If your Web site is for attracting new clients, asks Baird, do you include the information you think prospects want to see, like your credentials or community service, or do you tell them how you're going to provide the specific solutions they're looking for? Can the elderly or sight-impaired read your site? For that matter, can a search engine read it? "Search engines generally like neither Flash nor frames," says Baird-some basic considerations if your aim is to attract prospective clients.

He makes an important point. If you know who you want as clients, if you have a Web site geared to attracting clients, and if clients must be able to find your site to avail themselves of your services, then tying search engine requirements to your main message is critical. "The only things a search engine can read is words," says Baird, "and titles, metadata, keyword tags and even page themes-the tools by which search engines do their thing-should all be geared to your main message." And that message should be how you're going to solve the prospect's financial problems.

Do you use RSS ("Really Simple Syndication") to push podcasts out to clients? "My clients aren't that tech-savvy," you say, but as the Major Moments Survey shows, many are just that tech-savvy. And for some people, podcasts are essential, most notably the blind and those younger clients who won't consider anything unless it comes to them via iPod (the most-favored device for listening to podcasts, though it is only one of many). Blind people will also benefit from text-to-speech Web site technologies.

Baird further asks, "Do you track your results to see how effective these strategies are for you?" Targeted marketing requires diligence in finding out what works and what doesn't so our tools can be continually realigned with our strategies. Do you use tools like Mint (http://www.haveamint.com/) or Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) to track hits to your site? Or use them to find out whether visitors are drilling down from your home page to those pages that best address their problems? What other sites are prospects coming from when they reach your site, and are there ways to increase the flow from these other places? Do you know how many of the prospects that come to you via your Web site are converted into clients? What was the last page on your Web site that a prospect visited before calling you?

It's possible to track all of these things, says Baird. "Financial advisors need to look at the Internet as a portion of their marketing and give it the same energy, effort, time and money they do any other medium. You wouldn't pay for an ad in the newspaper every week and not track who called you as a result of seeing it, would you?" he asks.

Client Portals

And finally, moving well beyond the basics, advisor Web sites are beginning to incorporate the "client portals" mentioned earlier by Hulett to enhance service to existing clients.

Advisors have long cordoned off password-protected sections of their Web sites for their clients, pages where the clients can gain access to their investment account information. But in most cases, these are simply conduits to the custodian's Web site, which clients could have visited directly without going through the advisor's Web site in the first place.

Today's client portals are considerably more robust and, in some cases, even allow for that Web 2.0 brand of interactivity. By creating a secure "vault" for client documents, you bind your clients more closely to you. Not only are you their lead financial advisor, but you hold all their important papers (or PDFs of those papers) in a secure, online location they can get to whenever they want. What's more, you have everything organized so it can be easily found-in direct contrast to most clients' own file-keeping systems.

LightPort, the Palm Harbor, Fla., company specializing in Web solutions for the financial services industry, is one service provider that knows what a client portal should look like. Among its other tools, LightPort offers advisors VirtualSafe, an online repository accessible to clients 24/7 from the advisor's Web site that enables them to view important documents when desired. VirtualSafe can accommodate documents published in most common file formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, etc.) so that clients can as needed, find copies of their financial plans, financial statements, wills and trusts and tax returns. They can also find articles of interest you've posted just for them.

Hulett adds just one caveat: "For some client niches, like the executive or younger client, a client portal is virtually essential. But if a particular client doesn't value a portal, then don't spend time providing him one." Noting the ever-increasing acceptance of computing and the Internet by all manner of clients, though, he adds that even those who won't appreciate a portal today might appreciate it in a few years.