reDesign

Most financial advisers and investment professionals agree on the need for a well-designed website. It’s the virtual equivalent of a well-designed office. For better or worse, it makes a statement about your practice that influences the perceptions of clients and prospective clients.

Which is why it’s important to make your website reflect your brand. So when it’s time for a website refresh or re-do, should you outsource the project or do it yourself? It depends. The keys are to decide what kind of site you want, whether you have the resources to dedicate to the project, and how much you want to spend.

Form follows function

Website types range from a simple brochure template to a completely customized, highly interactive and content-rich design. Decide on the purpose of the website: Is it a marketing tool? An information resource? How important is it to distinguish you from your competitors? Who will provide and update the content? How often? The more you want from your site, the more customized it should be.

Even a brochure-type site should offer a choice of design templates as well as simple marketing tools such as contact links, map finders, information-request forms and limited site statistics. A step up from the brochure approach allows users to access dynamic content such as informative newsletter articles, financial calculators, stock quotes and other research tools. More sophisticated sites are built to reflect your corporate identity and may include custom-designed banners, backgrounds, forms and animation.

Examine your staff resources

Building a website from the ground up takes expertise. It involves strategic planning, project management, web design and development. It also requires database development, website hosting, domain name registration, online marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

Those things take time, too. You could spend hours doing things that a skilled web professional could do in minutes. That’s not only more expensive. It’s also time away from serving clients.

So unless you have a web development team on staff, your time is probably best invested by outsourcing from a professional website supplier.

Choose a vendor

If you decide to go the outsourcing route, your next step will be to choose a vendor. In your research, ask if they provide a range of choices, including budget-friendly options. Does the price include such things as hosting, domain registration, content, forms, maintenance and SEO? How long have they been in business? How many websites have they produced?

Websites are not a once-and-done thing. So it’s important to work with a vendor that provides good continuing service and an easy-to-use product. Updating the content should be simple, fast and intuitive.

Another consideration is financial-industry expertise. Instead of supplying generic website templates, some suppliers specialize in websites for the financial services industry. These vendors may offer online tools for investors to conduct research, access their portfolios and read FINRA-approved articles on investment and finance.

Set your budget

Prices vary depending on project size and functionality. At the low end, you can use online site-building services and get a professional-looking, if not unique, site set up for $300-$500. More-customized designs for small firms start at $2,000-$3,000. Factor in monthly maintenance fees, too.

Not surprisingly, most financial advisers and investment consultants choose to outsource. They’d rather pay an expert to do what they do best. And that makes sense. After all, that’s why your clients hire you.

More and more interactions with clients and prospects these days happen online. So, whether you outsource or insource, whether you choose a simple or more full-featured site, make sure your virtual office makes visitors feel welcome, engaged and maybe even a little impressed. Consider the money spent on a website not just as an expense but as an investment that, managed properly, will yield a return.

To see a menu of SEC- and FINRA-compliant website plans for financial professionals, check out Smarsh Sites, a service of Smarsh, a technology leader in the financial-services industry since 2001.

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