Have you ever heard of Russell Bailyn? Do a quick search online and you’ll quickly hit upon his young smiling face and all of his thoughts on everything from real estate to professional designations.

Bailyn is a wealth manager with Premier Financial Advisors, an independent asset management and advisory firm in New York City — and an avid blogger (click here to visit Russell Bailyn’s Financial Planning Blog). He’s also an expert on the subject, with his own book about financial blogging, tentatively titled Surfing the Investment Blogosphere, due out next summer.

What’s a blog? And why is this important to your business? First, for those not in the know, think of blogs, short for weblogs, as online diaries intended for public consumption — an online soapbox, if you will. They tend to cover any number of topics, ranging from the point of view of a soldier on the front lines in Afghanistan to weekly diatribes on the media and, of course, financial planning.

Blogs can be useful tools for financial planners, particularly ones who want to get noticed. “Having a website is a crucial aspect to a financial planning business in the 21st century,” says Bailyn. “It allows new clients to familiarize themselves with you and your company before even coming to a meeting.”

Sure, just about every advisor has a website these days, but blogs are different. They’re current. They’re interactive. And they keep clients, or potential clients, coming back to learn more.

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At a recent Investment Industry Association of Canada conference, David Scott, vice-president of financial and investor communications at communication consultancy Fleishman-Hillard Canada, stressed that advisors need to have an online presence. “Anybody looking for anything searches for it on the web.” Blogs, he adds, can help get an advisor to the top of the search results. “You’re giving a little bit away, but you’re getting a whole lot more in return.”

Starting a blog is simple; the hard part comes later. “A good blog requires time and dedication,” says Bailyn. It also requires a bit of caution. “I certainly recommend mulling over the details with your compliance department prior to getting started,” he adds, although he warns that many advisors might have to explain what a blog is.

Although as an American, Bailyn is operating under different rules and requirements, he well knows the challenges that come with compliance. “Compliance is definitely the least fun aspect of keeping a blog,” he says. To protect himself, Bailyn runs each article past his compliance department for review and approval before it goes online.

“If my posts include discussions of investment companies, I often have to include disclosure and/or file my article with the appropriate regulatory body,” he says, which means he often just avoids writing in those areas. Discussing individual stocks can also be a prickly issue.

“The goal of the blog is to educate, not to violate compliance rules,” Bailyn explains. As blogs grow from fad to the mainstream, they could receive more attention. Currently, blog-related issues are uncharted ground for both U.S. regulators and firms. Bailyn believes future legislation might go so far as to include language specifically geared toward blogs.

Scott couldn’t agree more. Blogs help create awareness, which makes them a good marketing tool, he says. “It’s about getting prospective clients as well as current clients aware of what you are doing, not just that you are an investment advisor.” Indeed, blogs allow advisors to demonstrate not only that they are experts in a particular area but that they are active in the community.

When it comes to marketing, your reputation is one of the strongest selling points, adds David Jones, senior vice-president of marketing and communications at Fleishman-Hillard. Blogs are just one way for advisors to increase their exposure. Speaking at conferences, writing articles and speaking to the media are also good ways to keep in front of potential clients.

Getting an interview with your local newspaper might not yield new clients right away, but there’s a better chance they’ll remember you when the time is right, says Jones. It also shows current clients that you are recognized as being accomplished in a specific field, which can increase an advisor’s credibility and possibly lead to more client referrals.

When it comes to marketing or blogging, experts suggest devoting about an hour a week to the task.

It’s too soon to say whether Bailyn’s blog will help him grow his business. So far he says it hasn’t brought him any clients, but it has created a buzz and familiarized new referrals with his firm — and sealed a book deal to boot.

Do you have a blog on your advisor website? If so, please contact the author of this article and share your experience.

Filed by Mark Brown, Advisor.ca, mark.brown@advisor.rogers.com

(11/17/06)

Originally published on Advisor.ca