Clients have come to expect that finding a financial advisor should be as simple as ordering something from Amazon.
According to research from digital wealth management platform AdvisorEngine, more prospective clients are turning to the internet to find a financial advisor.
ThinkAdvisor spoke with Matt Kress, product manager and marketing consultant for advisors at AdvisorEngine, about how outside industries are affecting how prospects expect to find an advisor online.
“Newspapers aren’t a thing anymore,” Kress said. “People are looking at hundreds of reviews for every product on Amazon. There’s customer testimonials. We’re even finding spouses online, or software and apps.”
So, how are prospects finding an advisor today? According to Kress, there’s usually a trigger event that causes the prospect to want to talk to an advisor — whether it’s a certain age milestone, marriage, divorce, a business exit or inheritance.
Most of the time, prospects are still starting their advisor search with a referral from a friend, family member or co-worker, AdvisorEngine’s research finds.
Kress explained that 66% of the prospects in AdvisorEngine’s research started their search with a referral.
However, Kress noted that these prospects aren’t getting just one referral and then contacting that advisor.
“The prospect is getting on average 2.6 referrals and then looking up those advisors online,” Kress explained. “So even if they start with their referral they’re still typing into Google … the name and firm or name and location. And then starting to evaluate all those different advisors.”
Based on what shows up in that Google search, the large majority of time the prospect is only picking one of those advisors to then start a conversation, according to Kress.
“Unless there’s some big red flag in person or on that first conversation, then advisors tell us that they do a pretty good job turning prospects that start the conversation into clients,” he added.
While most prospects start their advisor search with a referral, AdvisorEngine’s research finds that the remaining 34% start with a “cold” online search.
“[These] prospects were going online and just searching on search results — typing in Google words like ‘retirement financial advisor Atlanta’ or ‘top financial advisor New York,’” Kress explained.
According to Kress, more people over the past three years are starting with cold searches rather than referrals.
“It’s not enough to say that cold searches are the majority. Referrals are still the majority — but they’re still ending up online after,” Kress added.
With prospective clients using online searches at some point in their advisor search, advisors need to capture the attention of these prospects digitally.
However, many financial advisors are not taking full advantage of their online presence to attract prospective clients.
Kress comes from Kredible, a platform that helps improve online presence, which was acquired by AdvisorEngine in 2017. In his role, Kress is constantly talking with advisors about how they can improve their marketing on coaching calls. He’s done more than 150 calls with advisors and looked up a ton of advisors online.
According to Kress, advisors are lagging when it comes to their online presence, and he noted that a lot of that has to do with regulations in the industry.
However, Kress finds that advisors are starting to put in the time to improve their web presence.
“We’re seeing that compliance departments are starting to be more lenient and work with advisors as opposed to advisors — even just a couple years ago — they would say ‘No I’m not allowed to do that. Compliance doesn’t let me do anything online,’” Kress told ThinkAdvisor.
A large part of what Kress does in his coaching sessions is helping advisors use their personalities to stand out.
“If you start looking at advisors online, the majority of them start to look the same,” Kress said. “They use all the same wording … it’s all ‘will help you achieve your financial goal, will help you achieve life goals.’”
According to Kress, what helps advisors stand out in the mind of prospects is establishing confidence that the advisor works with people like them — for example, entrepreneurs looking to pre-plan a business exit, or ultra-high net worth families trying to create generational wealth.
Kress said that prospects are more comfortable starting a conversation or relationship with advisors who work with people like themselves.
He encourages advisors to be as specific as possible in their digital marketing “so that the prospect reading their LinkedIn profile or group website or other content online can say: ‘OK, this advisor understands me and gets me, and they understand my goals and they work with people like me.’”
— Check out What RIAs Are Thinking for 2019, in 7 Charts: TD Ameritrade on ThinkAdvisor.