Nearly all financial intermediaries have a website; it is has become the norm. However, the way in which websites are perceived by advice firms differs.
Some advisers regard it as a necessary chore while others see it is as an important marketing tool that can both deliver new clients and provide a point of differentiation from other firms.
What follows are my observations and conclusions having looked at numerous intermediary websites over many years.
I start from the position that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Most websites that I see, are in the ‘OK’ category, but the ones that stand positively out to me, are those that have a strong initial visual impact, and make me interested enough to go beyond the landing page to explore the remaining content.
Sometimes, that first impression can be marred by the website being too quirky. The website design may appeal to you, the owner, but if you regard it as a window through which to view your business, then you need to consider how it comes across to prospective clients and professional connections, let alone existing clients. Why not ask them for their views?
Most intermediary websites adopt a standard set of headings and layout – ‘Home,’ ‘About us,’ ‘The team,’ ‘How we do business,’ ‘Blogs,’ ‘Contact us’ and so on but it is what appears under each tab that makes a difference.
For example, when you look at the details of the principals and the advisers, does each provide an individual email address, and mobile number? A sizeable number provide only an ‘info@’ contact email address. That will send out a signal to some visitors that they do not really want to be contacted.
Another differentiator is the ‘How we do business’ tab. Many websites do not provide full details of both initial and ongoing adviser charges, and even fewer provide worked examples. Why not? Is it that there is a concern the firm will be perceived as expensive?
Client testimonials are included in many sites, but it is arguably better if some detail about the client is provided so that there is context and would-be clients can relate to them.
On occasion, there can be too much information, and that risks the website becoming a turn-off.
Design and navigation
What can start as a good first impression can rapidly deteriorate if the website is challenging to navigate. This is an aspect to focus when taking references on website designers, and it pays dividends, as it reduces the risk of poor outcomes.
There is a correlation between those firms where one individual ‘owns’ the website both in terms of its content and ensuring that it is up to date, and it remains ‘fresh,’ and those where the website has evidently not been maintained and refreshed. A tell-tale sign is when you go to the ‘Blog’ tab, and there is nothing recent to read.
Finally, and not least, I believe that a website can, on occasions, have a positive – and negative – impact on the value of a business. When I undertake commercial due diligence on firms on behalf of acquirers or investors, a review of that firm’s website is now a core part of my diligence. Why? Because it helps tell me how the firm’s principals want to be perceived and if they care. That of course must be validated by also meeting them, but it all comes back to first impressions.
If you have not updated your website for a while, now is an appropriate time to do so.
Roderic Rennison is director of Rennison Consulting