Let’s face it. The financial industry ranks dead last when it comes to consumer trust. Some of the more infamous names like Madoff and Lehman instantly spring to mind for many investors leaving financial professionals to fight an uphill battle from the beginning. In today's digital world, it can be especially difficult to gain the trust of new prospects and leads online.
“Not a big deal… I’m not looking for new clients”
There’s more at stake than the ability to maintain client relationships - trust is the single most important factor to generating new leads and prospective clients. And today, hundreds of thousands financial advisors sit at the threshold of a $30 trillion intergenerational transfer of wealth, they could either be looking at an unprecedented opportunity or facing the greatest threat to their survival.
The challenge is not attaining new leads and clients but simply maintaining management of the wealth of your existing clients as it changes hands to the next generation.
Here’s the kicker (& why your online presence can make or break your financial firm’s success in the long run): without a strong website and online presence, financial advisors are all but invisible to those who live, work, play and thrive on the Web, and that includes just about every living member of Gen X and Y.
Are Millennials the most cynical and skeptical group of emerging affluent investors on the planet?
In a nutshell, yes.
It’s been said that emerging investors who fall into the X and & Y generations have the least amount of faith in the financial advisory industry. Having watched their parents’ retirement accounts devastated in the last market crash, they have little reason to trust financial advisors who lack transparency and the willingness to communicate on their terms.
Furthermore, generation Y, or Millennials, are almost completely reliant upon the Web for their daily sustenance of information and social engagement. They would rather seek information for themselves than be told what is true. For these digital natives, if it can’t be found on the Web, it doesn’t exist; or, if it can’t be validated through a quick search on the Web, it is not to be trusted.
So, in this digital age, the challenge becomes how a financial advisor inspires trust online in a way that can attract, engage and empower the more discerning emerging affluent investors who stand to inherit $30 trillion in the next thirty years.
23 ways to inspire trust online
- Use real photos (opposed to stock photos). Web users are eager to get a look at who’s behind the company - not displaying a picture of you and your staff can be translated as having something to hide.
- Explain your fee structure. Make sure visitors know and understand what they’re paying for, when it’s due and how you accept payment. Fee-only advisors? Educate your visitors on the different types of fee structures and why your firm collects fees one way opposed to another.
- Clean layout and design. Cluttered, unorganized websites are interpreted as being outdated, old and potentially harmful. A modern website design is simple, clean and and puts users in control from any device (see #18).
- Avoid never-ending pop ups. Have you ever visited a website and felt like your computer was at risk for being hijacked or hacked by a virus? Multiple, unwanted ads and popups are annoying and create a negative experience for users. There’s absolutely a case for using a single popup call-to-action on a website - just don’t overdo it.
- Give away valuable content that is meaningful to your target audience. Michael Kitces describes this as a lead-magnet - it’s something valuable - usually a piece of content that is attractive enough to trade for a name and email address. More on there here.
- Turn off the ‘industry speak’. Write real, authentic content that’s easily relatable to your target audience. Leave out the financial pro jargon.
- Blog regularly. A blog can be one of the most powerful growth engines for your online presence - enhancing search engine visibility, thought leadership and digital lead generation. Share updates, show that you’re a real person, explain challenges. We share many tips on financial blogging here.
- Be explicit with your ‘ideal’ client. Explain who your best clients are, describe what they look like and why this type of person will benefit from working with you. Yes, defining a target audience or niche will disqualify some potential leads. But, the magic happens when the right person gets to your website - they instantly feel at home - they understand right away that they’re in the right place.
- Be explicit about who you do not work with. This is the easiest, smartest way to really hit home with your target audience. Here’s a great example from the team at UniteWright -this does financial planning and coaching with young couples. They also explain who they do not work with.
- Tell a great story. Since the dawn of age, humans have always loved stories. Tell your story on your website with the right combination of pictures and messaging to create a compelling explanation of who you are. There’s nothing that instills trust and transparency more than a personal story. More on that here.
- Craft an inspiring, believable biography. Crafting your biography can be tough (that’s probably why this financial advisor biography template is one of the most popular pieces of content in the Advisor Websites resource library) but, you can imagine how important it is. The ‘team’ page of many advisor’s sites is often the most visited page on the website. Your bio is a great opportunity to explain who you really are and why you’ve chosen a career in financial services. Don’t hesitate to ask for a second opinion from clients and team members on your biography.
- Make sure it’s up to date. Outdated, old, stagnant websites are unprofessional and raise a huge red flag - especially for younger investors. First impressions are key online and they happen very quickly. If your firm’s website is perceived as outdated or irrelevant it could do more harm than good in converting website visitors into leads.
- Double check the copyright date. Is the information in the footer of your website accurate? Is your address, phone number and other contact information correct? These are all clues that web visitors look for to determine where or not the content on your site is relevant - an outdated copyright date is a dead giveaway and leads visitors to question where the firm is still in business.
- Claim your Google + business page. This is a quick win (usually takes less than 10 minutes) and helps searchers find your firm quickly online. Here are directions on how to claim your financial firm’s Google + page.
- Link social accounts. Connecting social accounts (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) to your website and vice versa has a double advantage. It raises your social authority in the eyes of search engines like Google (helping you get found more easily in organic search) and offers web visitors validation and helps legitimize the firm. Visitors can be skeptical if they can only find information about you from one single source.
- Use consistent branding among your website and social profiles. Use consistent branding (logo, colors, etc.) across every digital channel increases brand recognition and helps solidify your existence and authority online.
- Get on the first page of Google results for specific keywords. Search for yourself (your name, the name of your business) - if your website (and social media profiles, preferably) do not appear on page one, most searchers will never find it. Learn more about search engine optimization here.
- Better be mobile friendly (responsive). Google penalizes websites that are not mobile friendly or responsive by decreasing their ranking. A responsive website helps ensure that searchers find the website they're looking for and, when they get there, find the information they searched for.
- Participate in social discussion. Instead of using Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn for self-promotion, encourage conversation and discussion. Invite dialogue in group discussions (this tends to work best on groups in LinkedIn).
- Invite feedback/thoughts/opinions of others.
- Use thoughtful calls-to-action. One of the most common CTAs (calls-to-action) on financial websites is “Book a consultation.” For the right audience, perhaps the right offer. But, for many audiences, it’s not so effective. Consider inviting visitors to something a little more personal (Let’s meet over coffee - or beer, wine, ice cream, etc). Get creative and brainstorm what will get your ideal client moving towards a face-to-face meeting (if that’s your end goal).
- Share some of your personal life. Trust starts with opening up a little. What makes you tick? What causes are you passionate about? What current events do you agree/disagreement with? Why are you a financial advisor? Sharing your personal stories is one of the fast way to be relatable and inspire trust on your financial website. Connect with visitors by being different and sharing your experiences. Invite visitors to get to know you.
- Be yourself. If your firm’s website doesn’t portray your team accurately, there’s a chance prospects will be disappointed when they meet you in person. Are you proud of how your current website portrays you as a financial advisor and client advocate?