March 23, 2012

3 Reasons Financial Planning Firms Should Blog: Pt. 1

As financial planning firms increasingly incorporate the Internet and their websites into their marketing, more and more practices are considering the use of a blog. Yet many are doing so without a clear understanding of why the blog is being done in the first place, beyond "everyone else seems to be doing it, so I guess I should, too."

In practice, it seems there are three primary reasons that most financial planning firms consider a blog: drip marketing for prospects, a communication tool for existing clients, or search-engine optimization (SEO) enhancement for your overall website. Fortunately, once you know which of these reasons matches the purpose for your blog, you can figure out what kind of content to create for it, to whom the blog updates should be distributed and whether having a blog even makes sense for your firm in the first place.

The inspiration for today's blog post is a conversation I had recently with a fellow financial planner, who noted that it seems like "every" financial planning firm is starting a blog these days. "Am I missing out if my firm doesn't have a blog?" he asked. "I feel like I'm 'supposed' to have a blog and I don't even know why. What's the reason?"

The first reason to consider a blog is that it can be a mechanism to keep your name in front of your prospects. Think of it as a drip marketing newsletter in electronic form. The goal is to put forth content that is relevant to the target market of people who might to business with you — which means they will hopefully be reading it from time to time — and send it to them regularly enough that your latest blog post may make you top-of-mind at the moment your prospect needs help. For instance, if your target market was new parents, the blog would include articles relevant to that group, ranging from how to figure out the right amount of life insurance, to starting a college savings plan, to childproofing a house as the baby starts to crawl.

Notably, the content doesn't have to be all financial; it's about being relevant to the prospective readers who are potential clients. In the ideal world, your prospects (and clients) are sharing your useful and relevant blog information with other people they know, increasing your pool of potential new prospects as a form of inbound marketing without any direct outreach from you!

The second reason to consider a blog is as a communication tool for your relationship with your existing clients. In this context, what you write about on the blog is targeted more directly at your current clients and their interaction with the firm. For instance, the blog might have information about how current events affect the clients of the firm (for instance, planning for new tax legislation), or what trades are occurring in client portfolios, or announcements regarding the firm (new hires, weather closures, updates to the client vault, etc.).

Rather than sending this type of information as an email blast to all clients, it's simply hosted on the firm's blog instead, allowing clients to come and read it as they wish, instead of filling their inbox with emails that aren't really client-specific anyway. An occasional email might go out to all clients simply highlighting the list of recent updates to the firm's blog. 

The third reason to consider a blog is somewhat more technical in nature — adding regular new content to your website can help your search engine optimization (SEO). What does that mean? It's about having your website come back high on the list when someone enters a search into a site like Google. Old, static sites that have no dynamic content and few links to their pages are presumed to be less relevant than other websites; conversely, sites that regularly add fresh new content and have other sites linking to it (e.g., referencing your blog posts!) are presumed to be more relevant.

Accordingly, sites that run a blog with regularly updated content pages integrated into the site are likely to come up higher in the search engine results. Why does this matter? Because the last thing you want is for someone to type your name, or your firm's name, into Google and still NOT be able to find your firm because you don't come up on the first page (or better yet, as the very first response) in the search results.

We’ll explore each of these three reasons in more depth in my next post.

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