Are your ears ringing? They should be. Because right now, someone you don't know is probably talking about you. Or checking out your profile on LinkedIn. Or reading something you've written, trying to decide how smart you sound.
It's 2017, and yet advisers are still surprised to hear that their social media feeds are being pored over by prospects.
Why wouldn't they be? Don't you do the same thing? If you get a call from home about a burst pipe, don't you immediately type "plumbers" into DuckDuckGo or Google? If you're interviewing candidates for a new position, don't you look at their social media posts? Don't you ever check LinkedIn or Facebook to find out more about your clients?
Of course you do. Everybody does, including your prospects. Even if they come to you through referrals, they aren't going to blindly rely on what their friends and accountants tell them. They're doing their own online research—whether you realize it or not.
And that fact completely changes the client acquisition game.
In the past, advisers drove the sales process. It was their job to make a phone call, set up an initial meeting, give a presentation, hand over a leave-behind and then follow up. All the steps followed one after another. Very linear, very predictable. Advisers had control over the entire experience. The only thing the prospect really had to do was sign the paperwork.
But prospects aren't passive anymore. They've taken control, and their needs and wants drive the entire sales process. Before prospects even speak to you, they've already Googled you, looked you up on LinkedIn, read your blog and checked every social media channel to verify your credentials and capabilities. The sales process isn't linear or predictable anymore, because now prospects have complete freedom to follow any thought that piques their interest in any order, at any time. You know how we've all gone down those rabbit holes online—following random links to weird facts about celebrities or Wikipedia articles or TV tropes? Your prospects are doing the same to you.
Problem is, that means you aren't the gatekeeper of your own information anymore. The Internet is. If you haven't been monitoring your online presence, you may have no idea what image it's presenting to your prospects. To a search engine, you might look reputable, sketchy—or even invisible.
Don't believe me? Let's do a little test right now while you're reading this post. Open another browser tab. Search for yourself. Put in your name, "financial adviser" and "wealth manager," plus "Los Angeles," or the name of your own city. Also try phrases like "investments for retirees" or "financial planning"—whatever search terms a potential client might use to find someone like you.
Did you get more results than you expected—or fewer? Are you mentioned often enough to show that you're a credible, expert voice with extensive industry relationships? Do your search results put you in the best possible light? Could a stranger quickly identify what kind of clients you serve, what you offer and what makes your practice different from everybody else's? Do you look like a thought leader?
If not, we have some work to do.
You can use content marketing to take back some measure of control over your prospect's customer journey. The point of content marketing is to "fill up the Internet" with positive messages and conversations for your prospects to find. The right content can make you a thought leader, a recognized presence, maybe even the one necessary go-to expert for the kinds of problems you solve.
On the Internet, your character is defined by the content you produce. It's time to look at how your content defines you.
Megan Carpenter is CEO and co-founder of FiComm Partners. Follow her @Megan_FiComm.