Consider Online Reputation Management

Online Reputation Management is an integration of Digital Marketing, Online Practice Management techniques, brand image strategies, and, of course, accurate record keeping for necessary compliance records.

Online Practice Management has been a rising key component to a financial planning firm’s success.  With more and more of our services becoming available online every day, we all know that we “should have a website” and that the “social media stuff” is important.

Most firms I work with have a website.  Most employees and owners have a LinkedIn account; but often there is little or only a fragmented connection between a firm’s various online vestiges and the image they work to send their clients and potential clients when they come into the office.  A firm’s online reputation and real world reputation need to be integrated and cohesive.  I’ve seen firms who want to attract clients who are attracted to their personality and *way* of working, but when you go to their LinkedIn profile, its just a FINRA compliance disclaimer.  These legal notices are mission critical, but they don’t communicate any qualitative messages about what it would be like to work with you and your firm.

When there is a disconnect between your online reputation and the reputation you have built with your clients and communities it breaks down your overall brand. It leaves a fragmented impression in the minds of your prospects and clients. The power of your online branding is immense. You want it to work for you, not against you. Using your Linkedin and other social media sites to communicate qualitative messages and reinforce the brand you’ve worked to create will let a potential client knows that they’ve found you and that your firm is their firm to help them with their finances.

As I’ve worked with clients, its become clear that the focus isn’t “Online Practice Management.” This phrase leads me to think about the basic tenets of a firm’s work online, but the concept doesn’t contain the true scope of what is needed.  It’s the same deal for our online images as it is for our in-person meetings.  We make sure to have a clean and pressed image and be mentally prepared for what we might need to talk about.  These details are survival skills to make a strong impression with a colleague or client.  The same is true with our online images.

People don’t use the yellow pages anymore.  If a potential client decides that they might be interested in your services, first they Google your firm, then check out your website and relevant social media profiles before making an appointment.  If they don’t feel comfortable doing this, their kids do it for them. It is important to have an integrated message between these locations.  Using the same content messages is critical, but using the same copy might turn someone off.

My suggestion is to focus on having an integrated and manageable approach to a firm’s online presence.  There is no need to be on Twitter if its going to give your secretary migraines as they try to come up with the right messaging.  Alienating your friends and family on Facebook happens too easily and though FB works hard for your ad dollars, the social costs can be frustrating to the poster and alienating to their communities.

There is a right way to approach your online reputation.  This process starts with a cohesive strategy and plan.  From there, if properly managed, it requires a modest investment of time but can also be where the firm speaks to their clients and community.  Each firm is unique. You need to find the solution and strategy that works for you.

If your website isn’t current enough a client might walk away because they don’t recognize that your firm is the right fit for them. Will your loyal clients love you any less if you update your website once a decade?  Probably not. You’ve worked hard for that loyalty and it isn’t easily swayed.

A potential client may be forgiving, but I wouldn’t bet your sales funnel on it.  Current best buyer’s practices have clients look up everything on the net first. People expect to be able to learn about their services from the internet. Everything is on the net now, from restaurant menus to what their friends are doing this weekend.  I’ve heard from many people that if a website looks too dated they don’t trust it as much.

There is a way to make this manageable.  Outsource key components and get the right advisors to help get the leg work done.  Build a plan and follow it, the same as you ask from your clients.  Make it simple enough to be manageable.  Getting the right technology tools and strategies to support you makes it easy.

Jake Wagner, CDMP

About the Author

Jake Wagner, CDMP

Jake is trained as a Certified Digital Marketing Professional.

He is called to connect true financial planning professionals with their clients and prospects through effective digital marketing.

He understands the needs and concerns of the financial planning profession and the wide range of regulatory compliance needs and concerns.

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