Part Four of Abbie Tanner’s Marketing Innovation Engine™ Programme: How to Create the Online Image You Deserve
Are you unwittingly tarnishing your reputation with an out of date or mediocre online image? Kick start your marketing in 2014 by refreshing your online presence, creating a profile and website that truly represents who you are and what you can offer potential clients and partners.
Do you already have a website to promote your services? Is it up to date and working for you? Has it been optimised for viewing on mobile devices, and do you use it as part of your client engagement process?
Keep Up At The Back, There
As you can imagine, I attend a lot of events. Often I meet financial advisers, and more times than not when we exchange business cards (and if they know that I’m in marketing), they hastily disclaim “but don’t look at my website…” Followed by all kinds of excuses. “It’s under construction.” “It’s out of date.” “We’re working in it.” And so on. Sound familiar?
Your website is one of the most powerful tools in your promotional armoury. It should clearly articulate your value proposition; ‘sell’ the key features, value and benefits of your services; and enable potential clients or contacts to engage with you. Your site is something you should be proud of.
Many years ago, in a traditional sales environment, your website was less important. Typically, leads would come through referrals from existing clients or introducers. You would then meet with a prospect, ‘sell’ them a product then move on. A business card was quite often the only marketing tool you required.
Today we live in the internet era. Latest stats indicate that 7 in 10 people in the UK now own a smartphone, which they are actively using to surf the web for products and services. High street retailers boasted record Christmas sales last year, primarily driven by purchases of mobiles and tablets. And on Christmas Day mobile traffic accounted for a full 48% of all online traffic.
Mobile devices and tablets facilitate quick and immediate access to information, which will have dramatic consequences for the financial adviser. We can now surf the web from our mobile phones while waiting in a queue at the supermarket. I can also ‘ask Google’ any question in the world and have an answer within seconds.
Transforming the Client Engagement Process
The implication: if you are not online (or not represented well online) you’re missing a massive opportunity.
Technology has, and will continue to, completely transform the client engagement process. If a prospect is referred by a friend, colleague or professional contact one of the first things they will do is research you and your firm to find out more. A professional, informative and well-designed website will build instant credibility. It will help the prospect to evaluate if there is a ‘fit’ even before they’ve agreed to attend a first meeting.
Getting Started: Set Your Strategy
Before you begin the process of updating your online image, you need to have a strategy. Your website must be built with a purpose.
What is your core objective? Are you aiming to generate a lot of traffic and enquiries? Or will your site act as a credibility builder, reinforcing your brand and core values? As you can imagine, these two objectives will result in two very different website designs.
Define your Target Audience
Once you’ve established your site objective, define your target audience. Is the site for private clients, corporate clients or professional connections? Perhaps you’re looking to engage all three. If so, you’ll need to consider how to best structure the content to ensure maximum impact. What will attract these audiences to your site, capture their interest and encourage them to get in touch?
Establish Core Messages and Structure
Adopt this simple approach to define the content and structure for your website:
1. Take a blank piece of paper and list all the different audiences you intend to target (e.g. time poor private clients, corporate clients with 25 or more employees, etc.).
2. Create a second column and list the reasons why these audiences would visit your site. What specific questions are they seeking answers to? What content will they expect to see? (e.g. is this firm credible? What services do they provide? What types of clients do they typically work with?).
3. Create a third column and list their specific needs, issues or concerns. (For instance, the time-poor private client might be within ten years of retirement, with numerous policies they have accumulated over the years, but no understanding of where they stand today or whether they’ll have enough for their retirement).
4. Add a final column, and list the specific services you provide to address each of their identified needs (e.g. free initial consultation, pension consolidation, wrap-based investment proposition with online access and total transparency, cash flow modelling to plan retirement income etc).
This matrix should form the basis of your website content structure and messaging, which you will need to capture in a brief for your website developers and copywriter. I call this approach ‘solutions based marketing’. Instead of force fitting a product, you are genuinely identifying with the needs of your target audience and guiding them towards an appropriate solution.
Avoid Costly and Time Consuming Mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes financial advisers make with their website is to create content that is ‘all about them’, with little (or no) consideration of the target audience or their needs. They use language that actually alienates site visitors, instead of attracting their attention and engaging with them.
Case studies (which I’ll cover in a subsequent IFA Magazine article) are an effective way to communicate your message in a language your target clients understand. Removing the intangible nature of delivering a service, case studies take the prospect on a journey. They help the reader to visualise how you can help to resolve a particular issue or concern.
Often advisers appoint website designers, technicians or copywriters who have no understanding of financial services. This can lead to lengthy delays, which could be avoided if managed effectively using a project plan (following a structured plan, your site should be delivered within 12 weeks of the initial brief), and leveraging the skills of specialists with a background in financial services, the regulatory landscape and compliance implications of different content.
Other common mistakes – to name just a few – include:
- Ignoring social media, in particular LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter and video. While not all of these will be right for your business, don’t discount them as part of your strategy until you’ve done your research.
- Ineffective use of testimonials. Devoting a separate section of your website to testimonials rather than placing them throughout the content to reinforce your value proposition. If this is you, review your website stats – I can assure you this is one of your least viewed pages.
- Including heavy product-related content. If you’re a broker and ‘sell’ product through your site this will be appropriate. If not, you need to ‘sell your services’ and not products.
- Using a template site with no customisation whatsoever. Do you really believe your value proposition is exactly the same as the template provider dictates and all other subscribers adopt? I should think not.
- Employing costly SEO ‘experts’, who promise to get your site to page one of Google and keep you there. Search Engine Optimisation is an organic process, with no guarantees. A great website supported by a consistent blogging and social medial strategy will climb up the search engine rankings – without the need to allocate additional budget for so called experts.
- Uploading an ‘under construction’ page. If your website is out of date and detracts from your value proposition, and you are in the process of developing a brand new site, I strongly recommend you take the current website down and upload a holding page. Do not waste the opportunity to tell visitors exactly what you do, by simply publishing an ‘under construction’ message. Instead create a single page website with an overview of your services and how to get in touch. See these examples: dragonflytrustservices.com and uniqfamilywealth.co.uk
- Failing to consider sources of traffic. The best website in the world will not deliver any value to your business if it cannot be found online. Test how prospects will find your site, using both online and offline sources. For example, consider third party sites such as Unbiased.co.uk, Google+ , LinkedIn, VouchedFor and other local business directories.
I could go on, but I’ll leave the argument here. The successful businesses of tomorrow will have a well-considered, strategic and targeted online presence. Their website will be used to build credibility and help them to time (and cost) effectively engage with clients, prospects and professional connections – building their brand and their business.
In next month’s IFA Magazine article I will delve deeper into the components of a great online presence, including social media and how to use these channels effectively to your greatest business advantage.