In the first of two articles about internet marketing, David Elms , chief executive of IFA Promotion , sets out how the net has changed intermediary's marketing message and the client's search for a financial adviser.
Marketing isn’t simply about advertising or selling, it is also about working out customers' goals and needs and then delivering to them. Crucially, it also means ensuring nobody is left in any doubt as to the nature and value of the service you provide.
Depolarisation introduced a third type of financial adviser and the opportunity for IFAs to promote themselves as the only providers of the gold standard of financial advice. Marketing is an essential tool for IFAs to communicate the key message that they are the only source of holistic advice from the whole of the market.
The most important thing to bear in mind when planning your marketing activity is what you really want to gain from it. For the vast majority of intermediaries, the main aim of marketing would be to generate good quality business leads. Obviously, it is important to raise awareness of your company but if no-one is contacting you or buying your products, then your marketing isn’t working as well as it could be.
As we know, the internet has fast become the most popular way to search for anything from a simple fact to a restaurant, or even your mortgage or pension. It is the modern ‘font of wisdom’ with recent research from Pew Internet & American Life Project claiming 70% of consumers trust information returned from internet searches. If it is not already, the internet is also becoming the nation’s preferred and most definitive research tool as many people visit one of the many search engines to find something they need, every day of their lives.
If, on the other hand, you’re among the few technophobes pretending the internet doesn’t exist, your business is almost certainly losing out already. The fact is the internet has revolutionised the way we live and the way we make our choices as consumers and without a doubt it is here to stay.
To provide a clear example, just four years ago less than a third of enquiries made through IFAP’s “Find an IFA” service arrived via the internet. The number of internet users has since soared, and last year four in five searches conducted via IFAP were carried out online.
Sadly many IFAs continue to ignore the internet and with it a cost-effective source of potential new business. Only half of our members have their own website, and 1 in 10 have yet to register an email address with us. In the brave new world of technology not having an online presence is tantamount to being invisible.
Some IFAs claim that they are concerned that having a website will trigger a flood of enquiries which they will be unable to handle, or that they will attract contact from people they may not wish to do business with. But this is unlikely to happen if you create a website that accurately reflects the services you offer and the market you cater for.
Equally, there are IFAs who say the internet is not for them because they prefer to engage in face-to-face advice. This is the common misconception with the internet. It hasn’t changed the sales process, it has simply changed the research process. People still want to pop into their local IFA office for a one-on-one interview. It’s just that fewer and fewer are picking up the Yellow Pages or flicking through the local newspaper to find an IFA in the first place. Just as people log on to the internet to find that bargain weekend break, so hundreds of thousands of consumers are turning to their computers to find an IFA.
Over 10,000 consumers and businesses a week are using IFAP to find details of a local IFA – a 39% increase on our position this time last year, which is fantastic news and illustrates our expertise in marketing. The vast majority (81%) of these enquiries have been online, through www.unbiased.co.uk, or via the searches running on one of our partner websites.
We, therefore, want to pass on this knowledge to our member IFAs so that they can reap the benefits of having an online presence, as we know it really is the tool of choice for consumers.IFAonline
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