Tips about using the Internet and social media — especially LinkedIn

10-Step Website Planning for Financial Advisors

Financial advisors are bringing their “second office” to the Internet, but they often experience migraines when deciding what that means as they get ready to hire and deal with a web designer. On the other hand, my designer clients often tell me that they want to rip their hair out because of the extra items their clients keep asking for after they’ve started a project.

InternetSmall14033181_sLike your services, web design requires thought, planning, and lots of communication before you sign on the dotted line. We recommend that before you speak to a web designer, you present your business plan and ideal client profile to your designer. Then take some time to write down your likes and your dislikes as you visit websites and each of the 10 parts of a financial advisor’s website described below.

Planning

Just as a new building needs planning before construction begins, the creation of a website is preceded by preparation. Preparing for a new site includes having a business vision, an ideal client profile, and a clear picture of how your site will compliment your overall marketing strategy. From the web designer’s standpoint, it also includes where the files will go, what they will be named, the number and type of graphics, text copy, programming needs, server environment, and similar technical issues. What you don’t like is as important as what you do like. Make sure that your designer knows both. If you’re unsure what constitutes a really bad website, we recommend that you visit WebsitesThatSuck.com

Trustworthiness and Integrity

Much is made of the virtual business relationship nowadays: doing business with people you’ve never met in person. The fundamentals of a virtual business are the same as those of a brick and mortar business. As a financial advisor, your new site must exude trustworthiness or your visitors will leave faster than they arrived. As you search for a designer to hire, make sure all the candidates have a trustworthy site with a portfolio of their work (a must on a designer’s website). The article, “19 Ways To Make Your Site Trustworthy” www.marketingwithintegrity.com/does-your-web-site-build-trustability-and-credibility/, will assist you as you create an atmosphere of trust and integrity within your website.

Copy (The Words)

One of the most common embarrassments in the web design industry is the pervasive presence of misspellings, bad grammar, or simply poor writing. I’ve personally seen this on the sites of famous companies whose print publications are flawless. Another common mistake, especially on the home page, is writing copy that’s all about the firm and its owner, instead of the benefits the firm offers to its clients. Take the time to get it right the first time. Hire a professional copywriter or virtual assistant with marketing savvy whose forte is proofreading and grammar–not only for your website, but for all your editorial needs. Resource we use: www.WordPowerMarketing.com

Graphics

You must know where every graphic on your website comes from and list the owners’ attributions. Make sure that your designer uses graphics they have legal permission to use. Do you know that you have to format graphics differently for the Internet than for your printed literature? The usual difference between a graphic that’s in JPEG, GIF, or PNG format is its resolution (how many dots per inch make up the photo). Which format is best to use and when do you use it? What shapes look best on websites? Too many graphics, or too high of a resolution of graphics are usually the reason a website takes extra time to show up. A good designer will make sure that your graphics are properly formatted. They’ll make sure that your new logo looks as good in black and white as it does in color. Free clip art or the logo you created yourself will damage your professional image. If you’re building a new business and aren’t able to hire a graphic designer for your logo, there are lower-cost resources to use. Resources we recommend: www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com/favorites/

Supporting Documents

Documents are often a special case, as they require the viewer to possess the proper helper applications (programs such as Adobe Reader, Word, etc.) in order to open them. Special software is required for PDF (.pdf) documents, Word docs (.doc, .docx, .rtf), or WordPerfect (.wpd) files. Provide your target audience with as many options as possible. If you are unsure which software applications your clients use, a good rule of thumb is to provide files in PDF and RTF. Consider putting all client forms behind a password-protected area (use one password for all your clients). On the Elevating Your Business website, we call this our Client Vault. You can also call this the Client Café, Clients Only or other such name. Just make it clear that it’s a special area for your clients.

Coding – The Language of the Internet

Your website is created through the use of one or more computer languages. The type and version of each language can affect who is able to see the pages, the cost to create the site, the difficulty of ongoing maintenance, and the ease of upgrading or making major changes. If you want to easily maintain the site yourself, include sophisticated forms, utilize a database, or provide services such as personalization or ecommerce, consider hiring a programmer qualified in an appropriate discipline, such as PHP, ASP, or Cold Fusion. Our forms are coded for us. We recommend: www.jotform.com/

Multimedia

Depending on your ideal client profile, multimedia usage can make a good site great or it can make it completely unusable. Movies, audio files, videos, Flash movie presentations: all are relatively large files requiring special applications (programs called plug-ins) to work. Multimedia has an impact on your site’s performance, too. Consider these questions: Where would a Flash movie best serve your viewer? Do you want music? Should your sound file play continuously or not? Are your ideal clients multimedia-enabled, or would they prefer viewing a website without multimedia features? Our recommendation: If your site contains videos, let your viewers click on them to listen to it. Don’t allow the video to automatically begin.

Implementation

Now that you have made all your decisions and collected all your materials, it’s time to put the plan into effect. What is a realistic amount of time to get from this point to a finished site? Have you included extra time for unforeseen coding issues (bugs)? How long will the beta period (public testing time) be for your site and why is it necessary? Building a website is so much more than throwing images and text together on web pages. Invariably, the design team is faced with last-minute challenges that will threaten the professional image you are striving for. The only way to minimize this undesired impact is to allow for the time and resources needed in advance.

Marketing

Did you hear the one about the company that built a website and nobody came? Probably not, because neither the company nor the site exists anymore! The Internet is comprised of millions upon millions of web pages, with a tiny percentage of websites getting the majority of the traffic. How is your site going to pull in its share of the pie? Your marketing plan should bring traffic to your site and also provide stickiness–convincing visitors to purchase your services, tell others about them, and come back time and time again.

Customer Service

Attracting people to your website is a beginning, but keeping their interest and continuing patronage is an ongoing job. A great customer service policy includes a code of ethics, guarantees, and consistency. Your viewers want to be able to easily contact you without providing a life history! They want to receive answers to their questions within a reasonable and predictable period of time. They want to know when you’ll be there to call and when you won’t. People may contact you initially based on what they find on your site, but they will only stay with you if they like what they find in YOU.

©2003 Maria Marsala and Darrel King. Updated 2013 Elevating Your Business.

Darrel King owned The Web Center, Inc., a firm that specialized in dynamic websites for small businesses from 1998-2007. He and Maria Marsala collaboratively wrote this article in 2003. In 2007, Darrel changed his career path to nursing.

Maria Marsala guides high-achieving independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base.

Get FREE thought-provoking marketing advice and business expansion tools delivered directly to your inbox every two weeks. Sign up here: www.CoachMaria.com

Advisors: Set Up a WordPress Blog In Under 15 Minutes

wordpress

Is it time to create a blog?  Maybe you have a website but it’s not responsive (mobile friendly).

If you own a domain name and have hosting, somewhere in your emails you have the instructions to get into your Control Panel (it’s like a dashboard)?  If so, watch me create a WordPress blog (or website) with a plug-n-play program you may already have, such as like QuickInstall or Fantastico.

You’ll watch me do just that during this 12+ minute video. If your hosting company offers either plug-n-play program, it will be on the dashboard (usually the first page you’re brought to once you log into your C-Panel).

Setting up a blog on your site only takes a few clicks in the right places. So it’s not as difficult as you think! Let me, Maria Marsala, Operations and Marketing Manager to Financial Advisors, take you through the steps of setting up a blog.

But be careful.   If you’re new to doing major work on you website NEVER, EVER, NEVER place your blog directly in the same “folder” as the website you already have. Otherwise, when you go to look at your website — it might be gone!

 

In the video, my website is CoachMaria and I put the file there. Instead I put it in a sub-folder called “webinarsite”. Sub folders are good, as long as they’re not currently be used. Main folders are not good! So be careful.

In just 12 minutes and 16 seconds you could have a live WordPress Blog on your website! Now it won’t be professional looking (that comes with a theme), but it will be up ready for you or your IT person to play with it some more.

Click on the video below and get started. You can easily start and stop the video as you follow my step-by-step instructions.


Financial Advisors

The resource page mentioned in the video is: http://www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com/favorites/

Get more of my work here at my blog – Marketing With Integrity. On the right side of this page you can choose any category to learn more on a topic or do a search for the specific words that you want to find.

HOWEVER, the only way you’ll get up-to-date articles, tips, webinars, events notices, etc. is when you join the Elevating Your Business Community (free) at http://www.CoachMaria.com

Seeking to get more results from your online or offline marketing?  Read for your firm to work like a well oiled machine? Let’s talk! and get the show on the road!

(c) 2013, updated 2015.

ARE YOU READY TO SERIOUSLY (AND PROFITABLY) NETWORK ON LINKEDIN?

LinkedInCreate or update your LinkedIn profile using our template and easily show it to your Compliance Department for approval! Learn how to use the various tools LinkedIn offers to grow your business, build your credibility, connect with people you’ve already met, send information to your clients, and more. Get all your questions answered during the weekly calls and via email.

Why use LinkedIn? Some interesting statistics:

  • 5 million affluent investors use social media to research final decisions. 73% use LinkedIn to research financial decisions.*
  • 79% of the Ultra Affluent (over $5 million in investable assets) do their own investment research. They are 37% more likely to trust information from their LinkedIn network and 157% more likely to trust articles shared on LinkedIn.*
  • More than 3 out of 5 advisors who used LinkedIn to develop prospects have gained new clients.**
  • For those advisors who developed new business from using LinkedIn, nearly 33% gained $1 million or more in AUM; 12% gained $5 million or more.**

According to studies conducted by:
* Cogent Research and LinkdIn

** FTI Consulting and LinkedIn

To see what you get when you join this group program, click here now. The coupon code is: birthday and you’ll get 50% off my regular session rates. Now $199.50

"When it comes to excellence one name rises to the top and that is Maria Marsala. I interviewed her about LinkedIn and though I am well versed in the topic, she shared techniques that all others who claim expertise in the subject did not."

Yvonne F. Brown, Communications and Leadership Trainers
JAD Communications International, Chicago

Welcome to the Newly Updated Look at “Marketing With Integrity” for Financial Advisors Blog

Been to this blog, Marketing With Integrity, in the last two months? After many years of the same look, it’s been updated. Check out its sleek, new look. What do you think? Add your comments below.

blogsmallWhat’s surprised me the most about this year’s update is that the theme I’m using (the basic look of the site) was available at no-cost! I had expected to pay for the new look. View the article I wrote about why I chose the FirmaSite theme here. The FirmaSite theme does come with a slider (pictures, usually with words on them, that slide from one frame to another). I’m not using that features since the search engines don’t like it and for me, trying to read a page with a slider on it, often makes me dizzy.

Once I updated Marketing With Integrity, I liked the look so much, that I decided to match my website with the theme, too.

You can now go directly to to Marketing With Integrity’s home page and view excerpts of the last 10 articles. Or use the Blog Categories (right side of the page) to view articles on a subject you want to learn more about. At the end of each article, notice that I’ve added a feature that allows you to email yourself, colleagues, or clients the article in a PDF file.

The program I chose for commenting is called Disqus, a program that many professional blogs use, including the blogs of Entrepreneur and Inc Magazines. You can easily comment on any post using Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. You can add the capability of using similar features on your blog by adding plug-ins found in your blog’s dashboard.

I have a few other new features planned for the blog I’ll tell you about those when they’re online. Visit our blog now.

Lessons About Blogs or Websites -October 1, 2013


Free Coaching Call
The questions I’ll answer in October and November will be about websites, blogs, and themes, plug-ins, etc. Get the replay and watch me walk through how to add a BLOG to your website. If you’re working with at web designer, or plan to, this is a perfect program to familiarize yourself with the process. This way, you’ll understand what they’re doing! It’s always a good thing to understand, but understanding does not mean that you need to do it ourselves!

The way these no-cost programs works. Financial advisors, planners, and managers, etc. register for a program and send me their question(s). Based on your questions, I’ll create webinars or audios. Those who are sign up receive the replay here. Remember: when you register, include any questions you have about blogs or websites in the appropriate space.

Happy learning!

19 Ways to Make Your FA Website More Trustable and Credible

by Maria Marsala

Stategic Business Coach, Planning Strategist Maria Marsala

Have you ever visited a web site and been attacked by screaming pop-up ads, gotten lost in a clutter of banner ads, had things flash and go boom? Have you visited a site and the information and brand didn’t match what the person was selling, or it wasn’t as professional as it needed to be? And have you ever visited a site that was informative, easy to navigate, and generally enjoyable to peruse?

Which site gained your trust? Which site would you revisit? Which firm’s newsletter would you want to read? The more user-friendly building tools you use on your site and the more “on brand” your site is, the more levels of trust you’ll develop with your visitors. With this in mind, here are expert tips for making your financial advisor website more trustworthy…

 

 

1. Purchase an appropriate domain name

Paying for your own domain name builds trust and looks professional. You can ensure your own domain name will be free of all advertisements (except products or services you sell or recommend). Your own domain name will have YOUR name listed as its owner, because you pay for it yearly or every few years (and you don’t want a designer to hijack it). You want to sell your visitors on the content of your site – not the products of other advertisers. For years we’ve purchased domain names from Dynadot.

 

2. Use your domain name email addresses

When searching for a host for your site, look for packages that include POP3 accounts and NOT alias accounts. This will enable you to send email from your site (you@YourBusiness.com), which are perceived as more professional than seeing you@FreeEmailAccount.com. It is easier to trust someone who has evidently made an investment in his or her business. When you use free email accounts, or the email address from your ISP (you@YourEmailProvider.com), it’s perceived that you’re new to business or are in business while you wait for something better. You get your domain name email addresses from your hosting company. We use Hostgator.

 

3. Include contact information

Provide as much information as possible to help your prospective (and current) clients contact you. Things like: phone numbers, hours of operation (including time zone), Skype address, a business mailing address, and an email address are basics on a site. PO Boxes are not considered addresses. Many companies won’t deliver to PO Boxes, and may be skeptical about doing business with you if you use a PO Box or PMB address. They want someone to contact and write to when and if there are problems. Work from home? Add a suite or building number to your home/apartment. Or use a mail forwarding service for a real address.

 

4. Add contact links

Place at least two ways for your visitors to contact you on each page. The top navigation bar and somewhere on the bottom of the page are where people will look for this information.

 

5. Watch your dates

Are your dates current? People prefer to see a current copyright date on the bottom of sites. They also expect to see a blog post from the current month on your blog, too. Sharing events? Make sure the dates are current, or if the event is over, add a link for them to contact you to get on the mailing list for the next round of classes/seminars/etc.

 

6. Include a personal touch

Studies have shown that after viewing a home page, the next page people read — and spend a lot of time on — is your “About” page. The About area of your website would include your bio, the bio of the firm, the bios of your team, etc. Include links to their LinkedIn profiles and email addresses or phone numbers if you wish, too. You don’t have to put everything on one page. Consider creating an About the Founder, About the Team, and About the Company pages. Don’t make it look as though your site’s owners want to be anonymous, which obviously generates suspicions.

 

7. Avoid “enter”, “enter here”, and splash screens

Do you have an “Enter page” on the front of your site? If so, delete it now! You will lose visitors who want information quickly because they’ll go to a rival site instead. Splash and slider pages are coded using Java script or Flash. Search engines don’t read those codes and many companies have shut down the use of Flash on their computers. Worse than an Enter page is an Enter page that forces someone to download a program of some sort, just to read the page. If you want to use Flash pages, fancy pointers, etc., give visitors the option of viewing them, but don’t force these things upon anyone.

 

8. Make me special

You have 2 seconds for someone to view your website, know that they’re in the right place, and know that you can help them with their problem. You do this by clearly listing your niche and the benefits or results your services or products offer to your target market on your home page.

 

9. Make it quick

Ensure that your pages load in less than 7 seconds. Most visitors will not have the patience to stick around much longer than that and will simply move on. A site that loads quickly and is neatly designed will show that you are a professional company. It will also boost confidence in your potential buyers. Here are two different website analyzers:https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights and http://iwebtool.com/speed_test.

 

connect clouds10. Link it

Make sure that all the links within your site or to other web sites are working. Download a link checker and use it monthly. Sometimes, you’ll find that you’ve linked within your site to a page you’ve moved or removed. Other times, you’ll find that pages outside your site have disappeared or have been changed. Ask your web designer to design an interesting “error” page that will allow your visitors to get back on track if a page they bookmarked no longer exists. Here is a link to information on a free link checker, Xenu, the link checker we’ve used for many years.

 

11. Spell it right

If you want your site to be as professional as it can be, put each page through a spell checker or hire an excellent proofreader. Don’t underestimate the value of a properly spelled site. If spelling or grammar isn’t your forte in life, as it isn’t in mine, hire a proofreader or editor to check what you’ve written, or write for you. There is also a spell checker in MS Word and other document programs.  If you’re more web enabled, check out the HTML Kit and CSE Light programs online.

 

12. Secure purchases and interactions

The best sites provide the most secure access available to sensitive client information. This includes a secure server, secure gateway, and information that informs your client that access is as secure as is currently possible. Make sure you offer your clients secure access if they’re logging into your website to get to their vault, statements, or other personal information. If you don’t they will (and should) do business elsewhere. Secure websites usually appear when you log in to the client area (the main pages don’t have sensitive information and don’t have to be secure). The domain name starts with https and the addition of that last “s” means the site is secure.

 

13. Don’t clutter the site

Use lots of white space to “break up” the text. It’s easier on the eyes that way. The only place to NOT use lots of white space is at the top of your pages.

 

14. Watch your fonts

Save the fancy font types for special items or graphics. Arial and Verdana work well on sites. Times New Roman is best kept for newspapers, magazines, and documents you print or are read away from a computer.

 

15. Drop it

Eliminate the pop-ups, pop-unders, and banners that wave or go blinkity-blink all the time. While they may get you some attention, you are more likely to turn away or turn-off potential serious clients. Besides, many people shut down their pop-ups in their browsers anyway.

 

16. View it

Ask your newsletter/mailing list subscribers to go to your site. Ask them if they know what your business is about without scrolling down the page. If they can’t figure it out, fix this. Once it’s fixed, ask fellow LinkedIn Group members to do the same thing. Fix what needs fixing again.

 

17. Let them get to know you

Strangers visit your website. Your goal, if they fit your ideal client profile, is to turn them into prospects and then clients. But they might like what they see and not be ready to hire you. Give them a chance to get to know you better and give yourself an opportunity to “touch” them. Have a newsletter subscribe box and if possible, a way for them to subscribe to your RSS feed or blog emails on every page of your website.

 

18. Let them share and connect to you

Include ways for visitors to share you with whatever social media platforms they use by including share links on every page of your site. PLUS, include ways for them to connect with you and your company on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

 

19. Cater to everyone

Of course you have a niched website, so your site in general is catering to one ideal audience. This tip is more about catering to everyone who views your website. Include alt = ” ” tags with your images to assist those with sight disabilities and the hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who use library-based text-only computer software and web browsers.

 

P.S.  You really have to look at your website objectively every 2-3 years to see if the “look” is outdated.  Often you can change the look and keep the rest of the site intact.

 

2 BONUS CONCEPTS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS (NOT FINANCIAL ADVISORS) TO CONSIDER.

 

20. Ask for recommendations
If you are not a financial professional, ask your clients for testimonials and permission to use their full name, city, state, website, and photo on your website. Testimonials that don’t include a last name, or worse, include only initials, don’t seem credible enough and shouldn’t be used. Use recommendations on your LinkedIn profile, too. Remember: At this time, some industries, like the financial industry, can’t use testimonials at all. Why? Long story. If you want to thank someone in a financial industry, send them a written thank you note. They’re able to put such nice notes on their “Wall of Thanks” in their office.  (Financial professionals, especially planners, advisors, etc.  have additional guidelines to follow regarding recommendations.  For those of you who are not in this field, know that recommendations are considers ads or promotions, and are, in many cases not allowed.  Financial professionals should consult their Compliance Dept.)

 

21. Be clear about what you guarantee
Again, in the financial arena, guarantees aren’t allowed.   If you are a financial professional, check with your Compliance Dept on this issue.   Other small business owners may choose or not choose to provide guarantees.   If you have a money-back guarantee on your service or product, say so. If you don’t, say what you do provide, if anything. Many industries guarantee nothing. I have a guarantee that if products (like CDs) sent in the mail don’t work, then I’ll send new ones. I guarantee my clients will receive everything in the package they’ve chosen and then whatever else I can assist them with, but although most double their incomes in 3-12 months, I don’t guarantee those results because business or life growth largely depends on my client taking immediate action on the advice I provide. Whatever your guarantee or no guarantee policy is, clearly place the information in your website’s policies and also where they can be viewed prior to a purchase.

 

©2013 Maria Marsala guides independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base. Did you find this article thought-provoking? Get more delivered directly to your inbox every two weeks. Signing up here

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