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The great adviser website fraud

We’ll build you a website that converts”, goes the promise.

Fantastic”, goes the voice in your head, “If I can get a great website that cracks my value proposition, has awesome copy, great images and lots of unicorns dancing on rainbows I’ll have a flood of new leads

Welcome to the digital marketing version of The Emperors New Clothes.

One of my first memories of starting with Corporate to Freedom in 2013 was unpacking some of the work underways.

Marketing was some of my favourite, a veritable line-up of con-jobs hidden in proposals and invoices.

We were a startup with $75k worth of bootstrapped funding.

Imagine my surprise when I dug into invoices pending to find a $36k bill for our proposed new website.

That was one brand of crazy we didn’t need, and soon got rid of.

Websites are a bit like pens. You can have them as cheap or as expensive as you like, yet they all do pretty much the same thing.

Thing is when I look around at most advice firms and their websites, it’s like watching people trying to make pens do the work of Swiss Army knives.

I don’t care how good your site is, if you’re not clear about what it’s not, you’ll waste money and burn through dreams.

Let me save you some money right here and now.

At the recent Momentum Media Best Practice Forum, Peita Diamantidis gave it to the crowd in words that had me dancing a jig inside.

A website has one core goal.

Just one.

It’s not to book the meeting.

It’s not to educate.

It’s not to communicate vision, mission or a deeply held passion for helping people.

It’s not to show how amazingly creative your graphic designer can be or push the boundaries on the sheer number of sliders you can fit on one header.

It’s not to get people to download an FSG.

It’s not to make them watch your amazing video series on Everything You Wanted To Know About Financial Planning (hint: people who want to know everything about financial planning don’t usually visit websites of financial planners).

The core goal is simply to get the email address.

That’s it.

Anything that stands between that end game and your visitor is simply a distraction.

Here’s the second key point.

Your website isn’t really the vehicle that makes your visitor suddenly realise they need an appointment with you.

Some will granted, but it won’t be because of your marketing efforts. It’ll be because they already decided they needed advice, had a pick list in their head of what they needed and you ticked their boxes.

That’s not sales. It’s being in the right place and filling criteria.

Your website isn’t what happens just before you get the appointment, it’s simply a stage in the journey.

That’s why the goal is to grab the email, so the marketing can begin (or continue).

The “welcome to my world” email, instead of the instant, “convert-now” sales pitch.

The value-add articles about the real-world problems your clients are grappling with, not the “101 things you need to know about getting your super right” whitepaper.

The personal email communication inviting a discussion, instead of the mass audience “if this reads like I’m talking to everyone it’s because I am” broadcast.

It’s the first step to beginning the dialogue, which leads to trust, which leads to engagement, which leads to conversion, which leads to clients.

Let me hit you up with 5 additional tips I’ve learnt about having a great advice website.

  1. It’s not about you – When I drop onto a practice’s website and all I can see is pictures of them, text telling me about their business and yet more information about them, I know they’ve missed the point. A great website is like a mirror, reflecting your clients from the moment they hit the page. Show them a picture of someone just like them, and talk about the problems they have and aspirations they want, articulating their situation better than they can. I want your site to scream out what you can do for them in the words they’d use and outcomes they would tell you they want, not provide a brief history of your business and all the reasons the world should care about whatever the hell “An Individual Approach to Financial Advice” is supposed to be.
  2. Keep headers simple – Multi-image sliders may look good and get web designers paid, but there is zero evidence they do anything more than that. One golden rule of marketing is to choose one message. Same goes for headers. One image, one tagline, one message.
  3. Below the line = out of sight – When I hit your site, anything instantly on the screen will get attention. Anything down below the bottom edge of the browser window requires the user to make the decision that what they’ve seen to date is good enough to keep scrolling down. In other words, put your most awesome stuff above the line (and pay special attention to point 1), or risk your visitor never seeing it at all.
  4. What draws the eye, gets the click – Here’s a super simple test to ascertain whether you’ve got an effective site or not. Load your homepage and ask someone to name the first thing their attention is drawn to. If that thing leads to you getting the email address, or defines quickly the problem your visitor is going to want to be solved, you’ve nailed it. If not, you’re confusing the issue. If your eye is drawn to nothing, you’ve got a design issue.
  5. And finally, my personal fave, ditch the WHY video – Simon Sinek’s TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” was an incredible talk, but it did have one ugly side effect. It launched onto the internet wave after wave of advice professionals explaining to camera their passion for helping people, buffered around childhood insight and what they do on weekends. The big idea peddled was summarised by Simon’s phrase “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Unfortunately, though this was a massive simplification of the deeper meaning, which failed to adequately communicate that leadership and sales have key contextual differences. If Simon had said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy how what you do can make their world better, and may also value a rationale explanation (beyond commercial gain) as to why you’d want to do that for them”, maybe it would have been more accurate. Frankly, if your first intro to prospects is a soft focus shot of you with the kids/ jogging along the beach/ playing with the dog, followed by a mock interview about your crusade to help more people get advice, pull it down at once and go read this awesome Ronald Sier article before replacing it.

Websites can be powerful tools, and an essential part of running a modern advice business.

They aren’t, however, instant lead-generation tools.

Labouring under the misapprehension they are will end up costing wasted time, money and spread the false belief that advice can only be marketed via “traditional” means.

And that, in a fast-moving tech world, is the most dangerous sting of all.

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