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Last week I published an article that generally criticized financial advisor (and RIA, BD and IMO) websites. I took it down and replaced with this 5-part series. I even went to far as to claim most were useless. In the true sense of the word useless, I stand by that. I did however receive several comments specific to providing solutions. To that end, this is the first in a series of 5 posts that will deal not only with the problem resident in most financial advisor website designs but also with solutions to overcome them.

Let’s get started this week with the first two solutions:

 Improved Focus and Flow & Continuity.

Improved Focus

 CHALLENGE:

Many websites have a lack of focus in their design and message. They jump from one idea to the next or one service to the horn-of-plenty with a solution for everyone. It’s as if they forget whom they are talking to. Your site (both the design and the content) and its message need to be highly relevant to the audience you want to attract. If not, you are wasting your time. Your prospects will not waste theirs – they will just move on.

SOLUTION:

Fine-tune your offering to what your target audience cares most about, versus just listing what you do best, and certainly not listing everything that you can do. Figure out what would add value to “best clients” and speak to that specifically. Every once in a while, I like to use TactiBrand as an example. We are branding experts but we are also great at website design and video production. Marketing ourselves as a one-stop-shop would never be as effective as promoting what we do best for our niche market. This has proven itself as being very effective for us. The clients we prefer working with want to start from the beginning; their brand. Although we provide a wide variety of marketing services, we don’t promote ourselves as a “Marketing Company”. We are a “Branding Company” and we reach out – and resonate –to clients and prospects that know they need to start at the beginning and define their brand first and then fix or create their marketing second.

Try these:

  • Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept: what you’re most passionate about, best at and make the most money at. Make your list then find ideas (taglines for instance) that meet all three criteria. Where they intersect could be your focus and your message.We love branding. We are best at building boutique brands from the ground up and then getting results. We are most profitable serving successful independent advisors or boutique financial firms. Our tagline is “Tactical Branding for Results”.
  • Download our Tactical Branding Guide (in AdvisorU) a do it yourself list of thought provoking questions to get you on your way to building your brand.Branding is about finding your uniqueness and what it means to your audience and then marketing (proving) it. This guide will help you begin to uncover and understand this about your firm.

Flow & Continuity

CHALLENGE:

Website layouts and advisor website designs have improved significantly with the advent of content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. The downside of that is that it often appears as though advisors are putting their “ideas and content” into a template that isn’t suitable for their audience, message and purpose. In essence, they are trying to “fill in the blanks” to meet the needs of the template instead of focusing on the needs of their audience.

The second issue with mass produced advisor website templates is that they continue to lack good design and intuitive navigation. Even with their recent upgrades in content (generic financial videos) and social media integration. Your content needs to drive your design – not the other way around.

SOLUTION:

Avoid the temptation to use CMS templates. There are almost always limitations that force you to make or create content that is not part of your brand. If you do decide to work with a CMS template, I’d highly recommend using Joomla or Drupal over WordPress. Joomla and Drupal are website content management systems that have blog capabilities whereas WordPress is a blogging platform that has some website capabilities. I’d also recommend using the more basic templates first and adding to them as needs arise.

Financial firms such as RIAs, BDs and IMOs have the luxury of being able to use a custom website provider but for most independent advisors, they need to {cough} “use one of their BD’s approved website vendors”. This is where it gets really dicey. Most of these service providers are technical experts, not marketing experts. They are built to provide low cost, low maintenance websites that are compliance friendly. They are not built to make a significant impact on your business.

Options:

  • Build your own but start with the most basic and build to suit.
  • Outsource to approved website template provider.
  • Outsource to various marketing experts. Find experts who can work together; a website designer who is open to working with a writer and a social media implementer. Not easy to coordinate but there’s plenty of talent out there if you have time to search and do your due diligence on each. You’ll have to be the lead project manager, the creative director and the content writer as they likely won’t have had experience working with a financial firm.
  • At the risk of sounding self-serving, hire TactiBrand, a step above the first three options, diverse talent at manageable prices.
  • Hire an ad agency that have diverse talent; this will cost you a pretty penny.

Part II of this series on the Advisor Website Makeover Tips Series will deal with the challenges of Purpose and Depth

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