Website Development for RIAs
Leveraging modern tools for online branding purposes
In Social Media for RIAs Part III, I made the case for increasing your firm’s online exposure by driving traffic to your website and allowing viewers to share your website content via their social media use, not your firm’s social media use. This article is going to address how to increase traffic (and more importantly repeat traffic) to your website.
Dynamic vs Static Web Development
Web 2.0 came and went and the vast majority of RIAs missed the boat! However, the great thing about web development is the absence of persistence. You can jump on board anytime and, for new visitors at least, it can appear as if you’ve been Web 2.0 savvy since day one. Now the actual meaning behind the term “Web 2.0″ has been debated for years; but for the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to use it to refer to an online model that facilitates visitor interaction with dynamic content. The opposite of this model, therefore, is one that serves content that never changes or doesn’t change frequently enough to warrant a return visit within any reasonable time frame.
Some Internet History
I remember the day when Al Gore invented the Internet! In all seriousness, it wasn’t that long ago when we spoke of “surfing the web” using proxy servers that existed to cache page elements on 500MB hard drives because we had to wait so long for our browsers to download them over our 28.8K modem-based dial-up connections. Not long thereafter, 56K modems were created and we all thought we were in fat city! But that is no longer the case. Today, I can access a 32Mb/18Mb 4G network and browse the ‘net on my phone. That’s over a 500X increase in bandwidth over those old 56K modems, and it’s mobile. Wow, how things have changed in 15 years!
The simple fact is most of the world was far too bandwidth constrained to permit anything other than a static experience during that time period. It was painful to wait for content to download; so much so that few would have tolerated the slowness in order to engage in any sort of media rich dynamic interaction. So it isn’t surprising that Web 2.0 didn’t appear until the era of broadband Internet access.
Put Web 2.0 To Use
If your viewers are no longer bandwidth constrained, then there’s little reason not to embrace a modern Web 2.0 framework for your website. Specifically, we believe your website should become a living extension of your firm’s intellectual capital. Whenever a client requests additional information on any topic within the scope of your firm’s commentary, your reply should direct that person to your website. Just as your firm’s intellectual capital grows continuously, we believe your website’s content should concomitantly increase.
Thankfully, the management of that content has become much easier due to modern Content Management System (CMS) web development frameworks like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. These tools enable your firm to very easily publish new content, update existing content, manage that content, and allow your viewers to interact with that content. Once associated strictly with blogs, these frameworks are now being used to build corporate websites possessing incredible functionality thanks in large part to the thriving third party developer community that has embraced these platforms. We use these platforms because they give us the ability to create highly styled sites, rich in functionality, and, at the same time, present a central repository for all of your firm’s digital-based assets.
What Are The Benefits?
A Web 2.0 styled site becomes much more than a repository for static marketing material. Your site actually becomes a conduit through which you distribute relevant content to your clients, prospects, referrers, and allied professionals. Similar to distributing content via social media (as was discussed in Social Media for RIAs Part II), published content on your website is literally infinitely scalable. There is no need to replicate that message for each member in your target market. It’s immediately accessible to the entire Internet-connected world. But it also doesn’t have to be. Your website can provide an authentication mechanism to restrict access to sensitive material.
Combined with proper email notifications, we believe timely, relevant content served in this manner is counted by your clients as an additional “touch”, helping to strengthen the client/advisory firm relationship as was previously discussed in Social Media for RIAs Part I.
Additionally, web-hosted content, particularly media-based content, is extremely easy to consume thanks to the proliferation of Internet connected mobile devices. By now, most of your clients likely find it more convenient to read or watch commentary hosted on your website than receive it in physical form.
Real World Examples
Listed below are some functional examples that have guided our development efforts for websites we have designed for our clients.
- Use your website to host more technical material for clients who are interested in learning more. The interactive nature of web-based material lends itself to providing highly granular control over the means by which your firm shares its intellectual capital. Instead of mass distributing highly technical material that may be beyond the desired reading level of certain groups of contacts (leading to disinterest in your entire message), embracing a Web 2.0 framework permits your firm to provide a more coherently organized distribution model that is aligned with the interests of all your contacts.
- Use your website to host content that may not be appropriate for quarterly review material. Similar to the first example, some content may not be suited for inclusion with your quarterly reports. Instead, host that material on your website and provide backlinks to that content.
- Use your website to catalog your clients’ current and historical quarterly report packages. Most Web 2.0 development frameworks include user authentication capabilities. Exploit these capabilities on your website and permit your clients, using various web-enabled devices such as tablets and smartphones, to access their reports anytime, anywhere.
- Publish media based market commentary for ease of consumption. Just as it’s “easier” to watch the movie than read the book, we believe your clients will find it more convenient to watch your market commentary presentations than read their transcripts. Leverage the proliferation of media consumptive devices among your clients by giving them timely, informative presentations.
- Provide guidance on issues that may affect your clients’ investment strategy. By integrating your website content with certain social media functions, you can not only distribute relevant content, but you can also provide a dynamic framework whereby your clients can interact in real-time with your firm.
Viewers revisit websites with the expectation of being able to view additional and up-to-date information. Today, websites that fail to meet this expectation are generally forgotten or replaced with sites that do satisfy that expectation. RIAs have the ability with modern CMS frameworks to conveniently meet this expectation and begin the process of “branding” their intellectual capital in the eyes of their clients, referrals, referrers, and allied professionals. Not only will embracing a Web 2.0 model increase repeat traffic aiding in the establishment of a firm’s brand, the interactive nature of timely, relevant content distributed by this model may lend itself toward counting as additional client “touches”, thus increasing the opportunities afforded the RIA to move client relationships into a more engaged status, reaping the benefits associated with that classification.
If you are an active social media user, please consider sharing this topic with your acquaintances who may benefit from our services.