Quick Steps for Finding the Best Twitter Feeds

Twitter is a great social media site for quick information and news leads with over 255 million monthly active users. However, figuring out who to follow can seem like a daunting task, especially given the 500 million tweets posted every day. Luckily, you are just steps away from creating a robust and meaningful list!

First, look at the websites and blogs you regularly read to find a Twitter feed. Most companies and individuals indicate their Twitter link with an icon on their web page, blog, and other social media sites.

A quick Google search also turns up the following top financial services blogs (as noted on RIABiz.com, Financialsocialmedia.com, and other sites) and the associated Twitter links:

Nerd’s Eye View by Michael Kitces, partner and director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group, https://twitter.com/MichaelKitces.

The Research Puzzle by Tom Brakke, CFA, consultant, writer, investment advisor, and principal of TJB Research, https://twitter.com/researchpuzzler.

The Meridian Blog by Scott Dauenhauer, principal of Meridian Wealth Management, https://twitter.com/meridianwealth.

Rock the Boat Marketing by Pat Allen, founder of Rock the Boat Marketing in Chicago, https://twitter.com/RockTheBoatMKTG.

Wade Pfau’s Retirement Researcher Blog by Wade Pfau, founder of Retirement Researcher.com, https://twitter.com/WadePfau.

Investment Writing by Susan Weiner, writer-editor, CFA, https://twitter.com/susanweiner.

FPPad by Bill Winterberg, certified financial planner and writer, https://twitter.com/BillWinterberg.

Wired Advisor by Stephanie Sammons, founder of Wired Advisor, https://twitter.com/StephSammons.

The Reformed Broker by Josh Brown, https://twitter.com/ReformedBroker.

Abnormal Returns by Tadas Viskanta, https://twitter.com/abnormalreturns.

The Glass Hammer by Nicki Gilmour, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Glass Hammer, https://twitter.com/theglasshammer.

You can also conduct a hashtag search on Twitter by entering key industry words, such as: #finserv, #wealth, #money, #invest, #investment, #investing, or a combination of several hashtags. The search results allow you to follow the entire category, or pick and choose from the subcategories.

For instance, under #finserv you can opt to view just People or News, and you can limit the list to Everywhere or Near You. Twitter also lets you conduct an Advanced Search based on words, phrases, hashtags, languages, people and dates. You can then decide if you want to follow an entire group or just some of the key thought leaders. (If this seems overwhelming, you can always use Google Alerts or Twilert to monitor keywords of interest.)

Another good resource for identifying Twitter leads is AdvisorTweets’ Meet the Advisor Tweets Universe! This resource lists advisors alphabetically by name, but you can also use the search feature to find advisors in a particular area or category.

Twitter does restrict individuals to 1,000 follows a day, and account-based users to 2,000 follows per month. The site also monitors for aggressive follow behavior and spam.

 

Content Marketing: Educating Clients Generates Leads and Converts Browsers into Buyers

content-marketing-AT-blog

Call it content marketing, inbound marketing or progressive marketing. Either way, it means educating customers without direct selling. Sharing content is the new way to market.

Especially for the financial services industry, content marketing makes sense. Your customers want unbiased information, and plenty of it, before they choose a financial advisor. The more you can provide that kind of information, the greater chance you will have of generating sales leads and of converting browsers into buyers. And the more time prospects spend educating themselves on the basics, the more quality time you can spend with them on their specific needs.

Here are some powerful reasons why you should adopt a content marketing strategy. According to global marketing research and advisory firm Demand Metric, content marketing:

  • Generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing
  • Costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing
  • Improves brand loyalty
  • Converts more leads into buyers

 

Understanding Content Marketing

So, what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content (across digital channels) to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Let’s unpack that definition because it says a lot.

The best place to start is with a clearly defined audience. As with any marketing, in content marketing you must first claim your niche. Identify not only the demographics of age, gender, income and occupation, but also the psychographics of values and beliefs. The more you know your customer, the better you will be at creating compelling content.

Notice they say content should be valuable, relevant and consistent. We would also add that it should be timely. Valuable means consumers literally should be willing to pay for it. Relevant means it must address their wants and needs. Consistency keeps consumers coming back because they know they can count on interesting content. And timely means your content addresses issues on the minds of consumers now, such as changes in the healthcare law or markets.

So let’s discuss content more specifically. By content we mean videos, blog posts, articles, social media, widgets like calculators, case studies, podcasts, and more. If it can be put online, it’s content, from a 140-character tweet to a 20-page white paper.

 

Developing Content for Financial Services

The best way to develop content is to do a little research. Pinpoint the search terms, keywords and topics consumers type in when they seek a financial advisor. Then make sure your website and content align with those terms. With a strategy known as content targeting, you can then use their search terms to deliver exactly the content they’re looking for. For example, if they find your site using tax planning search terms, you can deliver content to them on tax planning, not estate planning. Think of the questions you often hear from clients. What are their fears, hopes and goals? Let those inspire you for topics. Provide facts and information, but don’t be afraid to inject your own personal story or insights. After all, people make decisions based on logic and emotion.

OK, you might say, I know content is king. But what if I don’t have the time or inclination to develop it? First, you can hire a professional writer to create the content or a professional editor to refine your ideas. Some companies such as Smarsh specialize in creating websites for financial professionals and offer licensed, compliant content as a part of their package. Second, you’re probably already creating content in your work. It’s just a matter of turning it into something useful for the digital world.

For example, say you’re already doing seminars for your clients. Hire a videographer to record and edit your presentation. Then upload it to YouTube and include a link from your website. Or simply make an audio recording of it and turn that into a podcast. Have a video editor turn your PowerPoint presentation into a web seminar, or webinar. Or let someone else do the talking—you can interview intriguing leaders in your field (a great way to network!) and publish the podcasts.

Another common objection to sharing information goes to the heart of content marketing itself. I’ve spent years building my expertise, the comment goes. Why should I just give it away for free? It may feel like you’re giving away your most valuable secrets, but in fact this rich content reinforces your expertise.

When consumers recognize you as an expert, you begin building your credibility. When you build credibility, you expand the consumer’s trust in you. With credibility and trust established, you pave the way for a relationship. In fact, as Demand Metric has observed, 78 percent of consumers already perceive a relationship between themselves and a company using custom content.

And once you create a relationship, you’ve created a customer.

Don’t Lose Your Voice on Social Media

You can’t be an expert in everything, and you certainly can’t do every task imaginable to run your financial planning business. Instead, you align your strengths with key tasks and seek help where needed. You call on an accountant or attorney for tax and compliance issues, an admin for calendar management and clerical duties, and centers of influence for thought leadership and insight.

But who handles your social media? Do you write and post your own updates, or do you have an intern posting them?

Luckily, there isn’t one and only one way to address your social media needs. However, there is a careful balance to be considered if you delegate the work or seek outside help. Social media is an extension of you and your company; you cannot ignore your role in creating the purpose, content and voice of social media communications in your business.

Here’s why: we’ve all read social media posts that just don’t ring true. The content may be well written and interesting, but the posts just don’t sound like the person you know—and that little doubt makes you wonder what else may not be true. You want to avoid that scenario in your own social media communications.

To set yourself up for success, first determine how social media plays into your entire marketing plan. You cannot think of social media as singular and separate entity. It needs to align with your business value proposition and vision, and share the same voice.

Next you need to consider your audience and how the different social media sites work. Each one has a distinct style and followers tend to expect a certain attitude and form of sharing. You can certainly belong to several sites and target your postings accordingly. Your voice shouldn’t change drastically, but you can be more casual and personal on some sites, while others require more professional positioning.

If you opt to delegate the work of creating social media content (or even just a part of it), you must be prepared to share your social media plan and purpose with the people who will be helping you. Spend time outlining your strategy and discussing content and schedules. Consider creating an editorial calendar to outline and track your various postings.

Just as you wouldn’t send an intern to run a meeting with one of your best clients, don’t ask someone who isn’t yet qualified to manage your social media posts. You’re more likely to take an intern or new employee with you to a meeting or event to offer guidance and a learning opportunity. So adopt that same approach with your social media needs. Don’t put someone in a position they aren’t qualified to do; instead, help and train them first.

Make sure your guidance also includes a social media policy so your employees understand what is and isn’t okay when posting to social media on your behalf. Pay special attention to compliance issues and rules regarding monitoring and archiving, too.

Also, if you have an outside company helping you with content, just be sure to personalize the posts with a sentence or two introducing the subject, and note why you think it’s important.

Last, provide oversight and review of content once you do hand off some of the work. Remember, you are probably most in-tune with what your clients and prospects think and want to know via social media. Pay attention to those nuances, trends, and other industry cues—and make sure they are built into you social media conversations, no matter who creates and posts updates.

 

Use Social Media for Networking, Not Selling

How is your social media strategy working for you? Driving lots of sales? No, I’m not surprised. Social media is not about selling; it is about creating relationships. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise!

Social media may seem like the perfect way to pitch your financial planning services, but it is not the place to sell. Instead, social media is the place to develop and make new connections, find centers of influence, and exchange ideas and information.

Social media does not replace traditional face-to-face networking and referrals, it just provides you with another way to reach people. Sure, setting up profiles and remaining active on your chosen sites takes time, but the work is well worth the expanded engagement opportunities.

Just make sure your social media use is strategic and a part of your overall marketing plan. Your content and voice should align with your other marketing efforts and you must participate consistently and with purpose. Likewise, remember your manners and be polite!

Want some specific strategies? Try these methods for improving your connections:

Conduct background research — Before you meet with a prospect spend five minutes reviewing their profile on LinkedIn to learn a bit more about their background and interests. You don’t have to reveal this knowledge, just keep it in mind when addressing their needs and how best to offer solutions.

Follow company activity — Companies are increasingly using social media to communicate with their employees. By following your clients and prospects on Facebook and Twitter you can learn about the company culture, benefit changes, and other nuances. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “Social networkers can help business leaders, HR and ethics professionals improve workplace culture.”

Access your clients’ rolodex — Check out your current LinkedIn connections for new prospects by seeing and sorting their contact lists. Simply go to a client’s profile page and click on Connections in the lower right-hand corner of the main box. From here you can use key search words, like HR manager or CEO, find good prospects and then ask your contact for a personal introduction. Granted, some people are not as intentional as others with their connection lists, but never under estimate the power of a second-degree connection.

Find Centers of Influence — Search for industry experts, local business groups, and relevant thought leaders on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and follow their sites and posts. Consider joining a few LinkedIn groups, as well, to expand your knowledge base and share your expertise.

Well done, social media can provide meaningful connections and help build relationships. Granted, you will expose your connections to competitors, but remember your clients and prospects will judge you by the company you keep.

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Connections

a_thousand_words_image

While “A picture is worth a thousand words,” in the world of social media a picture is worth more than words. With time constraints, character limitations, or worse, lengthy monologues, photos have the power to stop a feed scroll and make connections.

I’m an easy mark for bright colors and rich visual imagery; post a beach vacation with beautiful azures and panoramic vistas and I stop to look instantly. Humans are naturally drawn to aesthetically pleasing or provocative images that tell a story and make us feel. Causing an emotional reaction makes an image memorable.

Using pictures within social media has undeniable power. However, just as we use a different language and tone on different social media platforms, we should also use different criteria for picking photos.

LinkedIn: Stick to more professional, or business-related photos. Photos with text are also a good bet for LinkedIn. A wonderful and easy app for editing and customizing photos is PicMonkey.

Facebook and Twitter: Both sites offer a more informal setting for showing the humanity of your business. Your clients and potential clients want to get a glimpse behind the scenes and see your human side. Consider posting images that capture a great brainstorming session or an energetic team meeting. Did an employee grab a photo of you dressed up as Santa at the holiday party? Great! Post it. Facebook posts with photos generate 53% more likes than an average post without photos.

Here are some additional tips and considerations for using photos with your social media posts:

1. Use your cover photo to establish authority. Create an image that displays your credentials and accurately represents you, your company and its image.

2. Celebrate your interests and causes. Just like a person, your company needs a personality. Consider causes or lifestyle imagery that can be either humanizing or aspirational.

3. Use the proper photo size. The ideal photo size for Facebook and other social media sites is 403 pixels x 403 pixels.

4. Keep your clients interested. Assure your clients and social media fans that you haven’t hit the snooze button with your posts. Update your profile picture every month or two, and tie the change to new credentials, awards, or the seasons.

5. Create new leads. Tie cover photo changes to calls to action by directing clients to a newsletter or blog link, or even a request to add their emails.

6. Infographics. Have a teachable moment? If you have a lot of images that explain information, use an infographic to relay your message in a compelling manner with colorful pie charts, bar models, or pictures. Piktochart is a great site that can help you easily create your own infographics.

Your company and brand have some great stories to tell, so show them off with photos!

Don’t settle for long updates that get glossed over and lost in the social news feed. Engaging photos and infographics will help you connect more with your clients and prospects—and clients who feel more connected to your company are more likely to advocate for your brand.

 

Social Media Posts are not One-Size-Fits-All

one_size_does_not_fit_all

My Facebook feed invariably features posts about great dinners, food pics, and family updates—including my dog Aboo; clearly Facebook is a modern day diary. The intimate yet informal posts are a clear reminder that Facebook is first and foremost a social media site with its own distinct approach and decorum.

Although Facebook is the number one social media site for consumer conversations, there are many other networking avenues in use today, and more are on the horizon. However, just because these platforms involve some aspect of social sharing does not mean they’re all the same. For that reason we cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to our social media strategies.

Instead, consider adopting a communication baseline for social media that you can adapt to fit the varying demographics and usage with each site.

While it’s incredibly enticing to craft the same message and simply copy/paste across your social media platforms, this approach is really counter-productive. Since your connections may view several of your social media sites, a repetitive post says you don’t care about them on a personal level or understand the nuances of each network. Instead, create a central message and alter the tone and language to reflect each social sphere.

Here are some helpful network-specific hints:

Facebook—The informal nature of Facebook lets you present yourself and your firm in a favorable light while being playful, conversational, and engaging. Facebook should feel like you are conversing with friends; although it’s important that you don’t become too friendly! After all you’re still a professional.

  • Use an upbeat tone
  • Ask questions to prompt conversations
  • Use photos or images whenever possible

LinkedIn—Consider this platform the inverse of Facebook. With over 277 million worldwide members and countless more joining every day, LinkedIn is popular with college graduates and high income earners. The site is purely a business and professional platform that is rarely utilized for personal or social posts.

  • Post between 7AM-9AM and 5PM-6PM to catch connections at the start and end of the day, when most people check the site
  • Do not use shorthand language or abbreviations
  • Hashtags don’t work on LinkedIn
  • Be a thought-leader by offering industry-relevant commentary. Use the language appropriate for your business, and remember you can be professional but engaging at the same time.

Twitter—The character limitations force you to make short, direct posts, which can provide an avenue or link to further information elsewhere.

  • Provide a clear CTA (Call To Action). As an example ask for a Re-Tweet (RT). People RT more often when asked.
  • Keep URLs short (bit.ly is a great resource)
  • Use Twit speak—language specific to Twitter—but don’t use abbreviations at the expense of your audience or message clarity. Most Twitter users know “RT” stands for Re-Tweet and “MT” means Modified Tweet, but they may not know “ICYMI” is short for In Case You Missed It.

 

 

The Internet Never Forgets

dont-post-it

The Internet is an endless repository of all things, wonderful and meaningless, incredible and absurd. But even the most meaningless and silly of information will exist . . . forever. For this reason we must be mindful of our own social media updates, posts, and conversations, both in our personal and professional lives.

Recently a friend and fellow financial services geek related a simple, everyday conversation with her niece she thought was harmless. Her young relative was debating which of two movies she should go see and my friend suggested a tactic she had used in her youth: paying for one and then sneaking into both. While the advice itself was questionable, what clearly was a mis-step was conducting this exchange on a very public social media network: Facebook.

Often we are blinded by the novelty and the ‘community’ aspect of Facebook and other social networks. In this bubble we can perceive a false sense of security and post whatever is on our mind. Yet, these platforms are, after all, networks. They are built to pass information through digital osmosis.

What if my friend’s customers had seen her admission of theft? It troubled me so I asked her how she would feel if a customer had paid for one thing from her, but stolen a second. She was somewhat perplexed: the conversation with her niece was on her personal Facebook account, so what did it matter?

Unfortunately, today it matters a lot. Clearly, the best rule of thumb given the transparent and long-lived nature of the Internet, is only post comments you would be comfortable seeing the next day on the cover of The New York Times.

As an entrepreneur, financial advisor, and individual, you must find the right balance of professionalism and authenticity on social networks. This social media tightrope is possible, and it’s not hard if you consider this advice before pressing “update” or “share.”

1. Be personable and respectful. So much of business today is about relationship building and being authentic. It’s okay to post photos of your dog (my Newfoundland, Aboo, is a regular star on my Facebook site) and comment on great restaurants, pubs, and local events. Feel free to share news items and your insights as well—just make sure your views are respectful and won’t offend your clients or prospects.

2. Tailor voice and approach to each network. Each social media platform has a unique vibe, so vary your posts accordingly.

• Facebook is casual and friendly, and a good site for sharing stories and pictures of your office or company picnic.

• LinkedIn is your place for providing thought-leadership commentary and more professional conversations.

• Twitter lets you combine both approaches by injecting some fun observations along with professional notes of interest.

3. Make wise photos choices. Before you post a photo of yourself on Facebook, consider the following: Who else is in the photo? What are the circumstances? How would it look to others who don’t know you well? Often an innocent picture captured at a networking mixer can be misconstrued as a “party” picture.

4. Update carefully. With mobile apps for updating your status, it’s easy to let your professionalism take a back seat. However, even when updating from your smartphone you must be cognizant of your word choices. In addition, be careful about posting constant stream-of-consciousness updates. I’ve known of a few advisors whose observations have gone awry and been misconstrued.

5. Check-in when appropriate. Are you at the right place at the wrong time? Wrong place at the wrong time? Either way, before you get too excited about checking in to a locale, make sure it’s somewhere you are a) proud to be b) would admit to your mother and c) would be client-appropriate.

6. Use social graces. Remember, your words will live on for many years; so make sure you consider tone and word choice with your postings. Emoticon winks to indicate you are ‘kidding’ are not enough to ensure your light-hearted intention will be taken the right way.

7. Consider compliance and regulatory rules. Many companies and broker/dealer firms have social media policies you must follow when engaging online. Even if there isn’t a stated policy, be careful with recommendations and casual product-based discussions.

 

Six Ways to Create a Better Website

Everyone knows you need a website. It enables people to find you online, elevates your credibility and drives leads. But, is yours as effective as it could be? Here are six ways to build a better website:

1. Customers want to interact with you—anywhere, on any device.

  • A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. mobile phone owners use their phone to go online. By 2015, more Americans will access the Web through mobile devices than through PCs.

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly by using responsive design. Responsive design ensures your website is easy to read and navigate on a range of devices.

2. It may be a cliché but content is still king.

A content-rich website will attract prospects. For example, your visitors will appreciate reading articles or watching videos with informative investment, retirement and tax information geared to their interests. Some website developers that specialize in the financial industry provide a content library as part of their service. A robust online presence offers your customers and prospects valuable content and resources that motivate them to return whenever they need information, link to your website and make referrals. The more web traffic you get, the higher you’ll turn up on search engines.

3. The world wants to hear what you have to say.

A website allows you to create a blog. Creating, publishing and sharing relevant and valuable content in a blog positions you as an authority, grows your network and helps you build your practice in the age of social media. An effective blog contains links to allow for instant social sharing of your posts, so your message more easily gains a wider audience.

4. Get listed and get found by your Main Street neighbors.

A website expands your marketing reach. But, if you build it, will they come? Not necessarily. Once you establish your website, make it easier for prospects to find you by registering with the local business sections on online search engines such as Google and Bing. Basic listings are free and include contact information and a list of products and services. Belong to an association or carry a professional certification? Make sure you register with their directory. Ensure your site also has tools that make it easy to improve your search engine rankings and help you get found.

5. Consider your compliance obligations.

As you make updates to your site, it will likely need to be approved by someone from the compliance team. Make sure your website has an easy way to help manage the process. Compliance should be able to easily view and approve or reject content to ensure it is getting reviewed and out to customers as quickly as possible.

6. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Interactivity allows for feedback and response. Online contact and quote request forms allow customers and prospects to contact you directly. When you drive traffic to your website, you capture rich web analytics about your prospects and existing customers. You build a list of leads. You find what is and isn’t working with your site, and how you can improve it. You also gain insights to add value to your services and create targeted marketing campaigns that speak to your clients’ wishes and needs. Your website should have tools that allow for a variety of analytics and other widgets that will make it as effective as possible.

Ready to build a better website? Smarsh offers financial website development packages with modern designs, cutting-edge tools and built-in compliance safeguards. For more information, visit smarsh.com/smarshsites.

Avoid the Social Media Vortex

In today’s technology-centered business environment, social media is an integral part of a well-developed marketing plan. Yet, the oversight, participation, and management of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, and so many more apps can leave your head spinning. Add into this mix your own personal interactions, and soon your time is sucked up into a spiraling social media vortex!

Yet even the most avid social media devotees can find help through strategic planning, online management tools, and even old-fashioned productivity enhancements.

Clarity of Purpose — Just as you carefully consider your business strategy and marketing approach, be purposeful with your social media platforms. Understand who you are trying to reach and how best to meet their needs through social media. Simply throwing endless sales pitches at clients and prospects is useless, unproductive, and likely irritating.

Online Management Tools — A variety of apps now exist to manage your internet use and social media postings. Several companies also include tracking and monitoring of reposts and feedback.

  • Buffer — Lets you pre-plan automatic social posts. Just create multiple posts for social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook and schedule the days and times you want them released. You can make timing adjustments when needed or cancel them altogether. Buffer also provides analytics to monitor retweets and shares. https://bufferapp.com/
  • Freedom — Provides a break from the internet and all the distractions by blocking access for a predetermined time. Turn it on whenever you want, set the length of the block, and work offline without interruption. And, as the company points out, “If you need to cheat and get back online, you can reboot.” http://macfreedom.com/
  • Anti-Social — Gives you a break from social media for a few minutes or hours. Like Freedom, you can reboot to get back online. http://anti-social.cc/

Say No — Remember, you don’t have to connect or friend everyone; be deliberate! If you receive a LinkedIn connection request from someone you don’t know, it’s okay to respond with “Can you spend a few moments sharing how you think a connection could benefit us both?” Also, feel free to block individuals and businesses or remove people from your feed.

Simple Tools — Effective social media pacing is also possible with some simple tools.

  • Use a Timer – Old fashioned, but effective!  Determine how much time you want to spend on social media, set a timer, and then stop when the buzzer rings!
  • Set a Schedule — There’s a reason many events occur at the same time and for the same duration every day–consistency and dependability. Take this same approach with your timed allotments for social media engagement.
  • Create To-Do Lists. Simply keeping a mental list can be amorphous and overwhelming with social media. Instead, start every morning by outlining your priorities. The list creation can take whatever form works best for you; I favor giant stickies–one for each social media site–but a dry-erase board or notepad work just as well. The constant visual reminders help keep me on track and increase my productivity.

Form Follows Function: Functional and Effective Finance Web Design

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.