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The SEC Advertising Rule and Financial Advisor Online Reputation and Reviews

The financial advisory community has been abuzz ever since the SEC announced changes in the decades-long marketing rules that hadn’t previously seen an update in more than 40 years. When considering just how much has changed over the last four decades, it’s easy to understand why financial advisors (and those who help them market their services) are eager to take advantage of these changes. 

After all, financial advisors have had to watch over the years as other industries were able to quickly adopt new marketing services that are a result of new technologies, yet financial advisor marketing still was back in the 80’s and 90’s. One big area that was previously unavailable to financial advisors was online reviews

More than most other industries, a financial advisor’s reputation is a critical piece of how to add or lose potential clients. Reputations and reviews can measure the trustworthiness of financial advisors. Now that the new SEC Advertising Rule has opened the door for financial advisors to utilize online reviews in marketing and advertising, so online reputation growth and management have never been more important.

 

430 Pages = One Big Takeaway

If you’re a busy financial advisor, you may not have yet had the time to read the 430-page SEC Rule in its entirety. And while it’s essential for compliance reasons to understand the entire ruling, here is the big takeaway for financial advisors from a digital marketing perspective: You can now use testimonials and reviews in advertising and marketing

Previously, no matter how many glowing reviews you may have received, there was no way to feature those in any of your marketing efforts as a form of endorsement for leads and prospects. 

 

Leveraging Social Currency 

Think back to the pre-internet days. If someone was happy – or unhappy - about the advice and services they received, they could tell friends, family, and associates. But, it was limited to their contacts. And there’s no denying that most people love to hear about another’s personal experience rather than hear it from someone in a sales mode. 

While financial advisors can make statements about their clients’ success, it is more impactful to hear about it in a testimonial from a real client who actually used the financial advisor’s planning advice and investment services. 

And, as stated in the Marketing Rule, these testimonials don’t have to be limited to clients. This opens up the opportunity to have others who have personal or professional connections speak on a financial advisor’s behalf. This could be an opportunity for someone to comment on that financial advisor’s character, expertise, or social activities with local charities. 

 

3rd Party Platforms Help Spread the Word

It’s very likely that you have heard of some of the more popular 3rd party review platforms. There are several of them and new ones are on the horizon. Let’s focus our attention on the most popular ones for right now: Google My Business (GMB), Foursquare, Angie’s List, Trustpilot, and Facebook. If someone leaves you a review on a 3rd-party site, you have the ability to feature that review in your marketing, assuming you have the reviewer’s permission and you include the proper disclosures. 

Another way financial advisors can interact with 3rd party reviews is that financial advisors can now respond to the reviews. Let’s call this reputation management. Previously, any review left on such a site would remain unanswered by the financial advisor, even if the reviewer wrote it as a means of outreach to begin a 2-way conversation. That could be business lost from that investor, or worst case, a negative review that could have been addressed and resolved without others seeing it as a one-sided complaint on behalf of the reviewer. 

 

Content Has Never Been More Important

While utilizing online reviews in your marketing is a new practice for financial advisors, creating quality, relevant content shouldn’t be. In fact, all of that quality content can now get the added boost of validation from a client review to further grow the confidence of anyone who is interested in hiring that financial advisor.  

As an example, if you have a blog series dedicated to retirement planning, and you have a glowing client review on their experience working on their retirement plan, you can add that review as part of that blog series and amplify the quality of your services. 

Not only does this offer credibility to your own statements, but it also helps boost SEO potential since Google is always looking to deliver the most relevant and timely results to any search query. As a bonus, by adding these relevant reviews to existing content throughout your site, you’re showing Google that those pages have been updated recently, which also helps with SEO. 

 

Social Media

Don’t forget about sharing content and reviews on social media. This is perhaps one of the biggest opportunities for financial advisors to make the most of the Marketing Rule. 

By featuring client and non-client reviews and testimonials on social media, financial advisors are tapping into the largest form of word-of-mouth advertising there is. Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have the ability to distribute content to billions of people worldwide. 

While as a financial advisor you may not be looking for that kind of exposure, the point is that getting information to a lot of people quickly – there’s no better platform. Pro tip: Pay attention to character and word limits on social channels, ensuring that the required disclosures are able to be included in any content featuring reviews or testimonials. 

Additionally, social media is meant to be a place where conversations start, not just for people and businesses to make statements and share content but to also engage with one another. Financial advisors who utilize these channels for 2-way conversations will find they can make a bigger splash with the content they post. 

 

Get Excited – Not Overwhelmed

If the prospect of building a better online reputation as a financial advisor is exciting and also daunting, you’re not alone. In fact, many financial advisors find that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to serve clients, keep up with the markets, and run a business – let alone become an expert in digital marketing. If that sounds familiar, consider reaching out to a digital marketing agency that can take the best parts of your online financial advisor reputation and put them in the spotlight.

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