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Is Paul Lewis right on adviser websites?

Is Paul Lewis right that advisers should include pricing on their websites?ClientsFirst’s Sam Turner takes a look at data from 10 adviser websites and draws his own conclusions

I’ve been struck recently by two Paul Lewis articles discussing advisory websites. In both articles Mr Lewis’ point is broadly similar; advisers should disclose their fees on their website and the FCA should force them to do just that.

In the first of his articles from back at the start of May, Mr Lewis stated that details such as price ‘would empower and inform consumers who could then make a rational choice and let competition work.’ In his follow-up from the start of June Mr Lewis introduces an argument that advisers have told him they want to sell on value rather than price. His contention is that disclosing prices on their website does not stop them from doing that.

Interestingly, at no point in either article does Mr Lewis consider what the client wants when they visit an advisory website. Maybe it is pricing. Maybe it is something else. If it’s something else then the argument that including pricing ‘empowers and informs consumers’ is a little moot. If it is pricing then great! Marketing is at least in part about giving potential clients the right experience and information. If clients want pricing we’ll be the first to tell advisers that the appropriate page should feature on their websites.

So let’s look at some data around what’s happening now and see if that helps. By way of mild disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that the following research is a definitive answer, but maybe it will help to point us in the right direction.

Picking ten of our advisory clients at random, we looked at what the five most visited pages on their websites were, discounting the ‘home’ page. We used data from the start of the year until the end of May. The most popular page received a score of 5, the least popular 1. Here are the scores on the doors;

• Team: 41

• Contact: 25

• About or About us: 15

• News or blog: 13

• What we do: 7

‘Team’ was so popular that one firm’s top five pages featured two variations of its team page. It was the most visited page on eight out of the ten sites sampled.

To repeat: Of course, this tells us what is currently popular, rather than what might be popular if more advisory firms listed their pricing. To me though, this suggests that users are already looking for something particular on adviser’s websites and that ‘something’ is not pricing.

The data reflects the fact that your website is part of a sales cycle. Where people are in that sales cycle impacts the information that they need. Clearly, most of the people on this sample need information about their fellow humans.

This is also reflective of the fact that a lot of new advisory clients are acquired following a referral or recommendation.

You can see this cycle in your head. A prospective client is referred to Mr Smith the adviser. The prospective client goes on to the appropriate website and finds the bit of text about Mr Smith the adviser. If they like what they see, they pick up the phone (or, the above suggests, click on the ‘contact us’ page first!).

If you buy the above cycle then I would suggest that most clients visiting an advisory website are not at the point in the sales cycle where pricing would help. They are still at the research stage, deciding if they can buy the person and the approach, before they decide whether they can afford them or want to pay the quoted price for them.

With this logic in hand, I’m not sure what pricing would add here and it suggests there is merit in the concerns advisers have expressed in response to Mr Lewis’ suggestions. Pricing in the above example would, at best, be redundant (the potential client seems unlikely to read it) and at worst a barrier to a discussion which would advance the client through the sales cycle (which at some point must inevitably involve pricing).

If anything, the data suggests that that short biography of you written five years ago and chucked onto the website as an afterthought needs a refresh! It could well be the reason between a prospect picking up the phone and ignoring you altogether.

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