What financial marketers and advertisers must know to profit from the senior market
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Attracting Affluent Senior Clients


Are you ready to meet people who can fund $30,000 annual life premiums, buy $100,000 annuities and open $500,000 fee-based accounts? You can successfully target the affluent when you have the right tools and approach.

I have observed two groups of affluent seniors:

The “Next Door” Wealthy

Members of the first group are the affluent (investment portfolios of $1 million or more) who do not think of themselves as wealthy. Let’s call them the “next-door” wealthy.

These are people like the dry-cleaner who started and grew a low-tech business, or the fireman who purchased and fixed up rental homes in his spare time. These are the “Millionaires Next Door” who live in middle-income neighborhoods and drive cars past 100,000 miles. Picture Sam Walton driving around in his 1972 pick-up and you’ve got the perfect example of the “next door” affluent prospect.

Since most of this group accumulated their wealth through the ownership of small businesses or by investing in real estate, you can easily rent lists of these people. Consult Standard Research and Data at your local library to find these lists, or perform an Internet search for list brokers that can provide:

  1. Businesses with under 25 employees excluding professional firms (doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc). These are likely to be successful businesses with high margins. A business that has remained small and has preserved its capital produces a rich owner. If an age match can also be done, look for owners over age 60 as they will have the most money.
  2. Businesses with less than 25 employees but with more than $2 million in their qualified plan. This is public information from the IRS 5500 form, and can be obtained from several list brokers.
  3. People that own five or more rental homes or apartment buildings with 10 to 20 apartments. Several firms compile lists of real estate owners. In most counties, the home they live in has a homeowners tax exemption while rental properties do not. Therefore, owners of multiple rental properties can be easily identified.

You also find these people by subscribing to magazines with titles like “Rock and Quarry,” “Scrap Metal Today,” and “Earth Moving Machines.” These magazines have ads from the low-tech businesses that have not attracted competition that have very high margins and wealthy owners.

Attracting the “Next-Door” Wealthy

Because the next-door wealthy do not think of themselves as wealthy, you can attract these folks using the same tactics that you would to attract the middle-market, as these people think much like those in the middle market. Direct mail, ads and seminars are all effective tools for prospecting.

The next-door wealthy purchase the same products and services as the middle market. Working with them is just like working with other clients—they just have more money.

The next-door wealthy are typically conservative investors, and want to save on taxes. They are not big stock market investors, as they don’t like to lose money. They feel that real estate and a business are much safer investments.

In addition to common products (long term care, annuities, bonds), the following products and services will interest them:

  1. Charitable Trusts and Gift Annuities. Introduce charitable trusts and charitable gift annuities to those that are real estate rich and cash poor which allow them to liquidate their real estate, increase their income and avoid immediate capital gains tax.
  2. Defined Benefit Plans. Help the business owner convert from a profit sharing plan to a defined benefit plan so he can make larger contributions for retirement and save more taxes.
  3. Family Partnerships. Demonstrate how a family business or real estate can be passed on with less tax.

Planners successful in this market are not the “three piece” suit types who have a Harvard attitude. These affluent clients are attracted most to down-home, simple people who sincerely want to help them. Don’t drive up in your new Corvette.

 The “Showy” Wealthy

Members of the second group of affluent seniors are people who think they have a lot of money. Let’s call them the “showy wealthy.” They tend to have debt and live in the fancy neighborhoods. They trade in their Mercedes every two years. They have advisors. Traditional middle-market marketing will not work with these people. These people will not respond to ads or direct mail.

They belong to country clubs and their associations with others are very important. They meet many professionals through referral or they clubs they frequent.

Marketing to the “Showy” Wealthy

These people like to deal with specialists. If you have no special knowledge (e.g. 412 plans or VEBA plans or FLPs) you better get it, or forget this market. Remember that knowledge can be gained, so it’s your decision whether to prospect this niche and develop the required knowledge. What are these people after?

According to a survey released by the Lincoln Financial Group of Philadelphia, seventy percent of affluent Americans feel that preserving wealth is their most important goal. Right behind preserving wealth was avoiding excessive taxes, listed by 59% of the affluent group as a “very important” goal. In fact, avoiding excessive taxes was ranked higher than accumulating additional wealth. Yet, surprisingly, less than a third of the affluent said that they feel that they have adequately protected their assets from excessive taxes, according to the survey.

Therefore, they are interested in ways to play the stock market and hedge their downside risk (e.g. hedge funds). They are interested in advanced tax saving techniques, qualified plans to cut current taxes and tax-free bonds. Those that can deliver strategies more advanced than those generally known to average financial advisors (e.g. hedging by buying convertible bonds and shorting common stock of the same company) can prosper in this market.

The marketing at this level is by personal contact: by referral, by moving in the same circles and by building a reputation.

Here are examples to penetrate this affluent segment:

  • Buy a table of $200 tickets at the annual Opera Gala. As a big contributor, you get invited to join a committee of the local opera. The other people on this committee will be affluent. You make friends and get invited to their parties and meet their friends. You leverage those relationships.
  • Have every prospect you meet bring in their tax return. At the bottom of the tax return is their CPA’s name and phone number. When the investor becomes your client, you contact the CPA, explain that you have a mutual client and explain that you have other clients that possibly could use the CPA’s help. The CPA will be happy to meet with you.

You spend the meeting finding out about the CPA. What types of clients he has and wants. You ascertain if he has affluent clients. At the end of the conversation you say “perhaps you may have some of the clients I work with. I work with people who have $1 million or more of investable assets and take care of their entire investing and risk management. Do you have clients that fall into this category?” (Most CPAs are NOT involved in financial planning, contrary to what you may read).

  • Phone the executive director of the state ophthalmology association. You explain that you specialize in working with ophthalmologists and teach three strategies where they can reduce their income tax as much as 30%. Is there an opportunity to speak at their association meetings? If you get such an opportunity, you now have instant credibility and a tacit endorsement to the association members.
  • You can successfully court the affluent around a hobby or sport. Dick Heckmann had sold a successful business. He moved to Palm Desert and joined the best country club in town. He tipped the head caddy handsomely and instructed him, “When I show up in the afternoon, put me in a foursome with the 3 richest guys at the club.”

Dick never had more than 62 clients—all members of the country club and their referrals. He was the 3rd largest producer at his firm, one of the largest financial organizations in the world. Every one of his clients was an “elephant”—a chairman or significant stockholder in a major company. What was Dick’s specialty? He was a very good golfer and an expert at option writing on blue chip stocks.


Notice that specialization can take many forms as in the above examples. In approaching the “showy-wealthy,” you can specialize:

By industry—have a superior knowledge of the cement mixing industry, issues about it’s seasonality of cash flows, the revenue model and financial challenges.

By product—have superior knowledge about annuities. For example, be an expert in structured settlements using annuities.

By money in motion—form relationships with business brokers so that every time a business is ready to be sold, you are informed and introduced to the seller.

By financial strategy—develop an expertise in 412 plans.

By single company—a planner I know has dozens of option-owning clients that work for one biotechnology company. He knows their benefit package and options package inside and out and one new client leads to another. Another planner learned that the benefit package for United Airlines made the selection of single life pension payout and purchase of life insurance for spousal protection the best alternative. He sold large life policies to dozens of affluent senior pilots.

The sales approach to the showy-wealthy people needs to be low-key and you want to avoid asking for business at the first meeting. To be successful in this market, it helps to have an outgoing personality and superior people skills and to enjoy networking. A focus on etiquette and dress is important. Drive an expensive newer car.

In Summary

As with any type of marketing you pursue, the first and most important rule is “know thyself.” If you’re not the “three piece suit type,” then the showy affluent market may not be for you. But if you relate well to down-to-earth people who are self-made financial successes, then the next-door millionaires may be your perfect market.

The key is to write down and work your strategy that includes:

  1. The affluent list
  2. The method to be used to “farm” the list
  3. The process to convert prospects to clients

Spend just one hour a day on pursuing the affluent and as your success builds, you’ll be able to allocate an increasing share of your time. By this time next year, you’ll have left the middle market behind.

Resources for Specializing in the Senior Market:
Marketing tools to attract seniors
Senior Investment and Insurance Leads
Books and Tapes


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