According to Hubspot, companies that blog get 55% more web traffic, and 57% of them have acquired a customer or client through their blog.
Do you want to drive more traffic and generate more leads for your financial practice? Start blogging. Blogging done right can lead to significant business success over time.
Blogging helps to cultivate relationships and trust. Blogging builds community in your targeted niche markets and geographical locations. Blogging attracts and engages clients and prospects. Blogging builds awareness, visibility, credibility, and generates leads for your business.
Once you realize that blogging is the best opportunity for distributing and showcasing your insights in a way that can catalog them and make them discoverable 24/7 by your target markets, you will understand the power of this medium. It’s like having your own media channel and programming guide designed to attract the right kinds of clients into your business while also positioning you to be easily referred by existing clients.
If you want your blog to truly set you apart and help you grow your business in the age of social media, there are some core elements to consider when developing this powerful digital asset we call a blog. Below I recommend 7 critical elements that are highly recommended to having a successful and sustainable blogging program. Without one of these critical elements, you will most likely stumble along and fail to gain meaningful traction with your blog.
7 Core Elements of a Powerful Financial Blog
1)Solid Design and Layout
The Importance of Good Design
I am amazed at how many poorly designed financial websites (and blogs) are out there. Bad design just kills trust dead. There is an abundance of poorly designed digital assets in the financial advisory industry, yet our services require a very high level of trust. What’s wrong with this picture?
Perhaps financial advisors, asset managers, and industry professionals don’t yet grasp the importance of building a professional and credible online reputation…one that matches your offline reputation.
As consumers, we love pretty things. Think about the design of Apple products and how it appeals you personally. We are much more attracted to and willing to trust well-designed products, websites, and frankly, people. Your blog should be the best representation of you and your brand.
Great design is affordable, attainable, and invaluable. Don’t skimp on this. Looking professional and polished online is critical to having credibility and cultivating trust with clients, prospects, and business alliances.
If you’re not creating a trustworthy first impression with your online assets, you will never build trust in the digital age.
The Importance of Clean Design
Don’t clutter up your blog with lots of moving pieces and parts. Your visitors will get lost and they won’t know what to do and where to click. The majority of people who visit your blog will not always scroll down, so it’s important to keep your primary messsages and/or calls to action “above the fold”.
With a blog, your content should be the primary focus of your site. Don’t let your message get lost and overshadowed by shiny objects that don’t accomplish your goals of capturing social media shares and blog subscribers (leads).
Your blog site layout should be clean, simple, and uncluttered. Because it’s easy to add lots of bells and whistles, it is tempting to junk up your site, but do your best to avoid this.
I am also not an advocate of placing ads on your blog (if you’re allowed to have them). They can potentially diminish your credibility and they rarely deliver enough revenue to get excited about.
A well-designed blog with a solid theme framework will exhibit trust and credibility with your clients and prospects. We recommend WordPress as the premier blogging solution for financial advisors and firms. (Read: 7 Reasons Why Financial Advisors Should Use WordPress)
2)Strategic Blog “Marketing Theme”, Title, and URL Selection
One of the most important secrets to building a successful blog is brand positioning with the blog marketing theme, title, and url. Get creative help with this in order to brainstorm about your business, your clients, your passions, and your life experiences that make you who you are today.
You will need to create a compelling blog marketing theme in order to highlight your strengths and differentiate yourself from competitors.
The way you structure your blog and the url that you use are also important decisions. For example, many financial advisors and firms choose to build their blogs on a unique custom url that is separate from their existing website. With this strategy you can create a strong keyword-rich “memorable” theme to help attract your specific target markets. Or, in some cases, it may make sense to set-up your blog as a “sub-domain” of your main website, if you already have a nice and updated website in place. (Further Reading: The Power of Franchising Your Online Presence) It is even possible to create multiple blogs around targeted, niche themes!
Remember, blogs are designed to build relationships, not sell your services. This means that your blog should reveal your human side…your personality, your voice, your passion for what you believe in. These are the things that will attract people to you and enable you to cultivate and nurture relationships.
Whether you have some idea about how you would portray yourself or your firm through your blog theme, title, and url, it’s a process that should not be taken lightly. It will be perhaps the most significant part of your public brand and voice.
3)Relevant Quality Content
The content that you publish on your blog is the primary determinant of who you will attract to your site. High quality and targeted content will attract high quality visitors who are interested in learning more.
The content you publish to a blog can be in the form of text-based articles, videos, images, embedded presentations or pdf’s, and even podcast audio files. There is a learning curve for each of these formats, but they are not difficult. Primarily creating great content requires time, discipline, and commitment. You could also partner closely with a writer or editor if you need help in refining your thought leadership messages and ideas.
Pre-approved content that is “canned” may be an easier solution than producing your own ideas, but it’s not nearly as effective. Consumers are smart. They can easily identify canned messages from financial advisors and firms. If you’re going to develop a blog with the idea of posting canned financial content, save yourself the time and money and don’t do it. (See: 5 Tips for Creating a Successful Content Marketing Program)
What if you can’t write? I would argue that you probably can, but maybe you could benefit from having an editor or a content development coach. Many talented singers cannot and do not write their own songs. Being a songwriter myself, I can respect the relationship between singer and songwriter. I can write songs but I’m an average singer, for example. The key here is to make sure your content partner helps you develop a content plan that reflects the essence of who you are, what differentiates you as a professional, and the key issues that concern your clients and target markets.
The very best solution is to create your own unique content in the formats that best suit your personality. If the content strategy isn’t driven by the primary thought leader of the firm, it simply will not be as effective. Once you begin to realize that your content publishing efforts are having a direct impact on your bottom line, you will make more time to invest in the process.
Blogging is something you really have to believe in and know that it’s right for you or your firm. Without passion and enthusiasm to drive the process, your efforts to grow your influence will fail and your blog will become a ghost town, just like a static website. Not only do you need to be excited about it and understand the value of blogging, but you need to be ready to make the commitment to the process.
Business results from blogging require that you post to your blog consistently. It really doesn’t matter if it’s once a month or once a week, but it should be consistent.
The reason I commit my personal time to this blog on a consistent basis is simple; it yields business results. Wired Advisor was built from grassroots blogging. We didn’t run expensive ads. We didn’t purchase expensive booths at trade shows or buy lists of financial advisors. We leverage blogging and social media to grow our business. You can do the exact same thing with your business.
Think beyond new clients when you think about results from blogging. New clients will come from consistent blogging efforts, but along the way you will also create many opportunities for personal and professional growth. You will build a network of loyal and trusted followers (and many of those people will become advocates for you). You will potentially land speaking opportunities and media exposure. You will make it easy for your clients to refer new clients to you (the days of asking for referrals are gone, you need to attract referrals in the digital age). You will attract targeted leads into your business over time.
Through consistent blogging, you will become visible, valuable, and influential in search engines and on social media channels. Building online influence, by default, breeds business success in a wired world. The online influencers win the offline business.
5)Search Engine Optimization
Google has become a lot smarter about the content they choose to show the searcher. You can be found by your target markets if you are publishing insights about the things that they care about. Social media participation, geographic location, your author profile, multiple media formats (think videos and images) and publishing consistency can all impact your ability to get found online both in search and on social networks.
Building a powerful blog and distributing your thought leadership content out to social networks will help you develop a solid online reputation with many positive digital gateways to your brand. It will grow your digital equity. Every new blog post counts a a new link for Google to index.
There are even some well-designed blogs that I’ve come across that are actually missing some of the critical SEO elements on their site. Titles, meta descriptions, tags, and url structure are all basic SEO principles that can have a positive impact on your site. Attracting inbound links to your blog from high quality blogs and websites also continues to play an important role, in addition to using keyword phrases in your content that resonate with your target audience. Local search optimization is becoming increasingly important as well.
Having a solid SEO foundation can provide some incremental return, but ultimately it’s your content, your visibility, and your reputation that will drive the right kind of traffic to your blog. Having all of the SEO boxes checked certainly doesn’t hurt.
Also making sure that your content is formatted so that it’s easy to consume and including images with your posts can make a huge difference in attracting visitors! Your posts should be easy to read and structured with headers, bullets and highlights throughout. Adding an image will enhance a blog post’s visual appeal and also provide another object for SEO.
6)Social Media Integration
Many of the financial advisors who are implementing successful social media strategies have something in common. Their strategies are driven by blogging, and their blog serves as the central hub of an integrated digital marketing system. A combination of CONTENT (blogging) and COMMUNITY (your network) is what leads to attracting new clients, building influence, and increasing loyalty in a wired world. It’s difficult to do one without the other and be successful.
Blogging technology integrates seamlessly with social media channels. Your blog will provide you with a tangible way to measure your social media success through referral traffic, clicks, and subscribers!
Your blog should showcase the following social media features:
Social connection tools (follow buttons, icons, and/or boxes) – These features make it simple for visitors to your blog to connect with you in social networks, follow your company, or join your community in some cases without ever leaving your site!
Social sharing tools – Social sharing buttons are usually found at the top, bottom, or on the side of blog posts. These buttons make it easy for blog visitors to share your content with their social network connections.
7)Lead Capture and Nurturing System
If you don’t have a strategy for inviting people into your inner circle, or your trusted network, you have no way of really knowing “who” is interested in what you have to say and what you’re sharing on your blog. By providing something of value to those interested individuals in exchange for their contact information, you have the opportunity to connect with them further and cultivate that relationship over time. You can build a high quality, organic list of prospects through your blogging efforts.
There are a number of “hooks” that you can use on your blog to pull someone in who might be interested in learning more, or even interested in working with you and your firm. An email newsletter is the most common and simple lead capture tool for a blog, but you can also offer a valuable ebook, webinar, consultation, or free review.
At Wired Advisor we’ve tested all of these methods and continue to research and test multiple lead capture strategies. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s okay to try new things here to determine what works best for you. Ultimately having 1 prominent “call to action” that tells the visitor exactly what to do is the most effective for lead capture. Too many calls to action in one place can lead to NO action.
The second piece of this is having a lead nurturing system in order to stay top of mind. Delivering an email newsletter that includes a digest of your most recent blog posts is a simple and effective lead nurturing strategy.
These strategies just scratch the surface on lead capture and nurturing, but hopefully you understand that this is what will move prospects to become clients, and inspire clients to make introductions and referrals. If you’re missing this kind of program on your blog, you’re missing out on opportunities to grow your influence.
I am a big believer that outdated and poorly designed financial advisor websites will ultimately be replaced with both owned digital assets (website, blogs, microsites, landing pages) and leased digital assets (social networking profiles). It is now time to be where your clients and prospects are rather than making them come and find you!Learn More About Launching a Successful Financial Blog