Like most other service industries, today’s financial sector has a significant online presence. For independent financial advisers (IFAs) that means that, in addition to your industry expertise and helpful, engaging face-to-face manner, your prospective clients will expect you to have an authentic website offering something rather more select than the big players.
Indeed, given the residual conduct and trust issues still surrounding the sector, many will already have checked out your digital credentials before even deciding to make contact. Should you have no digital marketing presence, or a poor one, then you simply won’t get the call. Therefore the core component of your online marketing strategy has to be your website content, so let’s run through some checks to see if it’s fit for purpose …
Raising your profile
Experienced IFAs will understand that public perceptions remain very low – though the 2016 Edelman Trust survey shows confidence in the financial sector has increased by 8% since the previous poll, that still leaves it in last place and trusted by around half of the population (51%). Therefore the primary focus of your content marketing strategy should be to start building a trustful relationship with visitors to your web pages.
A recurring consumer criticism is that they often don’t feel they get value for money. In such a climate, providing your visitors and subscribers with user-optimised content of practical value will make the right impression from the outset and also help to establish your integrity. While some may want simple guides and others will find focused in-depth articles appealing, remember that text is not the only way to reach an audience: surveys tell us that including images and other visual content will persuade up to 80% more browsing visitors to read your carefully honed material.
Focus on your target groups
Just as you would do your homework for an investment seminar or a private interview, your online content must likewise address the needs and expectations of the clients you seek to attract. Where you’re hoping to catch the eye of industry insiders and similar, then (perhaps) you may want to use impressive Treasury-style financespeak, but elsewhere you should aim for a friendly tone with a simple clarity. Unless you can get plenty of light and air into what the public generally find a dull topic, your efforts will merely confirm the stereotypical image of an IFA as a trickster who uses ‘buzzy lingo’ to create self-serving kudos and confusion.
Marketers advise using your past experience to develop a few detailed personas representing the typical attributes, attitudes and aspirations of the types of client you want to engage, which in turn will drive and focus the nature of the content you set up. So if you’re seeking wealthy investors for example, does that mean large-scale funds, detailed tax-efficient schemes plus international, cross-border legal issues? Or something much more modest? What kind of mortgage advice will a newly wed first-time buyer want, or a buy-to-let landlord approaching retirement? And how might your site appeal to the growing volumes of young, digital-savvy entrepreneurs? Whether it’s for pensions, life contracts or anything else, defining your typical online prospect is the way to go. If you try and talk to the crowd, you’ll end up talking to no one.
Differentiate yourself from your rivals
It’s hardly a revelation that your site users will be hoping to unearth a knowledgeable, experienced IFA ready and willing to deliver outstanding service. However, almost all of your competitors will claim to offer these same professional attributes. So having carefully researched exactly what your rivals are promising, your best course of action will be to translate your visitors’ high expectations into website content which shows – rather than claims – the added value your clients can expect through using your services. This could be something basic like a video guide or an eye-catching infographic which explains a complex concept in an original and easy-to-understand format, an informative article or interview featuring insight and opinion from a respected industry figure, or some carefully selected case studies illustrating compelling solutions you have previously devised for grateful clients.
Forget the hard sell
What you should not do is try to use your online presence to sell products. Not only will your prospects be seriously unimpressed by such ‘virtual cold-calling’, nowadays you may also find you attract unwelcome compliance attention from financial regulators. Nevertheless, by creating content which engages and informs your visitors and meets the needs of those who sign up to receive newsletters, topical E-books, financial health checks and more, you will be gradually building up a pool of more-knowledgeable users and contacts. Now considerably more approachable, these people will have gained a positive view of your service-oriented attitudes, and (through absorbing your custom content) will very likely already share your thinking on key aspects of private and commercial finance. In short, you will have created a rich reservoir brimful with very promising leads – the rest is now up to you!