The Power of Franchising Your Online Presence

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financial advisor websitesThe internet has changed everything. Not only has the web democratized information, it’s leveled the playing field for individuals, small businesses, large corporations and institutions. No longer does the power belong to the people or the companies at the top. By claiming your space online, you have a tremendous ability to accomplish anything you can put your mind to.

As the internet continues to evolve with the advent of social media and increased content accessibility through mobile devices, it’s time to completely rethink your web presence.

Think Like a Basketball Coach

Think about a basketball team playing in a game (I was a point guard for many years and I’ve coached a few teams in my day). How many actions are taken on average by a team before a player actually gets the opportunity to shoot and score?  A smart coach is going to take advantage of the landscape and run plays that effectively outsmart the defense. Certainly there will be some wide open layups or scoring opportunities that circumvent running an offense, but typically the ball will be inbounded from the opposite end of the court, multiple players on the team will execute the offense through dribbling and passing (multiple touches), and ultimately the opportunity to shoot and score becomes available.

This is a great analogy for thinking about how many times a potentially qualified client might experience your presence online in multiple places before they are ready to “shoot”, or take the next step. Prospects who become aware of you online need multiple touches before they are ready to even think about taking the next step.

A prospect may need to see you 5, 7, 10 times online in the various places where they spend time before they are ready to have any kind of business conversation with you!  Where might they find you?  Google searches, blog(s), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, smart phone/tablet RSS apps, email inboxes, and yes, your primary website can be in the mix as well.

Here’s the tricky part; each prospect who finds you online will take a different path…but patterns will emerge within your web analytics and it’s these collective data trends that can provide the most insight.

If you’re counting on a single primary website to create a multiple touch online offense for you, you’re making a big mistake. The goal is to be visible online everywhere that matters, attract your target audience, and lead them through a powerful influential process of viewing you as the right choice at the right time.

Moving Beyond the Traditional Website

For years you’ve been taught to develop a website to serve as the central hub of your online presence. The problem is, having a website in and of itself is not enough anymore. A website alone is not going to magically build awareness and drive qualified traffic and leads into your business. One digital asset only gives you one source for creating multiple touches with your prospects. Most likely, a website alone is also not going to be sufficient for your existing clients. As their expectations increase, they are going to want you to be visible and easily accessible to them in the ways that they prefer to engage and interact with you.

If your website is the only place you can be found or contacted, you will not be top of mind with clients, and prospective clients will likely forget about you when your omnipresent top competitor grabs and keeps their attention instead.

The next logical step for moving beyond your website is blogging. You could have a single blog or multiple blogs, depending on your target demographics and content marketing themes. Blogs are digital assets designed for “helping”. They are designed to inform, inspire, educate, and even motivate your prospects. Blogs allow you to separate your “helping” assets from your “selling” assets. There is no need to “sell” with your blog content. In fact, if you do, it will potentially backfire on you. Solely focus on providing your target audience with insightful tips that can help them achieve and improve. Help them get to where they want to go.

Throughout your blog(s) you should offer compelling calls to action to encourage prospects to provide their information to you in exchange for something of greater value such as a special informative report, ebook, webinar, or email coaching course.

I do not advocate putting your blog on your primary website. Don’t get so caught up in single domain thinking…this is not a linear world. If you are concerned about confusing your brand, put your blog on a subdomain of your primary website (i.e. http://blog.wallstreetadvisors.com). Remember, separate the “helping” assets from the “selling” assets. I believe that a single-domain web presence is no longer the best strategy in the age of a decentralized web. However, it’s still critical to have a hub and I would argue the hub should be your blog. It has the potential to generate the most traffic due to fresh content being added consistently!

Start thinking about creating multiple online “franchise” properties for your brand that integrate and work together toward common goals…digital franchising.

Here’s an example: Currently I have 3 online hubs that I own. Each hub has a different purpose, but they all tree up to my common goals of building online awareness and credibility, cultivating qualified business leads, and creating business growth/exposure opportunities. 2 of my online hubs are blogs, and their sole purpose is to provide insights, intelligence, and education to my target audiences. The other is a business website which is related/integrated with one of the blogs. The website is all about business and is designed to encourage a potential client who already knows, likes, and trusts me (through blogging and social media) to take that next step!  99% of the time, the new leads entering into my funnel have experienced the multiple touch process I’m implementing through all of my online marketing activities.

Owned Vs. Leased Digital Assets

Beyond the web assets that you own and control such as websites and blogs, social networks should serve as critical components of your digital portfolio. Your profiles on these networks are sometimes referred to as “leased” web real estate, because you don’t own them. However, by building out a presence on multiple social networks you can create awareness and earn the attention of the members in your target markets. Active social media profiles are an important part of the multiple touch equation. If your prospects don’t get to see you in these places where they may be spending their time, you’ve lost the opportunity to stay in front of them and work toward your multiple touch totals.

Social networks are going to change and evolve. In fact, there are even new tools that allow you to embed your social networking activity directly onto your WordPress blog! Perhaps a solution to the lack of ownership problem with social networks?

When advisors ask me which social networks are most important, I answer “all of them.” It is my experience and that of many others who are successful digital marketers that you never know how you’re going to be found online and who might find you. Every new connection in a social network is an opportunity to expand your visibility. If anyone can become or lead to a new client, and you never know when someone might need your expertise, why wouldn’t you try to build a robust and vast online presence?

Creating a plan, strategy, and system for managing your social media presence is going to also be necessary in order to maximize impact and minimize your time. You don’t have to be super active to achieve the goal of staying top of mind with clients and prospect. You just need to learn how to play the game and focus your efforts to achieve the best possible results.

Franchise Your Digital Presence

It’s time to start thinking more about how you can expand your digital presence beyond the traditional website. Expanding your virtual presence is not near as difficult or expensive as expanding your physical presence, just as online social networking is much more efficient than attending numerous offline networking events!

Providing your target markets with multiple opportunities to learn from you and engage with you is what is most important today in building online influence and developing the right relationships for your business. To get on a prospect’s radar 5, 7, or 10 times is substantially more accelerated than it was in the past. Think about how long it took before the internet to get in front of a qualified prospect just a couple of times a year? Now, those same barriers no longer exist.

The process drives the platform. In other words, you can’t really build your platform effectively until you’ve mapped out your process. Only then will you know which components and tools to utilize as you expand and franchise your online presence.

Once you’ve mapped out your value proposition, target markets, and thought leadership content, you can begin to franchise your web presence and across multiple channels. You can use blog sites, social media management tools, landing pages, and email marketing tools to accomplish your goals and web analytics to track, measure, and gather insights.

If it seems like a lot of work to franchise your web presence, but much of the work goes into building the system. From there it’s running the system.

Your Turn:

What do you think about franchising your web presence? Do you agree or disagree that we should virtually franchise? Does the notion of this sound frightening and overwhelming?

photo credit: bobert1980 via photopin cc

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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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  • http://twitter.com/susanweiner Susan Weiner, CFA

    That’s an interesting perspective about separating your selling and your helping pages.

  • kkwiatko

    Absolutely. Our websites don’t have a monopoly on good content – it’s everywhere and our clients don’t have to come to our sites anymore. We have to be where our clients are.

    • http://www.wiredadvisor.com Stephanie Sammons

      Exactly…be where your clients are.

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  • Craig Iskowitz

    Expanding their number of online touch points is an excellent way for advisors to increase opportunities for clients to interact with them. But they also shouldn’t neglect their own website, especially if it is just a bunch of static informational pages. Read more: http://wp.mHe/pPor1-yk

    An interactive web portal that provides dynamic functionality for clients is going to be table stakes in a year or two. A perfect example of how an advisory firm re-energize their online presence was provided during an informative session at the 2013 Technology Tools for Today (T3) Advisor Conference in Miami. Read more: http://wp.mHe/pPor1-yk

    You can read a brief summary of the how one advisory firm integrated their CRM, Financial Planning and Performance Reporting together and launched a web portal for their clients: http://wp.mHe/pPor1-yk

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