How to reach the mass affluent audience

Don Sadler While it probably seems intuitive that the mass affluent would be an attractive market for financial institutions, a recent study confirms it. A new report from SRI Consulting Business Intelligence titled America's Affluent: Satisfying Their Needs in an Era of Uncertainty revealed concrete reasons for banks to pay heed to the mass affluent market:

  • The mass affluent show ongoing concern about retirement — 90 percent said that retirement is among their saving and investing goals.

  • They are increasingly willing to borrow money to buy a vehicle, make home repairs or improvements and pay down or consolidate debt.

  • Significantly more mass affluent households hold a first mortgage (74 percent) than do households in general (56 percent), and the average home equity among mass affluent households is $138,000.

  • Fifty-five percent of mass affluent households say they have a “general” financial strategy, and 20 percent say they have a “specific” strategy.

  • Seventy-five percent of mass affluent households say they are “somewhat” or “very” confident about financial matters, and 15 percent say they are “extremely” confident.

Statistics like these make it clear that mass affluent consumers are ideal banking customers. They’re prone to borrow, actively saving for retirement, financially sophisticated, and confident about their financial future. What bank wouldn’t want to have a whole bunch of customers like these?

A custom publishing success story

But reaching these customers and prospects requires a concerted and ongoing marketing effort. In its strategy for marketing to the mass affluent, Associated Banc-Corp, a $20 billion multi-bank holding company headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, launched a brand new custom magazine in 2004.

Associated mails about 5,000 copies of Strategies, created and produced by Media 3 Publications, to both customers and prospects each quarter. The highly targeted mailing list has been built painstakingly one name at a time through direct input from the calling officers, and it is closely monitored and tweaked each quarter.

“We were looking for a way to communicate regularly with our mass affluent customers and prospects in order to boost retention and supplement our officers’ sales and calling efforts,” says Dawn Horner, the bank’s marketing director for Wealth Management, Corporate Banking and Private Banking. “We decided that a quarterly magazine was the best marketing vehicle for doing this. Strategies is the first communication piece we’ve done to this market that’s coordinated strategically across our entire footprint.”

Each issue of Strategies features departments focusing on the economy, investing, financial and estate planning, insurance and lifestyle. “We want the magazine to reflect the kind of value-added information individuals will receive as clients of Associated Banc-Corp,” says Horner. “We want the content to be more lively and interesting than what you typically see in a ‘wealth management’ magazine, so we’re including lifestyle and other general interest features as well as more in-depth financial and economic articles.”

Nearly one year after launching the publication, Horner says Strategies has been a hit with the bank’s relationship managers and customers: "Across the board, our private bankers, investment consultants and trust officers have provided feedback about clients and prospects mentioning the magazine to them in a positive manner. Recently, we even had one business client ask us to provide a supply of magazines each quarter to distribute to their management team. Since business owners and executives compose a large portion of our prospect base, we were thrilled to oblige!"

Don Sadler is Editorial Director at Media 3 Publications, which specializes in creating custom publications for targeted bank audiences, including the mass affluent.

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