The insightful and often entertaining blog I heart Wall Street recently ran a fabulous post about how homogenous, ambiguous, and unhelpful most financial adviser websites are. It’s a great article, complete with a mad lib, embarrassing examples, and a slide show of attractive older couples staring blissfully at sunsets.
I found the post to be quite funny until I noticed that one commenter earnestly asked, “But what images should we use?”
Many financial planners struggle to communicate their value and to differentiate themselves from competitors. Inspirational images like sweeping scenery and active seniors help to convey the lifestyle that 90 percent of the population would probably like to ultimately achieve, but do these types of photos do much to help you stand out from your competition or to speak to your ideal client?
Advisers use this type of generic imagery (and far worse, grandiose yet ambiguous copy and messaging) because they want to be sure they do not exclude any potential prospects. They presume that most people’s financial goal is to retire to a life of financial comfort, so their marketing should convey that this is what they can help clients achieve. It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 65, everyone ultimately wants the same thing.
Unfortunately, this is not only the most widely deployed marketing strategy but also one of the least effective. By casting such a wide and inclusive net, this type of communicating puts the onus on potential clients to figure out whom you best serve and if you are the right professional to help them with their unique challenges. Retirement planning is of course one part of the financial planning equation, but for many clients it’s not the reason they are seeking a planner’s help.
Earlier in my career when I worked at a large New York ad agency, we spent countless hours assessing each detail of every photograph we would use in an ad, just to be certain it resonated with the client’s target audience. How much grey hair should he have? How many wrinkles? What ethnicity? What clothing? What is the background? Is that a place our audience would be? What expression fits? Are they too ‘happy’? Are they believable? And, watch out! if we had a photo shoot. Then 100 times as much detail—and a whole lot of patience—came into play.
Ad agencies literally spend thousands of dollars to get one photo “right.” While you certainly do not have to be that meticulous in selecting stock photos for your website, there is a reason expert marketers care about the images they use. Images draw people in, and you want to be sure your photos draw in the IDEAL people for your practice.
Many of my planning clients do aspire to spend their retirement observing awe-inspiring sunsets around the globe, but that’s not the driving factor that leads them to hire me. Show your clients that you understand who they are and what they want today. And, please, find photos that match.
Kristin Harad, CFP®
Next 10 Clients
San Francisco, CA