What do Warby Parker, Frank + Oak and Amazon.com Inc. all have in common? All started out as online retailers that shook up their respective industries before opening up physical stores. Clicks, as they say, have paved the path to bricks — and advisors can learn from this trend.
That's because having a strong digital presence and online communication strategy in an overcrowded field can draw more foot traffic to your business.
"We're seeing that advisors are supplementing their existing business by creating this ‘digital storefront'," says Victor Gaxiola, customer advocacy manager with Hearsay Systems in San Francisco. "They're driving people to the website, which provides for them an opportunity to capture new leads."
But merely having a website won't give you a competitive advantage, Gaxiola says. In fact, the absence of a digital footprint puts you at a disadvantage. If your website looks like it dates back to the early 2000s and is just a static blob of text, expect few people to linger.
To get people to pay attention to your website, you first need it to be optimized for mobile devices, Gaxiola says. And you can get clients or prospective clients to stick around by building a library of resources that illustrate the different issues you're ready to help them tackle.
For example, if your practice caters to the needs of baby boomers, you can develop content that speaks to the financial stresses that weigh on their minds. Alternatively, you can structure your efforts to reach beyond your comfort demographic to appeal to the next generation.
Having a platform to position yourself as knowledgeable on a subject enables you to "scale the conversation" to a larger audience you have yet to meet face to face, Gaxiola says.
"Just being out there helps people maybe get to know me before that first meeting," says Lynn Whetham, financial planner and managing partner with Stepright Capital Planning Inc. in St. George, Ont.
You can wait for Google searches to lead prospects your way, however your digital strategy can be more successful if you get more proactive. Mornings are prime time for plugging yourself into the conversation as it unfolds as that's the time of the day when most people are checking emails and social media feeds.
"If you're not there [early in the morning] with some kind of presence, you've already lost the content battle for the day," says Neil St. Clair, chief growth officer at Vestorly Inc., a data-driven content platform for financial services, in New York.
To be that reliable source of timely information, you should have a routine for selecting content that both resonates with clients and reveals insights they can apply to their lives. There are tools out there, St. Clair says, which help you automate the rollout of content on social media.
Whetham tries to stick to a ritual for planning her digital communication efforts, which include social media, blogging, and a bi-monthly online radio show that covers topics such as finances, estate planning and health and wellness. Every Friday afternoon, she blocks out time to work on these projects.
You can also hold yourself to a deadline by mapping out an editorial calendar. Gaxiola suggests designing your communication efforts around thematic, financial-related events, such as tax season, the release of the federal budget and graduation.
This is the second article in a three-part series on improving your communication efforts in 2017.
Up next: Talking to clients about global disasters and political upsets.