Four ways advisors can attract affluent clients online

By Amy McIlwain

Financial Social Media Marketing


Here are some key elements for advisors to consider when targeting an affluent audience online.

I recently attended the FPA Rise Symposium in Denver, Colorado. Like many conferences and speaking engagements I attend, there were bright-eyed advisors, engaging keynotes and, of course, an endless supply of hors d’oeuvres.

While many speakers piqued my interest, there was one in particular that stood out in my mind. Tony Oechsli of the Oechsli Institute spoke about an important, yet seemingly taboo topic for financial advisors: attracting affluent clients. He gave a compelling presentation, touching on a number of important points, like how to effectively gain referrals from affluent clients, how to earn their trust, etc.

As a marketing and social media professional, his ideas sparked my interest about the online behavior of affluent individuals and what advisors do to catch their attention. After doing a little digging, I found some interesting points about the online behavior of affluent individuals.

While affluent people were initially reluctant to utilize social media, they, like everyone else, are hopping on the bandwagon. A fall 2011 Spectrem Group study found 47 percent of U.S. ultra-high-net-worth investors (those with a net worth of $5 million to $25 million, not including primary residence) now use social media. Other than increased concerns about privacy, the online habits of affluent individuals are not much different from those of mainstream customers.

Here are some key elements for advisors to consider when targeting an affluent audience online:

They use LinkedIn: Many studies show that today’s affluent market use LinkedIn the most. In fact, a Spectrem Group study discovered that 26 percent of ultra-high-net-worth investors use the professional-focused social networking platform. Furthermore, 40 percent of LinkedIn users among financial customers earned an annual income of more than $100,000. While LinkedIn may not be the best platform on which to show your colors (like your blog or Facebook), it is a great place to identify and connect with the movers and shakers.

They read blogs: Blogs are another good way to reach wealthy Americans. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individual investors say they either read or would read blogs by trusted financial advisors. The percentage is 20 percent for millionaires and 21 percent for the mass affluent. George H. Walper Jr., President of Spectrem Group, states, “Led by Facebook, the social media era has finally arrived for the nation’s wealthiest investors, with nearly half the nation’s millionaires now logging onto the social network. Wealthy investors are also interested in reading blogs by trusted financial advisors. The message is clear. Learning how to effectively use social media and financial blogs is critical to the future success of financial services firms. Providers who fall behind run the risk of frustrating their investors and losing customers.”
They research relationship managers online: Research indicates that affluent individuals research potential relationship managers before they make decisions. Stephanie Harper Stephanik, the Social Media Marketing Manager at Northern Trust, says that “affluent clients use social media professionally to obtain brand advice from peers, discover thought leaders and search for recommendations on services and advisors. Clients want to evaluate reputations. They want to read about the rating of different services and see what’s working for other people in their demographic.”

Here are six key characteristics that affluent individuals search for, both online and offline, in potential financial advisors:
  • Character — Trustworthiness, honesty and integrity.
  • Chemistry — A connection that shows you understand them deeply. They want someone they can trust and with whom they can build a lasting relationship.
  • Caring — A sense that you empathize with your clients and that you value them as people, not just as revenue sources.
  • Competence — Technical investment-related skills as well as the perception that you are a true leader in your areas of expertise.
  • Cost effectiveness — Proof that you provide high value for your cost.
  • Consultative — A willingness to collaborate with clients.
When engaging in online activity, aim to convey these characteristics through all of your words and posts. Word of mouth (WOM) is the number one factor in selecting an advisor. According to an article by Matt Oechsli, “If you have developed a healthy advisor-client relationship, 86 percent would introduce you into their spheres-of-influence, if asked.”

Now, let’s be honest, a majority of client-advisor relationships are shaped by offline interactions. But social media, blogs and websites are a great medium to reinforce your values and character as an advisor. Because most clients and prospects will scope you out online multiple times, it’s vital to have a solid presence that echoes your offline presence — especially considering that your clients are probably mentioning you within their spheres of influence.

Another element of WOM (which is somewhat unrelated to social media, but still important) is that advisors must develop a system for asking for referrals. Advisors tend to struggle with this because they (understandably) don’t want to feel invasive or create awkwardness.

Dan Allison, a nationally recognized advisor coach, offers some valuable advice for approaching referrals in his article, “7 Steps to Increase Referrals.” Affluent individuals, along with a large portion of the population, are on social media. To attract these people, it’s important to have an online presence that strikes a chord with them and conveys that you are a trustworthy and genuine candidate for them to confide in. Do you have any advice and/or experiences with this demographic?