It is widely recognised that having a digital presence and strategy can help an advice business set itself up for a successful and sustainable future.
Not only is technology improving business efficiencies with existing clients, but it’s also potentially opening up new channels through more scalable and cost-efficient advice services.
Advisers who digitise their business can realise a clear competitive advantage. There are many tools and strategies available to support digital ways of working, as well as targeting and servicing new client segments.
Whether it’s setting up a website and introducing online marketing or enjoying better practice management through improved administration and data-driven activity, you can digitise your business in a way that suits you.
Here are the five tips to help you get started:
1. Build a website
It doesn’t matter if you’re a sole adviser running your own business or an advice practice with 50 employees, it’s worthwhile being searchable and visible to your clients.
While a lot of advice businesses rely on referrals for new clients, it’s likely the first thing people will do when they hear your name is head online and see what they can find out about you. Websites are incredibly powerful. So, even if your website is a simple front end with basic details about your services and contact information, it will still allow people to see you're a genuine business and understand who you are and what you do.
Here are four simple steps to get started.
- Register your domain name, typically something similar to your business name so clients can easily find you through a search engine. You’ll need to find an accredited registrar and pay a fee in AUD, the Australian domain name administrator, has a list of accredited registrars.
- Find a web hosting company, most of the major internet service providers offer web hosting services.
- Create content based around what you want your clients to be able to do or know.
- Build your website, you can do this yourself or outsource to a professional web developer, who can also look after any ongoing maintenance.
2. Create a digital marketing plan
One of the most effective ways to digitise your business is to create a digital marketing strategy to showcase your expertise and build your reputation as a thought leader by sharing regular content and industry insights.
However, be realistic about what you can achieve and how much time and effort you can dedicate to this. The worst thing you can do is overpromise and underdeliver by starting something you just can’t commit to.
When creating your marketing plan, consider all the tools available to you and how appropriate they are for your target audience – existing or new clients. Aim to plan out your marketing activity over 12 months and think about how to create content you can distribute through a variety of channels. This will help you create a tailored plan that’s right for your business.
- Webcasts – a visual way to share insights from your experts.
- Podcasts – easy for people to listen to on the move.
- Emails/ Newsletters – share larger pieces of content and allow the reader to self-select what’s of interest.
- Blog posts – online content that adds some personality to your business.
If you have a website, this is a great place to start as you can host content and post updates on here. But if that seems like a lot of additional work and maintenance, you can still engage with your existing clients directly through regular newsletters and email updates if you have an up-to-date client database.
Start with a few pieces of really good content and distribute these across the different channels. You might send out a long article via a newsletter, post a shorter version of this on your website that’s easier for readers to digest online, and perhaps even turn it into a podcast for those who like to listen and learn. You don’t necessarily need different content for each.
Over time, you can establish a more comprehensive library of content to draw on and update as things change.
3. Create a social media plan
Although this should form part of your overall digital marketing plan, it’s growing significance makes it worthy of its own section. Consider connecting with your existing and potential clients via social media accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.
To find out which sites your target clients typically use, the easiest way is to ask them. Why not send out a survey and ask which social media sites they regularly use , which websites they visit and which people or businesses they actively follow. Free tools like Survey Monkey or Google Forms can help you do this. You can also refer to syndicated research if you’re targeting a certain demographic group more broadly. US-based Pew Research has some great information on the usage of various online platforms here.
Once you’ve found your audience, just like the marketing plan, it’s a good idea to create a 12-month social media strategy outlining what type of content you’re going to post and how often. Think about whether it will be about your business, industry insights or focused more on your people to bring your business to life.
Given the younger generations’ appetite to seek and digest information digitally, if your posts are interesting and engaging enough, you’ll attract followers that aren’t necessarily looking for advice right now. But if you keep them interested, hopefully, they’ll remember you when they do. And they’ll share the content with their friends too.
4. Access new clients
Share what you’re proud of. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients for feedback and share it online. After all, digital marketing is about promoting your services and brand.
The power of reviews and client testimonials shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, when was the last time you booked a hotel without checking out customer reviews first? You can reach new clients and expand your business for minimal cost, for example, targeting those with lower account balances or those seeking advice without a face-to-face adviser relationship.
That’s not to say you don’t need to build and maintain a strong relationship with these clients. You absolutely do. Client engagement sits at the heart of all good relationships and is particularly important in a fee for service environment. But digitising your business will enable you to do this more efficiently.
Consider how video conferencing could allow you talk ‘face to face’ with your clients without being in the same room. Clients can work with you using any type of digital device – mobile, laptop, tablet – and it’s easy to share screens to discuss documents or visually represent different scenarios. You can also record the video and discussion and keep this on the client file for compliance purposes.
5. Embrace your full digital capability
When managing your practice day to day , there are countless digital tools to help you. Finding the right ones to suit your business can be the biggest challenge.
- Administration – one of the simplest things to do is to move your administration online and streamline your operations. Say goodbye to desks covered in piles of dusty paper and client files. Invest in a safe and secure digital storage location for business documents, and spend time developing an online filing system so you can quickly and easily create, save and find documents.
- Communication – if you have employees working from home, technology that enables your team to communicate and collaborate easily can make remote working a positive experience for your business and your clients. Whether it’s Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or one of the many other platforms available, it’s about finding the one that works best for your business’ operating model and technology capability.
- Compliance – the right product platform can make a significant difference to your business. Look for one that’s flexible and where there’s ongoing investment into the technology to ensure a better experience for both you and your clients. This can potentially create business efficiencies, saving you valuable time and also helping you tick the many compliance boxes. Through BT Panorama, for example, advisers can transact on behalf of clients without the need for endless forms. This reduced need for face-to-face meetings enables advisers to service more clients, particularly where it might just be to sign documents.
Long term benefits
We’re at a tipping point. The current environment, combined with an explosion in digital tools, presents advisers with an opportunity to review their current operating model and digitise their business to better service clients. While it may seem daunting at the beginning, partnering with the right providers can help realise significant long-term efficiency, reputation and scalability benefits.
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