In 2020, independent financial advisors need a professional website that tells a compelling story, creates a great first impression, and helps them source new clients.

For independent financial advisors without the name recognition of commercial banks, personal brand is everything — and today, brands live or die by their digital reach. Until recently, many advisors assumed that because they primarily conduct business in person, their online presences were merely formalities. However, this attitude is rapidly changing. 

Although independent financial advisors are unlikely to secure new clients based on the strength of their websites alone, digital presence has become an essential touchpoint when recruiting new clients. While a great website is not enough to convert a prospect into a long-term client, a bad website will send first-time visitors running. 

As part of our series Perspectives in Financial Services, L&T sat down with Sean Kennedy, a Web designer for Advisors Excel, a Kansas-based marketing organization that specializes in building websites for independent advisories. Sean spoke to us about how engaging, user-friendly websites can propel financial advisors into the next decade and beyond.

Investing in Design Is No Longer Optional 

For independent advisors, impeccable credentials and loyal existing clients are not enough. Winning new business depends on developing a broader reach — and a broader reach depends on a professional website.

These days, financial advisors aren’t likely to attract clients who have never interacted with them online. A 2019 report from Advisor Engine found that 34 percent of prospective clients begin their advisor search online. The other 66 percent source referrals from family and friends — and then look up those referrals online before reaching out.

Financial advisors that have yet to invest in an up-to-date, professional website may not realize just how much they’re hindering their growth. Sean Kennedy observes that many advisors choose to keep designs well past their sell-by date because they mistakenly view websites as a one-time investment. 

But as Kennedy points out, the costs of not redesigning can far outweigh any savings from sticking with an outdated site. According to a 2011 study, most users form an opinion about the credibility of a website in less than the blink of an eye. This means that customers have made up their mind about brand credibility before they set eyes on customer testimonials or peruse advisor credentials. 

As Kennedy puts it “your brand impacts your business, and your website is a key part of your brand. When people are looking for anything, they start at Google — and if people are scared to access your website because it looks like spam, you’re just not going to get that business.”

The Benefits of a Well-Designed Website 

Building an appealing website is about more than simply updating your design aesthetic. It is about embracing new tools with which to build your brand. Kennedy breaks down the benefits of great web design in three ways: 

  • Creating a great first impression. Just like a sleek office or a tailored suit, your website is an opportunity to send a message about who you are and what your advisory does. A beautiful, user-friendly website leaves visitors with a great impression. As Kennedy explains it, “Tipping-point decisions can be tipped in an advisor’s favor with great design.”
  • Telling your story, your way. When Kennedy’s company starts a new website project, “we generally try to hone in on the idea of telling a story with your website,” he says. Financial advisors, unlike robo-advisors, can offer a human touch to investment planning — use your website to showcase your personality and what you uniquely offer your clients.
  • Sourcing contacts and building new relationships. Well-designed websites aren’t just about aesthetics: they’re designed to generate leads that ultimately turn into customers. Many visitors shopping for a financial advisor would gladly sign up for a whitepaper on your investment philosophy or a weekly newsletter containing insights on the stock market. By collecting contact information, you can start building out a promising database of leads and nurture them into paying clients over time.

Letting Go of Your Outdated Website

Having a professional web presence is no longer optional for independent financial advisors. Without the reputation of a larger bank or the cut-price appeal of a robo-advisor, independent advisories must hang their hat on their relationship-building skills — and in 2020, many of these relationships begin online.  

Kennedy leaves advisors with a simple question, “Why, in this day and age, when you know that your online presence is imperative to the success of your business, would you hang on to an outdated website?” Your website is your digital identity; make it one that you’re proud of.

Author Cooper Pickett

Cooper is the CEO and a co-founder of L&T Co. He is a partner of Columbia Entrepreneurship at the Columbia Startup Lab and a 2010 graduate of Columbia University (CC’10). At L&T, he oversees a growing international team that works around the clock to get clients results. He has extensive leadership and team-building experience from his time as the CMO of a real estate startup. He excels as a marketer and strategist — qualities he refined and developed as the founder of e-commerce businesses in the sports and subscription spaces. With the founding of L&T, Cooper brings these strategies and insights to companies worldwide. He participates in Princeton University’s Employer in Residence program, serves on the Columbia Startup Lab’s leadership committee, and speaks on industry panels about entrepreneurship, marketing, and startups. On occasion, he teaches web marketing at General Assembly.

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