A few years ago I co-wrote The Sky's the Limit: Marketing Luxury to the New Jet Set, a book that explored the spending and lifestyle behavior of the financial elite. We examined major luxury and lifestyle categories such as fine art, jewelry and timepieces, automobiles and travel. We did not include any type of financial services. Truth be told, most people consider professional advisory services and the associated fees to be a necessary evil rather than an exciting acquisition. But make no mistake-managing wealth is a luxury. Not only are there a number of obvious similarities between the two (i.e., an intimate one-on-one sales process, a client-centric approach to service, premium pricing, strong referral networks and the compounding effect of loyalty on profitability), I believe we should emulate luxury brands when it comes to marketing and delivering wealth management and family office services.

Last fall I was in Los Angeles for our "Building a Multi-Family Office Practice" workshop and managed to carve out a few hours to do some informal mystery shopping. First I visited Valerie Beverly Hills, a cosmetics boutique for people in the know. The atmosphere was splendid and upscale, the displays were neat and accessible and the employees were knowledgeable and friendly. I was referred by one of their long-term clients and, in return, received the undivided attention of a seasoned stylist who followed my request to a "T" while deftly incorporating some valuable ideas and advice into our dialogue. Yes, this exercise carried a hefty price tag; but I left feeling slightly heady from the experience, comfortable with the expenditure and aware that my business was valued (in part, because I recouped about one quarter of the overall cost in free services, products and discounts. Hey, doesn't everyone appreciate getting that little something extra?). On my way out, I asked for a referral to a salon. Valerie herself made a call, booked my appointment and gave me the business card and first name of the salon's owner and directions. My next stop, The Private Room, was equally polished and professional. I was greeted energetically by a tag team at the door. Within minutes they'd stowed my coat and bags, handed me an engraved card listing complimentary beverages (including champagne and custom-blended herbal teas) and commenced a magnificent head massage that, months later, I still remember fondly. The best luxury providers in the world know they offer "experiences" to their clients, not just products, and they do everything possible to ensure those experiences are delivered with a skilled hand and a residual impact.

What kind of experience do you offer your clients? Is it intentional or simply the byproduct of your technical efforts? What does your workspace look like? Is it clean and organized? Or crowded and in need of an overhaul? After a meeting, do your clients feel cared for, satisfied, confident and comfortable with your fees? Or frustrated and slightly confused by the process? Are your referrals handled efficiently and smoothly? Or does the hand-off leave something to be desired?

My afternoon in Beverly Hills reminded me that our expertise is consumed in much the same way as most luxury goods-with passion, discernment and a desire for the best. By exploiting those qualities, rather than ignoring them, I believe we can enhance the quality of our client relationships and improve satisfaction.

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