Saw this article in Travelmarket Report, and just in case you missed it.
This is the first of two parts.
“I don’t intend to marry for money,” a wag once quipped. “I’ll just hang around rich people till I fall in love.”
That sounds like the words of a cold-hearted gold-digger. But there is an underlying truth. Just as you find fishermen congregating around fishing holes or bowlers meeting up at local alleys, you’ll find upscale clients sharing special interests with other well-heeled types.
Here’s advice from the pros on how to attract high-end clients.
1. Offer top-shelf vacations
You won’t impress well-heeled clients with mass-market cruises and tours. By and large, affluent clients want highly personalized luxury vacations. Contact upscale cruise and tour operators and let them know you cater to a high-end clientele.
To familiarize yourself with their products, take specialist courses and fam tours offered by luxury tour operators and suppliers.
2. Advertise high-end products
Using personal contacts to attract the affluent market is very helpful. But a direct approach works well too.
“When we first started out, we advertised high-end products like river cruises in our newspaper ads,” said Chris Tichy, co-owner of The Vacation Center, which has offices in Southington, Conn., and Coventry, R.I., and is affiliated with The Affluent Traveler Collection. “As time went on, these clients referred us to other clients.”
Also consider placing ads in professional journals, business magazines and university alumni magazines.
3. Join a luxury travel consortium
Some consortia specialize in affluent clientele or have departments catering to agents selling high-end trips.
“Being part of The Affluent Traveler Collection has been very helpful to us, “said Tichy. “We do reach out to luxury suppliers, but The Affluent Collection always reaches out to us.
“Its marketing arm is fantastic. The direct-mail pieces it sends are of tremendous benefit, it offer amenities to our clients, and it puts together exclusive fam trips.”
4. To the manor born?—take advantage of those contacts
Whatever you’re selling, it helps to know how to reach your clientele. For some luxury agents, it’s business as usual.
“Growing up, I got to travel much of the world with my parents and grandparents, staying in the best hotels, so handling high-end clientele is very comfortable,” said Robert Romano, CTC, of Fugazi Travel, a San Francisco-based Ensemble agency.
Ansley Thomas, an Atlanta-based agent for SmartFlyer, a Virtuoso agency in New York, said, “I was raised in a very normal family but I went to private school in Atlanta as well as a good college, so I have a very good network.”
If you were born into wealth or attended exclusive schools, don’t be shy about approaching contacts. Ask relatives and friends for leads to well-heeled friends and associates.
5. Mix with the elite
If you were not to the manor born, all is not lost.
By attending events and frequenting places wealthy clients frequent, you’ll quickly become part of the club. “You don’t necessarily become their best friend, but you’re in their circle and they trust you,” said Thomas.
“I know an agent who didn’t have a network,” Thomas added. “She started going to bridal shows and on high-end cruises. She’s a phenomenal producer now. She worked her way into a luxury clientele without a natural network.”
6. Cultivate similar interests
Wealthy clients often are patrons of the arts.
Romano said it’s natural for him and his family to “go to the theater, symphony and opera, to old stand-bys and new restaurants,” frequented by friends and associates who just happen to be well-heeled.
You can go to some of the same places. You’re not social climbing, you’re trying to find the right match for your luxury products.
Many upscale clients also enjoy expensive sports like golf, yachting or riding. Learn to play those sports, attend fundraisers and other functions at your local golf or country club, and go to regattas, golf championships and polo matches.
7. Get involved with charities
High-end clients often are interested in charities. “Many wealthy people volunteer for or deal with charities,” said Romano, who works with charities himself.
Also consider donating to charities your clients support. “I have a client whose dad passed away many years ago from ALS, so we always do a donation at a certain time of year as a remembrance,” Romano said.
8. Keep in touch with middle-class clients—they may have become more affluent
It doesn’t matter whether you sell your high-end vacations to old money or new money. The client who bought the mass-market cruise 10 years ago might now have a higher income.
Chances are he wants to experience the finer things in life or introduce his children to them. Suggest that clients trade up from mass-market cruises to chartered yachts or from basic two-star hotels to posh five-star establishments.