You’ve made the decision that it’s time to update your Internet presence with a fresh, new website for your financial advisory firm. Great...but now what?
If you’ve already determined that you don’t have the time, patience, or inclination to become a self-taught designer/developer, then you’ll need to enlist the services of a professional to help you turn your vision into a reality. So what should be your next steps?
First off, ask yourself the following questions to make sure you’re on the right track for your expectations of the new site:
What’s the purpose of the new website?
If your answer is “I need a website because every other advisor has a site”, then you should consider going with a template-based service that offers a very basic website that is more of a sales brochure for your firm. The site will have very basic functions and will be inexpensive, but it will not have the functionality you need to turn visitors into qualified leads.
If your answer is “I want to turn my website into a productive lead generation tool”, then you should consider hiring an experienced RIA website design/development team that builds sites that use Inbound Marketing strategies to produce leads.
Who am I trying to target with this website?
The foundation of an effective website is identifying your target audience (personas) and building content and functionality for those personas.
Say your ideal clients (personas) are couples in their early to mid 50’s who will be retiring in the next 10 years. If your current website is filled with images of younger families or younger professionals just starting off, there could an instant disconnect with your target audience. You want to make sure your website has the right graphics that match your target personas.
Top 10 Questions
Now that you know why you’re building the site and who you’re going to target, the next question you should be asking yourself is what type of website design firm do you want to work with. Your choices are many but ultimately it will come down to finding a firm that knows how investors use the Internet to find, screen, and contact financial advisors.
Ideally, the website firm will also know the best practices that highly successful firms use to market their services over the Internet.
Whether you work with a local website development company or opt to hire a digital marketing agency that specializes in crafting websites for RIAs, you should be asking these questions during your screening and interview process:
- Have you developed websites for other financial advisors?
This is one of the most important questions to ask when interviewing firms. Building a website for a local small business or restaurant is very different than creating a site where trust, credibility, and transparency are critical factors for visitors to your site. Your development company should understand how to market to investors.
- How do you measure your results?
A website can look attractive but if it doesn’t produce leads it is not helping you grow your business. The web development firm should provide you with key metrics on a monthly basis including keyword ranking/performance, bounce rates, visitors, number of forms submitted (conversion rates), etc.
- Are they inbound marketing specialists?
The concept behind inbound marketing is to draw visitors to your site with fresh, relevant content which can include website pages, blog articles, and free offers. Do they use any marketing automation software, such as Hubspot or Marketo, as part of their development process? Your web development team should employ inbound marketing strategies on your new website to produce a positive user experience that produces leads.
- Who writes the website copy?
- Does the website development firm use personas when developing your website content?
- Do they write the copy in-house or do they outsource it?
- Have they written copy for financial advisor websites before?
- Do they understand compliance issues that should be considered when developing content?
- How are they compensated?
Some specific questions to ask include:
- Does the firm charge by the hour or a flat fee?
- What happens if there is scope creep and the project expands from its original outline?
- Is the website copy (content) included and if so, how many pages?
- How many rounds of edits does the development fee include
- Who is responsible for producing and/or purchasing imagery for the site?
- When does the company want to paid?
- Can they produce data that shows other sites they have developed are generating leads?
Ideally the firm will be able to provide data (case studies) from other sites that show a history of lead generation.
- How long will it take to complete a website?
Ask how much time will be dedicated to your project and how it will be managed. Make sure you understand if you are responsible for any key deliverables that could impact the development process and ultimately the delivery of your new website.
- Are their sites mobile responsive and do they follow World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Google standards?
All websites should be mobile responsive as well as be W3C compliant. Google closely monitors page load times and can penalize sites that have slow page loading times. You want a website that users can easily navigate and get the information they are seeking.
- Is keyword development included in the price of the site?
All good website build-outs should include the initial foundation of keywords based on the target clients (personas) that you identify. Find out how many keywords the development firm will use for the website copy (and blog, if appropriate) and validate that the website copywriter will use these keywords when developing your content. Remember, the role of the website is to help create traffic (aka: inbound marketing) so the right keywords are critical.
- Will I own the site after it’s completion and is maintenance included in the on-going servicing of the site?
You should find out where your site will be hosted and whether or not you have a dedicated IP address. Will you have your own dedicated server or are you on a shared server? Also find out if you will have full access to the backend administration dashboard for easy updates and will you have access to the full source code that was developed for the site. You should also discuss if there is a separate maintenance agreement for the site and who pays for maintenance in the first and later years.
Your new website design should be a reflection of your strategic business goals and target the key clientele you want to work with. By doing your due diligence before you hire a website development company, you should feel confident that your provider can produce a website that generates results and produces a measurable return on your marketing investment.