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Financial Advisors: Build a Better Digital You

 

As a student looking for work, I was repeatedly asked, “Do you have a LinkedIn account?”, “What do your social media accounts say about you?”, and “What kind of an impression are you making on the digital front?” It has become very common for employers to look for potential candidates through social media and use it to vet applicants. So, ask yourself, “What do my social media accounts say about me and how can that affect my Advisory firm?”

Just as employers use the internet to find the right candidates for their organization, your prospects look to the internet to decide who the right Financial Advisor is for them. So, take a step back and assess the online presence of your business:

Where can I be found online?

  • A personal website
  • Your company’s website
  • Your social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
  • You were featured in a news article
  • A guest blog you’ve written

There are many ways to get your name (and your Advisory Firm) out there.

  1. Create a website

We are in the digital age of “Googling”. People will Google anything and everything, including which Financial Advisor would be best suited for them. Having a well designed, user-friendly, and dynamic website can help you gain credibility as a Financial Advisor by continuously establishing a great first impression with website visitors. Adding non-financial information such as community involvement, charitable endeavours and local events on your website can also help build strong relationships between you and your audience. A website can act as an extension of your business. It has the capacity to be a 24/7 online business that is working and available to clients and prospects, even when you aren’t. If you put the work in, your website can be a hub of answers for your clients and prospects.

  1. Create and build your social media accounts

Gone are the days where a first impression occurs when you first meet and shake someone’s hand, especially in the Financial Services industry. Considering that 70% of the buyer journey is completed before reaching out to a company, chances are your prospects have researched you prior to your first phone call or meeting. Having a strong social media presence that effectively articulates your services, brand and you as an Advisor, can be the difference between a gaining another prospect or a client.

  1. Blog!

It is said that the millennial generation, also known as your future clients, have an approximate purchasing power of $200 billion. 88% of millennials used Facebook as their main source of news in 2015. When it comes to news, answering questions, a means for entertainment (the list goes on) – we, the millennial generation, will turn to answers or information we find online and share it with our peers.

81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs (BlogHer). Blogging is one of the best ways to have a conversation with your audience by answering their questions in a non-intrusive manner. Blogging is also a great way to boost your websites search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking. Improving your search engine ranking can also help improve traffic to your website, all while building your digital brand.

So, to get you started on building a better digital you, do a quick audit of your existing online presence:

  • Do I have a website? Is it mobile friendly?
  • Do I have a profile on my company’s website?
  • Do I have an account on at least 1 social media platform?
  • Am I active on my account(s)?
  • Have I blogged?
  • When will I start (or continue) to build a better digital presence?

Ignoring LinkedIn is Hurting your Advisory Firm

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According to The Wall Street Journal, “At Social Media High, Facebook is the all-star quarterback, Twitter is the school paper’s editor in chief and Snapchat is the mysterious, Harley-riding transfer student. That makes LinkedIn the nerd who skips prom for the mathlympics.

However, within the financial services sector, LinkedIn is the all-star quarterback with 9 in 10 Financial Advisors active on this social network (LinkedIn). LinkedIn is a hub for growing your advisory firm, strengthening and nurturing your relationships, and building awareness for your business.

Signing up for a LinkedIn account and letting it gather dust will hurt your career – you need to be active on this social network. There are many little changes you can make to optimize your LinkedIn account, as well as many opportunities to engage with other LinkedIn users – more specifically your clients and prospects. Some of these engagement opportunities include:

  • Joining and contributing to relevant LinkedIn Groups
  • Posting updates for your LinkedIn network to see
  • Like and comment with updates made by people in your network
  • And so much more

LinkedIn recently conducted a comprehensive survey of Financial Advisors and found that 75% of Advisors who gained clients from LinkedIn stated that they use the site to improve their referral network. They gathered the top reasons Financial Advisors use LinkedIn, which included:

  1. Building brand identity
  2. Enhancing current client relationships
  3. Staying up-to-date on industry insights
  4. Improving their referral network

In a very digitally-centric world, it is important to acknowledge that as a Financial Advisor, you need to not only have a LinkedIn presence, but an active one at that. You must recognize that ignoring this all-star quarterback of a social media network could hinder your Advisory firm’s success. By staying active on LinkedIn, you could be a social media all-star, reach new prospects and grow your Assets Under Management (AUM).

5 Types of Content to Boost your Advisor Website Traffic

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According to Marketo, “Inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers and makes the company easy to be found.”  

There are many ways to boost traffic to your website and better engage your audience. But, which form of inbound marketing is the best? The answer varies from business to business. In a day and age where people prefer to be educated rather than sold, content creation is the key to connecting and engaging your audience, and further boosting traffic to your Advisor website.

Here are 5 different types of content you should start (or continue) to create for your website to help boost your traffic and engage your audience:

  1. Infographics

Researchers found that coloured visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80% (Xerox). Infographics are a great way to share information with your audience in a simplified and visually appealing way. To get started, check out some free infographic templates, provided Venngage (sign up required).

  1. Videos

51.9% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI (Adobe). Whether it is an informational video describing the difference between an RRSP and a TFSA or a welcome video introducing yourself to your online audience, there are many easy ways to incorporate video into your Financial Advisor website.

  1. Webinars

According to Entrepreneurs Forum, hosting a webinar creates several benefits for your business including:

  • Develops authority and trust with prospects and clients
  • Raises brand awareness by providing users an uninterrupted way to advertise your business
  • Grows your contact list
  • Generates qualified leads
  • Shows off your brand’s personality – something that isn’t as easily done through the written word

Webinars are a powerful tool for interacting and connecting with prospects and clients. Hosting a webinar allows your audience to get to know you, as a Financial Advisor, on a much deeper level than they would if they were to only read website content.

  1. eBooks

eBooks are a great way to compile your existing blog content and dive deeper into a specific topic. For example, we have compiled some of our existing blog content into an eBook: The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Content Marketing. eBooks have a higher perceived value to your readers who will be more willing to give you their contact information in exchange for access to your eBook. Readers are more likely to feel like this was a fair exchange as you supply them with instant access to a valuable piece of content that they are interested in.

  1. Blogs

 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs (BlogHer). Blogging is one of the best ways to have a conversation with your audience by answering questions they may have in a non-intrusive manner. Research some of the questions that your audience has, or what information they enjoy reading and use that to your advantage by writing about it.  Over time, this will help you build valuable, trusted relationships with prospects and clients.

There is a wide range of content that you can create to better engage, inform, and connect with prospects, clients and industry leaders. Some other examples of different types of content are:

  • Newsletters
  • Memes
  • Reviews
  • How-to-guides
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • Interviews
  • Slideshares
  • Social Media
  • Opinion pieces

Aside from the clear benefits mentioned from creating a variety of content for your audience, doing this will also help to improve your SEO and search engine rankings. If you feel like continuously creating content is a big time commitment, remember that you can always repurpose your current content in order to get the most mileage out of all of your content writing efforts.

Advisors: Writing for the web creates 4 marketing benefits

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How can writing for the web enrich your Financial Advisory business? A Financial Advisor who publishes a newsletter gets
a call: “Your friend just sent me a link from your newsletter. My wife is planning to retire, and we want to make the best use of those assets, consistent with our family goals. Can we all get together?”

This story shows several marketing dynamics specific to the web: Easy broadened distribution that can create unexpected business leads; web analytics that enable the advisor to see which newsletter stories were clicked and any that were clicked multiple times; and an additional information source when preparing for meetings. Because newsletter links drove traffic to the advisor’s site, the prospect had easy access to further information that confirmed his positive impression and led to his call.

Writing for the web may require adaptation of traditional marketing channels like brochures, but the rewards are well worth your effort.  Here are the challenges and how to meet them successfully.

Special challenges of writing for the web

Challenge #1: Grab readers immediately

What drives readers most is timely information that’s communicated clearly in the title of your post. The advisor in the opening anecdote had written about a new regulation related to taxes. Quick publishing via the web speeded timely communication to clients.

Make your content easy to look at, with short paragraphs, headings and sub-heads that state your content clearly, and layout that makes information flow and location of specific topics easy to grasp.

Challenge #2: Use images

Research has shown that the web is essentially a visual medium. Images attract viewers more than plain text.

If, like me, you’re a “word person,” thinking visually can seem daunting. I always envied people who could draw clear diagrams of complex processes, while I required what seemed like too many words. The good news is that, as investment professionals, you’re familiar with potentially the most compelling pictures for your audience: data visualization in charts.

Effective charts use interpretive titles that state the main idea, or story, of each one clearly and are accurate and faithful to your data.

If you enjoy taking pictures, include your own, either to personalize your site (e.g. show the photos in your office) or to illustrate your content. Your own photos are much more effective than stock photos of, say, the generic “meeting.”

Another effective way to use images is to provide a visual metaphor for what you’re talking about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not a good photographer, but I love art history and enjoy using paintings and photographs in my posts, especially as metaphors. Painters suspended on Brooklyn Bridge cables in 1914 means “risk” to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because finding inexpensive, easy-to-use image sources with a good selection is a perpetual quest of everyone writing for the web, social media experts frequently recommend their favorites. I’ve used Dreamstime.com and 123rf.com. Trustworthy sources will explain copyright and other legal restrictions on images. Be sure to respect copyright. Providing attribution of images you use is a nice touch, whether or not it’s required. This post supplies details as a hyperlink (“Image Source”).

Challenge #3: Distinctive brand “voice”

Write conversationally, referring to your own interests—family, leisure activities—to the extent that you’re comfortable, using plain English to discuss financial concepts.

A sure way to make your voice distinctive is to follow up insights from your web analytics. Are you compiling bookmarks on a social media site? Include these ongoing updates in your newsletter. If newsletter analytics show an unexpected increase in the number of clicks on a bookmark or section of your newsletter, explore the subject in a blog post or future newsletter item, mentioning that this is your response to client feedback.

The opportunity to develop and distinguish your own voice is a good lead-in to the significant benefits of writing for the web, which are interrelated results of information accessibility and communication speed.

Four Benefits of Writing for the Web

Benefit #1: Enduring presence and broader potential audience

The opening anecdote shows that easy distribution of information on the web broadened the advisor’s potential prospects by building service awareness and providing easy access to further information that confirmed the prospect’s favorable impression and motivated his call.

Have you ever lost a potential sale because the prospect lost the information you sent? Marketing on the web means that your posts remain available through search and referred links to existing clients, targeted prospects, and browsers. Your goal is to drive traffic to your site. The more you post to the web using multiple channels like your newsletter, blog, or social media sites like Twitter, the more people will find you.

Benefit #2: Extended marketing scope through easy sharing of posts

We saw sharing from friend to friend. Another way of sharing content is through social bookmarking sites like Delicious.com, which I’ve used for years to compile annotated lists of content recommended to clients. Here’s an example:

Advisors: Writing for the web creates 4 marketing benefits

 

Although all you need to post on Delicious is the URL, stating what benefits in the content led you to share it, as is done in the example above, is a greater service. Delicious.com also enables you to sort content by topic using tags, which can be bundled into groups, for example “Retirement.” Clients and prospects given access to your public account (I have a private account for my use and a public account with a different user name) can find what they need easily and become aware of new issues related to them and additional services you offer.

Benefit #3: Enhanced lead capture through offers of free content

What’s best for you about writing for the web? You can “repurpose” your content, turning it into a free offer available to readers who provide contact information requested.

Are you thinking of posting content that focuses on various stages of investors’ life cycles and includes the questions they should ask at each stage? Post it as a series, making readers aware of the series and future installments on your site, newsletter, and blog. When the series is complete, collect the installments and make them available as a free offer to visitors to your site and readers of your newsletter and blog.

Include a Call to Action with each free offer: e.g., “Are you making a transition to a new phase of your financial life? Click here to get a free copy of ‘Be financially prepared for all stages of your life.’”

Benefit #4: Varied content that shows what working with you is like

Services, unlike products, are experiential. Although clients can look at investment performance, they can’t take you home for a free trial. How to deal with this? The best answer I’ve found is to use your writing to simulate the experience of working with you as an advisor. Establish your distinctive voice through conversational analyses of market or regulatory events, explaining in plain language who they matter to and why.

Bring the words of your investment philosophy and practice values to life with stories showing how you helped clients fulfill their goals while staying within their comfort zone for risk: Parents funding children’s education; adults with financial resources to start a business, buy a home, or fund dreams of travel during retirement.

As you develop your sites and newsletters or blogs, you’ll want to try new marketing strategies and forms of content. To help you move ahead, here’s an excellent glossary of social media terms, with clear definitions and just the right amount of irreverence.

 


Susan K BeckerSusan K. Becker, founder of Manhattan-based Becker Consulting Services, is a marketing communication consultant, writer/editor, and presentation coach for organizations in financial services, professional services, and health care. She’s passionate about making communication more effective by maximizing the interplay of text, images, and design. Follow her on Twitter.