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Social services

Unbiased.co.uk chief executive Karen Barrett explains why an online marketing plan is key to generating new business and keeping current clients

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Effective communication is vital to the success of all IFA businesses, regardless of size, speciality or location, and a lack of communication can have disastrous effects.

Maintaining communication with clients and contacts can seem a wasted effort as it may not immediately generate a response. But the days of one-way communication are over and with the online world moving fast, it is now time not just to communicate with your clients but to interact with them and create a dialogue online.

Devising a strategic online marketing plan is key to generating new business and retaining current clients.

The online world opens up many different media and consumers are embracing them all, so it is important that you do too in order not to be left behind by your competition. Not only do you need a website and email, you also should consider social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

Don’t wait on the sidelines thinking these things will not take off – they already have and so not getting involved could ultimately affect the success of your business.

The first step is to ensure you have a website – your virtual shop window on the online high street. Without one you automatically miss out on new business as consumers use the internet more than any other medium to carry out research.

A quarter of IFAs still do not have a simple website. Making your site as engaging, informative and userfriendly as possible will increase the chances of consumers wanting to find out about you and your firm

Perhaps surprisingly, a quarter of IFAs still do not have even a simple website. Of course, making your website as engaging, informative and user-friendly as possible will increase the chances of consumers wanting to find out about you and your firm.

Ensuring that consumers can quickly tell if you offer the type of advice they are looking for is also important. It will save them time and ensure you get the business through your door that you are looking for. It need not cost much to set up a simple website.

Once you have got your website, you want to make sure that as many potential clients as possible find it. Search engines such as Google regularly search for new copy. Adding relevant, fresh content to your website can improve your ranking on Google searches, so get busy on your website and add case studies of current clients, showcasing the work you specialise in.

You could also add consumer product guides or perhaps a weekly blog on newsworthy topics. Rather than doing this all on your own, you can enlist others to help you.

The latest online developments involve social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. While these can seem intimidating when you are not familiar with them, they are a time and costeffective way of improving the online visibility of you and your firm. You can create a business page on Facebook to promote your firm directly to consumers, with articles, videos, photos, links and contact details.

Once it is set up, send out an invitation to all your current clients, contacts, friends and family to become “fans” and start spreading the word.
It is important that you spend a few moments each week updating and adding to your business page on Facebook to make sure it is always of interest.

While you may not think that having a Facebook business profile will directly market to your target customer, Facebook business pages are highly visible to search engines, meaning other consumers searching for you on Google will easily find you via this medium.

The LinkedIn phenomenon is constantly growing. Don’t discredit it for being a “grown-up” version of Facebook – over three million professionals use it to connect with their business contacts so you would be shortsighted to miss out on interacting with its audience.

Again, it is easy to set up your profile but make sure you remain active on it. Fill out all the background information about yourself and upload a photo to bring your profile to life. Getting your current clients and colleagues to recommend you is a great way of showcasing your work.

Don’t be afraid to get interactive and join groups and discussions to get you and your firm noticed within the LinkedIn community.

While Twitter can appear the most inconsequential social medium, it is the most time-effective. Once you have gathered enough followers, you can reach a substantial and diverse online audience. Setting up a Twitter account is quick as all you need is a name and to create a log in. Just finding your peers on Twitter and following them for a while will give you a good idea of how it works.

The online world moves fast and it is vital to act quickly and get an online marketing plan in place.

With more consumers online than ever before and the range of media through which they interact ever increasing, it is important that IFAs stay one step ahead and do themselves justice in the online world.

Failing to use social media can ultimately reduce the volume of business leads into your firm. Make sure you are not missing out and take social media action now.
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