News article

Revealed: The trap too many financial planning websites fall into

We can probably all agree that financial planning websites shouldn’t focus on products. Explaining that you can advise on pensions, ISAs, protection and so on helps no one. After all, how does the consumer know what they need?

They probably don’t.

What visitors will know though is the trigger for seeking professional advice and the reason for visiting your website; the problem they are experiencing or the aspiration they want to achieve.

However, in an understandable effort to avoid talking about products we’ve noticed that some financial planners are falling into an equally dangerous trap.

The Trap

Unfortunately, the benefits of having a financial plan haven’t yet filtered through into the mainstream (with much of the personal finance press focusing on product that’s hardly surprising). Consequently, most people will only seek advice following a trigger. For example:

  • Something simple: Such as a pension statement arriving or stock market volatility causing them concern
  • An event: Births, deaths, marriages, job changes, business sales and more all cause people to seek professional advice
  • An aspiration: They want to change something either now in the future, retirement being an obvious example

However, and here’s the trap, we’ve noticed that too many financial planning websites ignore the client’s trigger and immediately begin to promote financial planning.

In many ways, that’s not surprising. Financial planners know the value they add and how their work changes lives. It’s only natural that they are passionate about what they do. However, ignoring the client’s triggers and talking immediately about financial planning is a mistake. It shows a lack of empathy and we believe will make the website less effective.

To put it another way, it’s like a pop up which appears only a few seconds after landing on a website. It’s too much, too soon.

Passing the split-second test

The most effective financial planning websites pass the split-second test, which means the visitor can quickly understand:

  • What you do
  • Who you work with
  • Whether you can address their trigger

It’s no secret that we are increasingly impatient; especially online. We skim-read, scan and filter out the content we don’t need. That means this information needs to be conveyed quickly and succinctly.

Should you explain financial planning on your website?

Yes, absolutely. But only once the visitor’s triggers have been acknowledged.

In terms of new client acquisition your website has three key jobs:

  1. Turning a website visitor into a prospect
  2. Signposting those who aren’t right for your business elsewhere
  3. Pre-selling your firm and proposition

Passing the split-second test will help you achieve the first two. It will also help retain the visitor’s interest long enough to achieve the third.

Leading with statements such as “helping you live your best life”, or similar, at best won’t immediately help visitors understand whether you are the right person or business to address their trigger. At worst they might alienate visitors to the point where they simply bounce off your homepage and look elsewhere.

Does your website pass the split-second test?

Most people will enter your website via your homepage. Take a critical look at it; does it explain clearly what you do? And who you do it for?

Be honest. Look at it from the perspective of someone who is comparing more than one site and might not give you the benefit of the doubt or the time to make your case.

Next, head over to Google Analytics. A homepage which fails the split-second test will have lower visitor engagement. This will be shown by:

  • A higher than average bounce rate (which might be caused by other issues, for example, our research shows sites which use burger menus have higher bounce rates)
  • Less time being spend on the site
  • Fewer pages being viewed per visit

Our Adviser Website Index (which is free to use) will show you how your website compares. You can visit it by clicking here.

Striking the right balance

I passionately believe in the value financial planning delivers. Indeed, one of our key aims is to promote the value of financial advice and planning. I put my money where my mouth is too, by paying a fixed fee for financial planning (take a bow Tom Morris of Ovation Finance) and there’s no doubt it has helped me to achieve some key aspirations.

Consequently, I advocate websites explaining the benefits of financial planning. In fact, I’d go further, you should also demonstrate the benefits with testimonials and case studies.

It’s just the timing some sites get wrong.

The online world is unforgiving. If you fail to capture the attention and interest of your visitors, you’ll never get the chance to explain or demonstrate the benefits of financial planning.

Show interest, demonstrate empathy in the visitor’s trigger and explain whether you work with people like them. Then talk about financial planning and demonstrate the value.

In other words, slow down, work at the visitor’s pace. Too much, too soon, could mean the shiny new website you’ve invested thousands of pounds in, is turning potential clients away and is ultimately less effective than you hoped.

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