Before traditional and now digital marketing channels dominated consumer buying habits, word of mouth was how many advisors acquired new clients. If a financial advisor had happy clients, they could rely on positive “verbal” testimonials to produce new business opportunities. Of course, the same can be said for negative testimonials by disgruntled clients. In fact, it’s more likely that a negative experience will impact financial advisors when investors believe they have been damaged financially by bad advice and services.
While marketing and advertising have come a long way, there is still nothing quite like an actual customer endorsement to validate the financial advice and services that advisors provide to investors. This is particularly important for financial advisors who have limited ways to prove they are trustworthy experts. Why? It comes down to simple human nature.
If someone is seeking the services of a financial advisor and talks to someone they know, respect, and trust, there is a high probability they will contact the advisor who is referred to them. And, there is an even higher probability they will select the advisor who is referred to them. This competitive advantage is known as social proof.
What Is a Client Testimonial?
A client testimonial is a statement by a current client who is using your services. Past clients are a little awkward because there is the issue of why they left you. Perhaps it was as simple as relocation, but the bottom line is they are no longer current clients. These are usually positive experiences that someone has had with your financial advisor firm. This can include a quote, video, success story, social media post, blog post, etc. A client testimonial is not: paraphrased words from a client testimonial, a friend or family member, or someone who is paid or otherwise rewarded to speak positively about your business.
Client Testimonial Best Practices on Your Financial Advisor Website
Where is the best place to show testimonials on your website? There is a one-word answer – everywhere. Most financial advisor websites will feature client testimonials on a dedicated page of their website. And while that’s a great place to start – it shouldn’t end there. There are many ways to display client testimonials throughout your financial advisor website.
For example, configure your website to randomly scroll client testimonials throughout all pages of your website. Another important location is on any page that is likely to lead to a conversion, such as a contact form or email signup page, etc. If someone is on the fence about taking the next step to contacting you, a positive testimonial from an existing client can help them move forward with increased confidence.
More specifically, think about the type of testimonial and which website content it might relate to best. For example, if you have a strong client testimonial that details a client’s experience with estate planning, consider highlighting that testimonial on your estate planning page. The same can be said for other services you provide and pages on your website that focus on those What We Do services.
For the more generalized testimonials about your financial advisor firm, consider those for your other, less-specific website pages. Also, keep in mind when reviewing client testimonials for inclusion on your site that it’s not just about specific products and services. What matters most to many affluent investors may be trust and easy access to their financial advisors during turbulent markets.
While some clients may focus on their investments and rates of return, others may be more concerned about their exposure to financial risk and how their financial advisor handled it. Or, you have a client testimonial that describes how organized your office is. Don’t discount it as irrelevant because some investors may consider organization an important characteristic for their financial advisors.
Remember, client testimonials should reinforce the overall messaging and theme of your website. Even if a testimonial from a client is overwhelmingly positive, if it contradicts your philosophy or isn’t consistent with your other messaging, it can sometimes do more harm than good. In this case, you would thank the client for the testimonial, but not use it.
That said, however, it’s also important to let your client testimonials come through as naturally as possible. That may mean resisting the urge to modify or edit a testimonial to make it more sales-oriented. While you may be able to provide a more polished tone, you also may be losing some of the client’s overall voice and your perceived credibility.
In short, don’t change the source of the testimonial’s wording to sound more like it was said by a professional. Let them sound like a typical client who had a positive experience at your firm and not someone who may have been coached to make extravagant statements.
Know the Rules
Sure, compliance can be seen as a major pain when it comes to financial advisor marketing, but there have been some positive 21st-century type changes that have been made by the SEC. New rules recognize the impact of the Internet on the financial service industry. For example, client testimonials can be used on websites and in advertising campaigns as long as there is adequate disclosure.
And, while some of these terms are not yet fully defined, the general consensus is that financial advisors are going to be allowed to integrate client testimonials more freely in their marketing practices than they have in the past.
In addition to the SEC rules, here are some general compliance rules for using client testimonials in any of your financial advisor marketing practices.
- Get explicit permission from your client in writing. This includes any images, logos, and specific wording you’re permitted by the client to use prior to publishing anywhere on your website.
- Be sure to include the proper disclosures. While disclosures are nothing new in the world of financial advisor marketing, keep in mind that with this new door opening with client testimonials, there will likely be more/different compliance language required. The biggest concern for a misstep is likely going to be avoiding using a testimonial with very specific, uncommon performance to avoid misleading claims about what prospective clients should expect. In fact, performance numbers should be avoided in the testimonials unless they represent the experience of all of your clients.
- Be prepared to back up any claims made by clients in your testimonials. It’s not likely that your clients would intentionally exaggerate their results, but to be sure there is no confusion it’s best to do an internal check of any claims made in their statements before publishing anywhere the general public can see the testimonials.
- Avoid the use of friends and family for testimonials. All testimonials should be from current, active clients that do not have a personal relationship with you.
In summary, while this new ruling from the SEC will likely be beneficial to financial advisors and their potential clients, it is important to develop a testimonial strategy that dictates how you are going to integrate testimonials into your marketing strategies. If you jump in without a plan, you could miss opportunities to showcase your financial advisor firm in a positive light. Consider a digital marketing agency that specializes in your industry to help you get started with your client testimonials.