When it comes to  web marketing, independent advisors are different from everyone else, which means there is a good chance you have been getting bad advice -- bad advice about using the web to grow your practice.  

This is not a trivial thing.  Every day more and more people turn to the web for help with their finances.  Sometimes its about where to open a checking account.  Other times its about finding help with an IRA rollover or a new advisor. Using the web to get in front of the right people at the right time can have a tremendous impact on your practice.  So, how do you do that?

Let’s start with what makes you different:

1. You Have Clients:

A lot of web marketing advice is aimed at kitchen table start ups.  The idea there is to do whatever it takes to quickly gain as many “eyeballs” as possible.  That’s not you. At the other end of the spectrum is advice aimed at big companies with millions of customers.  Think Coke and Pepsi.  Companies that will never have a direct relationship with the people that use their product. Still not you.

2. You Offer a Service Not a Product:

In fact the services you offer are built around an ongoing personal relationship with your client.  That means you use the web to accelerate or compliment things that happen offline.  The transactional web marketer is all about things that happen online.  Very different from you.

3. You Grow by Referrals:

The best way for you to add a new client to your practice is by a referral from an existing client. No amount of technology s going to change this. Very little has been offered about how to use the web to accelerate the referral process.  Most advice seems to be about getting to the first sale and count your blessings if you get a second one.

Now let’s talk about using this knowledge to evaluate your options:

Rather than getting tied up in questions like Facebook vs. Twitter or blogging vs social media, shift your approach to a more strategic one.  When considering your options on the web, ask yourself the following questions - which I have listed in their order of priority:

1. How Will This Help Us Serve Our Existing Clients? 

As your most important asset, the care and feeding of your existing clients is paramount.  Thinking about how the web can help you do a better job for them is the best place to start.  The term “serve” is broad enough to include everything you do for a client.  Can the web help you better manage portfolios? Better communicate investment results? Give clients more opportunity to hear from you or interact with you? Facilitate problem solving? The opportunities are endless when you approach it from this angle

2. How Will This Help Our Client Tell Our Story?

The key phrase here is “our story”. Your story is your approach to investing, the way you work with your clients, how you solve problems, the way you make sense of the events of the day. Its exactly the kind of thing people like to share online. The more your clients share your story, the more referrals you are likely to get.  Think about how to use the web to help your clients help you.

3. How Will This Help Us Attract New (Non-Referral) Prospects?  

The key word here is “attract”.  Unlike traditional business development - which some refer to as interruption marketing - the web offers you an opportunity to attract people to you.  When people “search” the web they are essentially volunteering to hear from you. If what you offer solves their problem.  As you consider your options on the web, think about how to “attract” these solution seekers to you.  

For many advisors, the challenge in effectively using the web seems to be making sense of it all.  When resources are scares (and when aren’t they?) it can help to have a framework to use when evaluating your options.  Especially one that acknowledges the uniqueness of your business.

More of Mr. Gilsenan's thoughts can be read at http://theinteractiveadvisor.com/. He can be reached on Twitter at twitter.com/TJ_Gilsenan


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