcity. Impress upon your HNWI client the virtual unavailability of something that only you can offer, only to them.

Marketing successfully to HNWIs depends on treating HNWIs differently. There is nothing to be gained from trying to approach an HNWI as an equal and, in fact, it serves you better to know this upfront.

Related to the above is the ability to use certain words and phrases to speak the language that HNWIs recognise. This may seem at odds with what we have already covered, but it is not. The butler and his employer both speak the same language littered with certain familiar phrases that would mean little across town, but the one does not pretend to be the other.

Treasure attracts pirates and HWNIs are acutely aware of this fact. Basil Fawlty fawning over minor royalty is not a good way to approach potential HNWI clients. In love and business, sincerity matters. For the person who has reached the very pinnacle of earthly success, and is trying to hang onto it in challenging times, it matters more so.

Impressing HNWIs goes way beyond enveloping an over-the-top, twirly font with acres of blank space in a glossy magazine. Beautiful print ads have their place and make an impact on the HNWIs, of course, but for the HNWI, full-page ads are dull and expected. You’ve got to go one better and it’s up to your own creativity to figure out what that means in practice.

Finally, unless you’re dealing with a Howard Hughes-type of HNWI personality with a penchant for the solitary, HNWIs are typically highly networked and willing to include good people in their greater circle of special acquaintances. Go the extra mile in a sincere way that speaks to your good character and you’ll soon make introductions that could be very good for business.


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