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Keeping It Simple Online

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One of my clients who works with high net-worth (HNW) individuals had become successful enough to take on a partner and kick his process into high gear. This entailed taking a hard look at his website and ripping it out—more than once. This process took years. “In 2000, it was a good website,” he told me. “By 2006, it was old.”

Unfortunately, a year-long redesign ended in what my client called a “dismal” failure. Then he brought in a partner who happened to know something about marketing, only to find out that the new design was too programmatic and too complicated. Now that he has redesigned his website again, my client reports that 30 percent to 40 percent of the $12 million in new assets that have come through his firm have done so through his website.

Keep it simple. What he learned from the process is not to let the design get in the way of sales. “On my new site, it’s easy to find stuff,” he explained. “It’s easy for a client to make an appointment for an introductory meeting or financial review. It’s easy for them to start a relationship.”

Advisors tend to think in complicated terms. While that’s fine when you’re crunching market numbers, it can be lethal when you’re explaining your value proposition to a prospect, who may be very successful but who may not know much about the industry.

You don’t have to dazzle prospects with jargon and statistics. And with the wealth of bells and whistles available online, the challenge is to make sure you cover the essentials without leaving your prospective clients more dazed than dazzled.

Now, my client finds high net-worth investors flocking to his site via Google searches or NAPFA’s advisor recommendation tool (a great lead generator for members, by the way).

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Yes, even HNW clients use the Internet. My client has a piece of advice for advisors who say high net-worth investors are not spending a lot of time online. “I started my practice in 2001, when that might have been true, but now I’m getting $1 million clients through the website and they love communicating via email,” he said.

“We just did an online meeting for a retired client whose wife can’t travel. Instead of being afraid that older clients don’t use technology, we—and they—see this as a real opportunity.”

The reason the Internet works for these clients is not because they’re young and hip. There’s nothing intrinsically magical in the dot-com format. Advisors such as my client are seeing results because the site lets them “touch” a prospect without scheduling a face-to-face meeting.

“A very narrow way of marketing is one to one,” said my client. “That’s the best way to market to current clients, but prospects are a different type of relationship that might benefit from the social-media broadcast aspect.”

Simplify relationships as well as your site. My client seems confident that his technology can help him hit his aggressive goals for 2012: 50 percent revenue growth. And one last tip from my client: He has started charging on all assets, whether they’re held at his firm or elsewhere. After all, he reasons, he’s watching those accounts, so he deserves to be compensated. And once his clients are made aware of that, they recognize that it makes things simpler—and cheaper—to consolidate their holdings under his umbrella.

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Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website at and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.