A 7-Step Process for Expanding Your Online Presence

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7-step process for financial advisors to build an online presence

A version of this article appeared in the Investment News Practice Management Newsletter.

Have you started building and growing your online presence beyond a basic website? If you’re like most advisors, you probably haven’t begun to move into content development, social media, and content marketing yet.

Maybe you’re worried about compliance (or restricted by your firm’s rules), or perhaps you just aren’t sure how to begin. New digital tools, social networks, and mobile devices are drastically and rapidly changing the way we live and work. All that change can be overwhelming, and it’s moving at the speed of light! Where on earth do you start?

Positioning yourself as the expert and reaching clients and prospective clients in the places where they spend time today is becoming increasingly important for enhancing your credibility, reputation, professional relevance, and referral power.

Before you begin expanding your digital presence, you will first want to make sure that you have laid the foundational groundwork. Your core branding and messaging should be in place and clearly showcase who you are, who you help, and how you help. This means you will also need to do some work on clearly defining your target markets for your business. Only then are you ready to start building out your comprehensive online presence.

Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your brand, having a process in place for expanding your online presence can be very beneficial. Otherwise, you may find yourself adopting shotgun tactics versus a systematic approach. You also may find yourself with a collection of tools that you don’t really know how to integrate and leverage. When you have a process in place, all of a sudden things aren’t so complicated. Sound familiar? This is exactly what you do for your clients when you help them develop a clear financial plan and implement an investment strategy that is targeted to their goals! It’s all about the process.

A 7 -Steps Process for Expanding Your Online Presence

#1)Plan

The most logical place to start is to develop a plan, just as you probably do for each of your clients. Think about your goals, budget, and the resources that might be required to go “digital”.  Consider which online marketing channels make sense for your business as well as the education or training you might need to get up to speed with building your online presence. Most importantly, creating a powerful online presence will require a consistent investment of time to build traction initially, and to continue that momentum on a daily basis. Now is a good time to evaluate which marketing activities aren’t working and reinvest your resources into building long-term digital equity that will pay off for years to come.

#2)Publish

Today it’s easier than ever to self-publish online. Sharing and distributing your insights online through blogging technology will position you as the go-to expert in your market.  Utilizing a powerful content management system such as WordPress, you can easily publish your own text-based articles, videos, audio podcasts, images and presentations and distribute your content out to social media channels, search engines, and email inboxes. Over time, this will grow your visibility and credibility.

Work to build a robust library of unique, personable, and high quality content that is accessible and relevant to your target markets 24/7 on your online hub (website/blog). This will make it easier for you to be found online by the right people. It will also help you grow your network and expand your reach. Don’t underestimate the power of publishing as the foundation of your digital strategy. In an industry where others can’t give public testimonials and recommendations about you, publishing is your best opportunity to tell your story!

#3)Share

It is no secret that we are bombarded with information today. People have enough information. What they really want is knowledge. They want someone to sort through all that information and lead them to make good decisions. Creating a successful online presence involves sharing the right knowledge (content) with the right people (members of your target markets). Ideally, a decent proportion of what you share online would come from content that you develop (see #2), but you can also build significant clout online by sharing content from other influencers and reputable websites or blogs. Activating your online presence through a consistent and systematic social media sharing strategy will help you grow your following and stay top of mind with your community.

#4)Connect

You can invest in an amazing online presence and have outstanding content, but without a community, you won’t generate opportunities that can forward your personal and professional success. Proactively focus on building your community online through search engines (web traffic), social media (networking), and your email database. It is your community that will ultimately enable you to cultivate trusted connections who can become advocates for your business, referral sources, promotional partners, and new clients. Invest in both the depth and breadth of your network. Try to replicate your offline network online first in order to seed your community, and expand from there.

#5)Engage

As you grow your community via your online presence and activities, you will open up the door to engagement opportunities with others. This is where the real relationship-building happens. Social engagement is professional networking as we know it in the traditional sense, but it’s online, easy, and can accelerate relationship development. Building the community first (see #4) gives you credibility, access, and permission to engage with the members from within.  It also allows you to gather intelligence about the individuals you are connected with. Engaging in influential networking activities based on personal knowledge about someone’s personal or work life is incredibly powerful. It can create an immediate warm relationship!

#6)Optimize

Optimizing your online presence is an ongoing activity. Online marketing programs cannot be put on autopilot. The landscape changes rapidly and therefore, you will need to be constantly updating and optimizing your online presence. This is not much different than the concept of adjusting and rebalancing client portfolios to minimize risk and maximize returns.

Consider all the new features and changes you hear about from social networks as well as Google. What works today may not work as well in six months. In the past, prior to LinkedIn and Facebook going public, it was easier and less expensive to build your network. Now, you either need a premium account (LinkedIn) or a paid social ad campaign (Facebook) to accomplish the same objectives! If you’re not optimizing your presence consistently, it will likely cost you more in the long run.

Just as you optimize client portfolios for risk/reward, you will want to do the same for your digital portfolio to make sure it’s working for you efficiently and effectively. The goals is to build a system that will maximize your impact with the least amount of time required. If top CEO’s can do it and still run their firms, you can do it too.

#7)Analyze

Luckily, there are some amazing and powerful digital tools available that can give you great insight into how your digital strategy is working. A good number of these tools are free or low cost. With digital tracking and marketing tools, you can gather data from your activities and analyze your strategy to determine what is working. You will need some time to gather that data and make sense of the results. However, it is quite powerful to be able to measure marketing performance, which is something that has never been available in the past.

Following this 7-step process will help you successfully expand your online presence. Keep in mind that the results of your efforts will not be visible at first. This is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make. Don’t set your expectations too high. It’s a long game. Just as saving and investing to build a retirement nest egg, you will be saving and investing to build your digital portfolio.

Think of your online presence as a long-term growth stock. If you consistently work to build and grow it the right way, you will have a valuable asset in the end.

Your Turn

Do you have a process in place for expanding your online presence? What can you do differently to get on the right track? Did you find this 7-step process to be valuable?

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About Stephanie Sammons

Stephanie Sammons is the founder and CEO of Wired Advisor™. She's been named one of the Top 25 Social Media Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn and a Top Financial Industry Blogger by RIABiz. As a CFP® and former 15-year financial advisor, Stephanie combines her "in the trenches" industry knowledge with her extensive digital marketing experience to teach financial advisors how to win and keep clients in a wired world. Follow Stephanie on Twitter and Google+.

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