How To Develop a Virtual Advisory Service as a Growth Strategy

It’s a common misconception in wealth management that traditional firms cannot seamlessly coexist with their modern-day brethren in the virtual advisory space. Let me dispel that myth for you. Melding the two business models together isn’t just possible. It’s recommended.

The digital era that we are doing business in today requires an online approach to client service. Most financial advisors realize this and have taken steps to meet clients where they are at. Video meetings using Zoom are a good example of this. Interactive client portals are another.

Unfortunately, conducting client meetings online is widely viewed as a temporary fix to combat the social distancing mandated by Covid-19. In some circles, it’s regarded as a compliance compromise, suggesting it’s somehow a violation under normal circumstances.

“Normal” will not return. The new professional playground in wealth management is the digital realm. That requires a change in the way that we think about online engagement. It is not a temporary solution as we wait for the pandemic to go away. It’s how we do business now.

Introducing the Remote-First Business Model

There’s no need to close your office. There is, however, an opportunity to scale it back and still create an accelerated growth program that incorporates virtual advisory services. The model is called “remote-first” and it’s gaining traction in the wealth management space.

Send your employees home. Technology companies have been announcing remote work options throughout the year and others have followed suit. Justify it under health and safety concerns, but it’s actually a prudent economic decision. Downsizing will save you money.

Fewer people require less space. If you give it some thought, much of what is done in the office can be accomplished while working from home. Once they’re in position as remote workers, equipped with the proper technology, you can cut down on the square footage.

A number of advisory firms are opting for shared office space, taking advantage of the flexibility that coworking environments like WeWork and Regus offer. These facilities provide conference rooms and kitchens for meetings, plus the ability to expand and contract your space.

Building a Virtual Advisor Model as a Service, not an Identity

Don’t be concerned about outward appearances after downsizing or moving your office. Branding is not something we do in the physical world anymore. Websites, social media pages, and even our reporting software are the “face” that clients see.

Online anonymity of your brick-and-mortar location gives you the ability to project a unique virtual image. Smaller firms can market to larger prospect pools. Geographical boundaries become non-existent. It’s all about creating perception in the digital world.

This is where traditional wealth management firms sometimes struggle. A virtual advisory service does not have to carry the same brand or offer the same services that your physical office does. It can be an entirely different entity, or several entities.

Developing Unique Online Personas for Niche Marketing

Back in the early days of search engine optimization, or SEO, there was a concept known as “micro-siting” that was employed by marketing firms to improve organic search results. A common example of this was the building of multiple sites, cloned off one primary site, that were geo-targeted by city or state.

As has often happened over the years, Google adjusted its algorithm, penalized for duplicate content, and left micro-siting behind as just another closed chapter in search history. Today, we use landing pages, not new sites. They are search engine friendly and easier to manage.

Larger wealth management firms typically publish independent landing pages for each of their financial advisors. You can reach them by clicking on a “team” link on the home page, but they also have their own URL which can be used for linking and prospecting purposes.

Take this one step further. The advisor’s bio will typically lay out any prior experience he or she had before coming to the firm. That information can be customized for targeting to specific niche markets. The firm can then create a prospecting campaign around that information.

Capturing and Managing Prospects in a Virtual Environment

Can you see the potential in this? By creating a unique virtual identity and targeting specific niche markets, a traditional wealth management firm can expand its offerings to unlimited prospect pools. The next step is to qualify and capture potential new clients.

For virtual advisors, prospects aren’t typically sales ready until they’ve paid several visits to a landing page and any supporting pages or social media sites. You can increase the frequency of those visits by retargeting or using live chat to speak with them when they’re onsite.

Incorporate call to action (CTA) functions on landing pages. These can be as simple as a line of text that says “click to learn more” or a pop-up form to subscribe to your insights page or blog. More sophisticated sites use animation or avatars that ask the user if they can be of assistance.

The important thing to remember here is that your primary objective is to make contact with the prospect. Once that’s accomplished, you can nurture them until they become sales ready.

Remote Client Service and Automated Communication

This is the final step in creating a virtual advisory service. Unique branding and niche marketing will give you an online presence. Capturing prospects and nurturing them into clients will help you grow your firm. Now it’s time to set up client service and communications.

If you’re looking for maximum scalability, isolate client service as a separate entity and employ automation to communicate with prospects and clients. The service part can be handled with live chat and video conferencing. Branded emails are best for regular communications.

Obviously, you’ll need to invest in the right software and maybe redesign your website to get this right. That said, setting up and managing a virtual advisory service is simple and rewarding. Don’t view it as an identity change. This is a growth strategy for the digital era.

Related: 73 Questions to Ask When Upgrading Your Website for Growth