Category Archives for "Online Marketing"

Webinar Marketing for Financial Advisors: Which Format is Right for You?

With advances in technology and the growth of online video meeting platforms, the way businesses share information and educate clients has changed. That’s exactly why webinars have become so popular.

Webinars come in a variety of formats. Depending on your audience and your strengths and weaknesses, not every format will be a fit. While some financial advisors may thrive in a webinar where they are live and can improvise as needed, for others the structure of pre-recording their content may work better.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at live and pre-recorded webinar formats, and what to consider when choosing which one is right for you. This is important because before you step in front of a video camera, you should already have your overall strategy nailed down. 

Is Webinar Marketing Right for Your Financial Advisor Business? 

While popular, hosting webinars to build business isn’t right for everyone. 

Webinars offer your existing and potential clients great value and provide an opportunity to showcase your expertise. And there’s this compelling fact: 73% of the marketers polled said webinars are the best way to generate quality leads. Prospects who are considering working with you can get a feel for who you are and what you do in a low-pressure environment. This can be particularly helpful for warming up your cold leads or generating new ones, and accelerating the sales process. 

Webinars as a marketing channel are very cost-effective, especially when compared to in-person seminars. You don’t need to rent meeting space or travel to the seminar location. As long as you have a strong internet connection and can ensure there’s a reasonable-looking background, you can create a webinar.

The content you create for webinars can be repurposed into other content, which also saves money. You can edit your webinar into short, easily digestible videos to share on social media, or create an email series based on what you taught. Although it may seem that the cost of pre-recorded and live webinars should be similar, pre-recorded webinars can actually end up costing more due to production expenses. There is an expectation that pre-recorded webinars be more polished; therefore they are often heavily edited. Unless this is your area of expertise, you’ll need to hire someone to do it.

Now, let’s break down each format in more detail. 

Live Webinars

Cost

Depending on the platform you choose, your cost will vary. Options like Facebook Live, GoTo Webinar, YouTube or Zoom can start at zero cost and go up from there. For those newer to creating live webinar content, these are a great place to get started. Your overall cost will depend on exactly what’s involved but can you easily spend as little as $50. The higher the production value, the higher your overall price tag will be. 

Who’s Attending Live Webinars?

Live webinars are at the peak of popularity, but, having your expectations in check regarding attendance will help you be realistic with your goals. It’s estimated that 78% of webinars have 50 or fewer attendees. Additionally, 59% of registrations happen within the seven days before the webinar, so that week is critical in terms of your webinar marketing. 

Why Go Live? 

Live webinars give you a chance to interact with your audience in real-time. With good audience participation, you can have an engaging conversation that goes beyond the content they see on their screen. As a financial advisor, you know that offering an excellent client experience is part of creating loyal customers, and live webinars give you a platform to build relationships. 

Possible obstacles to creating great live webinar include getting interrupted by other people and pets in the home, finding a time that works for attendees in varying time zones, and the always present risk of technical problems. 

Creating Content 

To create engaging live webinar content, you can choose from several different formats including:

  • Single speaker presentations
  • Guest speaker presentations
  • How-to videos
  • Question and answer sessions
  • Interviews 
  • Information sessions

Evergreen/Pre-Recorded Webinars

Cost

Although it may seem that the cost of pre-recorded and live webinars should be similar, pre-recorded webinars can actually end up costing more due to production expenses.. There is an expectation that pre-recorded webinars be more polished, there for they are often often heavily edited. Unless this is your area of expertise you’ll need to hire someone to do it. 

Who’s Viewing Evergreen/Pre-Recorded Webinars? 

It’s estimated that approximately 28% of people prefer watching pre-recorded webinars. People looking for flexibility are attracted to pre-recorded webinars because they can watch at their leisure and aren’t bound to a specific day and time. 

Why Choose to Pre-Record?

Pre-recorded webinars are appealing because the pressure to perform is removed from the equation, but you still have a platform to inform and educate. You can edit out mistakes, re-record sections that aren’t to your liking, and add effects during post-production. For those who have trouble with public speaking, it’s the ideal scenario as you can go at your own pace. 

The main challenge of pre-recorded webinars is that you have to find ways to make the content as engaging as possible since you won’t be interacting with the audience. When hosting a live webinar you can “read the room” and adjust your pace or your tone, or mix up the content if you feel interest waning. You can also let the conversation evolve in different directions.  However, with a pre-recorded webinar, you have to catch and keep the audiences’ attention for the entire time, so if your content isn’t engaging enough, they may not stick around until the end. 

Creating Content for Pre-Recorded Webinars

The content for pre-recorded webinars needs to consider the lack of interaction between the host and the audience, so the types of content best suited for this are:

  • How-to demos;
  • Product and service demos; and
  • Expert trainings where no audience interaction is needed .

As a final note, if you are considering creating webinar content that’s evergreen, that means steering clear of anything that may become outdated quickly. Otherwise, you’ll need to have a plan in place to review the webinar regularly so it can be updated. 

Not Sure Where to Begin? A Marketing Professional Can Help

Much of the success of a webinar comes down to one key element: having great webinar content that’s valuable, engaging, and informative to your audience.For anyone who doesn’t create webinars on a regular basis, having a marketing professional to guide you can make a huge difference in how successful the webinar is. An expert who helps you formulate clear goals for your webinar and create a strategy to effectively produce and market it can help save you time and money while ensuring you get a good ROI on your efforts. 

Are you interested in leveraging webinars as part of your marketing strategy? 

Crystal Marketing Solutions offers solutions for financial professionals looking to craft a strategic roadmap by having a consistent marketing presence that attracts the right customers. Contact us to discuss your needs.

How Financial Advisors Can Market with Videos and Podcasts

When expanding your online presence as a financial advisor, you have to take into consideration your long-term strategy to determine which avenue is best. Two popular options to connect with new audiences are podcasts and video content. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so carefully consider each one before you decide.

Here’s what financial advisors need to know about creating video content versus a podcast. 

Before You Begin

As excited you may be, think about your long-term strategy. If that includes warming up a cold audience, then audio and video content is ideal for making a connection. 

An often-repeated phrase when it comes to business is that “if you build it, they will come” but this is not a strategy you can rely on when it comes to creating this type of content. If you’re creating audio and/or video content, you’ll want to have a solid email list with a good open rate. Otherwise, you may be creating content that very few people actually see.

Cost is another factor to consider when deciding between videos and podcasts. Sure, you can make a video with your smartphone and upload it yourself, but will it be professional looking enough to represent your business? Unless you have the time and skills to do things like audio and video editing, creating cover art, writing social media promotions, and more, then you’re going to have to pay someone to do those things for you.

While costs for these services vary, this is one area where you don’t want to save money. Things like poor quality audio or choppily edited video are an immediate turnoff for those watching or listening, which defeats the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish and reflect negatively on your business. And without the right promotional copy and cover art to go along with your video or podcast, your content won’t reach more than a few people who subscribe to your page.

Podcast Content: What Financial Advisors Should Consider

What’s the Strategy? 

If you’re considering creating a podcast, it’s not quite as simple as just recording a show. Your overall strategy will need to include how the show will be marketed, where it will be published, and which social media platforms you’ll use to promote it. 

Podcasts are easy to create, highly engaging, and offer a way to build a relationship with your clients and prospects. Costs for podcasts are significantly lower than for video content.  A real plus with podcasts is that people can listen anywhere, any time.

Podcasts by the Numbers

It’s estimated that there are over 1,750,000 podcasts with roughly 45 million episodes as of January 2021. Nearly 50% of homes in the United States are fans of podcasts, and nearly 75% of people who listen to podcasts say they enjoy learning new things

These numbers represent a huge opportunity to capture the attention of potential customers for your firm if you’re targeting the right people.

Who’s Listening to Podcasts? 

If the purpose of your podcast is to warm up leads, knowing if your target audience actually listens to podcasts matters — otherwise you may just be wasting your time. Here are a few statistics to consider from PodcastHosting.org’s 2021 Global Podcast Statistics, Demographics & Habits Report:

  • 51% of podcast listeners are male, 49% female.
  • Age of listeners:
    • 12-34: 48%
    • 35-54: 32%
    • 55+: 20%
  • 41% of monthly podcast listeners have a household income over $75K (vs. 29% for US population).
  • 25% of US podcast listeners have a 4-year college degree (vs. 19% of US population).

Types of Podcast Content

As far as subject matter, anything goes when it comes to podcasts. However, you have a very short window to hook the listener in at the beginning, so your content needs to be compelling.

Think about what your audience would get the most value from. Options for podcast formats include:

  • Solo podcasts: Just you and the microphone speaking to the audience about whatever topics you choose. 
  • Interviews: Feature guests to cover a variety of topics that relate to your field of expertise and that may be of interest to listeners.
  • Educational: A more structured approach where your focus on teaching and educating the audience on specific topics related to finances.

Video Content: Is This the Better Option for Financial Advisors? 

What’s the Strategy? 

One of the biggest factors when considering creating video content is the cost. The last thing you want is for your videos to look unprofessional as this will be a huge turn-off for your viewers. For your videos to truly support your marketing goals, ensure that they are attention-grabbing and have a clear and compelling topic.

Determine your goals before you begin. What does your audience need from you? What type of information will be the most valuable to them? 

Budget to cover production, editing, promotion, and more. To keep costs in check, starting with short videos is a great way to test it out without committing too much time or money. 

Roughly 87% of video marketers have said that YouTube has been effective as a channel for video content marketing, making it the ideal platform to test the waters without incurring unnecessary costs. 

Video Content by the Numbers 

From Facebook Live to YouTube to websites, there’s no question that video content is absolutely everywhere. It’s estimated that 60% of businesses use video content for marketing purposes, and 30% of marketers feel video is just as important to their marketing strategy as their website.

In a 2021 survey of nearly 700 marketers and small businesses, when asked how video content helps their marketing strategy their primary responses were:

  • Raising awareness: 53%
  • Building trust with potential customers: 52% 
  • Engaging their audience: 49%

Why Do Consumers Watch Video Content? 

While the demographics of who’s watching videos spans across all age groups, it’s not so much about who is watching, but why they watch that matters. 

When it comes to learning about a product or service, 69% of consumers said a short video would be their preference. Videos can be a reliable way to warm up your leads, with 89% of consumers indicating that watching a brand’s video has convinced them to make a purchase. Additionally, video content is twice as likely to be shared than any other kind of content, making it easier to get eyes on the videos you create. 

Types of Video Content

Just like podcasts, your videos need to be valuable and informative to your audience. However, they need to look great. Humans are visual creatures, so consider things like the colors you wear, lighting, and background.

Types of video content that may be appropriate for financial advisors include:

  • Educational: Teach your audiences about topics related to your industry. 
  • Explainer: Give a step-by-step explanation of your products or services. 
  • Service: Showcase your services and share how you can provide value to clients. 
  • Frequently asked questions: Answer some of the common questions you get from potential and existing clients. 

Consistency is Critical No Matter the Medium 

Whether you decide to go with a podcast or videos, there’s one thing that’s critical: consistency. To get traction with your audience, they need to expect content from you at regular intervals. This trains them to look for your content, so if they go looking and don’t find a new podcast episode or video, they’ll stop looking at some point – either out of frustration or forgetfulness.

Whether you choose podcasting or video content (or neither), making an informed decision that supports your overall marketing strategy will ensure that your efforts deliver the ROI you want. 

Are you a financial advisor looking to increase your online presence and refine your marketing strategy? 

Contact us at Crystal Marketing solutions to see how we can help.

Which Social Media Platform Is Right for My Brand?

As an individual financial advisor, you may have wondered if you really need a presence on social media platforms. The short answer is “yes.”

There are countless reasons why having a social media presence is a good idea for your business, from being more accessible to your clients to establishing credibility. However, the problem that many advisors run into is that they’re trying to do it all. 

The key to effective social media management is understanding you don’t have to be on every platform. You just need to be where your clients and prospects are. By focusing on just doing one thing well and then building from there, you can get the most out of your social media

How do you choose which platform to focus your time and energy on?Let’s look at the four most popular social media platforms for business, who’s using them, and what type of content is the best fit for each one. 

Facebook

Cost

Signing up and posting on Facebook is free. If you’re looking to do specific marketing activities like run ads, your costs will start at roughly $0.97 per click and increase from there. 

Who’s on the Platform

With approximately 2.79 billion users worldwide, Facebook has consistently ranked as the number one social media platform year after year. The biggest demographic is users aged 25-34. Seniors currently represent the smallest group of users, but they are also the fastest-growing group on this social media platform. 

How Facebook is Used

Facebook’s primary purpose is to allow users to share content, stories, and news. Consumers use Facebook for everything from connecting with friends and family, to joining communities for interests and hobbies, to researching businesses through reviews and recommendations. 

Businesses can promote their content using various formats, share information about products and services, post company news, make marketing offers, and communicate with potential and existing customers. Also, paid advertising is available with Facebook ads, premium ads, and sponsored stories. 

Strategy

Primarily used for business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, Facebook is appealing because of its reach. There are 60 million active business pages, and it’s estimated that two-thirds of Facebook users will visit the page of a local business at least once a week

Using Facebook for your business allows you to reach a wider audience while targeting your audience by location, demographics, and interest. You can gain insight into customer behavior using Facebook tools and increase website traffic and email marketing sign-ups using a compelling call to action. Facebook also gives you an opportunity to interact with customers (potential and existing) in realtime and offers a high-touch customer experience. 

Content

To make your Facebook marketing strategy effective, create and use a variety of content, including:

  • Current events: industry news, business news
  • Free resources posts: checklists, guides, live video webinars, and how-tos
  • Visual posts: Memes, comics, quotes, fun facts
  • Interactive posts: contests, quizzes, trivia
  • Q&A posts: open the floor to audience questions, or share frequently asked questions

Twitter

Cost

Signing up and tweeting is free. Twitter ads start around $0.50 per action for promoted tweets and $2.00 per follow for promoted accounts.

Who’s On the Platform

As of the end of 2020, Twitter had 192 million daily active users. 88% of Twitter users fall into the under-50 category, with the 35-49 demographic making up the largest group

How Twitter is Used

Similar to Facebook, Twitter is most used for sharing news, content, and stories. The primary difference is that Twitter limits how much you can say in one post — 280 characters. Twitter keeps your business connected to what’s going on in the world and provides an opportunity to promote your business.You may also use Twitter to learn about industry trends, see what people are saying about your products and services (as well as your competitors), and get a general sense of issues and concerns affecting your target audience. 

Businesses on Twitter can build a company profile page and leverage their tweets to push traffic back to their website using direct links. Paid advertising is available through promoted tweets, promoted trends, promoted accounts, and enhanced profiles. 

Strategy

Twitter is used for both B2C and business-to-business (B2B) marketing and selling. Building brand awareness is one of the main focuses for businesses on social media, along with building an audience organically. It’s also a great place to start a conversation and get feedback from the masses while experimenting with your tone and approach.

While your initial instinct may lean towards more formal communication, Twitter is an ideal spot to see how conversational you can be with an audience. 

Content

Short, quick hits of information are the name of the game on Twitter, so when building your marketing strategy, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Keep it short: Twitter has a 280 character limit in a post, so be sure to keep your tweets short and to the point.
  • Make it visual: Use plenty of images and videos, but don’t forget to include your company name and logo.
  • Always have a call to action: You want people to take another step after reading the tweet, whether it’s visiting your website, reading a blog post, or filling out a survey.
  • Ask for opinions: Polls and surveys are both engaging and provide valuable feedback.
  • Don’t forget the hashtags: Twitter users often search by hashtag, so include ones relevant to the content you’re posting. 

LinkedIn

Cost

A basic LinkedIn account is free; however, what can be done with the account does have limits. Many users choose LinkedIn Premium, which is the paid version and is available at multiple levels of service depending on your primary purpose.

A user who plans to be on the platform for job searching will pay about $29.99 a month, whereas a sales professional who wants to use the platform for lead generation will pay $79.99. As with other social media platforms, LinkedIn offers paid advertising. 

Who’s On the Platform

With roughly 740 million professionals on this social media platform along with 55 million companies listed, it’s easy to see why LinkedIn is so appealing. In fact, the 2020 US Digital Trust Survey found that LinkedIn is the most trusted social media platform

How LinkedIn is Used

Unlike the other social media platforms I’ve discussed so far, LinkedIn is different because it’s solely focused on business professionals. It’s used for networking, recruiting, job searching, business marketing, and more. Industry news and trends are always a hot topic, and it’s a great place to connect with people in your field while also seeing what everyone is up to. 

Users on LinkedIn can post and share content like articles from their profile, make recommendations for products and services, join networking groups for their industry, and so much more. 

Strategy

If you’re wondering whether sharing content on LinkedIn should be part of your marketing strategy, consider the fact that 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content. LinkedIn offers a great deal of information about businesses, so this is an excellent opportunity to grow your brand awareness. 

Like on the other social media platforms, creating brand visibility and awareness is usually a top priority. LinkedIn offers an opportunity to establish your authority and credibility within your industry through content. Share your website and blogs, ebooks and whitepapers, and any other content you can make accessible online. It’s also a great place for networking, which can help you connect with potential clients. 

Content

LinkedIn content offers a mix of industry content, opinion pieces, and more. When considering what kind of content is best suited for your LinkedIn profile, you may want to include:

  • Long-form content: Establish your voice with original articles that tackle key pain points in the industry or put a new spin on an old topic. 
  • Talk about trends: Everyone wants to know what the next big thing will be, so get ahead of the curve and share your thoughts with readers.
  • Share videos and webinars: People love content that provides value.
  • How-tos, tricks, and tips: Be a teacher and establish your authority.
  • Spark a discussion: Get people talking about the hottest topics in your field, niche, or industry by sharing thoughts on news articles, whitepapers, and more. 

Don’t forget to participate in forums and group discussions. This is an opportunity to amplify your brand voice while connecting with your audience and industry peers. 

Instagram

Cost

Instagram is yet another free social media platform that also offers paid options. Instagram ads range anywhere from $0.40 to $0.95 for cost per click, which can include not just clicking links, but also liking or reacting to comments. Cost per impression starts at $2.50 and goes up from there.

Who’s On the Platform

As of early 2021, Instagram has over one billion users

How Instagram is Used

Instagram is one social media platform that people don’t always associate with businesses, but when you think about how massive the influencer industry has become, it’s Instagram that leads the pack. 

Consider this: 90% of people on Instagram follow a business, and 84% of Instagram users want to discover new products while on the platform. Additionally, two-thirds of the profile visits that businesses get come from people who don’t currently follow yet. All of these statistics paint a compelling picture of why focusing on Instagram as your social media platform of choice may be the right strategy. 

Instagram is very visually focused, so it offers an opportunity for users, both individuals and businesses, to explore a more creative approach to sharing content.

Strategy 

Instagram is mainly used for B2C marketing. It’s an ideal place to share existing content with your audience, saving you both time and money. Instagram is known for having a high level of engagement from users, so, with a solid strategy in place, you have the opportunity to increase your audience and drive traffic towards your website.

Content

Since Instagram is a visual social media platform, your post will garner the most attention by using high visual content, including:

  • Infographics: Compile compelling data into images that tell a story.
  • Instastories: Create short videos to share tips and tricks or information about your business.
  • Images: Pictures, memes, and more can be used to share content.
  • User-generated content: Engage your audience to share stories and experiences with your business and then promote it. 

Create a Strategy for Your Social Media Platform

By understanding how each social media platform operates and how it can help with your overall marketing, you can create a strategy that makes sense for your business. With social media users expected to surpass 4.4 billion by 2025, you don’t want to miss out on all of that untapped potential for marketing your financial services business. If you need help determining the best strategy for you, that is where Crystal Marketing Solutions comes in! 

Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

Does Your Firm Need an ADA Compliant Website?

If you wonder whether your firm’s website should be ADA compliant, the short answer is yes. While the big picture is more complicated, the reality is continuing to ignore the needs of disabled users could present unnecessary problems and legal risks that can be avoided by updating your website and providing reasonable accommodations.

What is ADA Website Compliance?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990 and was amended substantially in 2009, contains a set of requirements which businesses must adhere to accommodate individuals who have disabilities. The overall purpose of this civil rights law is to ensure people have equal opportunities and are not discriminated against in public life, jobs, school, housing, transportation, and private locations that are open to the public.

As the internet becomes integral to the way services are delivered to the public, websites have become a site of contention when it comes to the ADA. 

In short, ADA website compliance means that your site is accessible to people with disabilities, including but not limited to those with visual or hearing impairment, cognitive impairment, learning disabilities, and those who must navigate websites using voice commands, by allowing for the use of tools such as screen readers and other assistive devices to consume content.

Is Your Firm Legally Subject to ADA Website Compliance?

The answer to this question is still debatable. Presently, if you are a private business with 15+ employees or a company that relies on the public or that benefits the public, you must meet compliance. But if you think this doesn’t apply to you, it’s not that simple.

If the public needs to enter your place of business regularly, you would need to meet physical ADA requirements for access, such as installing ramps in place of stairs. The argument can be made that the public should also be able to access your business through your website. Essentially, websites are considered “places of public accommodation.”

While it may seem like an inconvenience on your part to update your website to meet compliance, the public is increasingly coming to expect it as a common courtesy. Even people who do not require accommodations personally are demanding that the companies they do business with practice fair and equitable treatment towards their fellow Americans with disabilities.

Nearly 50 million adults in the U.S. may have a disability that could require them to use adaptive technologies, and as many as one in three families are touched by disability. In aging populations, such as pre and post-retirees, visual impairment is a rising concern. As many as 12% of Americans ages 45 to 64  and more than 15% of Americans 75 and older have reported vision loss. While many of those people can be helped with corrective lenses, more of your clients and prospects will have website accessibility issues than you may have considered. (1)

Additionally, there has been a flurry of Department of Justice actions, lawsuits, demand letters, and court rulings that increasingly favor digital accessibility and ADA compliance.

So whether you decide to update your website to expand your audience, protect your brand, support the disabled community’s needs, avoid legal issues, or err on the side of caution, meeting requirements rather than resisting them is in your firm’s best interest.

How to Meet ADA Web Accessibility Guidelines

When it comes to ADA website compliance, the rules are not clear cut. Meeting web accessibility guidelines isn’t a simple process; it’s not as easy as flipping a switch or adding a plug-in to your website.

The most comprehensive benchmarks available are published by the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which state that for a website to be accessible, it should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Perceivable

No aspect of your website can be available to only one sense, such as vision. The site be easily accessed and processed by screen readers, for example, designed to support the visually impaired, which means all images must include alt text that the screen readers can pick up. Video and audio content should include transcripts and accurate closed captioning. 

Operable

Your website should be usable and accessible in various ways, such as with a mouse and keyboard, responsive to adaptive technologies like touchscreen or screen readers, and that it should avoid elements that could be seizure triggers, such as flashing lights.

Understandable

Your website visitors should be able to identify and read the language and content easily. The site should be clearly labeled, well organized, with a well-designed layout, and should not be difficult or confusing to navigate. Any forms or interactive elements should include clear instructions and not be confusing to use.

Robust

Your website should be accessible on the current versions of all major web browsers and run on the latest technologies that allow for the use of adaptive technologies, such as screen readers. 

Following these standards will demonstrate that your firm has made a good-faith effort towards meeting ‘reasonable’ website accommodations. Familiarizing yourself with ADA requirements and downloading this checklist is an important first step. If you are concerned about ADA compliance, consult an attorney specializing in disability law.  

Sources: 

1 https://www.afb.org/research-and-initiatives/aging/special-report-aging-vision-loss

Is It Time to Rebrand Your Financial Advisor Website?

As a financial advisor, your website is often your first chance to make a great impression. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to impress your prospects. Whether your prospects find your site by searching online or researching you after being referred by a friend, failing to make the most out of this initial encounter could mean the difference between signing an ideal new client or missing out on potential business, again and again. 

In the not-so-distant past, financial advisors could get away with a basic website. As long as your firm had a site of any kind, you were doing better than the competition. However, the landscape has changed and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. The way you show up in the digital space matters, and it can mean the difference between achieving your goals and missing the mark.

If your website is more than a few years old, it’s time for an update.

If you’ve invested in a website and it’s not bringing in new business, you are due for a refresh. Your site could need a minor update or a complete rebrand. 

Here’s how to tell if your financial advisor website stuck in the past and, if it is, how to position it for success. 

Why Update Your Website

Updating your website is about more than just replacing the old with the new. Having an updated website shows potential clients that you care about your business, are actively engaged and paying attention, and are putting in the effort to share your knowledge and insights. 

Having an out-of-date website makes you appear out of touch, like you don’t care enough to keep pace with technological changes, and are too busy to be bothered. And if prospects suspect you aren’t on top of your game, they will be less likely to trust their financial future to you. 

Fair or not, this is the way impressions work. 

It’s like driving by a restaurant that looks shabby with peeling paint and 1980s signage; it might have the most delicious food, but you’re less likely to give it a try. 

Updating your website lets you implement an effective digital marketing strategy. Whereas websites from a decade ago were little more than digital brochures, now you have the opportunity to do content marketing, search engine optimization, email marketing, Facebook advertising, and more. Your website and branding need to be updated in order to get results.

Updating your website shows the world who you are now, rather than who you were several years ago. Change is the only constant, you are not the same advisor and your firm is not the same company. As you evolve over time, your presence online should evolve too.   

How to Know If Your Website Needs Updating

As I mentioned above, if your website is more than a few years old, it probably needs to be updated. And in some cases, it could be time for a full overhaul of your brand. But whether you’re too close to the brand to be objective or you don’t spend enough time online to be familiar with what consumers have come to expect from company websites, here is some guidance and the indicators signaling an outdated website. 

Ask yourself the following seven questions:

1. Is my message still relevant?

Your brand message should speak directly to your ideal client and convey that you can help them solve a particular problem or fulfill a desire they have. 

Did you start off focusing on helping young professionals begin planning for retirement, and now your firm focuses on working with pre-retirees? Did you previously work exclusively with high-net-worth families only to realize you’re more passionate about advising your upper-income middle-class American neighbors? Then the brand message on your website needs to be revised accordingly.

2. Are my images outdated?

Imagery conveys powerful meaning. When a prospective client lands on your site, they should recognize they are in the right place by seeing relatable images. Old stock photos that look like they were taken decades ago need to be replaced with fresh new pictures with an updated aesthetic. 

If a prospect would have trouble recognizing you from your headshot, it’s time for a new one—yes, even if you’ve put on some weight, gained a few laugh lines, or lost hair since your last one. An updated, friendly headshot that looks like you is a must. (See my article Tips for Taking Your Own Headshots for more information.)

3. Does my website stand out?

Back in the days when having a website—any website at all—helped you stand out, you could get away with a cookie-cutter template site. Today, you have less than 15 seconds to capture a website visitor’s attention to give them a reason to stick around and learn more about you. 

They are looking for an advisor they can trust to help them meet their goals. Having a website that paints you no differently from the advisor across town isn’t doing you any favors. If your website is a beige, boring, run-of-the-mill site, it’s time to update your brand. 

4. Has my business changed?

The answer to this question is likely yes, but is this change reflected online? If not, it’s time for a change to your website. 

Maybe you started as a one-person shop, and now you have multiple advisors or you’ve hired operations support that plays a critical role in your success. Maybe your firm started with one office, and you’ve expanded to a second location. Maybe you’ve shifted from selling products to a fee-only model. Maybe you’ve developed a signature process that you walk each client through. If there’s no sign of these changes on your website, it is time to refresh or rebrand.

5. Am I sharing content regularly?

A static brochure-like website is no longer enough. Most consumers are doing research online before making even small purchasing decisions. Hiring a financial advisor is a serious commitment, and your prospects want to know that you’re knowledgeable. They want to know your approach and perspective. Therefore you need to incorporate regular sharing and updates into your website. 

The content you share can be in the form of a blog, new articles you’ve written, a podcast, YouTube videos, or new free resources such as guides or whitepapers. The point is, you’ll want to keep people on your site and keep them coming back for more, so it’s important to incorporate a way to share content regularly and easily into your website.

6. Is my brand engaging?

This is a challenge for many financial advisors and other conservative industries. Consumers tend to be turned off by overly formal, stuffy brands, and even wealthy audiences want you to loosen your tie a bit. This doesn’t mean your website needs to be edgy or provocative; it should be engaging, friendly, and approachable.

Look over your website. Is the language formal and dry or more conversational? Will it bore readers or pique their interest? Does it sound like you or someone else? Are you speaking at people like an expert on high or telling relatable stories and asking questions? 

If your brand isn’t drawing interest and your messaging doesn’t feel like part of an ongoing conversation with clients and prospects, it needs some work.

7. Is my technology antiquated? 

If you have an old website that you haven’t kept updated, your technology needs an overhaul. While the tech side of your website is happening behind the scenes, it is a critical part of the client experience. If the site runs slowly, has broken links, or glitches, it will send the wrong message. People will click away or feel frustrated.

If you are planning to use digital marketing, you need a website that’s blog enabled, allows you to embed social media and social sharing elements, includes an email opt-in form, let’s you add or update content without relying on a webmaster, enables you to add pixels for Facebook advertising, gives you the opportunity to optimize for search engines, and more. 

Old website technology limits your reach and puts your brand at a disadvantage.

How to Rebrand Your Website

If it’s time for a new website, you’ve been in business long enough to turn to a professional. Maybe your first site was a do-it-yourself job, or your teenage daughter took care of it. But for the next round, it’s best to hire someone who knows exactly what you need to bring your brand up to today’s standards.

When looking for support in rebranding your website, select a professional or agency that understands marketing for financial advisors, rather than a web designer who only wants to make your website look nice. The point of updating your website is to enhance the performance of your marketing and get better results. 

In addition to presenting your firm in a better light, your goals should be to attract traffic, generate leads, and convert more business. Keep in mind that as a financial advisor, you should always follow compliance guidelines when creating any content for your website, so it’s best to work with someone who understands this.

It will take your time and attention. You’ll need to get clear on exactly what you want and stay involved in the process. But an experienced professional or agency will make the website rebranding process painless and set your mind at ease, ensuring you come out of the other end of it with a website you’re confident about that helps you reach your goals.

Realigning your brand is similar to rebalancing a portfolio. Over time you can drift, but think about this like a retirement plan and adjust as needed to stay true to your goals.

I hope you found this overview about website rebranding helpful. If you already have a website, and you think it might need a refresh, investigate rebranding, so you can better connect with the people you want to serve. 

Whether you’re too close to the brand to be objective or you don’t spend enough time online to be familiar with what consumers expect from websites, you may need some guidance in determining what indicators would signal an outdated website. That is where Crystal Marketing Solutions comes in! Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

A Primer on Email Marketing Automation

Email marketing has been around for decades, but it’s far from dead. Not only is it still going strong, but it is more effective than ever. As technology continues to advance, email -marketing strategies can become more personalized and effective.

Marketing automation is the key to this progress. 

My series The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Email Marketing helps financial advisors understand how email marketing works so they can properly use financial email marketing strategies to connect with prospects and gain more clients. 

I’ve covered all of the essentials of email marketing in previous articles in this series.

Now I’ll show you how to take your email marketing to the next level with automation.

What is email marketing automation?

By using email marketing automation, you can create and send relevant, timely, and personalized emails to the subscribers on your list automatically, based on criteria you set that aligns with your email marketing strategy. 

Rather than being confined to sending out broadcast emails – sometimes referred to as email “blasts” – email marketing automation sends the right messages to the right people at the right time. 

Whereas blasts go out to every subscriber on your list at the same time, automation allows you to choose which subscribers get which messages and when, and that can make your campaigns more effective.

By nurturing prospective clients with highly personalized content, you engage and serve them individually from the start. When marketing automation is done effectively, email campaigns help you book appointments, fill seminars, pre-qualify prospects, or even sign new clients. 

Email marketing automation works by segmenting subscribers into different lists or with tagging, based on the information they submit or their behavior. 

For example, you can trigger specific emails based on the answers subscribers submit in a form, demographic information such as their geographic location, preferences, or behaviors such as opens, clicks, purchases, or visiting a web page. 

What is an email marketing automation strategy?

When someone signs up for your newsletter or opts-in for a free giveaway, the first email they receive is an “autoresponder.” Traditionally, once they receive the thank you message or download, the next time they hear from the company will be the next time the company’s newsletter is sent. 

With automation, you could send a welcome or nurture sequence of follow-up emails to new subscribers, introducing yourself, sharing more information about your firm and providing additional content relevant to the free giveaway they subscribed to get. 

You could also send the follow-up sequence only to the people who opened the thank you email or only to the people who clicked the link to download the free report. 

Another option would be to send a survey asking about their most pressing concerns or interests. If they indicate that they are most interested in improving their personal finances, you can send a follow-up sequence about household budgeting and paying off debt. If they indicate that they are interested in saving for their child’s education, send articles about college savings plans. 

Email marketing automation can also be used to supplement your other marketing efforts. If you put on a seminar or workshop, you don’t have to follow up with each attendee individually. Instead, you can set up a sequence in advance to connect with participants and reuse the same sequence each time you present on that topic. 

For example, the next morning, they would get an email thanking them for attending, a link to  the slides and a request for feedback. The following day, send a follow-up email with frequently asked questions that tend to come up during or after the workshop. A few days later, send a guide or worksheet that helps them address a challenge covered in the workshop. Then, if you notice they’ve been opening your emails, send an invitation to book a free consultation or pick up the phone to call them.

How else can you use automation?

In addition to nurturing new subscribers, email marketing automation provides many creative opportunities to connect with your list, colleagues, prospects, and clients. 

Use automation during your new-client onboarding. Right after they’ve signed on to work with you, they are most emotional about their decision. If they are excited, sending them an automated series of relevant content about your firm, their challenges, and each next step can reinforce their enthusiasm and begin to turn them into a brand ambassador. 

If they are second-guessing their decision, providing automated onboarding and follow-up will reassure them that they are in professional and capable hands.   

Another way to use email marketing automation is to power your referrals. Although many financial advisors claim that the majority of their clients come from referrals, few have a process in place to ask for referrals consistently. Automating your requests for referrals from satisfied clients and strong referral partners is an effective way to keep referrals coming in the door. 

Conclusion

From the subscriber’s perspective, the most effective email marketing automation is welcomed and feels like a personal service that is tailored to address their challenges and meet their needs. Even though most people will recognize that the messages are automated, using email automation strategically demonstrates that you are in tune with what they want and you are prepared to serve them well. 

Depending on your needs and the level of sophistication required for the automation strategies you want to deploy, carefully consider which email service provider (ESP) to choose, as each one has slightly different email-automation offerings. 

This is the final article in my series, The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Email Marketing

Download a free copy of the Email Marketing Checklist & Template here. 

Sometimes email marketing can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake on your own. This is exactly what we do for our clients! We help craft opt-ins to build their email lists and create captivating email marketing campaigns to engage with their audience in the most effective way possible. Reach out to us to see how we can help!

Proper Email Etiquette

Email marketing is a powerful tool to grow your business. But before you begin, be aware of email marketing etiquette as well as some common email marketing pitfalls and mistakes that can cost you. 

My series, The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Email Marketing, helps financial advisors understand how email marketing works so they can properly use financial email marketing strategies to connect with prospects and gain more clients. 

In earlier articles, I’ve focused on what you should do for effective email marketing.

Now it is time to dive into a few things you should be careful not to do.

Professional Email Etiquette

Before we cover email marketing campaigns, I’ll start by discussing some tips you might not have considered when it comes to sending individual emails. All of the activities you do to promote your business and gain new clients is considered marketing, so even cold prospecting emails, emails with your referral partners, and emails following up with warm leads are all considered a kind of email marketing, so it’s important to use every opportunity to market effectively.

Email Signature

If you’re only putting your name and basic contact information in your email signature, you’re missing an opportunity to take full advantage of this space to engage with all of the people you’re emailing. 

Use an eye-catching branded email signature that includes relevant information, such as your name, title, company name, phone numbers, website, and social media icons with clickable links to your profiles. 

Include a call to action with a link or button. For example, “Have you signed up for our newsletter? You can do that here.” You may also want to include a calendar link to book a consultation with you.

Your email signature is valuable real estate; don’t waste the opportunity to connect with people. 

Always Use BCC for Group Emails

Do you have a small list of people that you like to keep in the loop about things you find interesting, updates in your business, or upcoming events? Perhaps you’re letting your colleagues know you were featured in the media, that you’ll be speaking at a conference, or you’re sharing a study or interesting article you found. 

A bigt faux pas you can make with email is to CC your list when you should be using the BCC field. Not only are you exposing each person’s email address to the other people on the list, but if anyone hits “reply all” it will go to the whole list. 

This doesn’t seem to happen as often as it used to, but it’s something you want to avoid. People are very protective of their inboxes and this seemingly small mistake can annoy people more than you think. 

Bulk Email Etiquette

An email service provider (ESP) is a tool, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, that sends bulk emails to a list of subscribers. Because all ESPs are required to be in compliance with email marketing regulations, using an ESP will help you stay in compliance. If you try to get around best practices or violate their terms and conditions, your account can be shut down.    

Follow Email Regulations

The most critical thing about email marketing etiquette when using an ESP is that you need permission to email every contact on your list. If you don’t have permission from subscribers, your email could be considered spam by the recipients, which damages your reputation—both with internet service providers and with the individuals who receive the unwanted emails. 

If your email is marked as “spam” by your recipients in their email client, you may end up on a list of spammers that are automatically blocked by internet providers.

The best email lists require double opt-in. This means that subscribers are required to complete two steps to join the list. For example, they fill out an opt-in form and then open and click a “confirm your subscription” email. This protects people who are not sure what they are joining, prevents spam sign-ups, and keeps people from subscribing others without their consent.  

To be CAN-SPAM compliant, all of your emails need to include an unsubscribe link, physical street address, link to your privacy policy, and information about why they received the email (e.g., “You are receiving this email because you requested updates from us.”). Most importantly, make it easy for people to unsubscribe and honor all unsubscribe requests immediately.

Be Consistent

Another big mistake many small businesses make with their email marketing is lack of consistency. Remember, one of the reasons email marketing is effective is that you show up consistently to nurture relationships and build trust. Showing up inconsistently has the opposite effect.

You want people to expect your emails and look forward to them, so it’s to your advantage to show up at the same time or day each week or month—stick to a calendar. It’s okay to email more frequently, but don’t email less frequently or skip issues. This makes you seem unreliable and too busy to keep your commitments. 

Most significantly, if you fall off the map and suddenly pop back up months later, chances are people will have forgotten who you are. Your open rates will tank, unsubscribes will soar, and your list will grow cold. 

That said, if you have allowed your list to grow cold, that doesn’t mean you should abandon it altogether. There are ways to reintroduce yourself and warm it back up again. But it’s always best if you can avoid putting yourself in that situation.

Conclusion

By following email marketing best practices, not only should you be striving to be effective and get the best results, but you need to tread lightly to avoid breaking the law or committing a faux pas that make you seem unprofessional and tarnish your reputation.

Now that you are aware of what not to do, in my next article I’ll help you take your email marketing to the next level by showing you how to set up successful automations.

Download a free copy of the Email Marketing Checklist & Template here. 

Sometimes email marketing can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake on your own. This is exactly what we do for our clients! We help craft opt-ins to build their email lists and create captivating email marketing campaigns to engage with their audience in the most effective way possible.  Reach out to us to see how we can help!

Why Your Financial Advisory Firm Needs an Email Newsletter

People want to buy from companies they trust, no matter what they’re purchasing. When it comes to engaging the services of a financial advisor, trust becomes even more important, as your clients are entrusting you with what is most important to them – their family’s security and financial future. So any marketing you do as a financial advisor needs to focus on building trust. 

My series The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Email Marketing helps financial advisors understand how email marketing works so they can properly use financial email marketing strategies to connect with prospects and gain more clients. 

So far, we have covered the basic building blocks you need to get started with email marketing.

Now it’s time to dive into a tried-and-true method of building trust with email marketing – sending a monthly email newsletter. 

What makes an email newsletter effective?

There’s something about showing up consistently in your client’s inbox month after month that signals that you are a steady, reliable, and trustworthy professional. Before they’ve even opened your message, seeing your name reminds them that you’re there, available, and ready to help.

Not only is the newsletter positioning you as a reliable go-to resource, but it more specifically positions you as an expert in your field. Yes, your clients want to work with someone they consider a trustworthy professional, but they also want to know you’re sharp, well-informed, and actively staying abreast of trends, patterns, what’s going on in the market, and how it relates to their financial goals. 

The best way to demonstrate your trustworthiness and expertise at scale is with an email newsletter. With the rise of social media and other forms of digital marketing, many businesses abandoned their email newsletters. But year after year, email consistently performs better than every other digital marketing channel. If you aren’t currently sending a newsletter for your financial advisory practice, it’s time to start.

What should be included in a monthly e-newsletter?

Newsletter Introduction

When you send an email newsletter for your financial advisory firm, it’s an opportunity to connect with your readers. Yes, you’re sending updates and helpful content, but you’re in a personal business and should always start with a personal note. 

This doesn’t mean you should use the space to give them a play-by-play rundown of what’s been going on in your life and business over the past month. But reference something you’ve been thinking about or working on or a short relatable story. 

The newsletter should primarily be about the reader and what will be most useful to them, but the introduction is where you get to remind them who you are, what you stand for, and that you care. Write it in a friendly and conversational tone that highlights your personality, as if you’re writing to one specific ideal client. 

Use the introduction to set up the content you’re sharing, encourage them to reply with feedback and questions, and suggest they forward the newsletter to a friend.

Newsletter Content

You might be wondering what kind of content to send. Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a long publication packed with content to be valuable. You can and should keep it simple. 

Remember, the newsletter is about the reader. Yes, you will update them on what’s going on with you and your company, but multiple in-depth articles about internal company business will bore readers. However, that doesn’t mean you should skip the personal touch. Introduce new employees and share updates, such as when someone earns a new certification, gets a promotion, or welcomes a new child or grandchild. 

For the primary focus of the newsletter, send your latest blog posts about topics that clients and prospects are likely to find helpful. Include a few paragraphs in the newsletter itself and then ask them to click a link or button to keep reading on your website. 

Happenings and Upcoming Events

Sharing happenings and upcoming events boosts your credibility and keep readers informed about opportunities to learn from and engage with you.

If you’ve been featured in the media or spoken at industry conferences, let your readers know. Include logos and links to places you were featured, such as radio and podcast interviews or magazine and newspaper articles in which you were quoted. 

If you’re hosting or speaking at any upcoming seminars or workshops or participating in any community events, include a section where you can invite your readers to join you. Even if the topic isn’t relevant to them, they can forward it to a friend. 

Chances are, you are already speaking, teaching, appearing in the media, or remaining actively involved in your community. This is a chance to showcase your efforts and elevate your profile. 

Market or Economic Update 

When sending your newsletter as a financial advisor, obviously market trends and the economic news will be on the minds of your readers, so you’ll want to include an update. Don’t take the time or use the space to provide an in-depth market analysis but be sure to share a brief overview, which you can pull from a third-party resource. 

Call to Action

Your email newsletter isn’t just about sharing news; it’s about encouraging your readers to take action. The purpose of an email newsletter is marketing for your financial advisory business. Whether you want your readers to pick up the phone and call you, forward your email, sign up for a seminar, or click a link to schedule an appointment, include a clear call to action that spells out the next step you want them to take.

Conclusion

An email newsletter gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise and build trust among your clients and prospects and as such is a very effective means to build your business. However, before you launch your monthly email newsletter, read my next article to learn about email marketing etiquette as well as some common email marketing pitfalls and mistakes that can cost you.

Download a free copy of the Email Marketing Checklist & Template here. 

Sometimes email marketing can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake on your own. This is exactly what we do for our clients! We help craft opt-ins to build their email lists and create captivating email marketing campaigns to engage with their audience in the most effective way possible. Reach out to us to see how we can help!

Email Marketing: Basic Framework Guidelines

When you are getting started with email marketing for your financial advisory business, it can feel intimidating because you don’t know what you don’t know. You’ve been getting marketing emails for years, so you have a basic idea of what to include. But when you sit down to plan on your own, it helps to know the basic framework guidelines of what goes into an effective newsletter or marketing campaign email.

My series The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Email Marketing helps financial advisors understand how email marketing works so they can properly use financial email marketing strategies to connect with prospects and gain more clients. 

Previously, we covered the ins and outs of email list building, and we talked about the tools you will need to execute your email marketing strategies.

Now it is time to dive into the different components of a marketing email.

Becoming familiar with each of the components of an effective marketing email will help you structure your emails for the best possible results. 

Effective Email Subject Lines

Subject lines determine whether or not your email will get opened. So the job of a subject line is to stand out in the inbox, grab the reader’s attention, and get them to open. 

Examples of the types of subject lines that consistently perform well include:

  • Numbers (3 Ways to…)
  • How to….
  • Appeal to positive or negative emotions (pain, pleasure, fear, excitement)
  • What’s in it for them? (incentive, benefit)

Be clever, but not too clever. Avoid dull subject lines like “November Newsletter” and instead use a subject line that causes your subscriber to pause and think that they don’t want to miss what’s inside. It should always be relevant; there’s no point in tricking people to open with a subject line that’s unrelated to the content, which will negatively impact trust and lead to unsubscribes.

Be careful. You want to stand out in the inbox, but not at the cost of landing in the spam folder. Avoid spam triggers like USING ALL CAPS or common spam words such as “free,” “cash,” or “earn.” 

Be concise. The subject line should pack a punch and also be short enough to be read on a smartphone’s email client (40-60 characters).

Most email service providers (ESPs) will allow you to try two different subject lines for your emails and A/B test them to see which one is most effective. To determine which subject line performs best, your ESP will send your email out in small batches over a few hours, tracking which one gets the most opens. Then it will send the remaining emails using the subject line that got the best results. This can help boost your open rates and provide you with information about the subject lines that work best with your subscribers. 

Email Preheader

An email preheader is the text that follows the subject line when you view an email in your inbox. It’s what many email clients (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) show recipients to give them an idea of what’s inside the email before they open it. 

After the subject line, the preheader is the next most important determining factor in whether or not someone opens your email. So the preheader is a powerful line of text that should be as impactful as the subject line. 

Many people skip the preheader or put little thought into it. But because at least 40% of all emails are opened and read on a mobile device preheader text is more important than before as it has become more prominent. 

You can use your email preheader to provide a short summary of what’s in the email but do so in a way that’s interesting and compelling. You may want to consider asking a question, including an emoji, or personalizing the preheader with the subscriber’s name. 

Email Content

Your email content should be relevant, engaging, short, and to the point. Nobody has the time or attention to read anything that isn’t helpful, and they certainly won’t read long emails that do not have a clear purpose. 

Each section should lead to the next and the text should be scannable so readers can easily search for what’s most pertinent. To share longer-form content, such as articles and blog posts, it’s best to include a few sentences or short paragraphs and then link out to the rest. This gives the reader the choice to engage with the content and still take in the whole email at a glance. 

Your email marketing message content should let the reader know you value and respect their time, and you are only showing up in their inbox to be useful.

Branding and Images

Your marketing emails can be mostly text, but newsletters are most effective when they include your company branding, graphics, and images.

As a marketing piece, your financial advisor newsletter is a chance to raise awareness of your brand and you. Your email newsletter template should include your brand colors, logo, and the appropriate fonts and style. In other words, when people open the email, they should recognize it as yours and it should reinforce a feeling of familiarity with you.

Many financial advisors also include a headshot or personal photo in the header or signature of their newsletter. Because you’re in a personal, one-on-one business, you’ll benefit from continuously showing up and helping your readers put a face with your name to strengthen the connection.

Include images that are relevant to the content you’re sharing or the updates you’re providing. Make the newsletter visually appealing and pique your readers’ interest to get them to engage and click. However, be careful not to use too many or large photos, because large files can interfere with deliverability. 

Finally, continue your branding into the footer, including links to your website and social media accounts. 

Legal and Technical Requirements

Ensure your email is CAN-SPAM compliant. This means every email needs to include an unsubscribe link, physical street address, link to your privacy policy, and information about why they received the email (e.g., “You are receiving this email because you requested updates from us.”)

To ensure your email is accessible for visually impaired subscribers, include alt text with your images so they can use a screen reader to get a description of images in the email. This is also a best practice because it provides information about what each image is for people that have images blocked or turned off by default. 

Conclusion

While there is no one winning formula for the perfectly performing email, know the basic framework of an effective marketing email. Now that you are familiar with each of the components, you can start experimenting and craft emails designed to produce results. 

In my next article I will go into more detail about the importance of creating a monthly newsletter to engage with your audience and build trust.

Download a free copy of the Email Marketing Checklist & Template here.

Sometimes email marketing can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake on your own. This is exactly what we do for our clients! We help craft opt-ins to build their email lists and create captivating email marketing campaigns to engage with their audience in the most effective way possible. Let us help you get a handle on the whole process by scheduling an introductory meeting today.  Reach out to us to see how we can help!

What is an Email Service Provider (ESP) and Why Do You Need One?

An email service provider (ESP) is a company that provides email marketing services. More specifically, it is a software company that offers an email marketing platform or tool that enables you to create and send bulk emails to a list of subscribers.

My series, The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Email Marketing, helps financial advisors understand how email marketing works so they can properly use financial email marketing strategies to connect with prospects and gain more clients. In the previous article in this series, I covered email-list building.

Now it is time to dig deep into the tool that allows you to build a list and send email marketing messages effectively.

The purpose of using an ESP, rather than sending from your own email client such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook, is that it helps you create professional designs, manage subscriber lists, evaluate the success of your email marketing campaigns, and stay within legal compliance.

There are hundreds of ESP companies to choose from. For your financial advisory firm, the best option is to select an ESP with a strong reputation for serving small business customers, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact.

Benefits of Using an ESP

Getting started with an ESP can be very inexpensive or even free, so there really aren’t any disadvantages to using one, and there are many benefits, including:

Email Deliverability 

One of the biggest advantages of using an ESP is that it protects your deliverability and more specifically, prevents your domain from being blacklisted. 

If you try to send bulk email from your own email client, the activity is likely to be flagged as suspicious and you will be marked as a spammer. Once you are identified as a spammer, all emails coming from your company’s web domain can be blacklisted and blocked by major internet service providers (ISPs). This means your company’s emails – even the individual messages you send to communicate with clients – can be blocked.

ESPs have servers that send large volumes of email in a way that doesn’t set off spam filters at your subscriber’s ISP. Therefore, you can safely send email marketing campaigns and significantly reduce the likelihood that your emails will get blacklisted. 

Email Regulation Compliance 

Email marketing is regulated through legislation, and it is important that all of your email marketing efforts are in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act. Your ESP is required to be in compliance with CAN-SPAM and will help you comply as well.

For example, you will need to have proper permission from your subscribers that they have consented to receive email campaigns from you. You’ll need to have proper identifying information such as your company name and street address on every email you send. And you will need to include a way for subscribers to easily opt-out of emails. An ESP makes it easy for you to follow all these rules almost effortlessly.

List Management

Your email marketing list should only consist of people who have consented to receive email marketing messages from you. Ensuring that your list is up-to-date and maintaining list hygiene can be a bigger task than you expect, but most of the heavy lifting is done automatically by an ESP.

An ESP automatically adds subscribers to your list when they sign up through a subscribe form, which itself can be easily added to your website and even your social media profile. Then, if a subscriber wants to be removed from your list, your ESP handles that when they click the “unsubscribe” link in your email. The ESP will also handle “bounced” emails - emails that can’t be delivered because the email address has gone dormant or been closed down. 

Most ESPs offer the ability to segment your list based on subscription source, characteristics or behaviors of subscribers, or campaign activity, such as opens, clicks, or purchases.

Customizable Templates

Effective emails have clean, modern, visually-appealing design. But, as a small business owner with a limited budget, you don’t want to have to hire a graphic designer for each email you send. 

ESPs such as MailChimp and Constant Contact provide built-in professional templates that are easily customizable, allowing you to add your company’s colors, logo, and images with drag-and-drop functionality in a few clicks. Their templates are already mobile responsive, meaning they are just as readable on a subscriber’s phone as they are on a computer monitor. Mobile responsiveness is critical because at least 40% of all emails are opened and read on a mobile device.

Personalization

Even if you are sending a broadcast email to your entire list of subscribers, one of the best ways to connect with your readers is to include elements of personalization. Your ESP will enable you to personalize your emails with the subscriber’s name, which can be included in the greeting, throughout the body of the email, and even in the subject line. 

Some ESPs allow you to include additional personalization beyond the subscriber’s name. For example, if you’ve gathered the information, you can segment your list and personalize the email by mentioning the subscriber’s city, their marital status, age group, or specific financial interests, such as saving for college or saving for a house. 

Automated Email Campaigns & Marketing Funnels

In addition to sending on a broadcast email, your ESP automatically schedule emails to go out at a specific date and time. In many cases, you can even set the ESP to determine when to send an email based on the data it has on the best send times for the highest open rates.

The automation features in your ESP will enable you to set up email sequences to welcome and nurture new subscribers, automatically promote a service or event, and follow up or check in with subscribers automatically. 

An automated email campaign is a coordinated sequence of individual emails that you can send across a set time period with a specific purpose in mind, such as prompting subscribers to sign up for a webinar or schedule a consultation with you. You may also hear this referred to as an email marketing funnel, which refers to using email messages to move web visitors along a journey to become subscribers, prospects, and hopefully clients. 

Tracking & Reporting

Finally, your ESP will provide data about your subscribers and clients that can help you make strategic decisions about your marketing efforts. 

With email tracking and reporting features, you know how many subscribers, and specifically which ones, are opening and clicking on your emails. As I mentioned above, you can even segment the subscribers who click on specific links into various lists that you can then send targeted content related to those specific topics.

The tracking and reporting features in your ESP will let you review your campaign results to determine what’s working and what can be improved. Plus, you’ll be able to determine which subscribers are most likely to be responsive if you reach out to them directly and which subscribers can be removed from your database.

Conclusion

Using an email service provider is essential to any email marketing efforts. The quality of your ESP will affect the email deliverability and its features and functionality will determine which email marketing strategies you are able to use. Some are more feature-rich than others, but the most robust tools can require a steep learning curve while a simpler tool might be best to get the job done. 

Now that you know about ESPs and how they help you be more effective, in my next article I will share some guidelines on building out the basic framework for your emails.

Download a free copy of the Email Marketing Checklist & Template here. 

Sometimes email marketing can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake on your own. This is exactly what we do for our clients! We help craft opt-ins to build their email lists and create captivating email marketing campaigns to engage with their audience in the most effective way possible.  Reach out to us to see how we can help!

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