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Increase Your Website ROI

Generate more leads with these new website integrations and widgets for financial advisors.

Bill Winterberg, 03/14/2013

Lately I've visited a number of financial advisor websites and have noticed one clear trend: Advisors are making a concerted effort to update their websites' design and content to appeal to the sophisticated online visitor. Redesigned websites often include social media feeds, blogs, and video content arranged in a contemporary, mobile-friendly layout.

But the investments made in new designs and multimedia resources might be for naught if a website visitor doesn't engage with the advisor in some fashion. One way to leverage website content is to generate leads by compelling visitors to volunteer their contact information. Below, I highlight several new features from product providers that advisors can include on their websites to better engage prospects and website visitors.

Lead Generation 101
Lead generation is primarily a marketing technique used to obtain contact information from prospective customers who are interested in learning more about a product or service.

Nearly all commercial websites today feature some form of a "contact us" page, where a visitor submits information such as their name, phone number, and email address. However, website visitors do not have much incentive to volunteer their personal information online, especially when faced with the potential of unsolicited phone calls and spam emails in the future.

Common lead-generation methods are designed to compel visitors to offer their contact information in return for a free resource they will likely find useful. Examples include a white paper download, temporary access to exclusive content, or discounts on products or services made available only to subscribers.

Building Quality Leads
Financial advisors can readily use lead-generation techniques to build a list of names and email addresses from prospective clients. The prospective client list is then used for periodic correspondence, which might include updates on how tax law changes might affect families, new white papers to download, and notifications of upcoming webinars or seminars organized by the advisor.

Much of this kind of correspondence is typically managed using an email newsletter service. Popular services include MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Aweber, which I reviewed previously (see Tools to Manage Your E-Mail Newsletter).

One drawback of using email newsletter services is that they create another information silo, where contact information is maintained in a separate system or database. Advisors have to switch back and forth between their CRM and email newsletter management service to add new prospects or reconcile any changes in existing contact information.

To solve that frustration, financial advisor technology vendors are starting to include lead-generation features directly in their products.

Capture Leads Into CRM
A recent lead-generation integration comes from a partnership between Advisor Websites and Redtail CRM (see A Popular CRM Gets an Upgrade). Advisors who use both Advisor Websites and Redtail for their website and CRM needs can add a form to their website to collect visitor name and email address information. While that alone is not a novel feature, what happens behind the scenes really makes this integration appealing. Once a visitor submits his or her contact information on the website, Redtail automatically adds a new contact to the CRM using the provided data, removing the need to manually keep two services in sync.

Before publishing the data-gathering form on their website, advisors first need to designate two data fields that Redtail will use to identify prospects who complete the website form. The first field is used to identify the status of the contact record, which most advisors will use to identify the contact as a prospect. The second field is the source field, allowing advisors to specify how the lead was generated, i.e., via the website form.

For both fields, Advisor Websites uses the labels defined in Redtail, as they are retrieved through an application program interface, or API, so there's no need to cut and paste field definitions between the two programs. Once the field mapping is defined, Advisor Websites automatically adds a page called "Request Information" to the advisor's website. When a visitor fills out his or her name and email address on the form, Advisor Websites sends the data directly to Redtail via the API--again, eliminating the need to copy and paste data.

Automatically updating Redtail CRM with data gathered via website forms is appealing, but as I described earlier, website visitors just don't offer their contact information freely all the time. Loic Jeanjean, director of sales and Web marketing for Advisor Websites, agrees.

"The website forms integration [with Redtail] is very much a 'one-dot-oh' product to get advisors started," Jeanjean said. "We're already working on ways advisors can offer free downloads and other incentives to website visitors to get them to submit their contact information more frequently."

The Advisor Websites lead-generation form and integration with Redtail is included for customers of the MVP and Hall of Fame pricing plans, which start at $69 per month. No additional fee is charged by Redtail to receive the contact information provided by Advisor Websites.

Stress Test Call to Action
One vendor that is using the free report download technique to increase website form submission is HiddenLevers, based in New York City and known primarily for its risk management and analysis tools.

Advisors who use HiddenLevers for their own internal portfolio analysis now have the option to include a public "stress test" button on their website. The stress test button invites visitors to perform a free portfolio stress test, where they receive a free report download in exchange for providing their contact information.

Raj Udeshi, who manages business development for the company, demonstrated the HiddenLevers lead-generation feature while at the T3 Conference in Miami last month. The stress test button is intended to appear on an advisor's home page, which opens a custom webpage when clicked complete with a short explainer video.

After beginning the free stress test process, website visitors are first prompted to select from a list of economic scenarios listed with representative icons. Scenario examples include a double-dip recession, gas prices rising to $5 per gallon, and a housing rebound.

In the second step, visitors enter details about their portfolio by listing equity and mutual fund symbols. Visitors have the option of also listing either the dollar amount or share quantity of each holding, but it is not required. Finally, visitors enter their contact information, including name, email address, phone number, city, state, and approximate net worth. After acknowledging a brief terms of service and disclaimer, visitors click a "Get Stress Test" link to receive their results.

Behind the scenes, HiddenLevers currently creates an entry in Redtail and Salesforce CRM. According to Udeshi, Microsoft Dynamics integration is forthcoming followed by Junxure, pending the release of its API. Also, a new portfolio is created in HiddenLevers using the information submitted by the website visitor. Finally, the advisor receives an email notification that a stress test was created for a prospect, which includes an attachment of the PDF file sent to the prospect.

Several HiddenLevers clients already use the lead-generation feature on their website, so examples of it in action can be viewed at the Retirement Corporation of America and Koch Capital.

The lead-generator website plugin is available in HiddenLevers' Elite plan subscription, priced at $1,200 per month. For subscribers who use HiddenLevers extensively in their business for risk and macro analysis projections, plug-and-play lead-generation functionality is a great value-add feature.

Convert Visitors Into Prospects
A financial advisor can easily spend thousands of dollars developing an attractive and engaging website, offering visitors a number of ways to learn about the advisor and services offered. However, the return on investment can be very low if the advisor does a poor job of inviting visitors to offer their contact information. Leveraging embedded website forms and free downloadable resources are widely used online marketing strategies, but such techniques remain underutilized by the majority of financial advisors. Vendors like the ones highlighted above recognize this opportunity and are adding lead-generation features to help advisors earn a higher return on their website investment.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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