In recent years, the evolution in digital marketing for financial advisors has transformed advisor websites from a static, online version of the advisor's sales brochure into a crucial part of the marketing funnel and a place where many visitors actually decide whether or not to become clients (or at least to contact the advisor about talking further). But as the role of advisor websites in the marketing process has increased, so too have the standards for website design – since, in order to entice visitors to stay and (ideally!) engage with the advisor, the site needs to be a place where visitors actually want to stay to begin with. The ability to establish trust and credibility is one of the critical components of a website that creates a favorable impression for visitors – an impression that often extends to the advisor themselves.
In this guest post, Mikel Bruce, CEO of TinyFrog Technologies, explains why trust and credibility matter for financial advisor websites, what strategies can help with establishing trust and credibility, and how advisors can implement these strategies into their own sites.
First impressions tend to have a lasting impact on how a person views a business, so the earlier in the visitor's experience that the website can establish a baseline level of trust, the easier it is to build on that foundation until the visitor feels comfortable enough to take action. This is particularly important in the COVID era, where many potential clients rely solely on the internet for finding an advisor, because the advisor's website may be the only physical manifestation of the business for potential clients. And while it is difficult to objectively measure trust and credibility with website visitors, one way for advisors to know whether their site is effective at establishing trust and credibility is to track the site's conversion rates (e.g., the percentage of website visitors who submit a contact form), because website visitors who do "convert" are likely to be those who feel comfortable enough with their impression of the advisor to do so.
As humans, most of us rely heavily on our vision for sensory information; accordingly, one of the most immediate ways to establish a baseline level of trust in a website is to create 'visual trust' – which can be as simple as having a clean, modern-looking site, but can also involve creating a visual hierarchy that subtly emphasizes the most important information for the visitor to know. Another element, 'social trust', creates the reassuring impression to visitors that other people similar to them find the advisor trustworthy; this can be established by highlighting metrics about the advisor's existing clientele (such as the number of clients served or assets under management) as well as the advisor's prominence within the industry (for example, by showcasing the advisor's industry awards or media appearances). Finally, firms can seek to create 'longevity trust' by emphasizing the expertise and experience of the advisor (e.g., how long they have been in business or which industry credentials they hold) and reminding visitors of the advisor's stability, reliability, and professionalism.
Implementing a strategy to create trust and credibility begins with choosing which areas are the most relevant to the niche or target client that the advisor seeks to serve, which will then drive the decision of which elements to emphasize. For example, a "trust and credibility panel" located in a hard-to-miss place on the advisor's main landing page, with the information the advisor wants to highlight most (e.g., an "As Seen In…" section highlighting the advisor's media appearances), puts the most important information in the place where it is most likely to create a first impression. From there, advisors can build other credibility-generating elements into the site (such as a resource page or a case study), with the caveat that these sections will most likely build credibility only if they are well-organized and easy to navigate (and that cluttered, busy site can actually have the opposite effect of reducing trust!).
Ultimately, it's important to remember that building trust is a gradual process, and that a well-designed advisor website can establish a baseline foundation of trust with a positive first impression, gradually building layers of additional trust by incorporating other trust-building elements. And because trust and credibility are such crucial components of a website – since, after all, people naturally want to feel confident in the advisor to whom they entrust their finances – advisors who invest the resources to build those elements into their websites can boost engagement, bring in more prospects, and potentially grow their business!