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Enhancing Financial Adviser Websites

I’ve spent the last year since leaving corporate life behind me working with Financial Advisers on delivering some really interesting and exciting marketing activities. Of course the online world plays a significant role in these activities. I’ve found that Financial Adviser websites today differ widely in terms of their levels of quality and also their ability to engage the target audiences. So to help you, here are a few thoughts that could help you to quickly and easily enhance your website.

Understand the importance of your website

Your website at the end of the day is your most valuable digital asset. It can inform your audience, engage them and indeed be a key source of leads for your business. So view your website as the hub of your online activities. All your activities online in relation to your business either through social media or indeed lead generation through advertising and search optimisation should lead back to your website. It’s really important as a result that your website shows your business in the best light possible.

Be Clear on your Goals

What are you trying to achieve with your website? Are you trying to establish yourself as a thought leader in financial services or are you simply trying to inform the readers on your site of the products that you sell? Or maybe you’re trying to generate leads through your website?  You need to be very clear what you’re trying to achieve as this should impact the structure and layout of your site and the content that you place on it.

Spend time thinking about this, don’t just dive in and start writing content! Get very clear on your objectives and then constantly “sense check” your content against these objectives to ensure you’re delivering what you’ve set out to achieve.  Otherwise the audience won’t be clear of your message and what you’re trying to say to them…..and will just leave the site.

Talk about what you actually do!

This is quickly becoming a big bugbear of mine….. There are too many financial adviser websites out there that to my mind miss the biggest opportunity of all.  And that is to tell the readers of your websites what you actually do and how you do it – that is of course giving advice! So many adviser websites are like mini brochures for life assurance companies, talking about all the products of theirs that you will sell to everyone. That’s all well and good but it completely undersells the real value that you bring to your clients – the excellent advice that you give them to help them plot their financial course. The products are of course a very important part of the overall equation, but at the end of the day, they are simply vehicles to help you and the client reach their financial goals. So tell the world what you do!

Keep an Eye on your Layout

There are some Financial Adviser websites out there that hide away some of their real nuggets! Make it easy for the reader to get to the key messages that you want them to see. Have a sensible navigation menu structure that will lead people easily through the site to your key messages. If people can’t get quickly to the page they want, they’ll just leave the site.

When the reader finds themselves on the correct page, make sure the key messages are easily found. Have your key messages high up on the page, “above the fold”, so that the reader doesn’t have to scroll down to reach the key message. Often people just won’t bother scrolling, and will leave the page or even the site without reading that all-important message.

Have Clear Calls to Action

What do you want the reader to do when on your website? Do you want them to pick up the phone and make an appointment with you or do you want them to fill out a form on the site to make contact? Maybe you’re trying to establish yourself as a thought leader and you want them to share your content? Well make sure you ask them to do whatever it is that you want and give them the opportunity to carry out that action……again and again. Make the call to action very obvious, very clear and very easy.

Make sure your Content is Current & Accurate

When prospective or existing clients look to explore your views for example on recent market turmoil, they will probably check out any links you have to pages that contain “News”, “Blogs” or “Newsletters”. If you have old content here, this may suggest to the reader that you don’t have your finger on the pulse. Don’t be afraid to take content down if it is old or out of date! Sometimes “less is more” – this is certainly one of those instances!

Also, read and then re-read your content for accuracy. Are all spellings correct and is there good use of grammar? Lack of attention in this area can send out a signal of shoddy practices which is very damaging for Financial Advisers as your clients expect the highest levels of attention to detail in relation to their finances. So don’t undermine your business offering by not putting in a few extra minutes checking the quality of your content.

I hope these pointers are helpful to you. Coming into the summer might offer you the opportunity to catch your breath and review your online presence. I would of course be delighted to discuss this area further with you, please give me a call! Or indeed, please feel free to comment below this article.

Regards

Eamonn

Why is MY client talking to him?

How many financial advisers have bumped into an existing protection client to be told that the client recently put in place his pension / investment with another adviser or a bank? Why would your client go elsewhere? Could it be because your client doesn’t know the breadth of your product proposition or maybe would just not think about you at the time? Or possibly does the client feel a bit unloved by you?

There’s an old acronym for a customer buying cycle called AIDA. This stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. The problem I have with this is that the final step (Action) is sometimes viewed as the end of the process by advisers as they move on to the next client. It’s not, it simply all starts again. Your job after your client reaches the Action phase (a product purchase) is to begin to make your client aware of other needs they may have and to start moving them through the buying cycle again. If you don’t, someone else will and this leads us to one of today’s biggest challenges; client retention.

What’s the typical client base profile of financial advisers that I meet today? Well client bases vary widely in terms of size, but typically the adviser will say that they have close relationships with only about 20% of their clients. The rest of the clients were simply transactions of single products over the years. Of course you can’t deal with every client equally, both because it’s not profitable to do so and also you don’t have the time. However there’s no excuse today for any client not being fully aware of your proposition.

The first opportunity you have to make your client aware of the breadth of your offering is as they complete the initial transaction with you. Build time into your advice / sales process to walk your client through all areas of your proposition. They’re warm to you at this stage and will listen. Make sure you have a high quality marketing take-away for them that sets out all that you can offer them.

However brochures get lost and anyway, the real opportunity to cement your relationship with all clients only begins now. The first step is to open up as many no-cost communication channels as possible with your clients. These primarily are through ensuring you have their email addresses and also through using social media; definitely connecting with any of your clients on LinkedIn, and also Twitter offers great potential.

Your challenge then is to regularly share useful content with your clients that will portray your financial services expertise and that will also keep you firmly on your clients’ radars. Don’t bang them over the head by trying to sell all the time; instead your aim should be to interest and engage them. Do this and there’s a good chance they’ll pay the odd visit to your website to see what else you have to say. Now your clients will become more AWARE of your offering, you might even raise their INTEREST! Now they’re halfway through the buying cycle again!

A question I’m often asked is how best to measure success, as the sales cycle can be very long for future sales and therefore hard to measure in revenue terms. A method I recommend is using the “Net Promoter Score” (NPS). This is a very simple process in which you ask your clients a single question on a scale of 1 – 10, “How likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” You then measure the results and track your score over time to see if you’re successfully engaging your clients or not. You’ll find loads of information about the NPS on the web.

We’ve all heard the old rule of thumb that it costs 5 times more to secure a new customer than it does to drive new business from an existing customer. Many of you are also very dependent on referrals from your existing customers. So look after them, engage them and you’ll increase your ratio of relationship clients.

Best of luck with engaging your existing clients! I’d love to hear from you if you would like to learn how I could help you in this area or indeed for you to share any successful approaches that you use yourself.

Help! Where do I get my Content?

Lots of financial advisers that I talk to identify a common challenge to me. Usually they say something along the lines of; “I know that I need to keep my website updated with fresh content and I know that I can stand out from other advisers by sharing good content with my connections through my chosen social media platforms. The question is, what do I write about?”

Yes, the dreaded writer’s block! What can you do about it? Well the good news is, there’s a couple of straightforward steps you can take to overcome that seemingly frozen brain! I’m going to set out a couple of practical tips to help you get started and then give you a few ideas on actually coming up with the content.

Know your Audience

This first tip is really important. Know who your target audience is. Is it business owners, consumers, particular occupations? Who are you actually writing that new website page, blog or email newsletter for? It’s no good if it’s about a subject that you find riveting……but your audience doesn’t! So zone in on your target audience, try to identify a typical individual and ask yourself would they want to read your musings. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think about what they will bother / want to read.

A Content Calendar

My second suggestion is to avoid relying on your brain kicking into action every month or whatever the frequency of your communication is to be. There’s nothing worse than that looming “to do” in your calendar when you’ve no idea what you’re going to write about! To avoid this, set up a “Content Calendar” for the year. As potential subject areas come to mind, drop them into the calendar with a few bullet points of what the article might cover. What will this achieve? First of all, it’ll ensure you don’t lose potential content ideas as you go along and it will also give you a starting point every time you sit down to write some content. You’ll actually find after a while that you’ve too much content and now can actually start being selective about what you write. Hard to believe, but it will happen!

Now in relation to the actual content, first of all there’s probably two main types to consider. Original content and curated content. Original content is content that you write yourself while curated content is written by others but which your audience will be grateful to you for sharing with them. Both have a role to play so here’s a few ideas on filling your content calendar with topics for each type.

Original Content

First of all, don’t fall into the trap of always selling. It might be interesting to you to always talk about investment and protection products but not to your audience! Add value by writing about financial issues or challenges that affect them in their lives, in which you can exhibit your expertise.

To identify the issues, first of all ask the audience! Yes, that’s where this blog topic came from…… Your audience will often start talking about particular issues they’re facing in your knowledge space. Capture those issues. Ask them about financial challenges they’re struggling with that you potentially might help with and then write about them. Your wider audience will also be grateful. When they realise your expertise, they will want to talk to you about their wider financial affair…..and their product needs.

Secondly, have your aerial up at all times! When you go to a presentation, read the Sunday papers or surf the web, you’ll fall across loads of topics of potential interest to your audience. Now I’m not for one moment suggesting plagiarism! If you do use anyone else’s content, be sure to credit them as the source. What I’m suggesting is you use these sources as prompts for topics that you then add your own thoughts and flavour to. Put your own spin on them. You can’t beat original content and if your audience find it interesting, they will also appreciate your effort.

Curated Content

This type of shared content also has its place, however personally I think it can only sit alongside some original content. It’s great to share content that is of interest to your audience but sometimes / eventually they want to know what you think!

A few thoughts on sharing web links. First of all, ensure they’re of interest to your audience. Secondly, don’t barrage your audience with too many links or you risk being viewed as spam. Thirdly, don’t make them all product related. Some sales related messages are fine but certainly not all. Your audience want to learn and be informed. If you sell all the time you won’t achieve this.

In relation to identifying those great web links, you don’t even need to go looking for them each time if you’re organised! You can get them sent to you by using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds. These are those little orange buttons (similar to the “Subscribe” button at the top of this page). It is is very easy to set up a home (called a reader) to which useful articles can be sent to you by simply clicking on the orange button on useful websites you visit.

Another challenge in relation to curated content is to remember those great web pages you came across! How many times have you forgotten where you read “that great article about xyz?” A great tool is a website and App called Evernote. You can write notes to yourself, save audio recordings, save photos and all types of files. To suit our purpose here, you can also save website addresses and even clip web articles to it. You can separate them all into different categories and then it all syncs automatically on all your devices. Brilliant! You need never forget anything again!

Now where did I leave my pen…..

Effective Newsletters for Financial Advisers

I know that quite a number of financial advisers like to communicate with existing clients through newsletters which can be effective if the required level of commitment is put into them. I’m going to start by pinning my colours to the mast….. I’m not a huge fan of them as too often they fall by the wayside.  However for those out there who are ready and committed to making a success of their newsletter, here goes on 5 tips to maximise their impact.

 1. Be Clear on your Objectives

Why are you sending out the newsletter? Unless you’re very clear about this, it’s unlikely to have the desired effect. Often newsletters are used as a tool to reconnect with existing clients – a good reason for doing them! If this is the case, don’t oversell. Focus on the reader and what will engage their interest. Are they worried about protecting against a life event or are they concerned about how they will fund their later years? Focus on these types of needs, the approach that you take to helping clients plan to deal with these events and the benefits of your approach. Only after this stage do you talk about your product as the solution to addressing the need.

Too many newsletters talk only about products. This won’t be of interest unless the reader can make the jump themselves to the need that the product provides a solution for.

 2. Make sure you’ve enough Content and are Committed

Hands up how many of you have had plans to send out 3 or 4 newsletters a year and ended up sending out just a single edition a year……or a single edition ever? This is a very frequent occurrence and usually is down to 2 factors.

Often it is because there is great enthusiasm to produce the first edition and this energy then wanes after the effort of producing the first one. Don’t start with newsletters unless you (or someone for you) is going to put the effort into producing the future editions.

The other factor is that all the good ideas go into the first edition and you end up stuck for good content for future editions. The way to avoid this is to plan at least 75% of the content for the first 4 editions before you start at all. This will help you avoid “writer’s block” with future editions.

3. Have a time sensitive article

It’s a good idea to have an article that is based on very current analysis or relates to a current issue. This will show the timeliness of your newsletter and usually will be of interest. The challenge that this creates is that once this article is written, you’ve got to quickly swing into production and also to get the newsletter in front of the reader quickly.

If you’re not going to be able to turn the newsletter around quickly or indeed want to use the newsletter over a long period of time, leave out the time sensitive article.

 4. Have a Call to Action

Make every effort to get the reader to engage in some way with you. Obviously encourage them to ring or email you as a follow-up. Find a way to encourage them to visit your website – maybe there’s more detail on one or a number of the articles on your website? Ask them to send in their email address to allow you send them more, relevant information by email. Maybe consider a competition? Use the newsletter to start an ongoing engagement.

 5. Use all Distribution Channels

Many financial advisers will post out their newsletters as they don’t want to exclude clients for whom they don’t have email addresses. However also post the newsletter on your website. When you’ve done this, send an update to your LinkedIn connections, pointing them to your website. If you use Twitter, tweet the link too. Finally, email all your clients too, encouraging them to read it. Online distribution costs nothing so use all these channels!

Newsletters take effort. If you’re willing to commit and produce excellent content, they can be very effective. If they under-deliver in terms of frequency of issue or indeed quality, they will turn your client off and should be avoided. It’s up to you which camp you’re in!

5 Tips to Optimising your LinkedIn Presence

A lot of financial advisers now realise that LinkedIn has emerged as the premier medium for building and retaining a network of business contacts. However many don’t realise the full potential that LinkedIn offers them. In this article, I offer 5 tips that will help advisers to maximise the benefits that they can get from LinkedIn.

1. Build up your Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is your own professional shop window to the world. Most financial advisers now have a website that is their online shop window and sets out the types of services offered by your business. LinkedIn complements this by enabling you to communicate important information about yourself, helping to convince people that you are a business contact worth having! In a business such as ours where your reputation and business profile are critical assets, this is a very useful personal shop window.

So make sure your profile is clear, accurate and sets out why you are someone people should connect to. Put effort into completing every section as this information could help a prospective client to decide whether to deal with you or not. You should aim to be a sought after connection!

2. Build up your Connections

LinkedIn helps you to build up your network of connections. First of all, you can easily check which of your email contacts are on LinkedIn and then connect with them. You can then easily identify past and former colleagues and former school and university classmates and then connect with them too. Finally LinkedIn will suggest people for you to connect with based on your current LinkedIn network connections.

An extra tip. Personalise every invitation. Even if it’s just “Hi Eamonn, I’d like to add you to……” everyone loves that little bit of extra, personal effort!

A word of warning…… Don’t start firing off invitations to connect to people that you don’t know, no matter how much you might like to know them! You run the risk of being seen as “spam” and LinkedIn can then restrict you in the future to only sending invitations to people where you have their email address.

3. Use LinkedIn for Research

Before you go to meet a prospective client, check them out on LinkedIn. You might uncover a nugget that will help your meeting. Maybe you went to the same school, have an interest in common or have some mutual connections. Even if none of these, knowing a little bit about them will show them your interest in them and what they do.

When you come back from the meeting, invite them to connect, thanking them for the meeting. Now you’ve the opportunity to stay on their radar into the future!

4. Join and Participate in LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups are a great place for like-minded people to share ideas, seek help, discuss issues and solve problems. One of the best examples of this is the Qualified Financial Advisors of Ireland group which now has over700 members! These QFAs have a very active forum in which they seek help from each other in relation to products and technical challenges, and also discuss industry related issues. Sometimes in a very robust fashion too!! I know a good number of QFAs really value the interaction within this group.

There are many other groups you can join too that can help you in a variety of areas relating to your business. These groups are only as good as the participation in them so join the conversation!

5. Add Value to your Connections

LinkedIn is not just a fancy “little black book” where the aim is to have as many connections as possible. It is an interactive tool that allows you to provide great content to your connections; whether this is content you developed yourself or indeed useful content you found on the web. The key question is, will it add value to your connections? As a financial adviser, there are many opportunities for you to provide useful financial content, helping you establish a thought leadership position among your contacts. Your aim is that your connections really welcome and value your updates.

So develop a plan to deliver content. Start adding value and as a result, build stronger relationships.

I hope you found this useful. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking on the button at the top of the page! If you ask me in the invitation, I’ll happily give you some quick feedback on your own current profile!

5 Tips about Social Media for Financial Advisers

In this article, I look at the phenomenon of Social Media. These points are worth considering by financial advisers who haven’t as yet ventured into this new world and indeed are useful reminders for those of us who have!

1.            It’s a conversation, not a presentation

Social media is very different to your website – compare both to a client seminar. Your website is like your presentation – this is your opportunity for you to showcase your business and products to the audience, it’s your sales pitch. Social Media however is the days before the seminar, the morning of it, the coffee break and after it’s all over! Social media is your tool to attract both existing and potential clients to attend, to converse with them about your content and then to follow-up afterwards with the key points from your sales pitch! It then offers you the opportunity to stay on their radar as they potentially consider other financial decisions in the future.

Social Media is growing, very rapidly. It’s not going to go away!

2.            Which Social Media platform is right for you?

I’ll consider the 3 main platforms. Facebook, which now tops Google for weekly traffic, originally started out as a platform for friends and family to share photos, stories and gossip! But now businesses see the opportunity to both advertise to and engage with potential customers on Facebook because of the huge numbers spending significant amounts of time on it! There are not many examples as yet of financial advisers gaining great leverage from Facebook. However some are bravely trying and good luck to them!

LinkedIn is really a must for advisers now. Think of it as Facebook for professionals at work. LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to network, meet potential customers, interact regularly with existing customers and remind all of them why they  are glad that they know you! LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to share useful information with a wide group of people that you want to transact business with. Talk to someone who knows what they’re doing and start building your personal online profile!

Twitter is a medium that allows you send messages of up to 140 characters only. However this can include links to your website, video, blog of other interesting online content. It’s very quick and easy to use. It is definitely worth considering but not as critical as LinkedIn for financial advisers at this stage. Some of your peers are tweeting (sending messages) very effectively already!

3.            Should you get rid of your website in favour of Social Media?

Definitely not! Social Media will help you to engage your customers, to want them to learn more about you as an adviser and the products you sell. However to find out this information, they are likely to look at your website. This then becomes your opportunity to really draw them in and to encourage them to pick up the phone to talk to you about their pension, investment or insurance product. Now you’ve got to make sure that the content on your website is 100% up to date and displaying the sales messages that will ensure the customer picks up the phone to meet you!

4.            Are there any pitfalls?

Yes there are. Remember what goes online, stay online – forever! So don’t update your LinkedIn status at 2am after a long night in the pub! Once you send out an update, you can’t take it back….. Also LinkedIn is for networking with other professionals. If you start using it to chat with friends and arrange social events, the people in your network will get tired of getting updates from you. They may go as far as to block any further updates from you. Now you’re just doing yourself damage by effectively pushing clients away from you. You wouldn’t do it offline, so don’t do it online!

5.            So, where should you start?

I suggest you start with LinkedIn and take it slowly. Get some assistance to develop your LinkedIn profile to a point that you are really proud of it. Get very clear about your objectives and how you will achieve them through making connections with people and then communicating with them. Some LinkedIn users have lots of connections but never converse with them. That’s like having a very full address book but never contacting anyone…..Then start making connections with people. At this stage it is best to sit back and see what others are doing. This will give you a sense of how some people are using LinkedIn effectively. Once you decide to join the conversation, commit to it and like a normal conversation, the more interesting you are, the better! Once you get comfortable, you’ll enjoy it. Best of luck!