Finger on smartphone, tapping social network (Credit: Shutterstock)

If you are a financial professional who is so overloaded with prospects and clients that you have enough cash for a lifetime, you probably don’t need to read this article. You also do not need to worry about an online presence, or about controlling the messaging around your brand or ensuring that people can quickly contact you.

(Related: I Don’t Need SEO, I’m an Insurance Agent!)

Many top professionals know the secret of quality internet credentials as it pertains to referrals, appointments, and sales opportunities.

  • A good reputation on page one of an internet search will provide a greater response of a prospect meeting with a financial consultant.
  • The higher success rate of first appointments translates to a higher possibility of a business relationship
  • A higher quality business relationship can provide sales success and a roadway to quality referrals.
  • It’s all based on the first page of an internet search.

The rest of us, however, are waking up to a new digital reality. We now realize that being a ghost online can lead to a less robust practice. If you aren’t easy to find online, or if what people see is unfavorable, you will find yourself struggling to attract the quality of clients you want and need.

The stereotypical technophobic Boomers are being rapidly supplanted by Gen-Xers and Millennials, most of whom believe that if a business doesn’t exist online, then it doesn’t exist at all.

The search-engine-focused website MOZ surveyed consumers about the importance of online reputation. The survey revealed some startling statistics about why creating and curating a strong, positive online reputation is essential for any business owner.

Among the things revealed by the study:

  • Nearly half of adults surveyed say they Google someone before deciding to do business with them.
  • About 93% of tye respondents said they regard online reviews impact their purchasing decisions.
  • A business could lose 22% of its’ customers if searchers discover one negative article about the company.

These statistics are especially troubling for advisors, agents, and brokers who spend thousands of dollars on seminars, online advertising, purchasing leads, and other types of marketing.

If an advisor purchases a lead or creates one organically, that prospect is likely to Google the advisor before engaging. If nothing is found, or if what is discovered is negative or inaccurate, it will be much more difficult for the advisor to close.

If you have trouble getting results with your marketing, you might want to start Googling yourself regularly to see what your prospects and clients are reading about you and your company.

One advisor I know (I’ll call him Phil) experienced the pain of a compromised reputation that wreaked havoc with his efforts to recruit new agents to his agency.

“I was flying along,” Phil said. ” My marketing was working well. I was getting hundreds of calls and emails from some ads we ran. Then, for no apparent reason, I stopped being able to close agents. And the responses to our ads slowed to a trickle.

The situation perplexed Phil until a client called him and told him that he had seen five or more negative articles about Phil on internet searches.

As it turned out, Phil is Phil, JR.

Unfortunately, Phil, Sr. had been involved in some unsavory financial dealings. Many prospects didn’t bother to read the full articles to discover that the two were not the same person. They just saw the headlines and ran away.

It took Phil months and a lot of money to remedy the situation. Even though he was able to repair his reputation, there continues to be a lingering effect on his business. The internet, after all, never forgets.

Keep Up With Your Reputation

Don’t wait until you lose a big sale, a prospect cancels a meeting, or your hot leads turn ice cold to start managing your online presence.

It is essential that you show up well in search, that there is no inaccurate information about your business, and that your reputation is pristine. If you discover negative articles or posts, you might need the help of an online reputation manager to correct or remove these.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to avoid making mistakes in online reputation management that could lead to the loss of revenue or make it more challenging to find qualified prospects.

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Ben KunesBen Kunes is the host of the Retirement & Income Radio Show and the president and founder of Safe Money Retirement Group.