I remember giving a presentation to a group of advisers a couple of years ago. The subject was one I can happily speak about at length: how advisers can create effective websites.
My audience were an extremely positive and engaged bunch. All except for one chap at the back. While others listened carefully, he sat there, stony faced, arms crossed, looking as though he would rather be anywhere else.
Towards the end of the presentation, I invited questions, comment and feedback. He saw his opportunity to pounce, thrust up his hand and declared: “I do not need a website; I get all my clients from referrals.”
Well, if he took that view, it was possible other people in the room held the same opinion. And it is almost certain that some in the wider adviser community will agree with him. However, I would politely suggest they need to reconsider.
We all know referrals and recommendations are the best type of new enquiry. They are naturally more engaged, as the client or professional connection who introduced them will undoubtedly have said positive things about you.
However, a proportion of people recommended to you will not immediately get in touch. They will want to do some extra due diligence before they pick up the phone – in other words, Googling – which means you need an effective online presence.
This means sprucing up your website, right? Yes, but there is a step before that.
A potential client is more likely to type your name or that of your business into Google than enter your website address into their browser. That means you and your business need to appear in the search results – preferably dominating the page.
The potential client should see your website (hopefully multiple pages will be displayed), your Google My Business listing, plus links to social media and the FCA register. That first page of results should all be about you and your business.
When the prospect does then reach your website, and what they see impresses them and builds on the existing favourable impression, they are more like to get in touch.
Conversely, if your website causes concern or, indeed, they cannot even find you after a Google search (this happens more than you might think), they are less likely to get in touch.
This theory extends to other forms of marketing, such as Unbiased and VouchedFor. A potential client may like your profile but, for whatever reason, wants to know more about you before getting in touch.
What will they do? Google you or click the link from Unbiased to your website. They will then follow the same due diligence process, assessing your suitability based on what they see online.
What if my clients aren’t online?
The chap at my presentation probably runs a great business. But he will never know the clients he lost out on because people could not find him online.
After the meeting, he approached me to explain his clients do not use the internet. I can tell him now, they most likely are. Research from the Office for National Statistics shows that in 2016, 90 per cent of men and 88 per cent of women were recent internet users.
While usage drops in older generations, 90 per cent of people age 55 to 65 – a hugely popular target market for most advisers – use the internet. That is an increase of 50 per cent since 2011, showing that most of an adviser’s target clients will be online in some shape or form.
But back to my presentation. How did I answer the adviser at the back? I said exactly what I have here today. Did he take any notice? It is hard to say. I sincerely hope he did. We live in the Age of Google, which makes a strong online presence more important than ever.
Phil Bray is a director of The Yardstick Agency