In last week’s blog we began by comparing the buying habits of yesterday’s consumer with that of today’s. I also discussed the importance of meeting boomers where they’re at online. But how do you connect with and engage with prospects online?

I believe there are a few, very powerful ways. However, before I share those with you, let me give you a framework to think about building online connections.

Consider how you connect with a prospect in the first meeting. The first time you sit down with someone, what do you do? You welcome him, thank him for coming to meet with you, and you spend time telling him about who you are and how you help clients, right? We all do, because that’s appropriate and what customers want to know. Then, we begin engaging the customer and seeking to understand who he is, where he comes from, and what issues he is seeking help with.

Did you know this exact same process can take place online? Many advisors are beginning to emulate personal interactions online through the power of video. If you look around you’ll notice that we are a culture obsessed with video. Sites like YouTube and Skype have given birth to a new way to communicate. Anyone with a smartphone can create and share video, and we are all consuming video every day. But how can that help you connect with prospects?

I want you to begin thinking of your website, not just as that place you send prospects to “check you out,” but like your virtual office. It is your online office where you are present 24/7 to help those seeking answers to questions in which you have expertise.

With this mindset, look at your website. Does it greet and offer help to visitors the same way you do when they come into your office? For example, when someone comes into your office, you greet him right? You don’t just leave him in the waiting area to search around. How about on your website? Is there a video of you welcoming customers and then directing them to where they can find the answers and resources they are likely looking for? If not, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to set yourself apart from all the other sites.

Connect online first

In the research phase of the buying process, it’s important to provide quality content and experience. If you think about it, it’s almost as if the sales process begins online. Many advisors operate under the false belief that it begins when a prospect comes in for a first meeting. As a result, they miss out on a large number of opportunities that will never make it to the office for that first appointment, simply because they failed to connect with them online. The fact is, in today’s world if you’re not connecting with prospects online, someone else is.

Now, that being said, it takes more than a video on your site to meet the expectations of today’s prospects. It also takes quality content. But how do you know what to provide? To help you with this, do this exercise. On a piece of paper write down all of the issues that prospects come to meet with you about (e.g., tax strategies, investment planning, income planning, IRA distribution strategies, estate planning). Now, next to each of these write down the top five questions customers have about each of these topics. You now have an outline for providing quality content.

You can create a combination of materials to connect with prospects around their “hot buttons.” Resources such as free reports, videos and checklists make great lead-capture tools to get information for follow-up. For example, if I’m a prospect looking for help with Social Security planning and I land on your website, imagine my response when I see you have the report “Top Five Social Security Planning Mistakes Retirees Make” or a video series on the ins and outs of Social Security income planning. Consider all of the other canned advisor websites I’ve probably visited before yours that offered all the same generic newsletters, calculators, and other things that offer no real value. Do you think you’ll stand above the rest? Absolutely. 

That’s why I say, now is the time to make sure your website and online strategy are optimized to reach today’s consumers. There are millions of baby boomers searching the Web right now for answers. But do they know how much help and expertise you have to offer? If you don’t let them know online, you may never get the chance. Oh, and please don’t think that just because on the “Our Services” tab of your site you list every planning topic imaginable that prospects will think you’re different. That is simply noise. The only way to position yourself as an expert is to be one. Then deliver your expertise effectively through your online strategies.

For more information on how to build a website that gets results and one that engages prospects, check out this free video: “Discover What Your Website Is Missing.” You can also find other resources at www.automatedadvisor.com.

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