One of my financial advisor clients recently asked, “I would like for my website to become a lead generation tool, what can you suggest?”

It’s a great question and one I’ve thought about plenty of times over the years. The answer I gave him might surprise you, but before telling you, you’ll need a little background information.

What is a Lead Generation Website?

The type of lead generation website that my client wanted is one that would bring him leads from people in his area searching online for a financial advisor.

When the focus of generating leads is on the general public you’re forced to cast a very wide net.

The first requirement for getting that type of lead is for his website listing to appear on the first page of search engine results, or at least near the top of the second page.

The second requirement is that his website be focused on lead generation. The target audience for the website would be the general public.

Let’s take a look at these two requirements in more detail.

Getting to the Top of Search Engine Results

Getting to the top of Google or Bing searches is almost never an accident these days. The websites you see on page one for financial advisors in your area have been online for awhile and most of them have had search engine optimization work.

In the world of search engine optimization getting the proper work done can be costly and time consuming. And getting the wrong work done can be worse than having no work done at all. Unfortunately many of the search engine optimization offers you see are from companies that would produce negative results.

If you choose to hire a company to do search engine optimization for your website, be very careful about your choice.

You can buy your way to page one of search engine results with Google Adwords or Bing Ads.

The competition for page one results is tough. Not only do you face competition from other local advisors, you face competition from national companies like Edward Jones and Morgan Stanley, or referral websites like Angie’s List.

There is another way to get to page one – buy your way there with Google Adwords or Bing Ads. That’s a viable way of doing it, but again the competition is tough from the big players and the cost per click might be from $5 to $10 in order to appear in the right column. The big name players almost always have the top three positions on the page because they can bid more per click than any smaller firms.

Since it will probably take from 5 to 10 clicks to get someone to fill out a contact form or make contact, a lead might end up costing $100 or more. This is nothing to the big players in the industry, but many small advisory firms don’t have pockets that deep.

The Quality of Leads from Search Engines

The quality of leads from search engines vary. A company like Edward Jones might be after any lead they can get, but you may have very different needs. Most independent advisors are looking for leads from prospects that have at least $250,000 of invested assets.

The quality of leads from search engines may not be what you expect.

Many people with $250,000 or more of assets have an advisor, or they have a retirement plan at work that’s managed by an advisory firm. Do some of these prospects go online to search for a financial advisor when they decide they’re unhappy with their current one? Sure, but many will ask their friends and family for a recommendation rather than do a blind search.

If an advisor is after leads from the general public and hopes to get them from search engines they have to be prepared to do a great deal of work or spend a great deal of money. They also have to be prepared to spend some time weeding through the leads that might not be ideal.

What Does a Lead Generation Website Look Like?

The second requirement for generating leads from your website is that it focuses on lead generation. Most advisor websites don’t focus on lead generation even though that might be what the advisor expected when they had the website built.

Most advisor websites don’t focus on lead generation even though that might be what the advisor expected when they had the website built.

The subject of building a great lead generation website is a bit complex but fortunately Michael Kitces has written a great article that you can read on his Nerd’s Eye Blog:
How The Best Financial Advisor Websites Turn Visitors Into Prospects And Clients ยป

Kitces points to the following websites as great examples of lead generation websites:

genyplanning.com
beyondyourhammock.com
financiallywisewomen.com
goodfinancialcents.com

All of these websites use video and large photos of the advisor in order to create a sense of authority, and in some cases perhaps celebrity. Almost all of these websites use tactics such as pop-ups that interrupt the visitor in hopes that they’ll sign up for a newsletter.

These tactics are what it takes to create a strong lead generation website and the ones noted above do a great job.

The use of hard sell lead generation tactics is a mistake for most independent financial advisors.

However, I think each of these advisors might be viewed as more focused on marketing than on providing sound financial advice. Of course that’s probably not true at all, but the lead generation tactics of their website might cause some people to get the feeling that the advisor is a bit over the top with their marketing.

When looking at these websites I wonder what sort of leads they generate. Are they generating leads from prospects that most independent advisors are seeking? I think that in many cases they aren’t.

It’s my opinion that the use of hard sell lead generation tactics is a mistake for a financial advisor that is focused on attracting mid-to-high net worth clients.

Ric Edelman

Whether you like Ric or not you have to agree that he’s done a magnificent job with self-promotion and business development. His website is a prime example of what to include on a lead generation website. There are no distracting pop-ups, and over-all the site is done with good taste.

He brings traffic to his website from his media exposure, Google Adwords, and organic search engine results.

Many financial advisors aren’t comfortable with a high level of self-promotion.

If an advisor set out to very closely copy what Ric has done over the years, and put in all of the effort he’s put in to get there, they would probably be incredibly successful, even if they never reached his notoriety.

But again, many advisors are not interested in doing self-promotion at that level, or perhaps any level at all.

What Do Many Advisor Website Developers and Marketers Suggest?

Many web development companies and marketing specialists suggest that you fill your website with articles and blog posts so that it will rank better in search engines. Although this tactic used to work, it often fails these days, unless you’re willing to make a long-term consistent effort at writing. Using financial articles or blog posts provided by a “content provider” will do little good.

Using financial articles or blog posts provided by a “content provider” will do little to help with search engine ranking.

In fact putting content on your website for the sake of search engine optimization may have a negative impact on your most valuable visitor – the referred visitor. A referred visitor often wants a small amount of information about you before they make contact. If you target an audience they are not a part of they may decide that you’re not right for them.

Some companies suggest that you should attempt to get an email address from your visitor so that you can send them newsletters and marketing messages in order to some day secure their business. Distracting pop-up newsletter request forms are often the method suggested to get the newsletter sign-ups. It’s my opinion that visit-interrupting marketing pop-ups have no place on most advisors websites.

What Do I Suggest?

Many of the firms that have built large businesses have done it the old fashioned way – by networking with people in their community. It’s my belief that for financial advisors seeking mid-to-high net worth clients, networking is here to stay. A website is a requirement these days, but it shouldn’t use most of the tactics that true lead generation websites use – and it should speak most importantly to referred visitors.

There’s simply no replacement for personal networking.

An advisor has to be networking or generating referrals in other ways as detailed in this book by David Mullen, The Million Dollar Financial Advisor

My target market with Just Three Pages is advisory firms that understand that their website is a tool to help convert or assure referrals that they are a good choice for an advisor. When it comes to advisory firms, subtlety is far better than over the top marketing.

Our websites have been created to support the networking approach rather than the lead generation approach. We believe in actively asking your website visitors to reach out and contact you, but we believe in doing it with a low key professional approach. We also believe that an advisor should understand the role that their website plays, rather than hoping to have a website that brings them leads from random people searching the internet.

Generating leads and new business is important to the survival of almost every financial advisor, and especially upstarts, but how to do it well is almost never easy or quick. If you decide that you want a lead generating website then take note of the tactics used by Ric Edelman both online and offline.

Summary

A lead generation website requires:

  • Website traffic which comes from page one search results for your locality or specialty – or – a significant public awareness campaign on your part (radio show, news appearances, social media campaigns, etc).
  • Special focus on lead generation tactics within your website.

You’ll get advice from many marketing professionals who tell you that you should be active with social media and that you should have a lead generating website. I think that’s bad advice unless you’re willing to go all in and do it right, and make lead generation marketing part of your business.

If your focus is not online lead generation then don’t have a website that attempts to do it half-heartedly, because the half-hearted attempt won’t succeed. In addition, your half-hearted attempt at lead generation might end up creating a less than optimal experience for visitors that are referred to you, perhaps your most important type of lead.

What was the answer I gave to my client’s question about getting leads from his website?

“The only type of leads you should expect from your website are those that come from people who visit after someone refers them or mentions your name.”