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“It’s shameful that Financial Advisers’ expertise is going unnoticed like this”

It’s the 30th January 2017 and we’re still receiving Christmas holiday ‘out of office’ emails from a few dozen IFA and financial adviser firms. 

“Our office is now closed and will re-open on 3rd January” is typical of most. 

I’d like to assume that their offices are indeed open, but clients contacting them by email might be wondering if they’re still in business.  Just a thought.

We’ll give these firms the benefit of the doubt that this is simply an oversight.  However, ‘oversight’ is not how we would describe another email issue which literally thousands of IFA/financial adviser firms have been guilty of since we first spotted it back in 2008.  The issue has improved a little in recent years, but is still one which makes you question the degree to which thousands of financial advice professionals take the Internet seriously.

Every weekday we send out a newsletter to IFAs and advisers who have opted to receive it via our website at ifalife.com.  It’s a networking site for financial advisers, which they use to network, share best practice, get marketing and Social Media tips, ask and answer technical questions, discuss providers’ service and to provide help and support to one another.  The newsletter shares the most popular questions and issues that have been raised by financial advisers in our various forums.

And every day we receive a number of (genuine) out of office replies which not surprisingly increase in number at holiday times.

To be blunt, many of the out of office replies make us cringe:

“Our office is closed”

“We’re on holiday and won’t read your email until we return”

“We’re out of the office and will reply on our return”

I hasten to add that these are genuine emails which added nothing further – they were literally as short and blunt as this.

I would like to say that these are a very small minority, but they’re not.  Twenty per cent fall into this category.  The remainder however are very much more professional and usually offer an alternative phone number.  One or two offer the adviser’s personal mobile number if the enquiry is an emergency.

But what’s really interesting to note, is that whilst the firm’s website address is usually (but not always) included within the email signature of the out of office email, hardly any make a point of offering their website as an alternative and equally valid and important option to obtain help, access information on their portfolio, read news, views and blogs or to obtain answers to their questions.

The fact is, huge numbers of financial advisers still see their website as just another marketing function and don’t yet regard it as a core part of their proposition.  After all, this is 2017 and your website should fundamentally support the positive sentiment that an existing client might give when recommending your services to someone else.

The same goes for many financial advisers’ use of Social Media – all too often it is seen as an add-on activity that they thought they should be doing and not as a core part of what they do as a financial adviser.

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to spend time with a small group of financial advisers looking at their Internet strategy.

The focus was on how they could fuse Social Media and their website as part of their business strategy.  The first hurdle to emerge was that not one of the ten IFAs in the room had a plan for how they use Social Media in their businesses.  In fact only two of them could clearly articulate what they were trying to achieve with Social Media and their website.

A couple of the financial advisers in attendance said that they only have a website because “…it came with my network package”

When asked, only one of the ten had looked at their website statistics in the last six months. The one who had, proudly opened an app on his phone and declared that three people were on his site at that very moment. He seemed very pleased.

In advance of the meeting I had asked all the advisers attending to bring the logins for their website stats so that we could have a look there and then to see what was happening on their sites. For 75% of the IFAs in the room, this was the first time that they had ever done this.

What did we find?

We discovered pretty quickly that they all had much in common.  Daily visits were around the 20 to 35 mark, with traffic coming from a mixture of direct visits, Google searches, industry websites and local sponsorships - with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook showing up quite well amongst those who use Social Media more than the others.  (By contrast, individual IFA/financial planning firms who have even the most basic Social Media plan typically see between 60 and 120 visits per day in our experience)

But the most alarming discovery was that each had a ‘bounce rate’ of well over 50% - this being the percentage of their website visitors who leave the site without viewing any other pages.  One had a bounce rate of 73%.

I know the number is going down these days, but it wasn’t all that long ago that 15% - 20% of IFAs still didn’t have a website.  And when that job was eventually ticked off, many IFAs sat back and declared themselves delighted that they had finally entered the world of e-commerce.  Sorry guys, it doesn’t work like that.

But of those who now viewed their website as an asset of their business, it seems crazy that over half of their website visitors are simply vanishing without trace.

Now there could be many reasons why someone might visit an IFA or financial adviser’s website and then not make contact, but it’s unlikely that people needing financial planning or looking for pensions advice would randomly visit a financial adviser’s site without a reason.

True, some of your site visitors will be service providers, some will be recruiters etc. – but some will be potential clients.  Each will be looking for something different, and at the end of the day, unless you are targeting a very specific niche, your visitors who could be classed as ‘prospects’ will each look very different and have very different needs.  

Some might be looking for ‘obvious expertise’ such as blogs and articles; some will be looking for your testimonials, some will be following up a referral and some might be looking for a friendly and trustworthy looking face. 

  • So how do you go about earning their attention and ‘capturing’ the bona fide prospect before they leave? 
  • What 'bait' have you left out for them? 
  • What small piece of value have you given them which might encourage them to come back for more?

In an age where what was once a cottage industry is transforming in front of our eyes into a profession, the financial advice model is changing from transactional to value led.  And that means that in a fairly short period of time you need to take a website visitor straight to your main offering – and for some people that is far too big a jump or commitment to take in a short period of time.

When we talk about Social Media to IFAs, many automatically assume that it’s a tool that’s used for sales and marketing, and to many financial advisers tweeting and Facebooking can feel at odds with the professional persona they are trying to project.  One or two have even told me that Social Media is a “cheap and cheerful” marketing tool which doesn’t sit very well with their proposition.

But to IFAs who ‘get’ Social Media, they realise that it’s very much more than just a marketing tool. They see it as a vehicle to add value and to communicate their expertise, credibility and indeed professionalism.  They see it as the first rung on their ‘value ladder’.  In short, they see their Social Media as part of their proposition – not as an add-on marketing activity. 

In other words, it’s the carrot to attract people who will, in due course pay for their highest value service – financial planning, life planning, financial coaching and so on.


Online brochure 

Another characteristic of the IFA websites that we looked at was that without exception they were all online brochures, and we asked the question “why would anyone want to read your brochure on a website any more than on 200gsm A4 paper?”  Nobody had an answer. 

I believe that IFAs would see far better returns from their website if they thought of their Internet presence (website and Social Media) as the route to the first step on their value ladder – a series of three or four steps designed to attract and prove their worth to a prospect over time.

The first step is relatively simple because you already have people visiting your website – and even if they do leave without visiting another page, you can still prove your value to them and attract them into your sales funnel without them having to commit to the full chargeable financial planning process.

To a maturing profession like financial planning, the word ‘Lead Magnet’ might jar with a few people, but broken down it is little more than a high quality or irresistible piece of value which you give to someone who visits your website in exchange for their email address and/or contact information.

Now for most people visiting an IFA’s website perhaps with a view to seeking financial planning or investment advice, an irresistible and high quality piece of value may be just the thing to attract them onto your value ladder.  What have they got to lose by leaving their email address in exchange for a free eGuide, Investment Checklist or Special Report which you have written on some aspect of personal finance?

And what have you the IFA got to gain when they leave their contact information?  I would suggest you have everything to gain. 

Businesses in every sector around the world use the Lead Magnet approach to attract website visitors into their sales funnel, yet in financial advice we seem all too happy to allow our site visitors to wander off elsewhere without leaving a trace.

IFAs and financial advisers have huge amounts of expertise and experience, and it seems crazy to me that we are not taking it and 'selling' it to consumers in new and creative ways.  For example one or two have written books, some create outstanding educational videos and a few even have their own podcast or radio shows.  Some do them all!

Having obtained contact details in exchange for giving away expertise and value for free, you can now take the website visitor happily to the next step of the value ladder – it could be a webinar, a seminar or even a chargeable White Paper.  In short you are building trust, building the relationship, proving credibility and making it as easy as possible for the website visitor to know and believe that you are worth investing your time and money with for your highest value service.


Professional 

I have met literally thousands of financial advisers and 11,500 of them use our website to share ideas, ask questions and best practice.  They are a body of highly professional men and women who care deeply about the lives and personal finances of their clients, but the overwhelming majority are allowing their expertise to go unnoticed by people who visit their websites because they do little or nothing to attract them onto their value ladder. 

Social Media is part of that value ladder or the route to it, but for it to be truly valuable you need to have a plan.  You need to understand what your value ladder looks like and how your posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs and other social sites form part of your value.

If you are a financial adviser and your website still looks and feels like an online brochure, it’s time you looked at it in a new way.  We’re not suggesting that you get rid of it – just make a few subtle enhancements which help to prove your expertise, credibility, professionalism and trustworthiness and which will attract people onto the first rungs of your value ladder.

It’s time that you treated your overall web presence a lot more seriously, because if recent history is anything to go by, industries that fail to underestimate the power and importance of the Internet will be disrupted.

So how do you get started?

Answer:  You write a plan!

In fairness, I’ve had many IFAs and advisers tell me “I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t know where to start”.

So we’ve tried to make it easy for you by creating a tool which takes you through the process of creating your plan.  Simply download our Social Media Strategy template and answer questions about your business.  Here’s what one financial adviser said:

“It is a very useful document, and particularly useful in thinking deeper about targeting specific audiences, with specific type of content relative to them.”

And to help you, we’ve also included a specimen ‘ready-made’ Social Media plan which you can either use or adapt to your business.  Find out more here:  https://financialadviser.social

The time has come to stop taking your website for granted.  It is an asset of your business, but like all business assets it needs to looked after and kept up-to-date and relevant.  It needs to work for you and earn its keep.

Download and build your Social Media plan today.

 

Click here >>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Philip Calvert
Posted: Monday, January 30, 2017 | 11:55:58 AM


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