Let’s start with a basic assumption about the quality of your services. You are a financial advisor who delivers superior planning and investment services. You have been providing these exceptional services for a number of years. Your clients have had very positive experiences based on your advice and services.
Next, you are talking to a current prospect for your services. If you win the relationship you will add millions of dollars to your Assets Under Management and thousands of dollars of additional revenue each year.
The key to the sale is how you respond to this prospect’s request for information about your results. This investor believes some form of feedback from current clients will help him or her make a better selection decision.
You don’t have a track record, but you could refer the prospect to your 45 five-star Yelp reviews or the 5 testimonials on your website that describe these clients’ experiences with your services. Both of these strategies are made possible by the Internet, digital marketing, and the new SEC testimonial rule.
Prior to the Internet, your strategy would have been to provide references that the prospect could talk to.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the ways you can prove you are a credible, trustworthy financial expert.
Why Investors Want Proof
If you work in the institutional world you better have an audited, GIPS compliant track that includes the results for all of your clients. There is a high probability the institutions will also ask for references they can talk to about your services. No track record and there are no prospects.
As you might imagine, the institutions believe what they see and hear from references will help them make better decisions or at the very least reduce their risk of making a bad decision.
Now fast forward to individual investors who have the same concerns as institutional investors, but do not have formal processes for researching and interviewing financial advisors.
Ironically, the financial advisors who market to individuals, couples, and families also do not have track records they can market to these investors. It is ironic because individual investors do not demand track records.
So, how do these professionals, who market financial advice and services to individuals, prove they are great planning and investment advisors?
One of your most powerful marketing tools are proof statements published by independent third parties. For example, a local newspaper, magazine, or website publishes a very positive article about the quality of your services.
Most investors will assume this is an objective assessment of your services. That is, you have no control over what is said in the article. Therefore, proof statements are powerful marketing tools.
Larger financial advisors use the services of PR firms to maximize this type of exposure in publications that have credible reputations.
Financial Advisor Websites
Everyone with meaningful assets has access to the Internet. It is their go-to method for seeking service providers, products, and information.
Every financial advisor has a website that delivers information about the firm and the professionals who work there. However, websites should do more than deliver information. They should deliver positive reasons why investors should select the financial advisors that own the sites. The more investor benefits that appear on websites the more marketable the financial advisors.
Financial Advisor Blog Sites
The content on websites is largely static with a few exceptions. For example, financial advisors could be adding content to Resource Centers or Libraries.
On the other hand, fresh, original content should be added to financial advisor blog sites on a monthly basis. Some content may meet Google requirements and has SEO value. Other content may be there to add to the credibility of the financial advisory firm.
Consequently, the right content on the web and blog site has the potential to add to the credibility and visibility of financial advisors.
Financial Advisor Designations
Another way financial advisors seek proof they are credible experts is to acquire certifications and designations from third parties that are supposedly legitimate.
A Paladin survey identified more than 250 certifications and designations that financial advisors use to market themselves as credible experts. Approximately 35% of the credentials were fake because they were bought versus earned or the sponsors had gone out of business.
Credentials have limited value because investors have no idea how much work it took to earn a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) designation versus a CRE (we made this one up). Perhaps they have heard of a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional (CFP®) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. Most of the designations have no name recognition.
High-quality designations definitely add to the knowledge of financial advisors. In particular, designations that have continuing education requirements. But, they do not necessarily make the advisors more marketable.
Third-Party Quality Ratings
There are a few services that vet the quality of financial advisors and publish quality ratings based on their education, certifications, experience, and compliance records.
Unfortunately, there are also services that will sell their ratings to less scrupulous financial advisors. Consequently, most investors are skeptical of the ratings.
Testimonials, Reviews, References
In the absence of an audited, GIPS-compliant track record the best way to prove you are a credible financial expert is the use of testimonials, reviews, and high-quality references.
A minimum of three and preferably five testimonials should appear on your website. A compliance-approved disclaimer should appear at the bottom of the page that qualifies the information in the testimonials.
Encouraging clients to leave ratings and reviews is even better. That’s because larger numbers of four and five-star ratings can improve the SEO results of financial advisors.
References are the tried and true way of proving the quality of financial advisors. The good news is references are easy to produce. Every advisor has clients who are willing to act as references.
On the other hand, no advisor will provide a prospect with a bad reference. But, some investors feel better about their selection decisions when they have spoken to an advisor’s current clients.