It’s not always about what the organization does online. It’s also about what it doesn’t do online.
It’s not just about employees posting embarrassing photos or tweets, nor is it just about an executive caught up in a scandal that makes headlines.
An investment firm’s online presence, be it through the website, emails, or search engine results, can make or break a prospective client's perception of the organization.
Furthermore, it’s not always about what the organization does online. It’s also about what it doesn’t do online, not being transparent or easily accessible, as two examples.
Investment organizations can avoid shooting themselves in the foot by addressing otherwise preventable actions and inactions
Even before having the chance to make an impression, good or bad, the impression will likely be unfavorable when a prospect searches for a company, only to realize there is no website.
According to a survey from SurveyMonkey, 26% of respondents across have no trust “at all” for a brand without a website, and those percentages only increase when focusing on the younger demographics.
What’s more, 97% of consumers use online media when researching products or services in their local area.
Small advisory firms, typically the one- or two-person shows, are usually some of the main “culprits.” They might think they’re too small and therefore don’t need a site.
Perhaps they lack the time or skills to create a worthwhile website, so they don’t even bother.
Word of mouth networks to build a client base only go so far, and given that an overwhelming majority use the web to research new products and services, why not leverage a website to generate new leads?
The bottom line is a website establishes credibility. A professional business, especially that in financial services, looks unprofessional when there’s nothing to look at.
Having no website may also translate to having an unprofessional email address.
Have you ever received emails from someone claiming they'll help you generate new business, only to see they have a Gmail account? Heck, one might even throw the business a bone and accept an introductory meeting if one knew they were getting a message from a real, verifiable organization.
According to a survey conducted by GoDaddy 75% of respondents believe having a domain-based email that matches the company website is a very to extremely important factor when trusting an online small business. In addition, 33% of respondents doubt the trustworthiness and legitimacy of a seller when they use a personal email address.
If an investment firm is putting in the effort to register with the SEC or FINRA, they owe it to themselves to do things properly: ditch the free email address, build a website, and create a domain-based email.
According to a report published Visible Thread, asset management industry websites are considered the least trusted globally when compared to websites from 14 other industries.
One of the issues, according to the research, is that the websites' content is too hard to understand. As mentioned in the report, "Even for the highly educated, overly complex content takes mental energy to decipher... the net effect is poor engagement and missed business opportunity."
Though asset management companies are targeted in the report, financial services firms of all kinds should take note. Fancy lingo and industry jargon will more likely alienate than impress.
When publishing content, keep it simple. All the prospective clients want to know is, "If I give you my money, will you make me more money?"
Content should be written around that question, accompanied with easy to understand explanations of how the organization will make their clients more money.
Some investment firms have already created a website and professional email addresses, which are good, but if the website is not friendly on a mobile device, investment firm’s online presence.
For starters, mobile web usage has surpassed desktop web usage.
Having a mobile-unfriendly site is inconvenient for the site visitor, as they must read small text and look at images that are improperly sized and positioned.
When creating new websites today, most - if not all - website building services will offer site development for mobile.
But for an older website that hasn’t made any recent changes, it shows how dated the site is when there isn’t a mobile-friendly look.
The site visitor will also wonder:
In many cases, prospects visiting the site won’t stay at the site very long; they’ll go back to the search results page.
It’s one thing for someone to leave negative feedback, but allowing negative comments to sit on Google or Glassdoor without responding to them can make things worse.
Viewers will believe those low ratings to be a true assessment of the firm, and they might think the organization doesn’t care about how poorly it is perceived if the company isn’t responding to feedback.
Investment organizations should keep track of feedback across all online platforms, positive and negative. Positive reviews strengthen an investment firm’s online presence, and good reviews can be shared and promoted.
Negative reviews, on the other hand, should be handled differently.
A dissatisfied client may post a review that the firm failed to deliver the results it promised to them. A disgruntled former employee may have been unhappy with leadership and the workplace atmosphere. In both cases, firms should respond, giving their side of the story when context is required.
This doesn’t mean a firm should “make excuses,” but responding shows viewers that the firm is listening.
Furthermore, by acknowledging concerns, admitting fault when appropriate, and mentioning what the organization will do to fix or prevent issues going forward, client prospects and job candidates may be more forgiving and open to the organization.
Unwarranted low ratings and comments can damage a firm’s online reputation, and inappropriate negative feedback - harassment, foul language, and outright lies - should be reported as spam and removed.
There is a difference between “the firm promised higher returns, but after x years, they failed to deliver,” and “what a bunch of idiot incompetent chickens running around with their heads cut off!”
If the company website shows one set of information, but social media and online directories show another, it’s not just that this look bad in principle, but it can also translate to lost business.
Perhaps an interested prospect sees the company’s phone number on Google, but that number is outdated. They try calling, but call a dead line; the new phone number was never updated in the major online public directories. In the end, the prospect gives up and finds a more accessible firm.
In any case, when addresses or contact information changes, or when team members join and leave the organization, that information should be immediately updated across all relevant online platforms.
Prospects might want to learn more about an organization, but when the website lacks information, that could keep away potentially interested prospects.
When contact details are missing, a basic phone call or email is prevented.
And if there is limited info about employees or the products and services offered, prospective clients may not have the time or patience to tolerate mystery.
Maybe a firm’s information is available on an SEC or FINRA database, but those details are not usually seen in the top results of a search engine.
Some firms, like hedge funds, may not be required to disclose as much, but even then, having too little information out there could prevent new investors from knowing about a new opportunity.
The strength of an investment firm’s online presence is ever more important today, and what a firm doesn’t do online is just as important as what it does do.
Setting aside employees’ bad online behavior and negative publicity that would result in unwanted attention, there are many things a firm can do to help itself on the Internet:
Considering that Americans alone spend an average of 24 hours per week online, it makes sense for a business to have a presence in a place where people are spending a sizable portion each day.
In an evermore digital world, an investment firm’s online presence is becoming more and more important. Customers don’t just want you to be active online, they expect it.