News article

Why you’re always in competition, even if you don’t know it

People ask me about the competition between us and other marketing agencies. I generally explain that I’ve no intention of building the next Saatchi & Saatchi and that there are plenty of opportunities for all the agencies who specialise in this sector.

The growing advice gap means that the same is true for financial advisers and planners.

I’d also rather we all took a collaborative approach, with financial advisers and planners (or indeed agencies) seeing other firms as peers rather as competition. Despite that, we need to remember that your prospective clients don’t necessarily see things that way.

Competition? What competition?

Most advisers and planners tell me that it’s rare for a potential client to be actively considering working with other firms. There are exceptions, particularly when the enquiry has come from a directory (Unbiased, VouchedFor, AdviserBook). But generally, there doesn’t seem to be much competition from the first meeting stage onwards.

I’ve no reason to doubt that’s true. However, it doesn’t mean there isn’t competition, it just occurs far earlier in the journey to your door.

Take a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine. He asked me to recommend a financial planner to his parents. I was very happy to help, so after understanding a little more about their circumstances I gave him the names of two financial planners I know and trust. He passed these details to his parents.

What did they do next? Probably head to Google. Their query might have been basic, looking for contact details, directions to the planner’s offices, and so on. Alternatively, they might have wanted to conduct some deeper due diligence; remember Paul Lewis’ criteria for choosing a financial planner? They might have been avid Moneybox listeners!

What my friend’s parents saw online will have dictated their next steps. The more impressed they were by one of the planners, the more likely they would head in their direction.

The conclusion? It’s online where competition occurs, not in your meeting room, but online, before you have even met the potential client. For that reason, it’s vital to remember that your potential clients will meet you before you meet them. Fail to impress online and you might never get the chance to shake their hand.

As an aside, this theory applies equally to people who search for your brand having encountered it elsewhere. For example, an online directory, having driven past your offices, seen an event you’ve sponsored etc.

Three steps to impressing online

Step one: Potential clients need to be able to find you online. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And it is, but you’d be surprised by the number of firms we encounter who are invisible online for a brand search (one carried out for your business name).

If a potential client can’t find you it’s impossible to impress them, or, on a more practical level, for them to find the basic information they often need, such as your contact details.

Step two: Build your online presence, remembering that the more impressive it is the more likely referrals and prospects are to make contact. Ideally, you will dominate the results page for a brand search, that means the following should ideally appear:

  • Your website, plus site extensions
  • Your Google My Business listing (as we’ve written about before, most firms overlook the importance of using their listing to build social proof and differentiate their business, click here to read that article)
  • Social media profiles
  • Directory profiles
  • The FCA Register
  • Blogs
  • Awards
  • Press coverage

Step three: Develop a compelling website. Naturally, the potential client will probably be drawn to your website so it’s here that you really need to impress.

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

  1. To turn a visitor into a prospect
  2. To signpost away those people who aren’t right for your services
  3. To pre-sell your services

That means your website must start by passing the split-second test allowing the visitor to understand:

  1. What you do
  2. Who you work with
  3. Whether you are the person or firm who can help address their trigger (the problem or aspiration which caused them to seek professional advice in the first place)

Once you’ve done that, you need to give visitors the information they need. That’ll be different for every person, but there are some common themes, which we wrote about after identifying the 10 most popular pages on financial adviser/planner websites. You can still read that article by clicking here.

Next steps

As we’ve shown, there is competition between advisers and planners, even if they don’t know it’s happening.

So, what now?

Head to a private browsing window and Google your business. Don’t just type your full business name in either, try derivatives of it, common mis-spelling and shortened versions. Remember, not every potential client will know your full business name.

What do you see?

Firstly, can you find your business for each search?

Secondly, assuming the answer to the first question is ‘yes’ do the results create a favourable impression. To put it another way: if you were a potential client, would you get in touch with yourself?

We’ve written more about the passing the split-second test in Money Marketing, you can read that by clicking here.

Finally, does your website pass the split-second test and contain all the top 10 most popular pages?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ then we are here to help, please do get in touch by emailing or calling us on 0115 8965 300.

Before I sign off this week, I’d like to end on a personal note if I may. Aimee (my Rapunzelesque daughter) hasn’t her hair cut in all of her seven years. She’s decided it’s now so long that she doesn’t need it all. So, she’s going to have it cut next week and donate her hair to a charity, which gives free real hair wigs to children who’ve lost theirs due to cancer treatment.

Aimee would also like to raise £750 for the charity. She’s well on her way, but if you have a couple of pounds you could spare, please think about donating. It would make her day! The link you need is:

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