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21 Questions Your Website Needs to Answer (Fast!)

As an adviser, your website is one of the most essential marketing tools and is likely the only member of your team working 24/7 to represent your brand. Determining its focus and direction should be the cornerstone of your firm’s online marketing strategy. You can bet that your target market is looking for you online. Make sure they find you, as well as find answers to all of their questions about your firm.

So, what do people do on the Internet? The majority of web users are seeking information. To give your website a chance, focus on its visitors’ intentions. What information are they looking for, and how can you help them find it? Focus on making your website easily navigable and chock-full of answers.

Most advisers feel they need a website to validate their firm and provide legitimacy to the organization—and that’s true! But when visitors arrive to your company’s site, they’ll want to know more than whether or not you exist. In fact, they’ll want to know a lot more. Many of these questions are answered within the subconscious. (Is this company good or bad? Trustworthy? Credible?) And many of these questions are answered rather quickly. In 2012, a research team from Carlton University discovered that people make a decision about the appeal of a website in only 50 milliseconds—that’s 50/1,000 of one second!

The bottom line is, you have very little time to win over web visitors. Here is a list of 21 questions that web visitors want answered when they arrive to your website. Make sure answers to these questions can be found easily and quickly. A good rule of thumb is to have answers to the following questions answered within three clicks of entering your site.

  1. Am I in the right place?
  2. Is this company real?
  3. Is it credible?
  4. Is this website up-to-date?
  5. Is it trustworthy? Why should I trust the people who work here?
  6. Is this a professional company?
  7. Is this company stable?
  8. Does this site make me feel welcome?
  9. Is the navigation easy to find and use?
  10. Can I find the information I’m looking for?
  11. Is this company affiliated with other financial institutions?
  12. Does this company have a physical location? Where is it?
  13. How many people work here? Is the team large enough to fulfill my needs?
  14. What is the company culture like?
  15. How is this firm different than the last firm I looked into?
  16. What is it like to work with your company?
  17. How do other people feel about this company?
  18. Why should I spend money here?
  19. How can you help me?
  20. I’m not ready to make a decision, but I want to stay in touch. Can I subscribe to a blog or newsletter?
  21. What should I do next?

 

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia

 


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Tips for Building a Referral Strategy

It’s no secret—more client referrals mean better business. In fact, a 2010 report by The Oechsli Institute found that 54 percent of affluent clients surveyed had made their selection of financial adviser as the result of a personal introduction. However, many clients find being asked outright for referrals to be off-putting or overly aggressive. With an increasing emphasis being placed on garnering client referrals and gaining client trust, how do you generate one without jeopardizing the other?

Beyond Advising—Breaking the Social Barrier

Sure, you know your clients well on paper. But what about on the golf course? Hosting client events are important because in order to trust you, your clients need to feel that they know you on a personal level. Consider hosting a small, strictly social event that allows clients to mingle with advisers in an informal setting. Clients surveyed by The Oechsli Institute stated that they would be most likely to attend this type of event and that they felt the most comfortable bringing guests to this type of an event—and guests mean more opportunities for face-to-face referrals.

Establishing a social repertoire with clients can also allow you to feel more comfortable asking for direct referrals without coming off as pushy. More than 40 percent of elite advisers (defined by The Oechsli Institute as those making $1 million or more per year) held four or more of these small social events over the past 12 months. Coincidence? Definitely not.

Expand Your Strategic Approach

In addition to hosting social events, elite advisers employ other client-generating strategies that are also worth imitating:

Referral alliances: Develop working relationships with others in the financial field to open up your referral flow. Look for professionals who don’t compete with you, who appreciate your expertise and who are open to a two-way referral alliance relationship. You may be surprised at how many referrals a solid professional presence can provide you.

Niche marketing: Focusing on just one or a few types of clients can seem limiting, but often the most successful advisers actually have fewer clients. How? These advisers have learned to focus on client specialization. Narrower markets offer more opportunity for recognition and referrals, so client acquisition through word-of-mouth becomes exponentially easier. With fewer clients, you can spend more time building client relationships, which eventually leads to greater client loyalty and a greater chance that clients will introduce you to other prospects.

Strategic networking: Get involved in organizations within the community that attract high net worth clients, such as country clubs or fundraising events, and commit to spending some out-of-office time in these places. By prospecting clients in these types of environments, you are more likely to attract the type of clients you want and gain both respect and trust within these communities.

Above All, Don’t Be Passive

Many financial advisers assume that if they remain in business for long enough, doing what they have always done, they will become successful over time. Although it’s nice to believe that doing well and meeting client expectations is enough to succeed, this approach is simply not effective. Many advisers with the highest earnings actually have less experience than other, lower-earning advisers. But how could they have built a stronger reputation in a shorter amount of time? After looking at the strategies these advisers use, it’s clear that they have learned where to focus their energy to be successful rather than taking a passive approach. Start socializing, find your focus, work at networking within your community and see improvement in your client relationships and client referrals.

Brian WalshBrian Walsh, CFP®, CLU®, CASL®
Manager, Partner Relations

Advicent Solutions
Milwaukee, Wis.


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White Papers: A Great Source for Content Marketing

To stand out and engage audiences in today’s super-crowded marketing landscape, strong content marketing is imperative. A viable source for content marketing is the often-overlooked white paper.

A well thought-out and well-written white paper that addresses a current issue of great importance to your clients and prospects will position you as a trusted expert source, contribute to build trust, credibility and thought leader status. It will also raise brand awareness and, if properly marketed, act as potential catalyst for journalists in search of expert opinions. Ultimately, it will contribute to drive traffic to your website, encourage phone and email inquiries, as well as enable you to collect valuable demographics from would-be readers.

Readers will be genuinely engaged only if the perspective you provide in a white paper is relevant to them and clearly defines what it can do for them, how it will help them effectively address their problems, lessen their pains and the key goals it will help them attain.

Here are a few tips on how to make your next white paper successful:

Have a Unique Topic

You are the expert in your field and no one knows your market niche as well as you do. Consequently, do your homework and identify a relevant topic that has not been the topic of a recent white paper. Just as it is for your business, a unique selling proposition (topic) will help attract attention. In your research, stay clear of white label products, poorly researched topics and statistics, as well as data from questionable or unknown sources.

Map It Out

Before you begin writing, draw out a structure for your white paper, outlining the different paragraphs and ensuring that content will follow a logical progression. Find the most appropriate third-party statistics, studies, articles and exhibits, and verify whether or not you need permission to reference them in your document. If you need to address issues that command the use of specific technical terms, resort to footnotes and/or a glossary to provide appropriate explanations. A glossary will also give your white paper a more professional look.

Use an Appropriate Tone

Do not assume that your audience possesses an in-depth knowledge of the topic and is familiar with the industry jargon. Craft concise sentences and short paragraphs in a crisp, clear language to make your white paper easy to read. Implement a writing style that reflects your personality. Do not get too casual, but seek to write with the same tone you’d use when explaining the topic to a prospect during a face-to-face conversation. 

Promote It

Begin by making sure that your white paper displays the logo and full name of your firm, as well as the office contacts on the front cover and possibly last page. Leverage social media platforms and email to announce its publication and availability for download. Your email and social media announcements should feature links to a customized page that provides no distractions and makes interested parties feel comfortable to relinquish their email and contact information in exchange for your valuable document. The content of your white paper can also help you create your own editorial calendar. You can expand on concepts, data, statistics and research findings and use them as topics for a series of videos, blogs, advisories and short articles you can periodically disseminate via social media. This will help spark conversations, gain followers and increase the odds of getting some media attention.

Be Prepared

When publishing anything, be it an article, op-ed or white paper, be prepared to accept the possibility that someone out there will not share your same point of view and openly disagree with you. If you have done good research and backed up your claims with sound facts and figures, this is the time when you will resort to them to stand your ground. Do not engage in hand-to-hand combat, rather use the opportunity of the verbal challenge as a viable PR opportunity to further articulate, refine and reiterate your views and opinions.

As always, questions and comments are welcome.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio
President
i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.


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How to Make Conference Attendance Pay Off

FPA’s annual conference—BE Seattle 2014 is next month. Sure, it’s packed with more than 20 hours of continuing education credits for CFP certificants, but if you go only to fill up your renewal requirements, you will be missing out on achieving essential marketing objectives.

Before you hop on your flight or drive over to the convention center, consider this list of questions about you and your practice:

  • What do you want to create?
  • Where are you stuck?
  • What have you avoided?
  • Where do you need help?
  • Who can help you?
  • Who do you want to meet?
  • What is next in your marketing plan?
  • What skills do you want to improve?

With these answers in mind you can set a high bar for what you want to accomplish at this conference. How can you strategically engage in the conference so you can walk away with tangible next steps for your marketing?

Set 3 Objectives

I challenge you to set three objectives for the conference, with at least one related to your marketing. “I just want to be around my peers,” or “I want to hear what’s new” doesn’t cut it. I want you to clearly state what you will feel fulfilled about when you leave with this “in hand.”

Examples:

  • “I will identify three other planners who target my specific niche and set up a meetings to discuss ways we can partner.”
  • “I will meet with two journalists to understand their beat and ways I could support them.”
  • “I will meet with the two CRM providers I have narrowed down for consideration and get the information I need to make a decision by X date.”
  • “I will state with confidence my specific target audience at least 25 times during the conference.” (Saying “nearly retired” doesn’t count. Get more specific!)

Maybe you’ve identified some specific personal development skills on which you want to work. If you are generally introverted, for instance, then focus on improving your ability to interact in larger group situations. Challenge yourself with a measurable objective, “I will meet 10 new advisers I don’t know during the cocktail hour(s) and engage at least long enough to know whom I would refer to them.”

Bring It Up a Notch

It is easy to escape to a conference, sit in your hotel room and feel good that you are learning, but that strategy won’t help you with your marketing. You must take your participation up a few notches. How else can you engage in this conference to maximize your return?

When you are attending a conference (especially on your own dime), you start to see that the ROI needs to be more than just a few more hours of CE.  You are in charge of your experience—decide what you want from the event and make it happen.

Now, a question for you: What is the most creative way you have leveraged a meeting of your peers or a conference environment to improve your marketing? Give that some thought and reply here.

See you in Seattle! I’m at table T20, just beyond the demo area in the exhibit hall. Stop by and introduce yourself!

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
www.kristinharad.com
www.themercato.net
San Francisco

Editor’s Note: Meet Kristin in person at FPA’s annual conference—BE Seattle 2014! Stop by the FPA Booth during the opening reception in the exhibit hall between 6 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20 for a meet and greet with Kristin and fellow Practice Management Blogger Maggie Crowley. 


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Be An Inboxer

Endeavoring to be an Inboxer isn’t a call to jump in the ring and fight, nor a call to sport hip underwear.

This is all about what you can do to get more of your emails into your recipient’s inbox. Financial service providers rely on email delivery to enhance marketing campaigns such as newsletters, updates, invites to events and webinars and the list goes on, as far as your marketing budget will allow.

Techniques to optimize the chances of an email getting to an inbox—rather than a spam or junk mail folder—in some cases can help you incrementally, while in other cases the impact is dramatic.

For the Greatest Impact …

Watch your subject line. Almost all email clients have spam filtering in place and they look at a variety of factors, but none as important as the subject line. Here is an excellent resource for crafting a non-spammy subject line that also has great tips for getting the email opened.

Don’t send emails to bad email addresses. When the time comes for your marketing aspirations to outgrow Constant Contact or MailChimp, make sure to not import bad and bounced email addresses into your new email service provider’s (ESP’s) system. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) track how many bounces come from your domain and email address and issue a “sender score” (also called a “sender reputation”), a sort of credit rating for email-sending credibility. The goal is to keep bounces at a minimum to have a high sender score. This also means if you have a dated list (one that is over a year old with no sends, for example) use an email validation service to avoid lowering your and your ESP’s sender score. It will be perhaps the best $10 you will ever spend on a marketing endeavor.

For Modest Impact …

When upgrading from one ESP to another, there is a process called “inbox warming.” While not nearly as exciting as it sounds, the process involves sending your emails out on the new platform to only the most engaged contacts—that is, those who open your emails the most. Doing this the first couple of times you send an email campaign will bolster your sender score on the new platform for future sends.

Lastly, there is the issue of alignment. Typically, the “reply to” field in email transmissions contain your domain (like tim@eMarketeer.com uses the domain eMarketeer.com). Your ISP often makes use of a “sender policy framework,” which basically lists which ESP hosts are allowed to send on behalf of your domain. Add your ESP’s server IPs (the addresses of the email servers) to your SPF record before sending. Further, higher-end ESPs allow you to use your own subdomain as the URL address of the email (for example, email.yourcompany.com/email title rather than MailChimp.com/email title), which is worth the nominal amount of effort it takes to set up. Your ESP vendor can and should help with all of this.

Taking these steps will assure greater deliverability over the life of your company. Like compounding interest, incremental gains that are leveraged over the course of time can make a huge difference in your email marketing potency.

tim handleyTim Handley
Director
eMarketeer USA
Santa Cruz, Calif.


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3 Telltale Signs Your Website Needs a Refresh

In 2013, 67 percent of advisers we talked to said they were not happy with their existing websites. While it’s not realistic to redesign your firm’s website annually, the gaining pace in the tech world makes every website a constant work-in-progress. Taking on a new website project may not sound like a walk in the park, but a site redesign can have a lasting positive impact on any advisory firm.

How do you know when it’s time for a complete overhaul of your firm’s site? Here are three tell-tale signs:

1. Low Traffic and Conversions

Numbers don’t lie. The biggest reason to give your website a refresh is when no one is using it. Best practice is to track and measure numbers on a monthly basis using Google Analytics. If you notice a drop in traffic or stagnant numbers over the course of at least one quarter— looks like it’s time to try something new.

2. It’s Not a Realistic Representation of Your Firm

Prospects who have never met you can make an impression of the firm based on its website—in less than three seconds. Your website is the only member of your team working 24/7 to promote and advocate your financial firm … does it send a positive message to your target audience? If you don’t even like the way it looks, chances are neither do consumers.

3. It’s Not Relevant in 2014

While I’m not suggesting a complete website redesign is necessary every year, consider some of the major changes in technology in the past five years: more people access the Internet from a mobile device than a desktop computer, Flash animations are no longer a “thing” and Google is the new Yellow Pages.

If it is time for a website re-haul, the best way to get ready is to do a little prep work. Many advisers find web design quite daunting and complicated, and with good reason. It can be challenging to assemble the necessities to get started, but, with the right people on the job it’s not nearly as difficult a challenge as it may seem.

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia

 

Editor’s Note: Meet Maggie in person at FPA’s annual conference—BE Seattle 2014! Stop by the FPA Booth during the opening reception in the exhibit hall between 6 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20 for a meet and greet with Maggie and fellow Practice Management Blogger Kristin Harad. 


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First Impressions Count, No Matter How Long You’ve Been in Business

Isn’t it interesting how much our priorities can change over time, so that 10 or 15 years later there’s been a seismic shift from where we started?

Paying attention to appearances is one area where this tends to happen. New advisers are typically very mindful of the impact their personal appearance and office environment have on clients—particularly since those clients may be two or three times their age. But after spending years building a successful business, many advisers let such things fall by the wayside.

Let’s face it, appearances do matter. Every so often, it’s important to consider the impression your firm makes on others—be it a prospect, existing client, strategic alliance or someone you’d like to become a strategic alliance.

Everything Speaks

When was the last time you thought about the photo on your website or LinkedIn page, what you wear to work every day, or the atmosphere of your office? These details generally don’t go unnoticed, no matter how excellent your financial advice and service may be.

I’m reminded of the story of an adviser who tried and tried to get a specific CPA firm to refer clients to him. For business reasons in general, the adviser moved his office to a more upscale building in a nicer part of town. Suddenly, he began getting referrals from the CPA firm. Was this merely a coincidence, or did the new address make a difference?

Cheap rent is certainly a plus, but not if your location is sending the wrong message to the people you’re trying to attract.

What Message Are You Sending?

Having visited hundreds of advisers, I’m often surprised to find myself in offices that are in need of an update. When we see things every day, it’s easy to overlook the wear and tear that happens over time.

To be sure, business culture and life in general have become more casual in the 21st century. But when casual turns to sloppy, things have gone too far. If you’re unsure about the message your office is sending, consider getting an outside opinion. Others may notice things that you no longer see.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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