Online fee disclosure is a topic that’s guaranteed to divide opinion.
Some say it should be mandatory, others believe it’s down to individual choice. Advisers and planners essentially have three choices:
- Not to disclose fees online: Your website doesn’t mention fees at all.
- Explain your fee philosophy: Down this route, you explain why you charge in the way you do, how it makes you different, and how your charging structure benefits clients. This works particularly well for planners who charge fixed fees.
- Fully disclose all fees: Your website shows exactly what you charge at each stage so your potential client can calculate exactly how much they will pay.
We sit firmly on the fence. We think that it should be at a firm’s discretion and don’t believe advisers or planners should be forced to disclose fees online. Likewise, consumers are equally free to make choices based on their preferences.
So, before you find out how to do it, let’s consider some of the pros and cons of online fee disclosure.
3 reasons to disclose your fees online
- Transparency and trust: Most advisers/planners tell their clients that they are transparent. Disclosing fees online shows that you are.
- Avoiding surprises: Advisers/planners who disclose fees online tell me that it results in fewer fee-based conversations at the first meeting. Of course, we can’t take it for granted that your prospective client will have looked at your fees page, but many will have. As we’ll show you below, fees pages are very popular.
- Enquiry selection: Many advisers/planners disclose their fees online to deliberately deter enquiries from the wrong type of client.
3 reasons not to disclose your fees online
- Time: As we’ll show in a minute, your fees page will be popular, which means you have to get it right. That takes time. If that’s in short supply and you can’t get your fees page right, don’t do it and don’t outsource it.
- Reducing lead levels: It’s possible that disclosing fees online will reduce the number of enquiries you receive. If that’s a problem for your growth plans, it might be a reason to defer the fee discussion until the first meeting.
- Accuracy: Many advisers/planners say that it’s hard to accurately disclose fees online before they understand the prospective client’s circumstances.
Stand out by disclosing your fees online
If you choose to disclose your fees online, two things are certain.
Firstly, you will stand out from the crowd. Our research shows that only 1 in 20 firms fully disclose fees online (just to make it clear before the Twitter pile on starts, we’re not saying that’s good or bad, just reporting it as a matter of fact.)
Secondly, your fees page will be one of the most popular on your site. Naturally, your homepage will almost certainly be the most visited page. The next two will be “team” and “fees”.
That means you have to get it right.
However, we see many firms making some basic mistakes, which include:
- Disclosing fees but not explaining the service or benefits that the potential client will receive in return
- Uploading compliance documents as a shortcut
- Quoting broad ranges instead of specific amounts. For example: “We charge between £3,000 and £10,000 for a financial plan.” That’s useless and dangerous. Some clients will anchor to the lower figure and be disappointed when you quote more, others will be put off by the higher figure (even if you’d charge them less) and never make contact
- Hiding the fees page away. If you’re going to do it, be loud and proud. Place it prominently in the navigation menu and make it easy to find.
So, here are 4 things you need to include to build a great fees page
- Your fees: Show the precise fee your client will pay at each stage of the advice/planning process. As we said, broad ranges are useless and dangerous. Your prospective client must be able to work out exactly how much you would charge them.
- The service you provide: Next to each fee, show in detail the service you provide. Don’t put it on another page, there’s no guarantee that the visitor will go there. Instead, show fees and service alongside each other.
- Demonstrate value: There are several ways to do this. Client videos are ideal, but you could also display your VouchedFor/Google reviews or your client survey results. Research such as the Vanguard Adviser Alpha study is also useful.
- Worked examples: It’s important to bring your fees to life by showing worked examples. If you do that, it’s also another opportunity to reinforce the message about who you work with. Explain a simple scenario and show the fees that the client in the example would pay.
Depending on how, and how much, you charge, you might want to compare your fees to the average. This is particularly effective when it comes to ongoing fees.
There’s plenty of research you can benchmark yourself against including The FCA’s Evaluation of the impact of the Retail Distribution Review and the Financial paper (yeah, I know, catchy title!)
You have more time than you think
I know what you’re thinking. That’s a lot to include and no one is going to read all that.
But you know what? They do.
Here are the average times spent on three fees pages we built that included each of the four things listed above:
- 3 minutes 49 seconds
- 2 minutes 53 seconds
- 2 minutes 32 seconds.
Compare that to the average time spent per visit to an adviser/planner’s website… just 88 seconds. And that’s for all pages on the visit, not just one.
So, you do have time to make your points and get your message across.
Get the process right
As we’ve said, if you’re going to have a fees page, it’ll be very popular. That means you have to get it right.
To do that, follow this process:
- Write, edit, and proof the text for the page, considering the layout
- Design the page using call-out blocks, graphics, and images
- Develop the page, but only once you’re happy with the text and the design.
To do that, you need at least four different skill sets (writing, proofing, design, and development). That probably means two, three, or even four people need to be involved.
We’ll help you to stand out from the crowd
If developing (or redeveloping) a fees page is on your agenda, we’re here to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300.