If you are genuinely interested in building your business through your online presence, there are a number of steps you need to take. Some are pretty basic and straightforward while others are a little deeper.
For instance, it is understood that you need to keep strong, potentially controversial opinions and inappropriate images off of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Just as these might bring up red flags to a potential employer, they can do the same in the eyes of potential clients.
You need to have a clean background, devoid of any legal troubles. If you can trumpet on your website or LinkedIn page, via something like a Better Business Bureau accreditation or (better yet) a voluntary background check, so much the better.
You have to take measures to protect client information and outline privacy policies so people know whether or not you might share their information with a third party. You have to know how to protect your online reputation in the wake of attacks from disgruntled clients. Your email marketing has to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. To really build an online presence that is effective in generating new business, you need to become savvy in how to build trust and credibility with what you put online.
Aaron Kassover, who in 2009 launched AgentMethods, a website platform for independent insurance agents, has helped thousands of insurance agents use the Internet to grow their business. He points out that while everyone knows the best leads traditionally come from referrals, where you walk into those relationships with a built-in level of trust, it is much more difficult to come by when people stumble across your website from a search engine query or social media link.
“Let’s face it: Without trust and credibility, you’re going to have a hard time making a sale. With trust, your prospects will feel like you are watching out for their best interest and will guide them to the right product or solution,” Kassover said. “Without it, prospects are going to second-guess everything you tell them.”
He said that people used to look out the peep-hole of their front door as an agent walked up to judge their clothes and car before deciding if they would let the agent in. “Today, your prospect never sees you. But they do see your website, your social media presence, and your email. That’s where you need to build trust,” Kassover said.
An advisor without a professional, upstanding online presence is going to lose the race. Even if your prospects didn’t come to you online, Kassover said there’s a good chance they are going to look for your website or your LinkedIn profile to evaluate you and decide if they trust you enough to seek your help. Fortunately, this isn’t a huge challenge to overcome. “Make sure you have a professional website focused on educating your prospects and at least a LinkedIn profile,” Kassover said.