Written by: Susan K. Becker
How can writing for the web enrich your financial advisory business? A financial advisor who publishes a newsletter gets a call: “Your friend just sent me a link from your newsletter. My wife is planning to retire, and we want to make the best use of those assets, consistent with our family goals. Can we all get together?”
This story shows several marketing dynamics specific to the web: Easy broadened distribution that can create unexpected business leads; web analytics that enable the advisor to see which newsletter stories were clicked and any that were clicked multiple times; and an additional information source when preparing for meetings. Because newsletter links drove traffic to the advisor’s site, the prospect had easy access to further information that confirmed his positive impression and led to his call.
Writing for the web may require adaptation of traditional marketing channels like brochures, but the rewards are well worth your effort. Here are the challenges and how to meet them successfully.
Challenge #1: Grab readers immediately
What drives readers most is timely information that’s communicated clearly in the title of your post. The advisor in the opening anecdote had written about a new regulation related to taxes. Quick publishing via the web speeded timely communication to clients.
Make your content easy to look at, with short paragraphs, headings and sub-heads that state your content clearly, and layout that makes information flow and location of specific topics easy to grasp.
Challenge #2: Use images
Research has shown that the web is essentially a visual medium. Images attract viewers more than plain text.
If, like me, you’re a “word person,” thinking visually can seem daunting. I always envied people who could draw clear diagrams of complex processes, while I required what seemed like too many words. The good news is that, as investment professionals, you’re familiar with potentially the most compelling pictures for your audience: data visualization in charts.
Effective charts use interpretive titles that state the main idea, or story, of each one clearly and are accurate and faithful to your data.
If you enjoy taking pictures, include your own, either to personalize your site (e.g. show the photos in your office) or to illustrate your content. Your own photos are much more effective than stock photos of, say, the generic “meeting.”
Another effective way to use images is to provide a visual metaphor for what you’re talking about.
I’m not a good photographer, but I love art history and enjoy using paintings and photographs in my posts, especially as metaphors. Painters suspended on Brooklyn Bridge cables in 1914 means “risk” to me.
Because finding inexpensive, easy-to-use image sources with a good selection is a perpetual quest of everyone writing for the web, social media experts frequently recommend their favorites . I’ve used Dreamstime.com and 123rf.com. Trustworthy sources will explain copyright and other legal restrictions on images. Be sure to respect copyright. Providing attribution of images you use is a nice touch, whether or not it’s required. This post supplies details as a hyperlink (“Image Source”).
Challenge #3: Distinctive brand “voice”
Write conversationally, referring to your own interests—family, leisure activities—to the extent that you’re comfortable, using plain English to discuss financial concepts.
A sure way to make your voice distinctive is to follow up insights from your web analytics. Are you compiling bookmarks on a social media site? Include these ongoing updates in your newsletter. If newsletter analytics show an unexpected increase in the number of clicks on a bookmark or section of your newsletter, explore the subject in a blog post or future newsletter item, mentioning that this is your response to client feedback.
The opportunity to develop and distinguish your own voice is a good lead-in to the significant benefits of writing for the web, which are interrelated results of information accessibility and communication speed.
Benefit #1: Enduring presence and broader potential audience
The opening anecdote shows that easy distribution of information on the web broadened the advisor’s potential prospects by building service awareness and providing easy access to further information that confirmed the prospect’s favorable impression and motivated his call.
Have you ever lost a potential sale because the prospect lost the information you sent? Marketing on the web means that your posts remain available through search and referred links to existing clients, targeted prospects, and browsers. Your goal is to drive traffic to your site. The more you post to the web using multiple channels like your newsletter, blog, or social media sites like Twitter, the more people will find you.
Benefit #2: Extended marketing scope through easy sharing of posts
We saw sharing from friend to friend. Another way of sharing content is through social bookmarking sites like Delicious.com, which I’ve used for years to compile annotated lists of content recommended to clients. Here’s an example:
Although all you need to post on Delicious is the URL, stating what benefits in the content led you to share it, as is done in the example above, is a greater service. Delicious.com also enables you to sort content by topic using tags, which can be bundled into groups, for example “Retirement.” Clients and prospects given access to your public account (I have a private account for my use and a public account with a different user name) can find what they need easily and become aware of new issues related to them and additional services you offer.
Benefit #3: Enhanced lead capture through offers of free content
What’s best for you about writing for the web? You can “repurpose” your content, turning it into a free offer available to readers who provide contact information requested.
Are you thinking of posting content that focuses on various stages of investors’ life cycles and includes the questions they should ask at each stage? Post it as a series, making readers aware of the series and future installments on your site, newsletter, and blog. When the series is complete, collect the installments and make them available as a free offer to visitors to your site and readers of your newsletter and blog.
Include a Call to Action with each free offer: e.g., “Are you making a transition to a new phase of your financial life? Click here to get a free copy of ‘Be financially prepared for all stages of your life.’”
Benefit #4: Varied content that shows what working with you is like
Services, unlike products, are experiential. Although clients can look at investment performance, they can’t take you home for a free trial. How to deal with this? The best answer I’ve found is to use your writing to simulate the experience of working with you as an advisor. Establish your distinctive voice through conversational analyses of market or regulatory events, explaining in plain language who they matter to and why.
Bring the words of your investment philosophy and practice values to life with stories showing how you helped clients fulfill their goals while staying within their comfort zone for risk : Parents funding children’s education; adults with financial resources to start a business, buy a home, or fund dreams of travel during retirement.
As you develop your sites and newsletters or blogs, you’ll want to try new marketing strategies and forms of content. To help you move ahead, here’s an excellent glossary of social media terms, with clear definitions and just the right amount of irreverence.