Write less, use language we understand, and stop with the stock photos were all themes at many of the client advisory boards we conducted this spring.
Advisor websites was a topic at a larger than usual proportion of the board meetings we did this season. And a lot of that feedback was consistent across firms. Here are some of the recommendations many of those discussions had in common:
Use less text – Websites are moving away from having lots of text and firms that had text-heavy sites heard about it from their clients. For better or worse, we are a scanning society and people want to browse. If your site is dense with words, many board members will read the first couple of sentences and move on. In fact, even when we sent sample pages in advance with a request to review them in preparation for the meeting, many meeting attendees just scanned the text. When we asked specific questions about the pages in the meeting, participants had to review the handouts before responding (or simply told us they had not read through it that carefully). Use words sparingly and make them count.
Be careful of jargon – We were surprised at some of the terminology board members indicated were not clear to them. We anticipated the confusion we heard about words like “alternatives” and “fiduciary” but even words like “fixed income” and “manager selection” were misinterpreted by clients. Test what you want to say in your marketing and make sure potential clients can interpret it the way you intend.
Use photos of real staff and clients – Clients uniformly objected to the use of stock photos on websites. They want to see pictures of you and your staff, preferably with real clients. They view your website as a window into your business. Using what David Meerman Scott refers to as “visual gobbledygook” makes it less than authentic.
Even better, use video – On websites that used video of advisors, board members endorsed it. They like hearing from the advisor directly. It projects the personality of the advisor. Hearing a personal message (or educational content) from the advisor got better comments than highly produced and narrated overviews of the firm.
Adoption of file sharing is dependent on process – Clients who had been oriented to the benefits and use of file sharing systems (like a vault) were enthusiastic about it. They understand the security benefits. They like having documents in one place. They see sharing with other professionals (like accountants) as valuable. And a consistent message we heard several different ways was that success was dependent on taking the time to show them how to use it and making it easy. If they could not remember how to log in and succeed with one try, they went back to email. If you simply make it available and announce it, you probably won’t get many takers.
Keep your content current – Advisory boards took advisors to task if there were pages for current content that were not maintained. One had a blog whose most recent post was almost two years old. In that case, the advisor had switched to posting a different kind of content on a separate page (which is another issue). No matter – the feedback from the clients was that it made it appear the advisor was neglecting the site and created a concern over what else may be being neglected in the business. The lesson is to be meticulous about your web presence because people assume it is a window into how you approach your craft.
None of this is revolutionary – you can find many of these recommendations from experts. What makes it interesting is that it comes from the kind of people you most want to attract. Your digital footprint has become the first impression most people have of your business. When you receive a referral, the referred party will check Google first. It pays to make that impression a powerful one!