Love them or loathe them, directories are an important resource for advisers
Active versus passive, fixed versus ad valorem fees, independent versus restricted; our profession is plagued by seemingly unresolvable debates. We can add adviser directories to that list. The market is dominated by Unbiased and VouchedFor, while AdviserBook is the young pup snapping at their heels.
Advisers and planners seem to be broadly split between the love and loathe camps.
Despite the debate, we believe there are three key reasons why most firms should include directories within their marketing strategies. Before we get to that though, note the use of “include” and “strategy”.
We would never recommend relying on the directories to create every new enquiry that your business needs.
Neither should you overlook the importance of strategy or referrals, which are always the best type of new client.
We also acknowledge that the directories are not perfect. In fact, if I were in charge, there’s a lot I’d change. But I’m not, so we need to work with what we’ve got.
Frustrations aside, all the evidence we’ve seen leads us to conclude that directories should be used to complement your other marketing activity. Here are the reasons why:
1. Their reach and profile
The directories are powerful forces, with a significant number of consumers using them to find professional advice.
Indeed, in some locations, the combined search volumes of the three are greater than that of Google.
Furthermore, they are often quoted in the personal finance press, provider communications and wake-up packs. They rank well on search engines too.
There’s no doubt all three directories work hard to connect consumers with advisers and planners. The more cynical among us would say that’s how they get paid (AdviserBook excepted, which is currently free), and they’d be right. However, by meeting their own needs and those of consumers, they enable advisers and planners to enjoy an additional source of enquiries.
2. Return on investment
All the figures we’ve seen show that the directories provide a significant return on investment.
Sure, not every enquiry will turn out to be a perfect client, but take the rough with the smooth, considering returns over a prolonged period, and you’re more likely than not to be pleased. We should acknowledge that there are rare occasions when directories might work less well, for example where you work in a very tight niche. They are also less effective in rural and less densely populated areas.
3. Ancillary benefits
The most obvious reason for subscribing to directories is the opportunity to generate new clients. There are many other less obvious benefits though, including:
- Helping you to dominate the first page of the results following a brand search;
- Directing enquiries from consumers who have seen your profile, but then visit your website to find out more and make contact from there;
- The reputational tools provided by VouchedFor.
I know there will still be many who say that directories do not work for them, or who cancel their subscriptions because they are unhappy about them in some other way.
However, for most advisers and planners, they will work. Just remember:
- Not to judge the directories on short-term results. There is a temptation to leap to conclusions based on the quality of your last enquiry; in reality, they are never that good or that bad;
- To put the effort in. All too often, the advisers and planners who grumble about the returns are the ones who don’t update their profile. This isn’t a once-and-done job;
- To take a pragmatic approach. As we have said, the directories are not perfect, but over time, if used correctly, you should be happy with the returns.
Phil Bray is director of The Yardstick Agency