Last Updated on July 20, 2020 by John Prendergast
I could sense she was crying. But I didn’t know her name, what she looked like, and we’d only been talking for 20 minutes.
Let me back up for a second.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been running my niche-RIA, Finance for Teachers. During those first 12 months, I have heavily researched marketing techniques, and found that curating and promoting content for my blog is something that fits my style. I like to write and produce videos, and have finished that time period with over 90 posts.
But while content production was strong, I was lacking engagement with my visitors.
I had implemented opt-in forms (i.e. newsletter signups or ‘contact us’ forms) of various shapes and sizes and found that people were signing up, but no-one was talking to me.
That’s when I decided to take “customer engagement” a step further, and in a way I hadn’t seen any advisors do before. And it has changed my business.
Wanting to engage with more of my already-flocking web visitors, I added a “Chat” program to my website. Now, any time I’m at my computer, I simply log in and can interact with those people visiting my site. It also has an offline feature where people can send me messages for me to pick up when I come online.
Here’s an example of how my visitor engagement has increased: Last Tuesday, I was doing some admin work at night and a chat session popped up. A 20-year veteran teacher wanted to know the financial implications should she leave teaching and how this decision would affect her pension. I gave her the top-level answer and talked about why she wanted to leave and it was obvious she wasn’t happy.
She paused in her typing as I told her that teaching is now more difficult with so many demands on teachers, and she shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving if it brings her peace.
After this pause, she responded with a simple – “Thank you.” Her emotional rant stopped as she realized that someone who understood her situation had heard her.
I then asked her how I could help her moving forward. What followed was a conversation about how she, and her husband, should position themselves for a career change but also for retirement in the future. At the time of writing, we are working on finding a time to all sit down together and map out a project plan.
This is one of many situations where I have engaged with visitors to my site, allowed them to start a conversation, and sought to understand how we could form a working relationship. For many, they are looking for quick answers, and I’m ok with that. But for others, they are looking for something more, and it turns into an offline conversation about how we can work together.
This “Chat” feature gives them instant access to a planner, without the potential awkwardness of a phone call, and they can quit at any time without any repercussions. If they’ve read something that peaks their interest, they can have instant access to the author to ask follow-up questions. I have found that few people abuse the process, and I leave sessions feeling fulfilled after I have provided value to someone.
(I’ve even had people question whether the founder of the company is really online using a chat feature on his website – or is some out-sourced person in another country. It’s been interesting validating my identity!)
But the most important thing is that customers are interacting with me, and Finance for Teachers, and they’ll now have a better chance of remembering the company.
So how does this system work?
I run a WordPress-based website and there are many chat programs available as plug-ins. I chose ClickDesk (https://www.clickdesk.com) based on its many customizations in look-and-feel. It also emails me daily logs and chat history, which is important for compliance purposes. After downloading the plugin, purchasing my level of access (I pay $14.99/mo for one user), I was able to customize the program to my specifications. I positioned my program to be on the bottom-right hand of the screen, have an avatar that looks like me, and will welcome visitors after a certain period of time. One nice feature is that it recognizes if someone has been to the site before and can welcome them in a different way. It helps repeat-visitors feel welcome, but in a non-creep way!
There are numerous programs out there for WordPress users, and even some that are built into hosting platforms. If you are using Cloudflare to speed up and protect your website, then SnapEngage (another chat program) is already available to you to use.
But… there are so many reasons why this won’t work for me/us.
I can sense that many advisors will push back on something like this, and argue that they don’t have time to do this / compliance won’t allow it / how do I manage it among my team / why should I bother?
I agree. If you don’t want to engage with your website viewers, then don’t install a chat program. But think of the last time you used a program like this with a service provider. I have used one with my bank and my web hosting company in the last few weeks alone, and rank their service better than other providers I use.
Isn’t it time to meet your potential customers where they are, and provide a service they already receive elsewhere?
Before you go, did I mention that my prospective meetings have gone up 500% since installing this program? I’ll leave that with you.