Website communications are increasingly more important. As technology has evolved, marketing communications have dramatically enhanced. For example, a once-stagnant magazine article can now be an interactive iPad experience. Although a majority of us do not have the cutting edge gadgets, most adults in the U.S. do have access to a computer and possibly a smart phone… and as a result, the way we absorb marketing messages is changing.
It’s a hard truth for most, but as more and more information and entertainment is provided and funneled through a computer, online communications will become an even bigger focus for a business looking to grow. Advisors are no exception to this trend. Thus, as a whole, they need to adapt to be more successful online. For many reasons, their Websites often suffer in comparison to those of other industries.
One reason advisors are behind the curve is due to an avoidance of compliance and legal restrictions. The financial services industry’s environment of conservatism, created by FINRA and the Securities and Exchange Commission, sometimes lead advisors to a “why bother” attitude in which they steer clear of the hassle of getting things approved. Although it can be an uphill battle to get Website content that is considered advertising permitted to be published, in the long run it can pay large dividends. The good news is that, with Website communications crossing over into the world of social media, companies like Socialware are making the battles easier to win.
Here are ten tips to help improve a Website that is falling short:
1. Usability. Is it clear and logical where to find things? The navigation should allow for visitors to find the content they are looking for with the path of least resistance. One common mistake advisors have made in this area is that they never researched their prospects and clients before developing a Website, and it shows.
2. Likability. Does the site deliver something helpful, educational, entertaining, etc.? A common mistake is using industry jargon, not the language of the target audience. The best sites engage the visitor. Add humor if it is relevant. At least add personality, as many do not consider financial services an interesting topic.
3. In motion. Is the Website stagnant? Content needs to be fresh and flow on a regular basis to keep visitors coming back and to improve social media exposure.
4. Calls to action. Are visitors being asked to take action where it’s needed? Make it easy for someone to click on a related page to continue growing awareness, sign up for a newsletter, follow on social media pages, call/e-mail for more information, etc. In most cases, the ultimate goals should be client retention and/or new business.
5. Each page should stand alone. Is the homepage the best thing about your site? With search engines and social media, visitors often go directly to the page they are looking for, often circumventing the homepage. This creates a need for important marketing messages to be consistent on all pages. Remember, there might be only one chance to differentiate your firm from the competition.
6. Innovation. Does your site look dull? A modern site, if professionally designed, is a positive brand impression for prospects and clients.
7. Creativity. Is your site one dimensional? The old saying, “a picture tells a thousand words,” is true. Plus, with podcasts and videos, one can now get a message across in multiple ways, other than just using flat text. A Website is arguably the best branding tool, so make sure colors, messages, etc. match your brand strategy.
8. Scanability. Is it easy for visitors to quickly get what they need? In an era of information overload, make it easy for the visitor to find the information they want. Keep content clear and concise or you will lose the reader. Remember, some white space is often a good thing.
9. Searchablity. Is the Website easily found? It is important to use the right search terms, tags, etc. to increase search engine optimization (SEO). Make the advisor’s name and the content easy to be found. Have other related sites link to your site. All these steps and others will lead to higher search engine results. If you can be on the top of Google’s list, your firm gains instant credibility.
10. Shareability. Does the functionality exist for visitors to pass along your content? Make sure sociable applications are installed on you site to make it easy for your visitors to forward your web content or links to their network of contacts to allow for viral marketing. This functionality should be on every page.
Be Results oriented. If you are planning to make changes to your Website, make sure to have analysis of the current state of the site. Advisors should monitor traffic, leads and conversions resulting from their online marketing strategies. They should know where visitors are coming from, what they are viewing, how often they bounce (i.e. just look at one page), how often they return, etc. By having a starting point and taking advantage of analytics, advisors will be able to improve their online marketing efforts throughout the year.
Make sure there is bait on the hook. Advisors will be evaluated by their Websites before they even get calls or emails from prospects. A good Website is the bait that will make it easier to hook prospects. The worse a Website is, the more fish that will swim away, often without an advisor even knowing it, as you only get one chance to make a great first impression.
Like it or not, the trend is that more communications and human interactions are going online. In doing so, the world of ecommerce has leveled the playing field in many ways. Advisors that focus and invest time and dollars in their Websites will have a competitive advantage in the years to come.
Mike Byrnes, president of Byrnes Consulting, provides business planning and marketing strategy consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. Learn more at www.byrnesconsulting.com.