Top 10 tips for an awesome home page on your financial planning website

Your home page is often the first place visitors to your website land, and getting those first impressions right can be the difference between visitors delving deeper or clicking away faster than you can say "Future of Financial Advice".

Okay. So you've defined your website goals, have a good understanding of your ideal client, and know enough about basic design principles to make you dangerous.

Let's look at the top 10 tips for creating an awesome home page for your financial planning website.

1. You've reviewed your home page in the last 6 months

Let me be blunt. Your home page isn't perfect. My home page isn't perfect (actually, mine is currently a massive work in progress).

What worked and looked good 12 months ago, may not be so crash hot now.

You need to consciously and proactively review your home page (and website as a whole) on a regular basis.

Do yourself a favour and schedule something in your task management system right now. And while you're there, also schedule to review your social media profiles.

2. Your layout, design and copy are focused on the needs of your ideal client

We are a selfish bunch at times.

Particularly when browsing and researching online.

We look for information that we want. That solves our problems.

We care about ourselves.

Brian Massey said in his book "Your Customer Creation Equation",

Like the cover of a magazine, the home page must divulge the information and resources available underneath it, and help visitors find solutions to their particular problems.
— Brian Massey

That last part is key. It’s about your customers and prospects – the visitors to your site. It's not about you.

3. You start to build trust from the first glance

There's still a lot of sites in financial planning land that look like Grandma built them. They're old, show the last newsletter as Spring 2011, and don't do much to entice you to click further into the site.

Many old AMP template based sites exude "don't trust me" qualities. From dated design to cheesy stock photos, and lack of anything to instill trust other than perhaps the AMP brand, these sites leave a lot to be desired.

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It's great to see that AMP now seem to be offering an updated website template (example here) that ticks a few more boxes than the one above.

In addition to basic design, there are a few other things you can do to enhance the trust factor:

  • display logos for your certifications (e.g. CFP) - although I would argue most consumers don't know what they mean

  • share a testimonial or client story, or even star ratings (e.g. via Google Places)

  • add logos of publications or other media outlets where you've been featured (greyed out so they don't take over)

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  • add logos or photos of clients - particularly if they are high profile or well known in your local community

  • show social media or email subscriber counts (as long as you have enough to make that a good thing)

4. You said no when your web designer suggested a "cool" slider

Think about the last few websites you visited. The ones that had sliders.

Did you pause and read each of the slides, each time thinking, "wow, this business really understands me — take me further into this site".

Or did you not even notice there was a slider?

Or just scroll quickly past because something in your sub-conscious said, "if it moves, it's an ad".

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As beautiful as they may look, sliders actually indicate that you haven't yet worked out how to communicate your value proposition effectively.

Yes, you may serve 30-45 year olds with young families and also soon-to-be retirees, who have vastly different needs. But is your value proposition really about TTR pensions or income protection? Or is it about giving people the opportunity to make choices about their life and gain greater control through making smart decisions about money?

5. Your headline highlights a benefit

Your headline is your first point of connection with your prospect or customer.
— Joanna Wiebe

There are loads of formulas for writing headlines, and they tend to include a few common themes:

  • highlights a benefit or desired end result

  • includes a time period

  • addresses an objection

  • shows differentiation

My go-to formula is a little simpler — it needs to explain what problem you solve, and for whom.

Now that might come together as a headline and sub-headline, but it should immediately help a visitor to your website decide:

  • am I in the right place?

  • can you help me?

6. There is a clear next step

When someone arrives on your home page, it should be clear to them what the next logical step is. Now that step may vary depending on the visitor and what they want to do, but your aim is to guide them in the right direction.

That doesn't mean plastering a big red call to action button on your home page asking for "the sale". i.e. trying to get someone to book an appointment.

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Yes, someone may visit your site and immediately want to book an appointment (say, if they were a referral), but most people are going to delve a bit further into your site to find out more about you first.

Where do you want them to visit? Perhaps it's your "About" page; a video about the types of problems you solve or clients you've helped; or a landing page targeted at their specific needs (e.g. "Ready for retirement in 10 years?")

You really can help your prospective and current clients through the process of finding out more about you, by guiding them via intelligent calls to action.

7. You use real photos and videos to make it personal

There's no denying that financial planning is a trust-based business.

But those cheesy stock photos and piggy bank graphics don't do a lot to build trust.

Real photos of your staff, office, clients and local area keep it real and make it personal.

Using video on your home page can also help, but you need to use it wisely.

A home page "talking head" video can be really effective, but it can also be too much too soon. It depends on your content and execution.

If the first thing visitors view is your "why" video, which is all about what YOU think and doesn't take the next step of explaining how that actually matters to your website's visitors (i.e. your ideal client), it can come off a bit "me me me".

There's also a certain commitment level required for a visitor (particularly someone that doesn't know you) to watch a video, regardless of how short it may be.

It also doesn't help the scanners.

If you do include a video, also include similar content in text. It might be different language or a summarised version, but it helps those that aren't yet committed to viewing.

That said, video can be really effective at getting your message across and showing your personality.

8. Your navigation is self-explanatory and relevant

How often have you clicked on a navigation link that says "resources" or "links"?

Not very enticing is it?

You need to make it obvious as to what people will find when they click.

Is "resources" a list of mining stocks; resources for staff (those quick links to the ASX, ASIC and the ATO and common logins); or practical education and fact sheets aimed at your clients and prospects?

Call it something that's self-explanatory and that makes sense.

And if it's not relevant or rarely used, get rid of it.

9. You don't waste any space on things that offer no value to your ideal client

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"Welcome to our website...".

That ASX graph or stock ticker.

A link to the ATO.

Disclaimers in the body of your site.

Think long and hard about what best serves your ideal client.

Rather than a "welcome", use your headline to share your value proposition — what problems you solve and for whom.

Is your ideal client really interested in 20 minute updates from the ASX or trying to navigate the horrors of the ATO website for themselves, or do they engage you to look after that for them?

And no-one (except perhaps your resident compliance guru), is interested in your disclaimer. Get it right down in the footer, in small text, and a slightly muted coloured text. It's not about hiding it, but de-emphasising it.

Focus on what's important to your ideal client.

10. You use social media as social proof

How you use social media on your home page will likely be a little different depending on whether you are a financial planning practice, or an individual adviser with a blog.

As much as I recognise the power of social media to build relationships at scale, having feeds from a bunch of different sites on your home page is not necessarily the best use of the real estate. That said, it depends on the goal of your site.

Facebook widgets and Twitter streams can be distracting, and take people away from the reason they are visiting your site. It's not a disaster, because perhaps they will connect with you there, but they could also be easily distracted by sunset photos on Instagram or the latest Grumpy Cat meme.

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On the other hand, an individual adviser with a blog may benefit from more social media integration, as the goals of the site will be slightly different.

Generally, I believe links to social media profiles don't belong at the top of your website. While people certainly don't read a website left to right and top to bottom like they do a book, it is hard to imagine someone visiting your site, arriving at the top of your page, and being immediately interested in checking out your Facebook profile. Logically, that type of interaction comes after they have at least read the headline and scanned down the page or viewed/used your navigation to try to find what they came looking for. I believe those links belong further down your page.

Of course, you need to find the right balance that's right for your goals and the type of engagement you are seeking.

So how does your home page stack up? 10 from 10 or do you have some homework to do?