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Advisors: Why whitespace is NOT wasted space

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Whitespace is commonly referred to as negative space, the portion of a page that is left unmarked, blank, or the empty space on a page. Whitespace is the fundamental building block of good design. If used correctly, it can transform a design and provide many advantages to your Financial Advisor website.

As a Financial Advisor, you’ve taken an important step to grow your business by creating your own website. Keep in mind that as you market your business digitally, you are marketing to a digital audience and should keep that audience in mind with designing your website. As a Financial Advisor, one of your goals should be to deliver an exceptional and consistent experience to your clients and prospects on all fronts, including a positive experience for your website visitors.

Using whitespace effectively can create several benefits for your website.

  1. Emphasize your Call-to-Actions (CTAs)

At first glance, the most obvious way to make your CTA stand out would be to make your button larger than anything else on your page. However, surrounding your CTA with whitespace can be just as effective, if not more. Having whitespace surrounding your CTA gives your readers just one thing to focus on. Below is an example of how whitespace can be used effectively to emphasize a CTA (Reserve Your Spot!):

Advisors: Why Whitespace is NOT wasted space

  1. A tidy site is always better

If you were to have an in-person meeting with your clients, would you want them walking into a cluttered, messy office or an office that was clean, neat and inviting? Just as you would want to create a good first impression when someone walks into your office, you want to do the same when someone visits your website.

Aside from a great colour scheme and an easy-to-follow layout and navigation, whitespace is crucial because it adds a certain finesse, and also exudes a sense of elegance and superiority to your website. Below is an example from Mark Boulton’s article showing an Advertisement that is transformed by the use of effective whitespace. As you can see, the result is a much cleaner, and visually appealing Ad.

Example of whitespace used effectively

  1. Acts as a separator

As a Financial Advisor, there is a range of topics to discuss with your clients. Sometimes those topics are completely unrelated, making it harder to decide how to lay them out on your website. Whitespace is a great way to separate unrelated elements in your website while enhancing the overall visual layout. When you use whitespace effectively, it can pave the way to clearer communication and navigation through your website.

Although having whitespace can provide clear benefits for your website, a good balance of design and whitespace is important. Too much whitespace leads to confusion and gives off the impression that your website lacks content. However, not enough whitespace leads to a messy, disorganized and confusing layout for your audience.

Below are some websites that use whitespace effectively:

Built by Buffalo uses whitespace wisely. The whitespace helps to emphasize where they’d like their visitors to go first. As you scroll through their homepage, you can see that whitespace still dominates the page while emphasizing the icons at the same time.

Website using whitespace effectively

 

Mailchimp uses whitespace to effectively highlight their CTA’s. Their design is simple, allowing visitors to easily navigate themselves around the page.

Website using whitespace effectively

 

Google uses a minimalistic approach to their homepage. At first glance, visitors will notice their colourful logo.  Visitors will then proceed to the text box to begin their search. Their design is simple but effective because of the dominant use of whitespace.

Website using whitespace effectively

Take a minute to analyze your Financial Advisor website to help determine if you have enough (or too much) whitespace. Formulate a plan of action to incorporate more whitespace into your website design to effectively create a clean and visually appealing website – your visitors will thank you for it.

Advisors: Why just having a Website isn’t enough

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As a Financial Advisor, you’ve taken those first steps to start building an online presence and that’s a great start.  But, with so many other Financial Advisors taking on the digital world, having a website simply just isn’t enough anymore.

Think of it this way: If you were to open a retail store, would you expect that just because you opened a store, people will flock to it, and you will experience instant success? Of course not. You have to work on building your inventory, increasing your visibility, and marketing and advertising it.

Similarly, just because you have a website, doesn’t mean that clients and prospects know about it or can find you. Just like opening your own retail store, you need to continuously build your websites inventory (content), spread awareness and visibility (SEO), and market and advertise it. The more active you are digitally, the stronger your website (and your business) will be.

As a Financial Advisor: you can’t assume that because you have a website, people know about it.

Constantly updating your website creates 2 key benefits:

  1. Your visitors are happier and more engaged

Having new and fresh content will not only engage your current audience, but it will motivate them to keep coming back. Continuously updated content will ensure that you have repeat visitors and subscribers (if you have an opt-in option for visitors who enjoy your content). Also, if they are engaged and happy, the chances of them sharing your website with others greatly increases, which in return could increase your websites total visibility (and hopefully client base).

As a Financial Advisor, the financial services industry is continuously changing – from new policies and regulations to changes in season. If your content and information is out-dated, your audience will get little value out of it, which could effect the perception of your brand and practice. Frequently updating and adding content, especially content that is aimed to solve your prospect and client challenges, can help you build credibility and trust with your visitors, while increasing your digital visibility.

  1. Search engines LOVE dynamic content

When content, on your website, is continuously added and updated, that means that your website is constantly changing – it’s dynamic. When search engine crawlers come to your website to audit if anything has been updated or added, they report their findings back to Google to determine your ranking on their search engine. By updating your website, a crawler’s report back would be something along the lines of “Yes, this is an important website because it’s frequently updated with fresh, useful and good quality content.”

So, why should you care? This means that Google will send crawlers to your website more frequently, helping you rank higher for keywords that you may be focusing on to reach your target audience.  As a result, this will help increase your websites visibility and attract more prospects to your website.

As a Financial Advisor, you need to think about different ways you can get found, capture your traffic and keep those who have left your website, coming back. Take a minute and ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I updated my website?
  • When was the last time I wrote a blog for my website?
  • Does my website rank highly at all for words or phrases like “Financial Advisor, Toronto”?
  • What kinds of words or phrases would my target audience be writing in a search engine that could lead them to my website?

It is important to think about these questions as you are building your online presence. Whether you write a new blog, update your information, or add in a new widget, take some time out of your day to update your website. Remember that continuously updating your website will greatly benefit your digital presence in the long run and more easily connect you with your future clients.

8 Elements of the Perfect Advisor Website Homepage

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The homepage of your website is the most viewed and linked to page of the average website and as a result it is one of the most important pages on a site. If you’re a Financial Advisor looking to create a great website, here are the eight elements you need.

A Clear Value PropositionWeb address

These days, people do the majority of their research online. Therefore, it’s important that your website clearly and succinctly explain exactly what your business is about. What areas do you specialize in?
What types of services do you offer? What sets you apart from other Advisors? For many people, your website homepage will be their first contact with your business. If they have to click a bunch of links just to find out what you offer or what sets you apart, chances are they’ll simply move onto another website.

Clean, Correct Writing

The perfect Advisor website homepage requires the use of correct language. If your website is riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes, or even just bad syntax or awkward wording, people will not take you seriously. If you’re not confident with your writing skills, make sure you hire someone who is to do your business writing for you. Quite simply, bad writing means bad business.

Clear Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) is a button or link that you place on your website to drive prospective customers to become leads by filling out a form.  CTAs also help to guide your visitors into or through your website.  CTAs help to direct focus and make your website more efficient by giving your visitors a path to accomplish their objectives.

A Professional Photo

Make sure you include a professional, high-resolution photo of yourself on your webpage. If you work as a team of Financial Advisors, include their photos, and perhaps a professional but collegial-looking group photo. By including a photo of yourself and your team, you’ll not only personalize your website, but you’ll help establish a sense of trust with your viewers.

An Informative Bio

Your bio is the place where you tell your viewers (and prospective clients) a little bit about yourself. This section is especially important as, like the photo, it helps you reach out to your clients in a personal yet professional way. Keep your bio short and to-the-point, but don’t be afraid to throw in a few fun facts about yourself.

Use Keywords

In order for you to have the perfect Advisor website homepage, you need people to visit it. Make sure people can find your website by using strategic keywords that will come up when someone is using a search engine to find out information about Financial Advisors. There’s no point in having a webpage that no one can find!

Design

The design of your website should be sleek and well-organized. It should express the unique personality of your business, and clearly outline your services.

Keep the Text to a Minimum

People’s time is valuable, and most people don’t want to read a whole bunch of text that is irrelevant to what they initially searched for. Keep the text on your homepage simple, direct and informative. Make sure all your links work as well; broken links give an impression of unprofessionalism.

Remember, your website is an expression of your business and its capabilities. Don’t just throw up any old thing on the Internet; spend a bit of time and money investing in the perfect Advisor webpage.

Financial Advisors: 7 Simple Tips for Writing Effective Content for Your Website

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Summary: The Internet is the first place most people look when they’re researching Financial Advisors. That’s why every Financial Advisor needs a sleek and informative website that is at once personalized and professional. Here are 7 simple tips for writing effective content for your website.

Include a Short Biography

Your website should include a short, well-written biography that lets prospective clients know a little bit about you. The key word here is Financial Advisors: Seven Simple Tips for Writing Effective Content for Your Website“little”; don’t overdo it. Keep your bio short – around 300 words or so – so that readers don’t get bored or feel as if they’re reading your life’s story. When it comes to writing a biography, make sure to include your educational background, career highlights, areas of specialty, and any other information that you think might peak someone’s interest and make you stand out from the competition; but remember to keep it short and to the point, and make sure you don’t include any personal information that you would not be comfortable sharing on the Internet.

Your website is often the first point of contact for prospective clients, which you means you want to make a good first impression and put your best foot forward.

 

Keep It Simple

The best way to write effective content for your website is to keep it simple. Keep your sentences short and direct, and avoid using overly metaphorical or figurative language in your writing, as it may confuse your readers. Similarly, don’t use a lot of jargon on your website: write for a general, non-specialist audience. In other words, don’t alienate your audience.

Skimming and Scanning

Most Internet users only skim a website’s content, rather than reading each and every paragraph word for word. One of the biggest mistakes that Advisors are making is treating their web copy like print copy. In reality, web copy is read completely differently than print; only 16% of visitors read word by word. Organize your paragraphs around one central idea so that even if your readers are only skimming, they’ll be able to pick up on key points. Don’t take too long getting to the point either; just keep your writing simple and direct.

Look Like a Pro

You should include a high-quality, professionally-taken photograph on your website. “Selfies” are a definite no-no. Remember: your website is the number one place where people will go to find out about your business and the services you offer, so you’ll want to make sure that it looks professional. That means getting your headshot taken by a professional photographer, and including only high-quality, non-pixelated images on your webpage.

Do Some Research

If you’re not sure how you want your website to look, why not browse other Financial Advisors’ websites to get an idea of what’s out there? The more research you do, the better you’ll understand what kind of website you want to build. You’ll also get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Hire a Pro

Many people will hire a professional web designer, but they won’t hire a professional writer. Ever go to a website that looks great but is full of grammar and spelling mistakes and bad, incomprehensible writing? Bad writing and errors in spelling and grammar will only make you look incompetent and unprofessional. If you’re not up to writing effective content for your website – and be honest – make sure you hire someone who is.

Use Readable Fonts

This one seems obvious, but many people don’t follow this advice: when designing your website, make sure that you are using simple, readable fonts. That means don’t use frilly or overly elaborate fonts or anything “gimmicky.” Use a serious font that will reflect your professionalism, integrity and success.

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.

4 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Web Site Photos

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This post was authored by Kristen Harad and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

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Many Financial Advisors struggle to differentiate their firms and stand out in the crowd. Often times, this is best illustrated through your Web site. If you notice any of these four signs, it may be time to get an imagery makeover.

4 Signs You Need to Update Your Web site’s Photography:

1. Your home page’s first picture is a happy silver-haired couple gazing wistfully at the horizon dreaming of their retirement.

2. You see the same image on five other Financial Advisors’ home pages, all within your city limits.

3. Your primary audience is growing families and you still show active seniors, golf courses, or Adirondack chairs on the beach.

4. You don’t actually have any images on your site.

Inspirational images like sweeping scenery and active seniors help to convey the lifestyle that 80-90 percent of the population would probably like to eventually achieve, but do these types of photos help you speak to your ideal client?

Advisors use this type of generic imagery for two main reasons: (1) they want to be sure they do not exclude any potential prospects and (2) they are the default images set from their web provider.   Based on the presumption that most people’s financial goal is to retire to a life of financial comfort, the ‘silver fox’ or tropical vacation photos convey that this is what the Advisor can help clients achieve.  Whether or not your audience is 25, 45, 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 style of communication puts the burden 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.  They have many bridges to cross before that stage of life.

How important is photography?

Expert marketers care about the images they use because images draw people in. With the right photos, you can increase the probability that you will attract the right people for your practice.

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 or a direct mail piece, 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 clothes would he wear? What’s happening in the background? Is that a place he would be? What expression fits the brand? Are they too ‘happy’? Are they believable? If we had a photo shoot, where we crafted the image – then 100 times as much detail, and even more patience, came into play.

Where to Find Inexpensive, Quality Photos

The good news is that while ad agencies can spend thousands of dollars to get one photo “right,” the Web offers a proliferation of quality photos at reasonable prices.

  • Istockphoto – Select your price range from $ up to $$$$ and sizes from Small to XL. With credits you purchase, you’ll access one of the widest ranges of quality photos offered online.
  • Bigstockphoto – You can subscribe to receive a flat number of photos per month (good for a frequent blogger) or buy photos as needed. This service offers modern, intriguing photos to brighten up your site.
  • Unsplash – this unique site offers free images, no strings attached. You pick from what is posted, and you can use it any way you like. They post 10 new photos every days. You never know what you’re going to find, but you’ll certainly stand out from the crowd.

Remember, while many clients do aspire to spend their retirement observing awe-inspiring sunsets around the globe, that may not be the driving factor that leads them to hire you.  Show your clients that you understand who they are and what they want. And, please, find photos that match.

The Top 4 ‘In-Browser’ Front End Development Tools of 2015

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It wasn’t that long ago that we depended solely on photoshop as a means to design the visual look of a website. That of course meant that someone (usually someone else) was tasked with the job of coding it. This usually lead to more than a few headaches along the way as the designer tries to visually describe and detail exactly how the webpages should come together, look, animate, etc. The developer was then obliged to describe and detail how none of that was either possible, useful or likely to happen.

It’s not always quite so dramatic, but as you can see, it can lead to some problems.

In the past 2 or so years, a few tools have come together to bring the two worlds together. Why not create an application that sort functions like Adobe Photoshop but instead of creating an image that looks like a website, it is actually building a ‘real’ website?

Let’s take a look at some of the leading applications in the field:

1. Froont

froont-editor-open-show.jpg_1600x1006(2)

Froont was the first version I had a chance to try.  I have had the opportunity to chat a few times with one of the developers, Sandijs Ruluks. The app is everything one could hope for. I still have some issues moving content around as easily as I’d like, but that is likely due to the fact that I haven’t learned the app well enough yet. Aside from a few simple issues like that, Froont is a fantastic application.

 2. Webflow

webflow

Webflow is probably the biggest player on the block for in-browser web development. It is sophisticated, detailed, and can be a bit of a steep learning curve for some. It is also pricey. I’ve had some success with using this app, but frankly, the price is a bit too steep for me to use it as much as I’d like to. All that aside, it is the tool of choice for someone with the pockets to choose the best. I would consider this application as the Photoshop of the pack.

3. Stackhive

stackhive

Stackhive started its existence as ‘dockPHP’….”lets code websites visually”. A very noble idea.  This is exactly what we’re talking about here today.

However, it seems somewhere along the way, they decided to re-brand as Stackhive. Along with their re-branding, it appears that they decided to pivot exactly what their app would look like. Some argue that they pivoted a little too close to Webflow.

I, however, am not going to enter this debate. I will, however, say that I find Stackhive to be every bit as sophisticated and detailed as Webflow is and in some ways, a bit easier to work with. It is also much more accessible for the pocketbook. The regular account has cost me nothing so far, and I can already do a few more things with it than I can with the free account on Webflow. All of the power of Webflow, some extra tools and gimmicks but for less money, makes me a happy camper.

I’ve noticed one or two bugs with Stackhive, but with any luck, they’ll sort that out.  The main bug being that you can download a zip of the project that you’re currently working on but unfortunately the zip comes up with errors, making it useless.

4. Generator

generator

Generator is quite possibly the easiest to use, and the simplest version of these apps. It is also one of my favourites. It allows you to quickly put together a simple page by dragging and dropping simple template pieces. Once the page is complete, you can simply output the the html/css code and save it. The beauty of this for me, is that I can use it to quickly throw the basics of a page together in a few minutes, then spit out the html/css to then go further and tweak and expand upon the page. It’s a really fantastic way to get a project started quickly.