The Best Practices to Build a Successful Online Presence as a Financial Advisor
by Jonathan Bega
This blog is a little different from the usual. It’s also part one of our three part series on how technology can help financial advisors grow their books. As a tech nerd, this topic has been near and dear to my heart. After all, throughout my career, technology has been my bread and butter. As a former venture capitalist, backing early stage technology companies was my job for the last few years before I joined Finaeo. The companies I loved were the ones trying to augment people and businesses. They weren’t trying to replace jobs or “disrupt” industries, they were trying to help people give consistently excellent service. When I joined Finaeo, it was because I believed that we could build the type of technology that would augment financial advisors. That would help them connect and serve their clients in a far better manner. We wanted to build the world’s first digital AI assistant and sales coach. The end goal, for us, was to help advisors save time they would spend on administrative tasks and focus that time on building strong, meaningful relationships with their clients.
Over the next two blogs, the focus will be on CRMs and the digital, conversational assistants. However, today, I wanted to focus on a financial advisor’s online presence. For most financial advisors, relationships are built one-to-one. You receive a referral or follow a lead, meet the prospective client, and hopefully close him or her. The beauty of creating a strong online presence is that it can be a platform to build one-to-many relationships. Now, this of course does not reduce the need for strong one-on-one interactions. You’re never going to sign a client directly off of a blog post, no matter how witty or insightful you are (trust me, I’ve tried). But, if you think about your sales pipeline (and remember, your pipeline is different from your sales funnel), one-to-many interactions can create large numbers of leads. You’re reaching a much larger audience and, if you do it right, you’re reaching a segment of the market that cares about the same things you care about. This helps develop a strong brand, though it does take work to do right. The goal is to become a thought leader in a market or geographical niche. Doing so will help bring leads directly to your doorstep (or inbox or Twitter page). All of a sudden, growing your book will rely less on cold calls and more on reaching out to people who you have already warmly interacted with online. This certainly beats cold calling a prospect before his or her morning coffee has kicked in.
Moreover, the Internet has brought us into the age of proactive, instead of reactive, marketing. According to Blizzard Internet Marketing, reactive marketing centers around placing your message in areas where you believe large numbers of people are likely to see it. It relies on the hope that people will luckily walk directly in front of one of your ads and decide that your services are exactly what they needed all along. Think billboards or television and radio ads. However, the Internet has shifted us towards proactive marketing. Proactive marketing is the idea that prospective clients are searching specifically for the services you provide online. When someone searches for the right keywords, your ad, website, or blog pops up. The people seeing your advertising are the ones with the highest intent to connect with you. It’s the difference between advertising with a shotgun versus advertising with a sniper rifle! Both can work, but the latter is far more precise.
All in all, then, it has become imperative for an advisor looking to grow his or her book of business to establish a strong online brand. But that’s easier said than done. To help you understand the right aspects to focus on, I chatted with Lester Tiro of advisorwebsites.com. Advisor Websites is a company that helps financial advisors build their online presence, starting with mobile-friendly websites. I figured that if I wanted to discuss best practices for advisors online, it would be worth going directly to the source. Lester has worked with thousands of financial advisors on their websites, blogs, and social media pages. If anyone knows what smart advisors should do to maximize their reach, it would be him. As such, please enjoy our interview below. We touch on a number of subjects including marketing, online presence, best practices, blogging, and a whole bunch more.
Hope you enjoy!
J: Can you tell me what financial advisor marketing means to you?
L: Marketing your financial business has changed and is more than just networking and placing an ad in the local newspaper or phonebook. The internet has opened up numerous possibilities for marketing your business and connecting with your new customers. Establishing an engaging website that properly represents your brand is critical as it validates your existence to the market to become a successful online financial advisor.
J: What are the top tools for financial advisors to use to get their messages across?
L: That’s a big question. I’ll try to break it down into the four parts I think are most valuable – website, social media, blogs, and search engine optimization.
Website: This is the starting point to succeeding online as a financial advisor. Creating a website is crucial to establishing your online presence. Doing so will allow you to manage your brand and reputation. A website helps generate more leads, access previously untapped markets, and engage with your client base. Simply put, having a website is of paramount importance.
Social media: Succeeding online doesn’t stop with a website. Maintaining your profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are crucial to engaging with your online community. Release status updates, up-to-date news, and your blog posts to manage your online presence.
Press Releases/Blog: Put out a press release anytime something newsworthy affects your company. This will allow you to jump to the top of the search engine results and stay ahead of the news when it comes to your brand reputation. The same goes for blogging, post either your own articles or ghostwritten articles. Just be sure to verify with your compliance team before publishing.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This is critical for anyone searching for your products or services. There are many simple SEO tips that you can learn online, but for bigger projects, make sure to consult a professional. This will help you climb up the search engine results, ensuring that your customers will be able to find you.
J: That’s really interesting. So, an area of obvious interest to me is blogging. What are blogging best practices for advisors?
There is more to having a great advisor blog than just posting a single article. Many advisors tend to forget about their blog after posting. In fact, the most important facets lie after the initially posting. Firstly, advisors should post content that pertains to their target audience. Once that is completed, promoting the article through your social streams and email newsletters will guarantee more readers. Finally, encourage discussion and engagement on your post by using questions or calls to action.
J: What are some examples of interesting questions or calls to action that you’ve seen work?
There have been quite a few – some big, some small. One good example was an advisor with a highly visible button on his homepage that said “Will you have enough to retire?” It led to an integration that allowed the user to calculate his or her retirement savings. While this was great for content on the website, it also doubled as a lead generation tool as users had to input their name and email to receive the results. Another great call to action was one that read “Get a Free Portfolio Risk Analysis.” Clients could access the advisor’s calendar and directly schedule an appointment. Once more, this was a great lead generation tool and it got real results! But there are even small changes that I have seen work. Using the right text, proper button placement, modern looking websites – all of these can increase client interaction.
J: That’s pretty fantastic. Talk to me a bit about social media and why presence there matters.
Having an account isn’t the only thing with social media, you need to be active and present. Updating and posting on your social media accounts takes time but is an important part of maintaining an online presence. It represents your brand and value proposition. It gives you a platform to prospect leads and interact with current clients. Social media is essentially your online voice.
J: So how should one go about building out their social media presence? Which channels have you found to be most effective? What are some examples of an effective cadence you’ve seen in the past?
Keeping a consistent image and theme across all your profiles is important, as it strengthens your overall brand. Sharing content that interests your target market will yield more engagement on social media streams. Participating in conversations on subjects that relate to your audience is also a great way to build connections online. The social media channels I recommend advisors to use are Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook to build conversation, rapport and trust with customers. For Linkedin I would recommend joining groups. This is a great way to connect with prospective clients and customers to increase your brand awareness. Across all three platforms I would recommend using visuals when posting content, for example images on Twitter and videos on LinkedIn. Using CTAs in your posts is great for driving engagements. Make your posts sounds personal and authentic. Few are interested in seeing boring and impersonal posts, and avoid posting anything that seems canned and automated. Beyond that, be consistent. Don’t try it for two weeks and then call it a day when it doesn’t immediately yield results. This is a slow burning process. It will take time, but stay the course and you will see great results over time.
J: Stepping back from the nitty gritty details, let’s talk a bit about building a strong personal brand. In your mind, what is the top piece of advice you would give to an advisor trying to build a strong personal brand?
Specify your target market: what demographics do you want to be targeting? Then, cater your style and brand to that specific market. Set-up your website, social profiles, and email list. Make sure that you have a logo and branding design to keep a consistent image on all your accounts. Afterwards, share content to your streams and engage with both potential and current clients. Once you feel like you have a strong grip on your personal brand, explore organic keywords for your local search rankings. This would mean optimizing your website and social profiles towards specific factors (i.e. city, target market, services offered).
J: Okay, last question – what are some “low-hanging fruit” advisors should incorporate into their practices for outsized results ?
Linking your social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to your website will allow for users to instantly connect with you over these networks. When on LinkedIn, try commenting on posts and engaging with your audience. This also means replying to tweets and Facebook comments. A simple SEO tip would be to fix your meta-tags and alt text within your website.
In addition offering original content such as eBooks and worksheets via a lead capture form are excellent incentives. They provide you with your visitors information and your visitors with with information or tools to succeed financially and, it also showcases your expertise in the financial services industry.
J: Thanks, Lester! This has been really helpful and a good reminder that I really need to up my Twitter game. And to all our readers, you can follow Lester on Twitter (@lestertiro) and check out Advisor Websites for more great information. You can also follow us on Twitter (@finaeoinc) and please be sure to subscribe to our blog!
As always, I wanted to close our segment off with a challenger. This will be a multi-part challenger, but bear with me. First, get smart on SEO and social media. There is likely no better source of leads than those two. I highly recommend the beginner’s guide to SEO and the beginner’s guide to social media from Moz to start off with. Secondly, if you haven’t yet, set up a Twitter page and start following some thought leaders in your industry. Tweet at us a hello or your thoughts with your new Twitter account (@finaeoinc).