It’s time to embrace the marketing power of the Internet. GOING ONLINE

Posted on October 27, 2012

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if you’re like most financial advisors, you have built your business through old-school marketing — through referrals, networking events and other traditional marketing tools, such as the telephone. It works, but it is slow, iterative and time-consuming.

ILLUSTRATION BY SUPERPIXEL DESIGN / CGThe new world of marketing is online. A good online marketing strategy can widen your prospect base dramatically and help you to continue serving your existing clients more effectively. Online marketing is complex and challenging, but if you are willing to move to this platform, you will get a big jump on the competition.

Like traditional marketing, online marketing aims to generate sales through the traditional “sales funnel” process. It starts with awareness — making people aware of your website and the services it advertises. From there, you can use online marketing tools to move visitors further through the funnel, from interest through intent and, finally, to conversion into a client. After that, online marketing can be used to maintain client loyalty, keeping you in contact with your clients as they grow through life changes and need different products and services.

“You want to get their interest,” says Lexie Magyar-Chapiel, founder of Medgen

Media in Winnipeg, which advises financial advisors on Internet marketing. “Maybe that involves visiting your website, Twitter page or Facebook page. Once you’ve converted [the viewer] from a visitor to a prospect, then [he or she will] explore your lead-nurturing window.”

l from search engine to your website

There are two broad ways to bring visitors to your website: search engine optimization (SEO) and online advertising. The first involves structuring your website so it ranks highly in search results. The other strategy requires a small capital outlay to place advertisements on other peoples’ websites, generally by using Google’s Adwords system.

Both SEO users and online advertisers research specific keywords, which, they hope, will raise their website in search results rankings. Keywords can be focused on region (“Winnipeg”) and a specialty (“wealth management”) or a combination of both.Your web pages should use combinations of words to catch as many relevant searches as possible (such as “estate planning Vancouver,” “Vancouver estate planning” and “estate planners in Vancouver”).

Google’s Adwords advertising system takes a small, text-based advertisement from an advertiser and displays it in the advertising section when someone searches for the keywords associated with that advertiser.

Because there are many people competing for specific keywords, Adwords operates on a bidding system. Advertisers bid on the keywords they have selected, paying the amount necessary for their advertisement to appear either in a search results page or on a relevant website.

Every time someone searches for a word or phrase in Google, advertisers who have bid on that keyword or phrase are entered into an auction to see whose ad will be displayed, and how much it will cost them if their ad is clicked upon. Advertisers bid on a per-click basis, paying a fee every time someone clicks on their ad, which links to

their website. The cost per click is based on the level of competition for a particular keyword. For example, the estimated cost per click on the key phrase “investment advice” was around $6.50 at the time of writing.

l understanding seo

To use SEO, you would use the keywords and phrases you have researched as the basis to produce relevant, meaningful content on your website.

There is a science to SEO, including placing the keywords in certain parts of the website and working with reputable, thirdparty sites to have them link to yours. The latter could involve you guest-writing articles for those websites.

“The downside to SEO is that it can take a long time to get results,” says MagyarChapiel, who adds that fees can be high — running well into the thousands of dollars. “There are constant competitors vying for that same spot, and you can’t control that.”

As with paid advertising, much depends on how competitive your keywords are. Often, the more specialized the keywords, the less competition there will be — and the easier it will be to rank highly when people search for those keywords.

This is where Google’s keyword analysis tool comes in handy. Savvy Internet marketers use this tool to determine which keywords are in demand and how many people are searching for them each month.

Done right, keyword analysis and SEO can help to predict the approximate number of people who will visit your site each month.

l a call to action

What happens when an online visitor reaches your site? Internet marketers who are selling products will try to convert visits to sales as quickly as possible.

As a financial advisor, you may not have that immediate goal. Your sales cycle is slower and your relationships are longerterm and more intimate. Providing valuable, useful content is the first step, but beyond that, your goal will be to keep online visitors coming back for more until they’re ready to commit — what Magyar-Chapiel calls the “nurturing window.”

Once a visitor reaches your site, he or she should be qualified as a potential prospect, says Nat Green, a Vancouver-based Internet marketing consultant and founder of Vancouver-based Revolution Marketing

Strategies. “You want only qualified prospects who have listened to a prerecorded message or watched a video,” Green says. “Once that point comes, you have a strong call to action.”

The call to action urges visitors to do something on your site and escalates the relationship with you.

l email marketing

That initial action often is having the visitor sign up on an email list. That enables you to begin building a relationship with that online visitor over a set period, both before and after he or she becomes a client.

“The essential thing is to build a list,” says Matt Astifan, Internet marketer and founder of Vancouver-based social media consultancy WebFriendly. “It’s a more professional medium for asking someone to make a purchase.”

A typical call to action, then, is to ask for the online visitor’s email address.

“You have to take your shot and ask for the email address at every place that makes sense,” says Justin Premick, email marketing expert and director of education marketing at A Weber Communications, a Pennsylvania-based software service that enables firms to manage email lists and campaigns online. “Whatever you’re doing, ensure that [online visitors] get on the list.”

Aside from putting a call to action on every page of your website or blog, the other key strategy is to offer a giveaway as a reward. One potential giveaway could be a short ebook with relevant content written by you or contracted from a third party.

l get ready for your close-up

Video, in general, is a powerful online marketing tool. Financial advice is largely about personalities and a trusting relationship between client and advisor. If you have a good video personality, you can use it to appeal to potential clients.

“Create a series of videos that answer five or 10 questions that people ask you all the time,” Green suggests. These videos could offer real value to online visitors and might be made available on a part of your website accessible only after visitors have provided an email address.

You also might choose to place video segments on the public portion of your website to increase your search-engine ranking, Green suggests: “Not only would it benefit [visitors] tremendously, but it also positions you as the authority in an industry. [Video] is like an automated salesperson.”

l auto responders are your friend

Once you have built up a powerful list of qualified prospects who are genuinely interested in your services, it’s time to leverage that list. Welcome to the world of auto responders.

An auto responder is an automatic tool that sends out emails to people on a list, based on various criteria.

“It’s important to get an initial message out to people right after they’ve joined your email list,” Premick says. “You need to get them some of the information they want, showing them that they have a way to contact you and making you available as a resource.”

An auto responder might be configured to send a standard series of emails to a person who has just signed up to join your email list, each message offering valuable snippets of information and general tips.

These emails might not result immediately in a direct conversion, but they keep you in the prospect’s mind so that when that person is ready to meet with a new advisor, you will be top of mind. Offering free consultations or portfolio reviews in an email can help to escalate a lead and push him or her further through your sales funnel toward conversion.

One important aspect of the sales funnel model is that even when a prospect has been converted into a sale, he or she is still a prospect and can be converted repeatedly for new product sales. That can mean increasing share of wallet — by selling insurance to an investment client, for example.

The key is to catch your clients at the right time, and email campaigns can help.

A good email-management tool will allow you to group clients by criteria that you set so that email topics can be aligned accordingly. For example, one group on your list might be small-business owners; another might be pre-retirees. Another sublist might target people who haven’t yet purchased critical illness insurance. Another sublist might contain young clients with children; these clients could be sent a series of emails on investing for a family.

Specific emails can target each group, so you can reach them with the right information in the run-up to specific life events.

l going social

Social media can be a powerful adjunct to your website and list-building strategy.

Astifan says social media is especially effective in reaching prospects who are unfamiliar with your line of products or services.

You can use social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, to build a network of clients and prospects by providing useful information and links to relevant articles and other content. Social media advertising is one way to draw people to you, and Facebook allows businesses to advertise.

Astifan suggests setting up a separate business account on social media, which can be used in a way similar to your conventional website, with a giveaway and a call to action (in the case Facebook, “liking” and “sharing” your posts and links with others).

A Facebook page rather than an account is a good way to go here. Facebook pages are designed for businesses rather than individuals. Advantages include enabling

you to have more friends and enhanced analytics features to show how many people are reading your status updates.

The objective is the same: to keep providing relevant, compelling information to your followers. Says Green: “The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be genuine and try to share as much as possible.”

l a worth while investment

What constitutes a realistic investment in online marketing? Ideally, lots, as Astifan warns.

“If you can afford it,” he says, “it should be the same as you’d pay a full-time personal assistant for a year.”

A competent online marketing campaign effectively replicates you, creating a virtual “you” that is constantly networking, finding prospects, educating them and then keeping them informed and empowered.

A robust, multi-faceted online marketing strategy takes both smarts and sweat. A professional online marketer will understand how to pore through hundreds of keyword options to get the right mix, and how to set up and use Google’s website analytics tools in conjunction with an Ad words campaign. This expert will return frequently to tweak and optimize your campaign, and also keep your web content up to date. The expert will produce professional content that attracts people to your email list, then build and manage email campaigns while monitoring the results. And all of this happens before social media strategies even begin.

Get it right, and the old-school network that you have spent years building could flower into something far bigger.

Consider how many prospect conversions it would take to make your initial investment in online marketing pay off. And what would be the cost, in terms of business left on the table, if you don’t?