Today’s guest blog comes from Stephen Wershing, CFP.® Stephen is president of The Client Driven Practice, a firm that coaches financial advisors how to clarify their value, build their brand, and attract more referrals. He is also known for his work with client advisory boards. Bob Veres calls Steve “the best marketing mind in financial planning.” His book, Stop Asking for Referrals: A Revolutionary New Strategy for Building a Financial Service Business that Sells Itself was published by McGraw Hill in 2012.
How important is your website to attracting referrals? It seems like they would be separate. Referrals come from individuals and the web is to attract people who don’t know you, right? But the two are actually tied together in one process most advisors don’t fully appreciate.
The way referrals happen has changed. In the past, a client would mention an advisor to a friend, possibly passing along some contact information, and the friend would call. Once contact was made, it was the advisors game to lose. Referral strategies revolved around getting clients to make more introductions.
It’s not quite so clean anymore. Marketing “channels” have been blurred and now overlap. How does it happen today? And advisors client refers a friend and that friend goes home and Google’s the advisor. If that advisor’s website does not say something compelling, that speaks to the unique needs, wants, and desires of that friend, something that reinforces what the client said, they’re gone without the advisor ever knowing that the referral got made.
Recent statistics indicate that referral activity seems to be on the decline. Do you interpret that to mean that clients are making fewer referrals? I doubt it. Humans have referred habitually for a very long time. I doubt human behavior is changed. Rather, it’s what the recipient does with that referral that has changed. And if you are receiving fewer referrals, your website may have a role in that.
Financial services is an event driven business. Prospective clients look for an advisor because something changed that they needed advice on. So most do some due diligence. They asked several friends. And, thanks to Google, the triage process just got a lot faster and easier. Rather than having to make several phone calls, they can search the websites of all the referred firms quickly and easily. And beyond the few firms that friends have recommended, whenever a prospect finds you on Google they also find a dozen other firms to check out on that same search result page. Among the firms that turn up in the search, does your message stand out?
After doing a little searching and reading some webpages, consumers believe that they have what they need to know. They are wrong, of course, but they act on their belief. Fidelity research finds that 58 percent of emerging affluent investors have a significantly more positive impression of financial advisors who have a good website. In addition, 30 percent of them say that they’re more likely to relate to a financial advisor that has a social media presence.
Does your website say the things your target client wants most to find? Does it differentiate you?
Ask your clients what’s most important to them. Dig down into it because “trusts” and “service” are what everyone says. Look at your competitors websites. Google your firm and check out the other firms that come up. Does your homepage deliver a message that distinguishes you?
Clients are referring you as often as they always have. (That can be improved, of course, but the decline in referrals received is not because your clients are behaving differently.)
The people your clients are referring are making more of their decision based on your website. Does your message make it more likely that the referral will turn into a phone call?