Money matters – as do the professionals who help consumers and businesses develop strategies to plan, invest, save, and spend that money.
And while financial matters have always made the world go around, the ways in which people talk about, think about, and access their finances and portfolios have always adapted and shifted with the times.
Today? Well, if you’re a financial professional, your next client is spending his or her time on the internet; consider, for instance, that 69 million Americans conduct their banking online, and more than half of all Americans pay at least one bill online per month.
For planners, brokers, strategists, advisors, and service providers in the financial sector, it’s more important than ever that you’re able to keep in contact with this digital, plugged-in audience – so that new and existing clients can always be ready to find you when the time comes.
The reality? Today’s referrals aren’t coming just from coffee meetings or networking groups, but from digital hubs, like Facebook, Google, and even Yelp. Reaching those potential clients who are out there discussing, debating, and reviewing brands, is a key way to engage new customers and grow your business; we call this process online reputation management.
Put simply, reputation management is all about monitoring the conversation around your firm or professional brand, helping you gain new leads while also establishing even better relationships with your existing, satisfied clients.
Generally, we break down successful reputation management into three interrelated parts, each of which has a major role to play in making you and your law firm stand out – for the right reasons – online.
Here’s what you need to know about online reputation management today:
A Note About Digital Marketing for Finance Pros, and the Law
Before we dive into the specifics of how your brand can put reputation management strategies into place, it’s important that we first address some reservations about digital marketing that some of our financial advisor friends and colleagues have pointed out to us – namely, how digital marketing, financial professionals, and the restrictions placed on financial professionals under the law can all get along.
Above all, it's important to bear in mind that FINRA and other regulatory agencies prevent financial advisors from directly marketing their accomplishments.
From copyright to CAN-SPAM, we know the importance of keeping digital marketing on the right side of the law! But also know that while you may be unable to discuss, for example, specific returns, or guarantee a client's successes - check out FINRA for the exhaustive regulations - there are still plenty of things professionals can and should share. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Geek Chicago with any questions or concerns; we’d be happy to talk over any doubts you may have!
1.) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
There’s a reason that “just Google it” has passed into common parlance; today, it’s the first step that many people take as they begin the search for a new advisor or brokerage.
Is your business reaching this massive audience of eager searchers looking for a professional like you? The best way to start is with search engine optimization, or SEO.
In order to dominate the results on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search ranking pages, you’ll need a solid, local SEO strategy in place, one that includes:
- A responsive, well-designed website
- Compelling content, optimized for search
- Accurate and up-to-date location tags
- An emphasis on mobile design
That last point, in particular, is worth noting. Today, more users are using smartphones to reach out to their prospective professionals and service providers than ever before.
If your site isn’t attractive, responsive, and highly functional on mobile devices – and some research shows that up to 91% of small business websites aren’t optimized for phones – your potential clients won’t hesitate to move on to the professionals who makes a better first impression.
2.) Reviews and Testimonials
Remember those Google searchers? In addition to discovering new professionals and service providers via search engine results, many also using the platform to find online review and listing resources, which range from social media sites (i.e., Facebook), to Google, to Yelp, to industry-specific sources like WalletHub.
These review sites and resources are a highly important decision making factor for many would-be clients.
Here at Geek Chicago, we partner with a national reputation management service to offer our clients access to a review management tool with a proven track record of success.
Essentially, we’ll set up a workflow that lets you automatically reach out to your clients via text or email after you’ve completed your business with them, encouraging them to rate and review your services on a variety of important sites.
Establishing this line of communication early will help you encourage your happiest clients to post glowing reviews. At the same time, reaching out like this may allow you to prevent a negative review from reaching the net, completely legally and ethically. You may be surprised, but just giving less-satisfied clients a channel through which they can vent privately to you could well prevent them from ever posting that negative review for the public to see, without you ever having to explicitly “park” or “bury” a negative opinion.
We recognize that this is a thorny issue today, with a lot of conflicting information out there. The good news? The law does appear to be on the side of businesses when it comes to allowing reviews and testimonials, thanks to a relaxation of standards by the SEC. As John Kador writes over at WealthManagement.com:
“It seems that if an advisor has no control over the content of the third-party review, the reviewer is not compensated in any way, the advisor publishes all reviews positive and negative, and refrains from promotion on the pages where such testimonials appear, then the advisor will be in compliance.”
3.) Social Media and Email Marketing
So far, we’ve talked about reputation management in terms of what it takes – and what it can do – to get new customers to your brand for the first time.
But what about those who you can turn into lifelong friends and partners, ready to turn to you for future advice or service? Can reputation management and digital marketing actually help keep your clients coming back? Yes!
In fact, there are a ton of things your firm or group can do to encourage loyalty and retention among your client base – and it’s important that you do, since a loyal customer is worth up to 10x as much as the value of their first purchase! Most of these strategies take place over two main digital channels: social media and email.
When it comes to social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it’s important that you remain active on your pages and profiles and really foster a sense of community. Take care to respond to client queries as they’re posted; don’t be afraid to pose questions and polls of your own; offer up interesting blog posts or fresh visual content; and give your dedicated fans a “peek behind the curtain” with behind-the-scenes stories or insights, when appropriate.
When used properly, social media channels can offer huge benefits to financial professionals; according to a recent survey brought to our attention by Forbes, 80% of the advisors who use social media report that they “gained new clients resulting in nearly $5 million in average asset gain.” 85% also claimed that “social media shortened the selling cycle.”
Email marketing is also a powerful tool for retention and reputation management; reaching out to your past clients in their inbox with fresh blog content or updates about your community can be a great way to make sure that you’re top of mind the next time they need to consult with a financial pro – or, better yet, recommend one to a friend or colleague!
As we mentioned, we recognize that financial professionals may be held to a different standard than other pros when it comes to digital marketing – and we’d be happy to discuss what you can accomplish within the parameters and restrictions that are on the books.
Curious about what it would take to execute this three-part reputation management plan? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any and all of your digital marketing questions or concerns! Our experienced team is here and always ready to help.