[IMGCAP(1)]Accounting and financial services firms take pride in winning new clients through referrals and word-of-mouth. In a profession that demands a high level of trust, positive client relationships are essential to building a strong base of repeat business.
As a new generation enters the market, companies need to connect with a demographic accustomed to online communications. For one thing, only 2 percent of children keep their inheritances with their parents’ financial advisor.
This presents a challenge and also an opportunity. What can you do to ensure your firm is visible—and viable—to a generation of younger clients?
Make Sure You Can Be Found
Consumers go online more and more before making a buying decision. Not just to search, to research. Today’s consumer is nearly through the buying cycle before making live contact. Eighty-one percent of consumers research online prior to making big purchases, while 94 percent of business-to-business buyers do online research. Based on these trends, an effective online presence can only help your cause.
Start by making sure your Web site is clean’ and friendly to search engines. Eliminate problems that incur penalties from Google: duplicate content, Web site speed, incorrect link redirects and bad backlinks.
Optimize your Web pages with quality content, indexable text, images and video (no Flash please), well-considered meta tags and meta descriptions that follow best practices. Your on-site content and blogs should incorporate keywords meaningful to your business and brand.
Get proactive with backlinks. This is a long-term, ongoing effort to acquire links from social media, relevant business directories, business partners, clients, industry forums and industry bloggers. This is by far the single most effective tactic for SEO success.
Be Friendly to Mobile Devices
Mobile devices are now responsible for half the time spent on the Internet. Forty-six percent of consumers surveyed in a Telmetrics report said they use mobile exclusively when doing online research. Furthermore, not only does Google favor Web sites that are mobile-friendly, it’s been testing out an icon that displays when a site is not mobile-friendly. You don’t need a survey to tell you that younger age groups spend the most mobile time online. However, the midrange of older age groups don’t fall too far behind either, so it’s worth investing in a mobile-friendly Web site.
“Mobile-friendly” options for your Web site range from making some tweaks for compatibility to building dedicated mobile apps. These options are:
Do the minimum: Just make sure your Web site functions on a small screen. This means tweaking code to let pages scale and rotate; reducing the bandwidth needed to view your pages by shrinking image sizes; getting rid of fancy animations, pop-ups and Flash (which won’t play on iPhones).
Implement responsive design: Build a Web site that “adapts” to specific screen sizes and browsers. This route requires careful design and planning to make sure navigation and content will work for both desktop and small screens, but it’s a good middle ground.
Build a dedicated mobile Web site: This is a Web site designed to work with all the features of a mobile phone for a fully compatible experience. This costly option only matters if it’s important for you to give clients and partners access to information that requires special viewing or manipulation.
Use Social Media Productively
A survey of over 4,000 investors with $100K+ in assets showed that one-third use social media for personal finance and investing purposes; nearly 70 percent have reallocated investments or changed relationships based on content found through social media. They use social media to form first impressions and then to discover “traditional” information sources.
Set the right tone. Social media is a place to begin conversations that can turn into a relationship that can culminate in a live meeting. Be helpful and don’t sell yourself. You’re just letting people know what you (or your firm) do.
Know when to go private. Only post general news and advice. It’s tempting to answer a question on social media, where everyone can share in the knowledge. But if you’re chatting to another parent at a school soccer game and they ask you for serious advice, you would stop the casual chat and initiate a private and formal process. Same here.
Listen. Too often, we think of social media as a channel for pushing our expertise outward when it’s just as valuable for staying current with what’s going on with our clients. People overshare on social media. Weddings, births, home purchases, graduations, illness and death. These are life-changing events that need acknowledgement and perhaps advice.
Offer Quality Content
Interesting, helpful, quality content is at the hub of your online marketing efforts. Sixty-one percent of people feel better about a company that delivers quality custom content. It builds credibility, allows you to showcase your expertise (without pitching), and gives you something valuable to post or tweet on social media. Quality content attracts those all-important backlinks and gets retweets.
Commit to consistency. Good content marketing requires resources. Budget for this and find the right talent. Your staff can do some writing, but make sure the articles/blogs are professionally edited.
Blogs work both ways. There’s value to inviting guest bloggers or submitting articles to other blogs or publications.
Create a content calendar. Think like a magazine editor and schedule a few months’ worth of topics. This reduces stress by letting you allocate time and resources.
As a new and connected generation enters the market, interaction through digital channels will only increase in importance. Make sure your marketing strategy includes laying the foundation for productive online communications that complements traditional lead generation and relationship-building.
Martin Wong is chief marketing officer at Smartt.com, a digital consulting agency based in Vancouver, Canada, who uses his marketing, technology, creative and analytical skills to help clients execute digital marketing programs that achieve measurable results.
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