Pete Matthew: Creating a personal advice brand online

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Winning a new client is a real achievement, especially in these cynical times. We forget what a massive step it is for prospects to set foot in our offices. They come with all kinds of fears, such as that they are going to be ripped off or made to feel financially inept.

Winning a client is about allaying these fears and reassuring them their future is safe with us. But how do you do this online?

About 18 months after shooting my first video for MeaningfulMoney, I had an email from someone in East Sussex pouring out their financial life story. At the end of the email he said this: “After watching several of your videos, we feel like we know you and can trust you. Will you work with us?”

I realised then that I might be onto something. Six years later and I get an email almost every day saying much the same thing. They all comment on how they feel like they know me from having listened to my weekly podcast or watched my videos.

Users of the big direct-to-consumer platforms like Hargreaves Lansdown presumably trust the brand that has been built over decades.

We happily give our credit card details to the online versions of high-street retailers because we know and trust them. Online pioneers like Amazon have won our trust through years of great service.

Now I read that advisers up and down the country are white-labelling snazzy robo-advice systems and tacking them on to their websites. But why would anyone hand over their bank details to an adviser they have never had any dealings with otherwise? Answer: They will not.

I can already hear you say: “Ah! But this is a great way to serve lower- net-worth clients, or the younger generations of existing client families, for whom it isn’t profitable to deliver a face-to-face service. We are using technology to close the advice gap.”

I am telling you it will not work because a great looking website does nothing to close the trust gap. What does close this gap? Personalised content, regularly updated on your website.

Unless you put yourself out there online with blog posts, podcasts or videos, you will become less and less relevant as the years go on. People want to access advice online but they want to trust the person or brand they engage with before they have even made contact.

I read somewhere that the average consumer looks at 30 pages of a website before they make the decision to buy. I bet most adviser websites do not have anything like that many pages.

Prospects want to get a feel for your tone of voice, your views on how advice should be delivered and, yes, your personality before they even think about doing business with you. And they want to determine all this from the comfort of their armchair.

We need to remember people are very cynical and can spot manipulation a mile off, particularly online. So be yourself and do not sugar-coat things too much. People buy people – and people are imperfect.

In this age of instant online publishing and broadcasting, we have a great opportunity to close the advice gap by making the profession approachable. How else will we restore trust other than showing the world that we are trustworthy? The whole world is watching to see what we will say. Let’s not disappoint them.

Pete Matthew is managing director of Jacksons Wealth Management