For most financial advisors, it’s rare to get a new client from their website. And if they do, it is likely because the person was already referred to them, and simply checked out the website along the way.
Yet in today’s world of digital marketing, a growing number of advisors are using their websites to form a trusted connection with strangers who turn into bona fide prospects, and eventually become clients. And in fact, the tools and techniques to doing so – from building an ongoing connection that engenders trust, to drip marketing those who aren’t ready to do business yet – are remarkably similar, when it’s digital marketing or traditional networking.
However, the sad reality is that most financial advisor websites simply are not designed in an effective manner to bring in new business, and are commonly missing key details, from photos to help visitors form a personal connection, to a clear description of services and pricing, to having a “lead magnet” that can be exchanged for email addresses to ensure there’s a way to bring site visitors back in the future.
Fortunately, though, these are all problems that can be fixed. In today’s article, we look at some of the best financial advisor websites and how they’re designed to bring in clients, and there’s even a financial advisor website design checklist of some of the key items you can get started with yourself!
The Best Financial Advisor Websites Are Focused On Building Trust
At the most basic level, the primary purpose of a financial advisor’s website should be to help grow the business and bring in new clients. While there may be some information on the website that is primarily useful for existing clients, for any advisory firm that hopes to grow, an effective website must take the random strangers who just discovered the site and are visiting for the first time, and turn them into prospective clients.
Yet the caveat is that when it comes to financial planning, few visitors to a website will be ready to hire the firm immediately. While purchasing a commoditized product is straightforward, the complex intangible nature of financial planning services necessitates a more careful decision-making process.
After all, with financial planning there’s no way to know what the experience will really be like until after the fact. So at best the firm can only promise to deliver great service, and the prospective client has to decide if he/she trusts that promise. Which means ultimately, getting new clients through a website is all about building trust.
And since establishing trust takes time, the most successful financial advisor websites are focused on how to create an ongoing relationship that fosters trust over time, by making a good first impression, engaging the visitor, and trying to retain a connection to them… recognizing that very few will likely be ready to hire the advisor after just the first visit!
Essential Elements To Make A Good First Impression On A Great Financial Advisor Website
According to the research on first impressions, most people will form an initial conclusion about the credibility of a website in as little as 50 milliseconds (to put that in context, it takes at least 100 milliseconds just to blink your eyes!). And from that moment of first gut impression viewing a website, it only takes another 2.6 seconds on average for a visitor’s eyes to focus on the visual elements of the website and further reinforce that first impression.
Given this dynamic, the reality is that the homepage of a website and its visual appeal is absolutely essential to attract and retain a visitor who might become a prospective client. It is essential to make an immediate connection, as Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents does on his homepage:
For those websites that pass the initial visual test of trustworthiness, the next question is whether the good impression can be sustained by providing the necessary information the visitor is seeking out:
1) Who are you as a financial advisor?
Does the website highlight who you are, and why someone should trust you and want to work with you? Notably, because we are so visual, the first key to establishing trust online is simply to have a good photo of yourself on the website!
If your advisory firm is you (i.e., a one-person firm), ideally your picture should be right there on the homepage for prospective clients to connect with (as shown earlier with Jeff Rose). If the firm is broader, a section about “Our Team” should highlight all the people in the firm, including both bios that tell their story, and pictures to make a visual connection.
Ideally, a section about the advisor will include not only pictures of the advisor, but a video where they talk a little about themselves, and why they do what they do. This provides an opportunity for the prospective client to not only see the advisor to form an impression, but to hear how the advisor talks and communicates, and ensure that the communication style is compatible.
For instance, the video below is an example from advisor tech consultant Bill Winterberg’s “About” page.
2) What do you do as a financial advisor (beyond just "give financial advice")?
If a prospective client is trying to decide whether to do business with you, the next question is understanding what you (or the firm) actually does to help its clients. What services are offered? Can they be explained in a way that makes them compelling?
Notably, most people who are evaluating your advisory firm website are probably not evaluating just your website; they’re looking at others as well. So simply explaining that you offer financial planning and investment management services isn’t enough. That’s true of everyone. A good description of what you do should go deeper, in a way that describes the services you will provide upfront and over time, to help truly differentiate.
For instance, here’s how Sophia Bera describes her services at Gen Y Planning:
3) Who do you provide financial advice to/for?
Once a prospective client understands who you are and what you do, the next question is who you do it for. From the perspective of the visitor, the question is “does this person/firm have the expertise to help people like me?”
In this context, it is essential to recognize that no advisor or firm can help “everyone”, and no consumer will trust a firm that claims it can work with anyone/everyone. Which means ultimately, a visitor to your website wants to know who you are best at working with, to determine whether they’re a match. Does your firm really articulate who your ideal client is, such that if a visitor is your ideal client they will say “wow, this advisor is perfect for someone like me!”
For example, Eric Roberge of Beyond Your Hammock specializes in entrepreneurial, upwardly mobile young professionals looking to make a career change, who will resonate with this message from his homepage:
Notably, it’s equally clear to convey on your website who your services are not for. So if there are certain types of clients you don’t work with, or minimums that you require, save everyone some time and be clear about them on your website up front!
4) What do your financial planning services cost?
In the internet age, transparency is essential, and there’s no more basic aspect of transparency than communicating the cost of a product or service. Providers that hide their costs are presumed to have something to hide, and no consumer wants to begin the process of engaging with a firm only to find out after the fact that it’s a service they can’t afford anyway.
This distinction is notable, because in practice advisory firms are notoriously bad about disclosing their costs on their websites. Which means most firms are undermining the trust-building process with a potential client before ever having a chance to meet with the prospect in the first place!
The bottom line: having the pricing for your financial planning (and investment management and any other) services clearly stated on your website is essential for building trust in the digital age!
Engaging A Financial Advisor Website Visitor After Making A Good First Impression
If an advisory firm website passes the “test” of making a good first impression and answering the four core questions, the reality is that many people who visit your website still won’t be ready to actually contact you about doing business. Instead, they first need to be engaged further.
In other words, some people who visit your website and get a good initial impression still want to form a deeper connection with who you are and/or what you do, before moving on to the next stage. Which means you need a way to engage them further. A few examples of engagement tools include:
Create A Financial Advisor Blog
Having a blog as a financial advisor is an opportunity to showcase the expertise of yourself and your firm. Does the website include some articles or other forms of content (e.g., video? Podcast?) that highlights your expertise for the kind of people you work with?
Notably, in practice many of the top financial advisor blogs and bloggers use their blogs not only to demonstrate their expertise to those who visit their websites, but actually drive new visitors to their websites who find their blog via Google and other search engines!
Record (More) Videos
An “About” video is a great way to introduce yourself to potential clients. But video is also a great way to communicate and educate. And so beyond “just” crafting a video to describe yourself, create additional videos on other pages of your website provide an opportunity to further showcase your expertise, your ability to communicate, and what you do for your clients.
Some advisors even blend these together; for instance, Brittney Castro of Financially Wise Women includes a video as a part of nearly every blog post she does!
Add Some (Relevant) Engagement Tools
Another way to engage visitors who might become prospective clients of the firm is to provide some form of tools that they can use, to get a further taste of what you do and/or how you might be able to help them.
For instance, solutions like Riskalyze allow you to embed a tool directly on your website, where prospective clients can input their portfolio, and see some information about the risk and return characteristics of the portfolio, and how it compares to the typical portfolios you recommend. For those consumers whose portfolios are not well managed and diversified already, this create an opportunity for the prospective client to find for themselves how your investment management process may be able to help them! Below is an image of how John Buerger at Altus Wealth has embedded the Riskalyze engagement tool:
Notably, though, the key aspect of an engagement tool is that it actually needs to provide something unique and relevant to the visitor to the website. A scrolling stock ticker – so popular on advisor websites a decade ago (and sadly, still on many today!) – is not a relevant engagement tool, as that information is already available on any number of direct-to-consumer websites!
Convert A First-Time Website Visitor Into A Recurring Visitor With Drip Marketing
Even after answering all of the questions a website visitor may have, and engaging them with relevant tools and information to demonstrate your value and expertise, the reality is that most people who visit your website will not yet be ready to do business with you. Perhaps they’ve formed a good initial impression, but need more time to build trust. Or perhaps they simply aren’t ready to contact you about doing business yet.
If the person who visitors your website isn’t ready to do business until the future, though, it’s necessary to connect with them in some way to ensure that they come back to your website when they are ready to do business. Otherwise, by the time there’s a need, your website and firm may long since be forgotten.
In a real world interaction, the way this was traditionally accomplished was to get a business card from the prospect, and then add him/her to a mailing list to receive your latest monthly or quarterly newsletter. In the modern digital age, the same strategy is accomplished with an email list, which is used to send out your latest blog updates.
In other words, if you want to keep a connection to a prospect who visits your website but isn’t ready to hire you yet, the solution is to invite the visitor to give you an email address, so there’s a way to communicate with them and draw them back in the future. Of course, most people protect their email address, and don’t want to be added to the (e-)mailing list of every website they visit. Which means getting an email address means giving something relevant in return.
Having A Call-To-Action With A Relevant Lead Magnet
In the world of “inbound” digital marketing, having something to offer a website visitor in exchange for their email address is called a “lead magnet”. The idea is that whatever it is you offer is so compelling, it attracts prospective client leads “like a magnet”, as website visitors willingly exchange their email address to receive the offer.
In the context of financial advisor websites, having a “Call To Action” – a button, box, banner, or pop-up that offers a lead magnet in exchange for an email address – is remarkably rare. For most advisors, the only choices for a prospective client who visits the website are all-or-none, to either contact the advisor to do business, or leave (and never come back again). Having a call-to-action with a lead magnet is a crucial mid-point, providing a way for people who are interested to stay engaged (and effectively give you permission to drip market them), without requiring them to go so far as to request a meeting they may not be ready for yet.
Of course, the caveat to developing a lead magnet for a financial advisor website is that it has to actually be magnetic – the kind of thing that is so compelling, a visitor to your website really does want to turn over their email address in exchange for it. Which in turn is once again why it’s so important for an advisory firm to have a clear targeted niche clientele – it’s not just about differentiation, per se, but also because where there’s a clearly defined group of prospective clients, it’s easier to make a targeted lead magnet relevant to them! (And be certain you’ve set up Google Analytics so you can measure if it’s working!)
For instance, Matt Becker of Mom And Dad Money targets, as the name implies, new parents and young families who are trying to navigate all the complex money issues that arise when a couple first has children. Accordingly, his lead magnet is a book that shows prospective clients how to do this!
Similarly, Dave Grant of Finance For Teachers aims to work with teachers. Accordingly, he’s literally “written the book” on financial tips for teachers, which he offers on the homepage of his website for any teachers who are interested (and willing to exchange their email address in return!).
Notably, though, the approach of lead magnets doesn’t have to be specific to an individual advisor; it can be an offer for a larger firm, as long as the firm has a clearly defined target clientele. For example, Larson Financial Group is a large RIA in St Louis with dozens of advisors, all of whom specialize in working with Doctors. And once again, to be compelling, Larson not only offers a Financial Newsletter for Doctors, but even wrote a book, aptly named “Financial Advice for Doctors | Doctor’s Eyes Only”.
A Financial Advisor Website Design Checklist For Yourself
In the physical world, having an appealing physical office space with a nice shingle hung outside is crucial to advertise the professional’s presence to the world of prospective clients. In the digital world, a financial advisor’s website functions in the same manner, hung like a digital shingle for all the world to see.
Accordingly, the reality is that it’s just as crucial to invest into the firm’s virtual presence to make it appealing, and craft a process to engage potential prospects, just as would occur in the physical world. You can download for yourself a checklist of key financial advisor website design elements by clicking on the image to the right!
In other words, the bottom line is this: people who visit your website and might potentially do business with you have a complex decision to make. They need to decide if you’re trustworthy. They need to decide if you have solutions relevant to people like them, capable of solving their problems (and at a price they can afford). And they need to be able to engage you when they’re ready. A great financial advisor website recognizes all of these dynamics!
And of course, there’s also the need for prospective clients to find their way to your website in the first place! But that’s a conversation for another day!
So what do you think? How is your financial advisor website designed? Have you been getting prospects and clients through your website? If not, is that because digital marketing doesn't work, or because your site needs to be refined and improved?