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7 Ways to Avoid a Digital Disaster

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We live in a world where listening for important conversations online, real-time engagement and being prepared to manage a digital crisis are important considerations for financial advisors. Mobile devices and improved connectivity coupled with the rise of citizen journalism and the social-posting craze have created a fertile field for opportunity – and potential misery.

While the traditional marketing mix – particularly in the realm of relationship marketing – is still necessary for financial planning practitioners who want to thrive and grow, content marketing and credibility marketing with a digital twist are essential.

As we round the corner to another new year, here are some ideas for advisors on marketing and building a presence in the digital age:


Today’s consumers are educated, connected and impatient. They are looking for financial advice from professionals who demonstrate not just expertise but a passion and purpose for serving people with similar needs and values. They expect that you are listening – on their preferred channels – and demand near (if not actual) real-time responses. While they will ultimately engage with brands with which they have a relationship, they trust their friends and social networks over advertisements and brand messages. Authenticity and showing the human side of your firm can help independent financial advisors stand out from less personal robo-type firms.


Your brand encompasses the entire client experience. Your brand isn’t your company, your products or marketing message. It is, rather, the holistic experience a client has with you and your employees, your products and methodologies, and your content – both online and offline. “Brand” is the reason people chose you over your competitors. Today, people experience your brand through a variety of places: in your office and in the community, through relevant Google searches, on your website and other “owned” digital assets, and through social conversations.


In the past, we spoke about sales funnels and bringing people down the client path. Now we are seeing the emergence of a sales zigzag, as prospective clients and brand advocates consume an endless stream of information from an array of electronic devices. This means that planners should look to engage targeted audiences through thousands of touch points, in both long and short bursts, using not just the written word but also audio, video, interactive tools and visually attractive infographics. With all of the digital assets you control, having them optimized for quick loading and mobile devices is essential.


As independent financial advisors see the importance of managing their brand online and in the physical realm, they are hiring community managers (or outsourcing that function to a professional marketing firm). The community manager role is sometimes built into the marketing manager’s job or overseen by that person. An integrated communications program that leverages media relations, social media, content marketing and client events is needed to showcase your unique qualities and strategic narrative.


Financial planners who are serious about measuring their brands online can use social listening tools such as Social Rest, Simply Measured, Viral Heat and BrandWatch. For those unwilling to invest $500-$800 per month in professional listening tools, lower-end tools such as Google News Alerts, Social Mention, Sprout Social and HootSuite can be useful. A good deal of intelligence can also be gleaned from the simple analytics built into Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


I recently came across a helpful infographic from 360PR. In the spirit of archiving good content, I posted that infographic here.

The graphic makes some really good points:

  • Have a plan, just in case.
  • Pay attention. Know what a crisis is.
  • Acknowledge it as quickly as you can.
  • Let people vent. Always keep your cool.
  • Build an area to house information.
  • Own up to it if you did something wrong.
  • Be honest but try to turn negatives into positives.

Hopefully, as a thoughtful financial services professional, you never have to do more than simply monitor and manage your online presence -- and have a plan “just in case.”

Finally, “search” still matters and will continue to be important in the years ahead. In September 2014, Google launched Panda 4.1, an updated search engine algorithm with more precision in filtering out thin content.While keywords are still important, especially in the title of your webpages and blog posts, longer unique content will help you to maintain a better SEO presence. The experts at Search Engine Land say that some of the biggest winners for Panda 4.1 were “sites in the news” – this means financial advisors are wise to maintain or ramp up their media relations and journalistic endeavors.

Marie Swift and her team at Impact Communications have been working exclusively with independent financial advisors and allied institutions for over 20 years.

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