It's common knowledge that increasing numbers of investors are using the Internet to find, screen, and select financial advisors. In fact, their usage is up 28.7% in 2016, according to a recent study conducted by PaladinRegistry.com.
And, it's not just computer savvy millennials who are using the Internet. It's anyone who has access to the Internet and believes it will help them make a better decision when they select financial advisors.
Enterprising financial firms have already figured out the Internet is an important marketing tool that can help them grow their businesses. Their common challenge is to create an electronic first impression that motivates investors to initiate contact with them.
This process is called Inbound Marketing. Investors find advisors on the Internet, visit their websites, and submit their contact data for free offers or consultations. In this context, the Internet is the top of a sales funnel. Websites are the bottom of the funnel when visitors become prospects.
So what are investors looking for when they use the Internet to find and screen advisors? Common sense says they are looking for competent financial professionals they can trust. But, therein lies their major dilemma. How do they measure competence and trustworthiness? And, in the absence of tools that measure quality how do they determine who they want to talk to?
Find a Financial Advisor
Paladin conducted a recent survey that provided some insight into how investors use the Internet to find, screen, and select advisors. When investors do not know advisors, their most common strategy was to enter keywords into a search engine that defined what they were looking for: Financial Advisor, Financial Planner, Investment Advisor, Wealth Manager.
In addition, since most investors were seeking traditional (brick & mortar) advisors, they also entered some geo-specific keywords (city, state). Geo-specific is not important if investors are seeking Robo or Virtual Advisors. However, the latter is less than 16% of the searches that were conducted by investors.
Investors also find advisor websites by reading content (blog posts/articles) that are specific to issues or topics that investors are either experiencing or researching about that a particular topic, like when to start Social Security distrubutions.
Financial Advisor Websites
Internet visibility produces traffic to financial advisor websites. The websites’ job is to convert traffic into qualified prospects by presenting compelling content and offers that would benefit the visitor. Most advisor websites fail to deliver results because they were not designed to produce prospects. They were designed to deliver favorable information that was supposed to create a positive first impression. Consequently, most financial advisor websites deliver the same information.
Implementing a solid inbound marketing strategy can greatly assist in driving the right types of visitors to your site and then converting those visitors into qualified leads you can nurture over time.
The big winner is the website that produces the greatest amount of credibility in the shortest amount of time.
The regulatory agencies are trying to raise their online visibility with investors who use the services of financial advisors. FINRA has also designed its site to be more user friendly. The state regulators are dinosaurs and the SEC is the opposite of user friendly.
Consequently, less than 5% of investors check public databases when they use the Internet to screen financial advisors. Even if they check a database, they may not understand the information.
What Investors See
Investors who know particular advisors and firms will enter names in the search engines to research them. The question is, what do they see? The worst case scenario is they see nothing or they see social connections. The best case scenario is they see articles that are written by advisors or about advisors.
Investors will also visit advisor websites to obtain additional information. More than 81.2% of visitors will spend less than two minutes on the site. What they see, in a short amount of time, will determine if they submit their contact data so advisors can reach out to them.
That is the major competitive challenge that is faced by all financial advisor websites. They have two minutes or less to convince investors to give-up their anonymity and initiate contact.