Almost every advisor has a website. That makes it tough to stand out.
XAutoplay: On | OffAdvisors usually want a website that reinforces their brand identity. Whether through easy navigation, snazzy design or captivating content, they seek to introduce themselves to potential clients by presenting their best side.
Because many advisors lack the desire and technical skills to build their own websites, they may enlist outsiders such as digital marketing firms to help. Web design and development consultants construct and maintain sites — and some specialize in working with financial planners.
“There are web designers who focus on advisors, but I wanted to hire someone who had a broader client mix,” said Kay Dee Cole, a certified financial planner in Corvallis, Ore. “Designers who focus on advisors tend to use the same format with a photo, a menu of services and a mission statement” on the home page.
Cole did not want her firm’s website (www.claritywealthdevelopment.com) to look like all the rest. To set herself apart, she wanted to offer engaging video content.
She wound up retaining a web designer who crafted websites for a wide range of businesses. She also hired a videographer who interviewed her on camera and then used the footage to create Cole’s personal greeting on her website’s homepage.
Prospects who watched the video were often predisposed to like Cole, she says. It also eased the onboarding process.
“People came in for the first time saying they felt more comfortable knowing me already from the video,” Cole said. “Being in a trust business, it can take awhile to establish trust. Seeing the video speeds up them getting to know me.”
Some advisors embrace the challenge of developing their own website. Even if they lack tech savvy, the appeal of controlling every aspect of the content — and being able to make changes and updates on their own — can outweigh the considerable learning curve and time commitment.
Tyler Reeves, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Ala., used Squarespace as a starting point. The Web-based platform offers design templates to help do-it-yourselfers get up and running.
To add a distinctive visual element, Reeves laced his website (www.plimsollfp.com) with drawings by Carl Richards, a certified financial planner who created the “Sketch Guy” column for the New York Times. Reeves pounced on a now-expired offer on Richards’ website (www.behaviorgap.com) letting others use a limited number of sketches for free.
“The sketches blend in well with the simple, plain design I’m looking for,” Reeves said.
When launching his firm in March 2017, Reeves paid special attention to one aspect of his website: the fee summary.
Rather than just list fees for different service levels, Reeves went a step further and cited four specific examples of how much each client would pay. He also invites visitors to send fee questions with one click.
“Clients appreciate that I’m transparent with fees,” he said. “But even when you’re transparent, fees can still be confusing to some people. So that’s why I added those four scenarios.”
The goal for many advisors in creating their website is to present a clear, consistent image and interface. If prospects feel overwhelmed by clutter — or face too many options — they can give up and abandon the site for good.
Noah Schwartz, a certified financial planner in Fairfield County, Conn., developed his own website (www.blueprintplanning.org) when he launched his firm in late 2016. From the outset, he knew that he would favor evidence-based, academic strategies — and he wanted his website to reflect that.
“You want to profess your philosophy quickly,” Schwartz said. “Applied academic investing differentiates us, so we wanted to build around that with our web design.”
After people visit his website for the first time, he likes to ask, “What’s the first thing you noticed?” He incorporates their feedback into design tweaks.
Over the past year, Schwartz says he has revamped the website six times and he’s “always making improvements.” He estimates that only one-third of the original content remains on the current iteration of the site.
“We’d post market updates, academic research and lots of other stuff,” he said. “But people told me they didn’t know where to go or what to click on. So we ended up with six icons to click.”
To encourage prospects to request a meeting, Schwartz inserted a “Schedule time with us” option on the lower right corner of every page. The blue button is unobtrusive but hard to miss.
“I wanted to avoid those annoying ‘chat now’ pop-ups that appear as soon as you start browsing an e-commerce website,” he said. “That’s not how I wanted to engage people.”
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