Whether you are an advisor or an RIA, if your website doesn’t have a clear and compelling purpose for your business, you are likely wasting your time and your money. That may frustrate the heck out of you because you’ve relied on a professional service to either implement a template or custom design your website. You’re an expert on managing wealth; you shouldn’t have to be a digital marketing expert too. The trouble is, it’s not easy finding help you can trust and help that knows the financial business.

Financial website providers often:

  • Don’t know your industry and therefore they either require a lot of learning that increases fees, they rely on you too much for content and direction, which also increases your costs, or they build a version of what the advisor down the street is using.
  • Are technical experts, not marketing experts. They focus on bells and whistles such as calculators, article libraries, stock market tickers, and newsletter sign ups. They are great at getting you a site for what appears to be a reasonable price, but the real cost is actually huge. These sites typically have a huge opportunity-loss cost by missing out on attracting and resonating to your specific audience. Bells and whistles don’t attract clients = a clear value proposition that resonates with their situation does.
  • Produce volumes of financial websites, seminar marketing and content. There’s often more value in this approach than any above but for most firms, it leaves them wanting and needing much more. The biggest issue here is looking like everyone else, having access to the same generic content as everyone else and really not standing out in any area such as design, content or message. They produce “average” websites that appeal to their “average” clients (FAs). That’s just what the “volume” business is. Mass produced websites with accompanying content are not what you need to get real results from your website.

 

A word on marketing consultants that “just consult”:

There are several “expert” marketing consultants out there that do indeed understand the financial services industry. The problem is they often know jack-weed (again – my apologies to compliance departments) about building effective websites. They often stick around and “oversee” a handoff to a website development company, leading to your website being more of an afterthought than a focus. They need to know what works, and what doesn’t, before they build a plan and hand it off.

10 Reasons Your Advisor Website Needs a Makeover

I know how annoying it is to have to pay for work when the person doing the work was expected to know how to get it right – if not the first time, at least the second or third time! I’m the shoulder many advisors and firms end up crying on because they’ve essentially wasted their website (and marketing) budgets time and again. Here are ten advisor website tips to keep you from making the same mistakes again (and again).
 

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  #1 – Lacks Focus

Many sites I see have a lack of focus. They jump from one idea to the next or one service to ten. It’s as if they forget who they are marketing too. Your site (design and content) and its message need to be highly relevant to the audience you want to attract.

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  #2 – Lacks Flow & Continuity

Website layouts and designs have improved significantly with the advent of content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla, but now what I find is advisors are forced to put their “ideas and content” into a template that isn’t suitable for their audience, message and purpose. Mass produced website templates continue to lack good design and intuitive navigation. Even with their recent upgrades in content (generic financial videos) and social media integration. Your content needs to drive your template – not the other way around.

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  #3 – Lacks Purpose

I find few prospects we’ve worked with have ever discussed the goal or role of their website in detail. A website can-be, should-be, a key driver for your financial business. This might include prospecting objectives, client communication or brand awareness. Regardless, it’s critical to know its role in your sales, service and marketing process before building. Is your site aimed at getting people to attend your regional workshops? Is your site aimed at influencing social media networks? Is your site aimed at impressing 50+ aged advisors to join your RIA? Is your site integrated with your radio program and or book? Is your site a place you want prospects coming back to time and again? Are you looking to build credibility or are you looking to build your client base?

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  #4 – Lacks Depth

Depth is the single most significant deficiency I see with all types of financial websites. From the large broker dealers, to the RIA to the independent advisor website, they lack proof they are what they say with any kind of depth. They are shallow marketing copy heavy online brochures. When most consumers look at an RIA website that says, “We are Trusted Advisors”, without clear proof or support, they think “yeah right”. Financial companies and professionals rarely showcase how they are different; with highly relevant papers or articles, video, clearly articulated investment philosophies, diagrammed planning or investment process, a book, a consistent message throughout, a clear niche, and a clear target audience. Depth builds trust and people need to trust you before considering next steps. Trust is not achieved by writing, “our clients trust us” on your site. Too often websites say, “we do this and that” when they should be answering “and this is how we do it, who we do it for, and why”.

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  #5 – Lacks Engagement

One of the most important roles for most websites we’ve built is user engagement. This is the equivalent of a call-to-action but its purpose isn’t limited to “call us”. Engagement is getting an ideal prospect (website visitor) to “click” on something to learn more about your firm’s insights or to begin experiencing what it would be like to be a client. Engagement keeps them on your site longer, gets them experiencing your firm and builds trust.

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  #6 – Lacks Differentiation

Next to lack of depth, differentiation is the next most deficient, although important, website attribute. In an industry that seems similar in many ways to many people, being seen as different can’t be marginalized or ignored. Lets face it, to the general consumer, all FIs are the same – unless they have a compelling reason to choose you they will gravitate towards a brand they recognize that is 5 minutes closer to drive to. Finding and articulating your uniqueness in a way that resonates and seems different or better, is critical to people wanting to take next steps with you. Your website is often the first place they go before they ever speak with or visit you.

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  #7 – Lacks Visibility

A successful website can fulfill a simple role such as impressing people that were referred to you and motivating them to take next step. Even if that was its only role and your website performed and it did that well, you’d have a high return on your investment. In addition to that, if you’re not receiving as many referrals as you’d like, a really good website will help. A successful website can also be one that attracts ideal prospects to your website and influences them to the point where they contact you. This initial attraction strategy can be achieved via search engine optimization, social networking, public relations, direct advertising, online ads, print ads, media ads email campaigns and personal introductions. Remember, there’s no point in having traffic if your site doesn’t cut it. In my opinion, the best tactics for increasing visibility are having great content (papers, posts, checklists, etc), getting your content online (website, blog, content hubs), and then sharing via your social networks. Public relations would be a good add-on here too.

Just a quick additional note on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I’m seeing an increasing and alarming trend where SEO “experts” build financial sites that have content that is clearly geared for SEO effectiveness “only”. Things like repeating key words again and again in the content and again and again in the footer and even again and again in the sidebars. This SEO technique may actually work (until Google changes it’s algorithm again), but, there is no point having “traffic” and “SEO visibility” if clients or prospects are disinterested because, quite frankly, the website isn’t compelling. Hopefully this is a trend that will fade into the background over the next few years. Nothing beats SEO more than “real”, valuable and fresh content.

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  #8 – Lacks Visuals

As mentioned in #4, showing how you are different and/or better is huge to having marketing success. I’ve mentioned it again because there’s a specific “how we do it” that needs to be addressed. People like processes, it breeds confidence; it says, “they’ve done this before”. It also helps people understand what is being done so they feel informed. Lastly, when you make the “how” visual, it really helps people connect with it. I highly recommend using visuals (diagrams, videos, infographics) to describe how and what you do.

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  #9 – Lacks Mobile Readiness

It’s expected that mobile viewing of one’s website will surpass desktop viewing within a few years. If your website is meant to impress on a desktop or laptop, it ought to achieve the same results on a mobile phone or tablet. We’ve written about Responsive vs. Adaptive Mobile Designs previously.

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  #10 – Lacks Creativity

Websites are an incredible tool to build your brand and grow your business. It’s a huge opportunity to be creative and stand out yet I mostly see safe and common approaches to website design, development and deployment. I also see the same stock imagery used over and over again. Creativity is not just a website vendor problem, this is an industry wide problem (PS: stop blaming compliance). We’re starting to see firms escape the mundane and stand out but we’re a long way from competing with leading mainstream marketing engines like Apple and Nike. Not that being marketing pioneers should be a goal for this industry. I should add that I’ve seen some incredible retail financial sites that are indeed leading edge – just not for traditional financial services firms.

You be the judge

Given the above, take a look at your firm’s website:

  • Does it speak to your audience?
  • Does it look current?
  • Is it mobile friendly (or does it even work at all in mobile)?
  • Are there engagement pieces (beyond your phone number)?
  • Does it differentiate you from “the guy down the block”?

Fortunately for you, not everyone that reads this article and assigns themselves a failing grade will do something about it. There remains a significant competitive edge for financial firms that want to reach out and position themselves. The time to change has never been better.

If you’d like to review solutions to the challenges listed above, we’ve written a 5 Part series you can access here.

Part 1: Improved Focus plus Flow & Continuity
Part 2: Purpose & Depth
Part 3: Positioning & User Engagement
Part 4: Visibility & Visual Design
Part 5: Mobile Readiness & Creativity