Here's the critical question: If he found your website, would he give you a call?
An outstanding website can make a powerful first impression. Unfortunately, so can a bad one. Your website should tell prospective customers a number of things: firm services and philosophy, investment management methodology as well as blog posts about different financial planning topics. But it also shows whether your firm is on the cutting edge and how it values technology. Some of those issues are important to potential employees, as well - so if your company has an out-of-date and poorly maintained website, you risk losing not only clients, but also talent.
GEN Y'S GREATER DEMANDS
If you're recruiting new workers, remember this: College students of this generation have grown up with Web technology. They communicate via social media, get all their information from websites, and discover the latest trends by their friends' likes, tweets and YouTube recommendations. So it's only fair to think they will want to conduct business in the same manner.
Young advisors know that engaging marketing campaigns have to involve not just face-to-face interactions but also websites, multimedia and social media. They want a company that can and will support a marketing campaign that involves these mediums. If a candidate was weighing two firms - both with similar philosophies and approaches, but only one was on the cutting edge of Web technology and the other was stuck in the 1990s - which do you think she would choose to work for?
In a recent conversation with a Gen Y advisor, I asked about his firm's website. He hung his head. All the pages were static, he said, the company didn't have a blog and the ideas he had for an online-marketing campaign were limited by his firm's delay in implementing technology.
He was so disheartened, he added, that when he meets Gen Y prospects, he is too embarrassed to direct them to his firm's website. He also wanted to interact with prospects and clients using different methods of technology, such as video conferencing, but his company wasn't able to support it.
I asked if this lack of technology was a deal breaker for him: Would he leave the firm if another opportunity presented itself? His answer: "Many fee-only firms offer similar service, just with different methods of delivery based on different comfort levels with technology. How can I bring clients to the firm when I am not confident in either of those things?"
Let's go back to that prospect, still searching for nearby firms. Here's what he's found so far:
* Firm A has a template website and says the planner has been in the profession for 25 years. His bio photograph shows him to be about 40, though. Has he been practicing since age 15? And if not: Why is that photo so out of date?
* Firm B has the same template as the first one - instant turnoff. In addition, this site has numerous pages full of text, grainy shots of the team, and a "latest update" that is 18 months old.
* Firm C is something else entirely, though. The branding is appealing, there are dynamic graphics, blog posts are only days old and contain current topics. It also has videos, podcasts and other media, plus sharp, professional photos throughout the site - and there are fresh, interesting and concise bios, plus clear descriptions of what the firm does.
The prospect rules out two of the three firms by appearances. After all: If a firm cannot produce a good first impression online, who knows what quality of work it will provide? He calls Firm C to make an appointment.
Last year my firm, Vantage Financial Partners, went through a website overhaul. Moving away from a static page layout, we changed the site to allow for multimedia integration, social media widgets and a blog. Most important, new pages could be added from scratch in as little as five minutes and be tracked for marketing performance.
Dynamic website design is important for attracting and retaining employees, says Joe Polidoro, founder of the advisor marketing firm Marketeria, which designed Vantage's new website. "Regularly sharing your views on your website and on social media expresses who you are, what you believe and the impact you have on clients," he explains. "If a prospective employee reads your content and discovers that his or her views align with yours, you've created an engaged employee even before he or she is hired.