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Transparent websites: How to disclose for the close

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Last month, we talked about how consumers are hiring financial advisors using CARFAX-like profiles. Transparency-driven marketing, we suggested, is here to stay, and advisors who disclose more information will close more sales. 

So by all means, get involved in advisor shopping sites. But diversify your involvement across multiple platforms so you’re protected if one fails. Also, start treating your own site as “Transparency Central.” This will allow you to build your reputation on the web regardless of what happens with third-party services.

What content should your web site contain? Obviously, you need to include your education, professional credentials, jobs held, products offered, services provided, securities licenses, broker-dealer affiliations, staff profiles and so on. Also make any disclosures required by your license type (example: Form ADV Part II for investment advisors). 

But that’s just for starters. Get really transparent by providing: 

• A “deep dive” on your education, professional development and certifications. Fully describe the disciplines you’ve mastered and the depth of your knowledge. 

• Real-life lessons learned. Talk about your hard-won “experience stripes.” If you’ve helped clients manage their investments through up and down market moves, say so. If your business went through a rough patch, explain why and what you learned from it. 

• Value delivered. Get really specific about the benefits you deliver and your impact on client lives. Share actual success stories (if your license allows it) and client thank-you letters (with permission).

• Your Code of Ethics. Disclose the values you stand for, especially your commitment to avoid conflicts of interest. (See the “Ethics Pledge” at www.ethics.net.) Then give examples of how these values make you a better advisor—not generally, but specifically. 

• Your standard of care. If you’re a fiduciary, fully explain what that means. If you’re not, talk about your commitment to providing suitable products.

These are all great disclosures. But we’ve saved the best two for last. 

• Reveal your passions. Write about the people, activities and things that inspire you. The more specific you can be, the more human you’ll come across. 

• Show people you have a heart. Don’t just tell prospects about your volunteer activities; show them the depth of your commitment through articles, photos and videos.

Bottom line: Stop using your wesite to shout sales messages at clients. Instead, start using it to reveal your many human facets—especially your wisdom, values and empathy. 

Convey your human side and your values online.

Steven R. McCarty is Chairman of the National Ethics association (www.ethics.net). Responses and questions can be sent to [email protected]