Several online trends stand out as we head into a new year:
- Everyone has a blog.
- Consumers are increasingly tuning out business content.
- Consumers are less loyal to brands than ever before.
Those are daunting challenges. How do you break through the online forest of information to get your message (and your brand) across to potential clients?
But not only that, how do you actually convert nebulous “brand awareness” into profitable clients?
While the glut of online content and lack of brand loyalty are formidable challenges, don’t lose hope. If you produce the right content, and get it in front of the right people, your odds of being found—and chosen—increase dramatically. You don’t need millions of internet users to see your content, just a few thousand, with a few hundred taking the plunge and actually reading and eventually acting on what you generate.
For instance, this fall I finally took the plunge and attended a copywriter conference that I’d been considering a long time. I’d read the emails about this conference for years. I loved all the content produced by this company and read it religiously. It just took the right timing for me to pull the trigger and act.
Your online content should continually engage in a conversation with your potential clients. Realize that in their minds they are thinking: “I’d really like to hire a financial advisor to achieve my financial potential but there are reasons I haven’t yet pulled the trigger.” Your blog articles should address their reasons. Talk about all the reasons they haven’t hired an advisor yet. And make your case for how you can help them achieve their dream lifestyle.
Host regular events and offer free consultations
Your online marketing strategy should be to get clients to come to your events and meet you personally. So while you want to produce content that resonates, you won’t close the sale until prospects can come to your office to have a consultation or come to one of your educational workshops.
Produce white papers
A recent poll cited in Forbes magazines showed that 79% of buyers listed white papers as the material they were most likely to share with colleagues. A five-to seven-page white paper boosts your credibility in much the same way as writing a book. It’s more shareable and substantial than a simple article—especially if you find the right topics. After you create a few blog posts on a topic, consider turning it into a white paper. Your white paper provides information to the reader which they find useful and meaningful because it solves problems. Your white paper should contain facts, but also your outlook on those facts.
Topics should be tailored to your target market and could include: The Emotional Aspects of Retirement, Getting the Most Out of Social Security, Succession Planning for Your Business.
White papers can help you get noticed by reporters on social media, and other influencers on LinkedIn.
Create an influencer network
Use your social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to find and follow reporters and thought leaders with whom you’d like to establish rapport. Journalists are always looking for knowledgeable sources, especially when they are on tight deadlines. Pick out between 3-5 new contacts per month that you respect and you think would reflect well on you. These could be your local business reporters, or journalists for national news publications and television or programs, writers, analysts, or business leaders. Follow their articles and reports, retweet them to your followers, and establish helpful communication. In moderation, you can send reporters your blog posts, white papers, and other articles you think they might be interested in covering. Over time, you should try to develop a list of several dozen influencers with whom you have built trust. This contact will lead to opportunities to be quoted and interviewed – and you will then retweet those reports or recorded interviews to your followers.
Establish a business and charity referral network
With the help of your staff, clients, family and friends, compile a list of 50 top businesses and/or charities in your community and begin following them on social media. By “top businesses” I mean the best at what they do. For instance, find a great plumber, electrician, estate attorney, accountant, landscaper, etc. You will be interacting with these business owners, both online and in person, and referring your clients to them. These relationships will lead to a source of steady referrals. And a Nelson study found that consumers trusted word-of-mouth marketing overwhelming over any other form of advertising. By helping others promote their businesses, you will promote yourself. You can use social media to help you in developing your business referral network. Mentioning local businesses in your Twitter feed or Facebook posts can build good will.
Charity relationships also give you a win win. You can help your favorite causes and build your credibility. One advisor in Washington uses his blog and Facebook posts to bring attention to his fundraising work with a local community college. He gives out scholarships to needy scholars, and has established his reputation as a community philanthropist.
Promote your blog
People usually won’t just stumble onto your blog or website unless you direct them there. Getting 500-600 extra eyeballs on your post can make a huge difference. Most blog platforms have a widget for setting up email subscriptions or RSS feeds. (An RSS feed allows people to embed your blog headlines and/or summaries on their site). Place these sign-up widgets prominently on your blog. Email subscription invites everyone in your network to subscribe to your blog: family, friends, colleagues, clients, associates. You could also participate in a blog carnival. One wealth manager I spoke to attracted nearly 2,000 visitors to his blog each month, and recommends submitting blog posts to blog carnivals. His web traffic is content driven and organic. He spends zero on advertising. A blog carnival is the equivalent of a magazine putting out a call for articles. Popular bloggers host carnivals on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly, on a particular topic, including financial planning.
You also may want to take part in #BlogChat on Twitter, commenting on other blogs; joining communities like BlogEngage and ComLuv; The more you get out and about and get to know other people, the more you’ll find those people come to your blog and begin to share it.
Don’t forget to promote your blog internally. Post links to your blog or excerpts in as many places as possible, including in your e-newletters, email signatures, and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In. This will encourage sharing, and boost your search engine rankings. Furthermore, clients may prefer to click on your Linked-In status update, for instance, rather than your email links.
Your blog posts can also form the basis of content in other media. You can turn blog posts into PDFs that you print out for non-Internet clients. You can package your best blog posts over the year into an e-book. You can turn blog posts into slideshows using SlideShare. You might explore creating podcasts, which are essentially audio recordings that people can download or play from a website. If you’re handy with a video camera or webcam, you can create videos of your blog posts and post them to YouTube.
Incorporate your blog name and URL into your email signature, your website, your business card, your paper and e-newsletters, articles you write for online or paper journals, and any other place you can think of to get the word out.
Your blog is a direct link to your thinking, and a key part of your brand. Many advisors give their blogs clever names such as: Wealth-O-Nomics, The CoffeeHouse Investor, Wealth Pilgrim, Financial Ducks in a Row, and Margin of Safety. The name of your blog should reflect your personality and need not be simply a derivative of your name. It can incorporate your investment philosophy, economic outlook or financial planning beliefs.
Blogging allows clients to connect with you and regular content helps your website to be more findable on search engines.
Use topics from real life
One advisor I spoke to blogged about the questions she received from clients and potential clients, such as “Should you pay off your house mortgage?” or “How can you keep your investment costs low?” Don’t get too technical in your blogs … unless your clients are all sophisticated investors. You’re not writing a blog for other financial advisors. You’re writing relevant information that will make consumers want to work with you.
Respond to comments
It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes a day. If you get questions or comments from your followers, reply to them. Interacting with people lets them know you are approachable – a good trait for a financial advisor.
Set specific, measurable goals
Increasing your brand awareness is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills. All of your online marketing efforts should relate directly to your business plan goals. And to actual new clients. That’s why you should track the number of blog followers, your social media statistics, and ask new clients how they heard about you.
When you take the time to analyze your online marketing efforts—which blog topics are resonating the most, for instance—you will be able to fine-tune your approach. Stay on top of your stats—and you’ll be working with the trends, not against them.