The Unique Challenges of Working with Affluent Clients

“The past is a foreign country,” observed L.P. Hartley. “They do things differently there.” Much the same can be said for the highly affluent—those with a net worth of $6 million or more. While they share many traits with the rest of us, their lives, attitudes and values are distinctly different. What’s more, they are quite aware of that and expect others to be aware as well. Marketing to them can be difficult, but there are some simple ways you can shift your strategy to attract affluent clients.

What highly affluent clients want

If like many designers, you wish to attract highly affluent clients, you first must understand what it is they want from a designer and how to engage with them. According to Chris Ramey, who specializes in developing best practices to serve the affluent, highly affluent design prospects are looking for someone who serves others like them and “gets” them.

You might assume that this clientele will be scrutinizing your portfolio to assess your experience, your talent and your taste. Not so, says Ramey. Those are a given. What they are looking for is a certain level of sophistication and respect for their privacy and their highly valuable time. Be assured, they are in the market for a service, not a collaboration or a guiding hand. In the words of the great B.B. King, they are paying the cost of being the boss.

What sets you apart

Highly affluent prospects pride themselves on having a home, or homes, that reflect their sophisticated sense of style and taste, their worldliness, their success, and their cherished life stories. With these prospects, says Ramey, you don’t sell them; you fascinate and enchant them with the promise of something unique that will help them to live abundantly.

Bring something to the table that sets you apart from all the other designers competing for this market. Be a connoisseur of something—art, antiques, a historical period, a design style, a culture. Whatever it is, you want to demonstrate that you do things, and see things, and know things that these prospects otherwise wouldn’t. Let them see you have the capability to enrich their lives.

What speaks to them

Based on his research, Ramey states that often highly affluent clients visit a designer’s website and quickly leave. The main reasons are they do not see themselves in the imagery on the site and the designer’s promise does not include words or phrases that are important to them.

Ramey suggests avoiding words like “experience” and “professional,” and instead using more evocative terms like “atmosphere” and “discreet.” Imagery on websites, social media and marketing materials should be limited and of very high quality. Photos should not be used to demonstrate design skill or finished projects but rather to engage the imagination of the viewer. They should be artful, suggesting a certain kind of sophisticated lifestyle.

Designers who normally work with more mid-level affluent clients might worry that they will be put off by a luxury-oriented website. On the contrary, explains Ramey, highly affluent clients will turn away from a website directed at mid-level affluents. Those mid-level affluent prospects, because they aspire to an even more affluent lifestyle, will also respond to a site directed at highly affluent prospects.

Before attempting to reach out to this clientele, take the time to get to know more about them and to get things in order to appeal to and serve them in the manner to which they are accustomed. When you get their attention, you want to hold on to it.

To hear more about Chris Ramey’s insights on affluent clients, we have an entire podcast with him, so give it a listen on our podcast page on your favorite podcast platform.

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