A high percentage of companies that design and develop websites claim their work is custom because they know financial advisors want digital marketing services that differentiate them from their competition. On the other hand, these same companies maximize their profitability when they mass produce websites and market them as custom.
Think of it this way. They write one blog article, publish it in a library, and charge a fee to hundreds or thousands of financial advisors to use their content. Unfortunately, this is good for the firm that produced the content, but bad for the financial advisors who believe this type of content will improve their online visibility (SEO) - simply not true.
If you are a financial advisor and not a website developer, how will you determine if you have a mass-produced template that is masquerading as a custom website?
Read the following tips to avoid being bamboozled by a website developer who is misrepresenting the uniqueness of his or her work.
It’s a Rental
The companies that mass produce websites like to rent their websites so they produce a recurring stream of revenue. Why is this an important indicator?
- First, there is no upfront fee that covers the cost of custom design and development.
- Second, you do not own the site. It is owned by the company that developed the template or modified it for your use.
- Third, you cannot take the website with you if you terminate their services. You have to start over. This deters advisors from terminating their service.
- Fourth, this is very profitable for the web development company, when the majority of the development cost is covered by the first few clients.
What if you can go online, subscribe to a service, make a few choices, and in a matter of minutes, presto, you have a new website.
Custom websites can take 60 days or more to design and develop:
- There is an onboarding process to learn more about your firm
- Key features, benefits, and differentiators are identified
- Content for the website must be written and edited
- Graphics are added to the website
- Wireframes are produced for client approval
- The website is programmed by experienced developers
- The website is approved by clients and compliance departments
Investors’ first impression may be limited to your name, a stock photo, and a brief marketing message. If only it was that simple. The first impression will have a lot to do with how long investors remain on your website. The answer may be 5 seconds or 5 minutes.
Investors have to know they have come to the right website before they will commit time to learn more about your firm. Therefore, a lot of creative thought has to go into branding, messaging, and graphics.
What if your website has certain features that you did not request and it is impossible to change them or you can change them if you are willing to pay a substantial modification fee.
Not only do you want some flexibility in the initial design you may want flexibility down the road when there are unexpected events that impact investors. For example, a very high percentage of advisors made changes to their websites during the early stages of Covid. This was more than a banner stating we share your pain. It required changes to business practices that in turn required updated content on financial advisor websites.
What About Ownership
What if the firm that provided the template also owns the website. This tactic makes it more difficult to change providers if you are not satisfied with your results - a steady flow of new leads and contacts.
It is in your best interests to make sure you own everything associated with your website: Code, graphics, website content, free offers, blog articles, etc. Then you know the website is portable.
Access to Professionals
What if your content is limited to a client service professional and you do not have access to other professionals - for example, the writers and editors who are producing original content for your website.
You may not have access to professionals because they are not any. For example, you are downloading content from libraries and any changes are your responsibility.
You may not have time to do this work yourself or it is not your forte. It is much better when the professionals doing the work can communicate with you so they get your story right the first time.
Limited Free Offers
Google will tell you the more free offers on a website the more leads the site will produce.
Another key indicator for mass-produced websites is limitations on the types of free offers that can be published on your site. Keep in mind, a high percentage of investors are using the Internet to find financial information, in particular insights and tips for dealing with financial pain points.
Unfortunately, certain types of productive free offers are not available on many of the mass-produced websites. You may be limited to one or a few free offers that do not produce the results you are seeking.
The Team Approach
One of the major benefits of hiring a fully-staffed web design agency is tapping into their expertise and having them available to you at all times. The web designer, web developer, copywriter, content creator, digital marketing strategist, social media experts—all play a role in creating a top-notch custom website. Working together is key.
Another key indicator that your site is a template, and not custom, is that you don’t have access to the backend at all. Any changes must be made by the web developer and there may be a separate fee for the service.
Always make sure you have access to the administration panel so you can make minor changes yourself.
The mass-produced websites may be loaded with extraneous code that slows load times and under-performs for other key performance indicators.
Google is very aware of the load times for financial advisor websites. It is seeking scores of 90 or higher for the load times for desktop and mobile users. For example, it wants load times of 2.8 seconds or less
The Source Code
Another key indicator is the source code that was used to program your website. The code makes it easy for search engines to identify template-based websites. You should use this tool to determine if you are paying excessive fees for a template-based website. Following are a few steps you can follow:
- Input your URL in Google Chrome
- Click “View” in the toolbar
- Click Developer
- Click View Source
- Look for this phrase: wp-content/themes
- What appears after the above phrase
- If it is your firm name, you have a custom site
- If it has anything other than your firm it is a template
- Google search the theme name
- If you find it, your website is a template
HOW DO YOU FIND THIS BEFORE YOUR WEBSITE IS DEVELOPED? IF IT IS AFTER THE WEBSITE IS LAUNCHED IT IS ALREADY TOO LATE.
Select the Right Digital Marketing Agency
There is a major difference between a website developer and a digital marketing agency. A lot of designers/developers know how to code websites. They may produce custom or template websites.
However, the real key to digital marketing is building visibility on the Internet that produces the relevant traffic that websites need to produce leads and contacts.
Financial Advisor Rationale
Why would a financial advisor select a cheap, template-based website? Because that is all the advisor can afford. The advisor will put up with all of the limitations of mass-produced websites, just to get the website up and running in a few hours or days.
Following are a few rationales that explain why some advisors accept this level of service for their websites:
- I have low expectations for my website. I do not believe it can produce a steady flow of leads, therefore there is no positive ROI.
- I know websites do not produce their own visibility and traffic. That takes a consistent Inbound Marketing effort. Since I am not spending money on Inbound Marketing, why spend money on a custom, lead generation website?
- I will deal with this issue when my firm is bigger.
Let’s deal with the last rationale first. Your firm may not get bigger if you do not spend some money building awareness for your brand, traffic for your website, and a website that can convert visitors into qualified leads and contacts.
You may have low expectations for digital marketing because you have never done it right.
You are right, there is no reason to have a custom, lead generation website if there is no traffic to the website.
On the other hand, a top-notch digital marketing agency that specializes in your industry can provide a package of services that produce positive ROI. It starts with a custom lead generation website.
You should view your website as an investment that when done right will produce benefits for several years. It is also not a static investment. It has to change with the times. For example, look at the impact of Covid on the marketing practices of financial advisors.