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How to Reach American Millionaires

Milton Pedraza
How to Reach American Millionaires Milton Pedraza

It is no secret that wealthy consumers, with their outsized potential for discretionary spending, represent a highly desirable demographic group for firms of all stripes. The challenge for marketers, however, is figuring out what works when trying to cater to this coveted crowd-- especially online.

In order to find out how businesses can best target their online marketing efforts to the rich, the Luxury Institute went directly to wealthy consumers and asked them about their internet habits and what turns them on -- and turns them off -- when they browse the web. Households surveyed had a minimum net worth of $1 million (includes home equity), with a median net worth of $1.7 million and median annual income of $306,000. Sixty-five percent of respondents were men, and 35 percent were women, and their average age was 56.

Without a doubt, the wealthy are no strangers to the web. The average wealthy American uses the internet seven days a week for an average of 3.2 hours per day; those under 50 and worth more than $5 million are heavier users. Twenty-seven percent of the wealthy are online for more than four hours a day. Almost all (98 percent) of the wealthy use the web at home, and more than two-thirds use the web at work, including more than 80 percent of wealthy people between the ages of 21 and 49 and more than four out of five wealthy individuals with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000. 

What they're doing online
Email is still, by far, the killer application for the wealthy. Ninety-two percent tell the Luxury Institute they “frequently” use the internet to send and receive email. The second most popular use cited by the wealthy is checking news and weather (58 percent). Other frequent uses include planning travel and making reservations (42 percent), and paying bills (40 percent).

As far as shopping goes, more than half (51 percent) of wealthy consumers tell the Luxury Institute that they frequently use the internet to research products and services, although only 43 percent say they buy products and services online. Younger consumers under 50, and those with higher incomes and net worth, show a stronger tendency to buy online, and this same cohort of younger and wealthier consumers also show a greater propensity for other web activities such as using instant messaging, reading a blog, and buying music online. Just two percent of the wealthy use the web for gambling. High-income young wealthy men are the group most likely to use the web for adult entertainment. 

Blogs are beginning to catch on. Nearly one-fifth of the wealthy tell the Luxury Institute that they read web logs on at least a weekly basis, and 28 percent of wealthy Americans report being very familiar with blogs. Frequent blog readership is highest among the youngest wealthy consumers, and among men of higher levels of income and wealth. The youngest and the wealthiest are also most likely to keep blogs of their own.

How to reach them
The most effective way to reach wealthy consumers online is through search engine results-- including paid placements. In fact, search results are the only online marketing method viewed as more effective than ineffective by wealthy consumers themselves. Overall, clickthrough banner ads are the least effective way to create a positive impression and to get browsers to buy a product, and yet the youngest and wealthiest consumers were unusually receptive to clickthrough ads. Nearly one third of consumers worth $5 million or more visited a website after being prompted to do so in another medium such as print or television. One sure way to turn off the wealthy is to bombard them with unsolicited emails.

In terms of building a database, marketers will find that younger wealthy Americans are generally receptive to parting with contact information in exchange for offering access to special reports and white papers. Women are more likely than men to divulge contact information to sign up for free email alerts. 

The biggest online concerns of the rich?
Hackers and spammers. Wealthy Americans are most worried about email working as a conduit for viruses, unsolicited spam and possible identity theft, and these concerns increase with age. Concern over being tracked on large corporate databases, however, is greater than the apprehension over becoming a victim of identity theft by a margin of 85 percent to 59 percent.  

Who should target these people?
Online music selling has lots of room to grow. Only six percent of the wealthy say they frequently buy and download music on the web, although this percentage more than doubles for those under 50 and for households with incomes above $500,000 per year.

The online market for luxury goods and services continues to develop at a rapid pace. We knew from comScore Networks that apparel and accessories sales on the web popped 41 percent in 2005, while sales of jewelry and watches surged 31 percent. Tiffany reports a 47 percent increase in shoppers at its site.

The web is also developing secondary markets in luxury goods, some that provide real value to buyers and sellers alike. Portero, a trader of luxury goods through eBay, certifies and guarantees every item it sells against fraud and forgery. Instead of depressing sales of luxury goods, Portero provides liquidity in a pinch for somebody unloading last year's fashions to make room for more buying. By eliminating transaction risk, Portero adds trustworthiness, objectivity, and competence to the buying and selling process.

We believe that luxury goods firms should, and will, eventually control secondary markets for their products. Think of what "pre-owned" cars did for luxury automakers versus traditional used car dealers in terms of brand control, customer loyalty and profitability.

Keeping abreast of the attitudes and practices of the wealthy will go a long way toward ensuring that online marketing efforts are effective and profitable. Stay tuned for follow-ups.

Milton Pedraza is founder and CEO of the Luxury Institute, a New York City-based research firm which publishes "The Wealth Report," and consults to senior management of companies targeting the Wealthy. Luxury Institute clients include: Flight Options, Abercrombie & Kent Destination Clubs, U.S. Trust, and MasterCard.

Viral marketing works because people trust the opinions of their peers. Author and industry expert George Silverman says, "Word of mouth is the most honest advertising medium there is. People don't want to hurt their friends and family and colleagues with bad information."

Comments and recommendations coming from peers will be perceived as reliable even if the information slyly originates from a marketer.

A successful viral marketing campaign also helps consumers cut through the online clutter. With so many advertisers vying for the same customers, a personal recommendation from a friend or colleague will help direct your online audience to your site without much additional effort like a banner or paid search advertisement.

A prime example of how much attention can be drawn from a viral campaign is Burger King's "Subservient Chicken." This campaign was developed to promote Burger King's Tender Crisp Sandwich by creating a microsite where users can type in a command (e.g., sit, fall, take a nap) to a man in chicken suit who will do it on command. Using the tagline "Chicken the way you like it," the campaign created 10 times the publicity and awareness of a traditional campaign, said the Viral Advertising Association.

To get people to pay attention to your brand through viral marketing efforts, the campaign needs to be interactive. For example, Domino's ran a campaign where customers could create their own pizza, name it and then have it delivered to their homes. The interactivity of this promotion not only gave customers something to talk about, it also gave marketers data on which to benchmark the success of their campaign.

In addition, viral plans ultimately need to be worth talking about. Quiksilver produced a video made specifically for YouTube that shows a group of surfers throwing explosives into a lake to generate waves, on which they later surf. This is something you definitely don't see everyday. The video has well over 2 million hits from viewers who are arguably Quiksilver's main consumers. On top of generating views and customers, the video also reinforces Quiksilver as an extreme, adventurous and outdoorsy brand.

While creating conversation and buzz is fantastic, all the publicity will not do advertisers any good if it doesn't relate back to their brands. For example, I was forwarded an interactive widget that I spent the better part of an hour using, but by the end of the day, I could not tell you what brand was behind it. This is ultimately a failure because, while the campaign got my attention and my time, there was no subsequent call-to-action or brand attached to benefit from the interaction.

Since the internet already has platforms established to both spread your campaign and gauge its effectiveness, marketers should start here when planning their campaigns. Blogs, social networking sites, video aggregators and microsites are ideal places to launch campaigns because they will be highly visible, searchable and distributable. When using social sites like Facebook and MySpace, a marketer can tap into pre-existing fan groups and use them to promote their campaign. In a similar manner, marketers can inform the blogging community about the promotion to get them involved in getting the word out. Since the main objective of a viral campaign is to encourage others to talk about your brand, ideally marketers need to get those who are already a part of the online conversation to be their evangelists.

If this is accomplished, a marketer just needs to monitor the buzz and not let the publicity go to waste. Using the buzz-giant Apple Computers as my hypothetical example, if Apple successfully creates noise around a scheduled product launch, it needs to follow through and provide a product worthy of the hype. Otherwise, future publicity could be centered around how the last launch was anticlimactic.

Viral marketing is the oldest and most trusted form of advertising, and the internet is a modern-day digital watering hole. There has always been a central location where people gather just to be social and talk about anything and everything (the general store, downtown, campus union, etc.). Instead of passing along recommendations and criticisms in person, we use the internet to spread the word about what we came across during our day. Whether it's a mass joke email or an online geography quiz, the beauty of creating an online viral campaign is that the conversation channel is already open. Before, there was a delay in the spreading of information. A person had to dial the phone or meet up with friends, but now people can speak to whomever will listen via the internet, through blogs and social networking pages.

While viral campaigns can be extremely successful in creating brand awareness, they should be used sparingly and strategically. Wikipedia cites that a satisfied customer tells three people about their experience while their dissatisfied counterpart tells 11. Marketers need to keep this in mind because if the campaign does not succeed, consumers will be quick to let everyone know about it. Since there is always the risk of a backlash, monitoring consumer perceptions is imperative in staying ahead of buzz campaigns. The last thing a viral marketer wants to generate for brands is an outbreak of bad publicity.

Another popular question is "How long should my resume be?" My belief is it should be as long or as short as you want, but don't bore the reader. I've read resumes from CEOs that are one-pagers and have received -- though I can't say I've read them -- three-pagers from people with 10 positions in four years. Following, I've compiled some tips that hiring managers and clients have shared with me throughout my career:


Quantify your accomplishments with truthful data such as "increased sales by 150 percent," or "Created award-winning social media campaigns that lead to a 20 percent increase." Don't write anything on your resume that can't be directly attributed to you. Also, never include confidential information about the company.


Are you a job-hopper? Have you been at a company long enough to see the positive or negative results of your efforts? Hiring managers understand layoffs in a poor economy, but if your resume reads like a fast-food menu, perhaps you need to take a step back and think about your next move.

Relevant experiences and skills

Your resume should highlight your greatest skills and accomplishments. However, you don't need to state the obvious. For example, if your title was head of marketing, you don't need to say you were running the marketing department -- that's obvious. You also don't need to write every detail about your position. Write specifically about your skills, such as shopper and digital marketing, and list three specific achievements.

Well-known companies vs. smaller businesses

Experience at well-known companies is always a plus. However, experience working for competitors or industry-specific firms combined with a positive track record and tenure are what my clients look for when reviewing a resume. I've had a client say that working for a newsworthy company is great, but working at their competitor and "killing it" is more impressive -- it says that you had to work hard to get business as opposed to just answering the phone and taking an order.

Promotions and awards

It says a lot about you if you were promoted within an organization and were able to transition into a new role. I recommend that you highlight your total tenure at the company, but also highlight each of your roles and state the accomplishments and homeruns for each position.

Educational details

Hiring managers want to know how many years of experience you have. Yes, there is ageism -- it's not politically correct or, for that matter legal, but it exists. Think of it as a little like online dating: You can post a picture of yourself from 12 years ago, but it won't do much good when you show up in the present. Hiring managers will ask for graduation dates and your undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many of my clients even request college transcripts.

Include volunteer or other non-work experience

We live in a feel-good, give-back society where corporate responsibility is part of the culture of many companies. If you volunteer your own time for a cause, it can say a lot about you personally. Also, many volunteer positions teach you skills that are applicable for the job to which you're applying.

Include personal accomplishments

A friend of mine climbed to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro last year. It was a powerful and important accomplishment for him. Stating this personal triumph on his resume is a testament to his character and his ability to get things done despite extreme circumstances. Maybe you've run a couple of marathons, demonstrating strong work ethic; or you've coached your softball team, showing that you're a great manager. I just caution that you don't tell your life's story -- you don't need to mention that you're married with two children.

Include a summary statement

A summary statement -- which consists of a couple of pithy, well-written lines at the beginning of your resume -- is ideal if you have years of experience and you need to tie everything together under a common theme. They're also good if you have a bunch of disparate skills and want to make it clear how they fit together. 

Tell the truth

For obvious reasons, anything that's not 100 percent true doesn't belong on your resume. And social media means that everybody is a fact-checker -- backdoor references are standard hiring practices.


Most people are familiar with catch-all phrases such as "hard worker," "team player," "proven salesperson," and "unique marketer." You need to capture your reader's attention and tell them the how, what, and why -- list the homeruns, accomplishments, achievements, and awards. One of the best resumes that I recently read stated: "I'm the best salesperson at my company." He then listed four simple bullet points:

  • sold 1 million dollars in 2014

  • wrote and pitched 40 new clients

  • helped team members achieve goals

  • listened to clients to deliver innovated products that they needed

Don't assume that everyone speaks your company's language, because I can guarantee that they won't. Speak in a universal language that human resource managers understand, because often they are the first to receive your resume. Most importantly, write with integrity that highlights your best self.

Erika Weinstein is the founder and CEO at eTeam Executive Search.

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"African business women looking for workers" image via Shutterstock.


to leave comments.

Commenter: Mary Roberts

2010, January 16

I would like to find out more information about targeting the wealth and becoming wealthy.

Commenter: annet getrude

2009, December 21

i would like to get contact a millionnaire to sponsor my bussiness