In the not-too-distant past, an advisor's brand identity was expressed in features such as a strong logo and brochure. In today's competitive marketplace, a strong identity must also include a robust and engaging digital presence.
Investors today, particularly Gen Xers and millennials, research advisors online before making a call or setting up a first appointment (even if referred). These prospective clients visit websites, Google names and pull up LinkedIn profiles to get a better understanding of the advisors they are considering.
This means that, if your digital identity is static and out-of-date, youre probably losing clients before you even meet them.
But some advisors are still stuck in the late 1990s, when social media didn't exist and websites were seen as an extension of a company's marketing brochure. For advisors seeking to kick their branding up a notch or two, here are some tips based on best practices.
Advisors today must speak to their target market through an engaging website and, to a lesser degree, social media sites such as LinkedIn or Twitter. To stay relevant, your website must stay fresh, both in design elements and technology. Some points to keep in mind:
- Make sure stock photography reflects life today no flip phones or popped collars, please.
- Consider adding video to your site to create a more rewarding experience for visitors.
- Inject movement into your home pages intro, or hero area, with scrolling images, rather than sliders.
- News sections or press releases should be kept up to date. If your most recent article is over a year old, it may be best to simply eliminate that section.
Specific calls to action are another way to engage clients. These can include an invitation to join a webinar, subscribe to your quarterly newsletter or access general information around investments. The response rate you get will also help reveal whether your website has succeeded in sparking visitors interest in your products and perspectives.
In addition, consider integrating customized portal technology to your website. A portal creates a single point of access to information from different sources. This allows clients to easily see their complete financial picture, examine financial plans, review investment performance and store documents to aggregate all assets in one place.
Mobile capabilities are also critical to an effective online presence, demonstrating the ability to use technology to interact with clients. At the most basic level, websites should be optimized for viewing on mobile devices, as investors increasingly use their phones or tablets for Internet browsing and to conduct research and complete transactions.
BUILDING BRAND EQUITY
An active website is essential for business today, but the jury is still out regarding the need for a blog or a Twitter account. To gain traction with this type of social media, you must keep it current. A blog needs fresh content at least once a week, and a Twitter feed has to maintain ongoing activity. If these outlets are central to your value proposition, youre probably using them already. If not, keep in mind before launching a social media channel that it will require consistent care and feeding.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a highly effective platform for establishing brand identity. As the worlds foremost online business site, it can help reinforce your value proposition, expertise, credentials and credibility. Your LinkedIn page should include an up-to-date biography and highlight your value proposition, the types of clients you serve and the products and services you offer.
If you have a DBA or trade name, consider creating a LinkedIn page for your practice in addition to having a personal profile. In fact, its best to avoid focusing your brand entirely on you as an individual. A brand centered on your practice can build equity and become a valuable asset for the future.
Finally, establishing an updated brand, from design to technology, is an investment, but its one advisors simply cannot shortchange. Consider hiring an outside company to create an engaging identity for your firm, with a coherent design that includes your logo, color palette, website and messaging. Any low-cost alternative for example, using the template provided by your broker-dealer and placing your logo on it will cost you credibility and, in the long run, clients.
Matt Matrisian is senior vice president and director of practice management at AssetMark and the author of "The Power of Practice Management: Best Practices for Building a Better Advisory Business."
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