Today’s job outlook for financial advisors couldn’t be better – the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14% growth in job outlook between 2016 and 2026, and the median pay is over $90,000 annually. Despite these statistics, financial advisors without healthy online reputations are unlikely to find the success they desire.
If you’re like most financial advisors, you know that your online reputation matters now more than ever. In fact, 81% of adults will conduct online research before spending their money on any purchase, and 61% will look at reviews before buying a product or service.
Consumers looking for a financial advisor are even more likely to do extensive online research before picking up the phone. It’s safe to assume that any client who inquires about your services knows who you are; 45% percent of United States adults have decided not to do business with a professional based on a negative piece of information found online.
Don’t know where to start with your online reputation? An ORM (online reputation management) specialist is also an excellent solution. The twenty tips below will help you better understand your reputation and how to manage it in the meantime:
1. Get the Facts
Before you’ll know how much work needs to be done on your reputation, you need to get the facts. What are your reviews like, if you have any? What do clients like about you? What don’t they like? How much positive content is at the top of the page?
Your first step to improving your online reputation is to spend time going through the first two pages of your Google search results until you have a solid grasp of the conversations surrounding your business.
2. Claim Your Name
If you don’t have a business account with Google, a profile with LinkedIn, with your name (i.e. www.joesmith.com) and all of your social media accounts claimed, now’s the time to get moving. It’s a good idea to register everything that could be associated with your name to get the most exposure, the highest ranking on search engines and the best security for your business.
For example, if financial advisor Joe Smith doesn’t register www.joesmith.com, a disgruntled client can then purchase that domain and use it to post negative content about him. When Joe Smith’s future clients research him, the website with his name on it will appear high in the results, and they’ll instantly see negative content. Registering relevant social media sites and claiming your www. com name is essential to your online reputation.
3. Monitor Your Reputation
Google Alerts allow you to receive a notification any time your name or the name of your firm appears in a new online result. This means you’ll find out the moment someone says anything good or bad about you. Treat your reputation monitoring as you might treat the stock market, as it is just as valuable, if not more so.
With your alerts set up, you’ll be ready to continue working on your reputation without the worry that you’ll fall out of the loop. You’ll also be better equipped to keep your online reputation as positive as possible.
4. Don’t Respond Negatively
Speaking of keeping things positive, if you find negative content written by a client, competitor or another party, do not respond negatively. You do not want to argue online, sound defensive or trade insults with people online. What is posted online is difficult to remove or push down, even for ORM specialists. Don’t make the job harder than it needs to be.
It’s good practice to wait at least forty-eight hours before you respond to anything negative, if you feel your emotions might otherwise get involved. Think carefully before you write anything that could be immortalized in a screenshot, and objectively consider the situation. Many financial advisors consult their ORM specialists or PR advisors to handle responses to critical reviews.
5. Respond to Every Review
Professionals who take the time to respond to every review they receive – positive or negative – look better in the eyes of their clients. While you shouldn’t respond negatively, client interaction shows a dedication to each person who works with you.
Offering a simple thanks to positive reviewers and solutions/invitations for further discussion to negative reviewers goes a long way in the eyes of those researching your name online. You want to be viewed as a financial advisor who’s not just connected with clients, but passionate about maintaining client satisfaction on all fronts. The right response to a negative review can even turn it into a positive customer interaction when a potential client sees how well you handled it.
6. Ask Clients for a Review
When asked, 70% of consumers will leave a review for a business. If you’re not asking each client for reviews, you’re selling your reputation short.
Send follow-up emails that request feedback for your financial advisement services or offer a small incentive like a prorated planning session or free consultation.
This doesn’t just earn you new positive reviews and increase your presence online, it reminds you to treat every client like a potential reviewer. Each person who walks into your office and enlists your services could go home and write an in-depth review of his or her interactions with you.
Consider your branding and who you want your clients to see you as, and then act the part. When your clients leave reviews, they’ll build your reputation and brand as an excellent financial advisor.
7. Never Create Fake Reviews
The internet can feel deceptively anonymous at times, but this does not mean that it’s a good idea for you to manufacture positive reviews for your firm. Today’s clients, especially those who work with financial advisors, are savvy and can easily spot fake reviews. More importantly, many websites screen for falsified reviews and will delete them, block your account, or otherwise damage your reputation as a consequence.
Avoid fraudulent behavior and instead focus on generating genuine positive content about yourself and earning true positive reviews. An ORM specialist can help you get positive content about yourself on the front page of Google without fake reviews.
8. Feature Rave Reviews
If you’ve received even one rave review and it isn’t featured on your firm’s website, you’re overlooking excellent opportunities to advertise. Clients trust what past clients have to say about their financial advisors much more than something written by the firm itself.
Always ask for permission to feature reviews from clients. For those without positive reviews, the previous tip to request feedback from your clients will help change that. You can even use featured reviews to get your clients excited.
9. Create a Social Media Presence
The more active on social media you are, the better. Yes, even for professions like financial advising. A presence on social media builds a protective barrier around your name online. When people search for you, they’ll typically find reviews and social media accounts at the top of the list, pushing down other results.
Research social media management and consider hiring an expert to handle your accounts if you’re already busy. Most ORM specialists are well-versed in social media and will use it as an integrated part in touching up your online presence.
10. Contribute to an Insightful Blog
Financial blogs that offer valuable information to readers can gain immense popularity. They also push down negative information in favor of up-to-date, positive posts from you, the expert. When you blog, however, you must create information that enriches the lives of your readers.
Though only a small percent of readers will become clients, your blog will increase business while making you a more reliable source of financial advice. Blogs also come with opportunities to guest post on big-name websites like Forbes, and almost all professionals could largely benefit from such high-level exposure.
11. Create a Posting Schedule
To succeed with a blog or on social media, you’ll need a posting schedule. This keeps your posts regular enough to keep your content at the top of search results.
It also helps your posts appear during the times when your target audience is most often browsing the web. If you do not know the habits of your target audience, do research and develop a client profile that will guide your posting schedule, content and branding approach.
12. Become an Authority
In the same vein as blogging, establishing yourself as an authority and thought leader in the finance industry can do wonders for your reputation. Try to find unique perspectives on topics of finance or unique approaches to financial management.
Commit to learning as much as you can so you can generate more ideas, and when you do, don’t keep them to yourself. Be generous and share your ideas through speeches, blog posts and interviews. When you become an authority in the eyes of the public, your online reputation will shine brighter than ever before, and your career will start to thrive.
13. Google Is Your New Business Card
You probably already have slick business cards and no, you don’t need to redesign them. Right now, the front page of Google is your most-viewed business card, and you need to treat it as such. This means doing more than managing reviews, claiming accounts and publishing useful information.
You must also create a professional profile to feature anywhere that you and your firm have a profile. Treat your online profiles with as much care as you’d give to creating a new business card, highlighting the best aspects of yourself as a financial advisor. If you see anything on the front page of Google that you wouldn’t want on your business card, ORM is in order.
14. Protect Your Private Life
Your private life, especially for a professional like a financial advisor, should be just that: Private. Increase the security of each of your private profiles online so your potential clients can see nothing more than your profile picture, if that. By carefully separating your professional and private lives, you’re protecting both yourself and your firm.
You don’t need a client bringing up a recent relationship struggle you faced or commenting on a picture taken from your most recent night out. This makes you look less than professional and can damage your client’s perspective on you, thus negatively impacting the review he or she is likely to leave.
15. Protect Your Clients
Just as you don’t want your private life shared for everyone to see, neither do your clients. It is both a matter of legality and courtesy that you do not say or allude to anything that could compromise the privacy of your clients when you address them publicly.
Know the laws surrounding client privacy in your jurisdiction and follow them carefully. If you respond to a negative review without thought of client privacy, you can do more than damage your reputation – you can land yourself in court.
16. Embrace Transparency
Today’s clients demand transparency, and the financial advisors with the most transparency are more likely to win client business. Clients want financial advisors that they can trust not to withhold information. They want the facts, not an amazing sales pitch.
Provide clients with detailed information on your years of experience, your valid certifications and your active memberships. Many financial advisors will list fake certifications and inactive memberships in attempt to bolster their images.
Do not be one of these professionals. Instead, link to the organizations with which you are affiliated and show your clients that you have nothing to hide. Also, consider placing a section addressing the importance of transparency among financial advisors on your firm’s website, encouraging clients to do their research and thus gaining their trust.
17. Research Your Competition
Take time to read reviews for competing financial advisors in your area. Look for things that clients do and don’t like, and learn from this information. The successes and failures of your competitors can serve as valuable lessons to shape your own firm.
Not only will you learn what to avoid in your practice, you’ll gain information on marketing and sales tactics that are working for those in your field.
18. Set Up Your Team Members for Success
Every member of your firm should know and understand your brand, your ORM strategy and your customer service policy. This ensures that, no matter who your clients talk to and for what reason, they have nothing but good to say.
A client could easily love your services, but feel offended at the manners of your phone clerk and subsequently leave a negative review. Reputation management must be a team-wide focus if it is to succeed.
19. Hire an Online Reputation Management Specialist
If your schedule prevents you from paying as close attention to your online reputation as you would like, or there is an issue that seems out of your grasp, hiring a reputation management firm may be the right solution for you.
By outsourcing to a reputation management firm, you gain a team of trained professionals who are as versed in ORM as you are in finance. You wouldn’t want someone who’s not qualified to manage your bank account, so why would you let unqualified hands craft your reputation?
An ORM specialist does more than maintain your social media or push down unflattering content. You’ll also receive professional advice on adjusting your brand and finding improved success as a financial advisor.
20. Be Patient with ORM
The value of patience is no secret to a financial advisor. You’ve likely reminded many clients to keep a long-term view of their financial portfolios and to temper their short-term expectations. This is also a quality required for working with an ORM Specialist.
Even if you hired a full-time ORM team today, your reputation would not be perfect next week. Google and other search engines recognize changes in index profiles every few weeks, not every few minutes. If you approach ORM with a long-term mindset, though, you won’t be disappointed in the results that a skilled ORM firm can offer.
As much as you might like to, you cannot opt out of reputation management. The twenty tips above are just the beginning. ORM is a comprehensive field that requires just as much expertise and focus as your company’s finances do.
In fact, some consider it more important, because poor ORM will cause your finances to suffer. Regardless of what your online reputation looks like today, hiring an ORM specialist can only serve to boost your business.
The internet’s influence over client decisions is only going to continue increasing as more and more people turn to internet research before critical decisions. Just like saving for retirement, the time to start considering your online reputation management is now.
Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.