by Kristin C. Harad, CFP®
Your most powerful marketing resource may be one you overlook—your website. In an age when everything is online, your website can actually work for you. Unfortunately, many advisers fail to let their website shoulder the responsibility of initiating and developing a prospect relationship. Rather, advisers exhaust themselves following up with ill-matched inquiries, or worse yet, they miss out on opportunity they never knew existed.
For service-focused businesses like financial planning, online marketing relies on driving response. When you apply direct marketing tenets to your financial advising website, you create a persuasive tool that handles much of the courtship of relationship-building for you.
Direct marketing relies on three essential elements, all intertwined:
- List is the people to whom you market. Are you presenting your website and offer to the people with whom it will resonate? Are you marketing in the channels that target your desired audience? Your list drives your marketing plan.
- Offer is the hook to attract the target audience member to identify herself and her interest. Offering a free consultation or get acquainted meeting is commonplace in our industry. However, that offer alone is not enough to drive effective lead generation.
- Creative is the way in which you present your service. In direct marketing, it is the look and feel of your website—the graphics and words you use, the ease of navigation, and the ability to locate relevant information.
These three elements combined transform your website from an online brochure into a powerful lead-generation engine.
Ditch the Ultimatum
Most prospects who visit your website likely take 15 minutes in between meetings or a few minutes at lunchtime to address their looming to-do: identify a (new) financial adviser.
When the only offer on your website is “request your free consultation,” you are giving your prospects an ultimatum. You’re saying, “Call me, email me, or submit a consult form and have your free meeting, or do nothing.” This binary option can be stressful for a prospect who is not quite ready to commit. With that to-do still on her list, she has to remember to come back later, or she disappears and never returns. You essentially chase away what could be an ideal client.
Shift Your Objective
Change your objective and design your site to entice a prospect to share his or her name and email address. People who are ready to schedule will do so. Everyone else needs more time and information, so give it to them.
Develop and offer a “freemium”—free educational content in exchange for the prospect’s name and email address—and strengthen your relationship through a multi-touch prospect experience (this often is automated through an email management system). When you ease into a relationship, you can allay a prospect’s fears, build trust slowly, and demonstrate that you are the right person to help.
Lead with Free Content
Does a “freemium” strategy mean that you drop your offer to schedule a free consultation? Absolutely not. You want to have a clear and easy way for the people who want help right now to contact you. Link to “schedule now” on every page of your site, but lead with “sign up for this valuable freemium.”
Leading with free content is most important on your home page because it is your most visited page. You only have a few seconds to capture a prospect’s interest so you want to offer an easy way to engage. (See the sidebar for ideas on “freemium” content.)
Maximize Your Site’s Effectiveness
Pinpoint your target audience. One of the main functions of your site is to screen prospects. Be clear and overt about the type of client you help. Too many advisers speak in generalities when they are better served to state their ideal prospect front-and-center on the home page. This clarity establishes you as an expert, resonates with your visitor (if your ‘list’ efforts are on target), and immediately lets prospects know if they are in the right place.
Many website templates now showcase a slideshow on the home page. Do not use this to taut your firm and your services. Instead, connect with your audience and highlight their aspirations or anxieties. Use photos that reflect your audience and consider first person statements such as, “Can I afford to retire by 55?” or “I want to pay for my grandchildren’s education.”
Use ample white space. Crowded sites filled with text, key word “stuffing,” and other techniques from outdated website marketing strategies confuse your reader and leave them uncertain as to how to engage or if you can help. Free up white space and use more visuals, links to downloads, and eliminate unnecessary text. You will have the opportunity to explain in more detail when you talk with that prospect; your website simply greets, screens, and prompts the next action.
Make it easy to schedule. Display your phone number at the top of each page. Don’t make an eager prospect navigate to the “Contact Us” page. Place or float a button that links to an online schedule system such as www.ScheduleOnce.com or www.TimeTrade.com.
Keep it fresh. Share one to three dynamic content items such as blog posts, articles, a Twitter feed, or Facebook posts.
Connect. Include icons for LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media outlets. Don’t forget an email icon and a RSS feed if you have a blog.
Brag. Highlight your media mentions with an “as-featured in” belt of logos at the bottom of your home page. Eye-catching and colorful, logos reinforce expertise and credibility.
Bask in the glow. Benefit from the halo effect of associations’ brand equity. Showcase the FPA logo, the CFP gold bar, or other qualified affiliations.
Tag your page. Help yourself in search engine optimization and select a helpful title tag. This simple description of your page signals a search engine so you rank in relevant results. Include your key words and keep them succinct—for example, “Houston Certified Financial Planner practitioner: Jones Wealth Management.” Change it up for each page. For instance, vary the text in your bio to read “James Jones— Certified Financial Planner—Jones Wealth Management.”
Relate through Your Biography
Prospects start on the home page but quickly click through to find the person or people behind the company. Your biography must help visitors answer the questions, “Do I like you?” “Can I trust you?” “Do you understand me?” “Are you qualified?” Make a positive first impression with a welcoming photo, or record your own video greeting. Lead off your biography with your passion. Why do you care about helping the audience you serve? Share and relate to their needs through your story before you list your credentials.
Share What to Expect
As people return to your site or get close to selecting an adviser, they will spend more time on your “services” page. Present clear services that are easy to understand. Many advisers list every part of the financial planning process to the point of overwhelm. Bundle up your offerings where you can to share only a few options for engagement. Prospects will then evaluate each choice and measure their fit. Be sure to share your process as well, broken down into steps. Graphics such as flowcharts and diagrams work well to move a prospect to take action. When you show a process, you reinforce your credibility, demystify an intangible service, and help a person know exactly what to expect.
Keep It Simple
The best way to let your website work for you is to keep it simple. Limit the pages, speak in language your readers will understand, and make it easy to engage. Your site does not have to tell the whole story. You can tell the rest at the consultation.
Kristin C. Harad, CFP®, is a marketing coach to financial advisers (www.KristinHarad.com) and founder of VitaVie Financial Planning, a fee-only planning firm in the San Francisco Bay area.
What Freemium Will You Use?
As an industry filled with educational topics, financial planning offers an abundance of free content you can share with your target audience in the form of a “freemium” (free information you give in exchange for a name and email address).
Freemiums that work well for financial advisers include:
• Free reports or articles
• Checklists or evaluation tools
• Workbooks or ebooks
• Audio: CDs, MP3s, podcasts
• Video series or DVDs
• A “kit” containing any combination of two or more of the above elements