Growing wealth is one thing. Maintaining it and having confidence knowing that there is a plan for the next generation is something completely different. This is what financial professionals constantly impress upon their high-net-worth clients. Helping American families leave a lasting legacy for future generations is at the cornerstone of our industry—and the promise of America. It is not a novel concept to make plans for your assets after you pass; however, we’ve seen time and time again many children and beneficiaries within these families are not always equipped to manage their inherited estate when the time comes.
Cornelius Vanderbilt was one of the richest men before he died in 1877, leaving a $100 million estate to his heirs. While one would think this kind of inheritance would be enough to maintain the family fortune for years to come, in just four generations the Vanderbilt descendants lost it with reckless spending and declining investments. A family reunion in 1973 with 120 Vanderbilt descendants revealed that not a single one of them was a millionaire.
Unless there is a plan for wealth transfer, most beneficiaries will spend it. Seventy percent of high-net-worth families do not retain their wealth beyond the second generation according to the Williams Group wealth consultancy. While generational wealth is an important concept for clients to understand, what many financial advisors don’t realize is that the same concepts hold true for their own practices as well.
A multigenerational business is one that is able to build the wealth of the first generation to care for the clients through their lifetimes, then to provide ongoing financial planning to heirs. Not only is your relationship with your clients important, but your relationship with their families has to be strong as well. Otherwise the wealth that is passed down is at risk of leaving you and your business. The question becomes, then, how do we retain clients across generations?
According to research conducted by Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based research and consulting firm, family meetings and regular communication was rated the most effective wealth transfer planning strategy, followed by educational support and organized succession planning. Other popular strategies include enhancing technology platforms, adding services to align with competitors, and providing additional tax planning services.
This is particularly important right now as America prepares for the biggest transfer of wealth in its history. Heirs in the U.S. can expect to inherit $72.6 trillion over the next quarter century, more than twice as much as a decade ago. Who’s poised to inherit all of that money? Almost half of all U.S. wealth transferred over the next quarter century will come from the top 1.5 percent of households, who are high-net-worth-individuals. Your clients. For people born between 1965 and 1980, also known as Generation X, they are anticipated to inherit approximately $30 trillion over the next 25 years. Millennials will inherit $27.5 trillion, Gen Z $11.5 trillion, and Baby Boomers $4.1 trillion. If advisors are hoping to manage those assets down the road, generational marketing may be a beneficial strategy to understand how to increase client retention with high-net-worth clients and future-proofing a financial practice.
Generational marketing is driven by the simple fact that different generations have their own values, interests, and priorities that shape buying behaviors, including their responses to ads and technology use.
Generational marketing focuses on using a combination of data, preferences, and sociocultural and economic factors to create targeted content that connects with clients on a personal level. For example, 57 percent of Generation X say they’re still recovering from the Great Recession today, and therefore are more likely to save for retirement due to financial anxiety than spend their disposable income. Seventy-five percent of millennials and Gen Zers, who grew up with modern technology, use smartphones to shop online. Some might respond well to new innovations, while others prefer that their products and services stay the same.
When it comes to discussing financial planning and money management with clients, one of the very first things you try to understand is who they are and what shapes their relationship with money. It’s how we connect with people on a fundamental level. From age, to gender or geographic location, to sociocultural context, there are many factors that you can take into consideration when developing a marketing strategy framework for your business. With so many competing factors, how do we know where to focus our efforts? One answer comes in generational marketing.
Jason Dorsey, the #1 generations keynote speaker, is the president of the Center for Generational Kinetics and is known for delivering brand-new insights into generations through his behavioral research around the world. He’s passionate about unlocking emerging trends to help businesses grow faster, and his research can give you a good starting point in leveraging generational marketing in your business.
One area that you can focus on right now, and that we will take a closer look at together, is methods of communication. When establishing lines of communication with your clients, it’s important to understand what works best for them so that you increase the likelihood of getting the desired response, whether that’s a phone call, text confirmation, or something else. Each generation exhibits different behaviors when it comes to how they use technology to communicate; this information can be used to inform your marketing strategy.
Let’s start by segmenting the population by generation:
Baby Boomers hold the most purchasing power and have the most discretionary income of all the generations. While they may have spent the majority of their lives without modern technology, this generation has embraced it. Many of them have smartphones, tablets, and Facebook accounts, and use social media for online shopping. The best way to appeal to them is through coupons, special offers, and email marketing campaigns.
Grammarly, for example, informed baby boomers about their special offer through email campaigns. For a limited time, they claimed to want to help this generation improve their writing, and offered them a 46 percent discount on their annual premium plan. They qualified for the offer simply by age. In addition to the great offer, the email’s simple layout, large text, and contrasting colors made it easy to digest and understand exactly what was being given and how to get it.
Gen X is both the smallest generation and the bridge between baby boomers and millennials. While they might have had parents that grew up in a time of economic prosperity, Generation X grew up in a recession, which has made them more likely to be cautious with money their entire lives.
They tend to be brand-loyal and rarely steer away from what they know. This generation also responds well to nostalgia, such as marketing campaigns that feature celebrities or music that they associate with their childhood.
They’re also more active on social media platforms like Facebook than baby boomers, meaning Facebook ads and pages—especially those with customer reviews—are some of the best ways to keep them up-to-date on new products and services.
Amazon used Facebook ads to target Gen Xers for their Black Friday deals, resulting in a very successful campaign. The sample product and its rating especially helped to capture their interest, as Gen Xers typically trust customer reviews and honest opinions.
Millennials are not only the largest demographic in the workforce but the largest generation in history. This generation places more importance on authentic brand messaging than previous generations, seeking out brands that are socially and environmentally aware. They also prefer user-generated content over marketing campaigns when making a decision on a product or service. Eighty-two percent of millennials value peer reviews and word-of-mouth advertising from family, friends, and influencers. A successful way for them to stay engaged with your brand is through SMS marketing, social media, and user-generated content.
Segmentation and personalization are certainly strong marketing trends that can propel a business forward. Unlike segmenting by demographics like gender or location, generational segmentation creates a more complete picture of target markets on their journey to becoming clients. It helps companies determine where to find them, how to communicate with them, and how to turn them into loyal clientele for generations to come.
Regardless of how well clients may prepare for the future, the possibility of an unexpected event disrupting the best of financial plans is always present. In these situations, life insurance can be a solution. It may provide an equitable distribution of the estate and reductions in estate taxes, and at the same time can help the family feel protected in case of the unexpected.
You can set your practice apart by creating an environment that provides the best financial planning to your existing clients and relieves money-related fears of the heirs. Employing generational marketing tactics is key in retaining the heirs of high-net-worth clients and building a more profitable business.