Also basic but often overlooked are commonly accepted rules for an effective client e-mail. Says Gregory, you maximize its effectiveness by making sure your e-mail has a compelling subject line, is tightly written and edited, is addressed and targeted to one client at a time and is designed with a lot of white space, which makes the e-mails easier to read by allowing you to compose them in a noncluttered, eye-inviting manner.

Can Your Web Site Do This?

Web sites have come a long way since the days of the "business card site"-a site of one or a handful of pages that do little more than advertise an advisor's services and post his contact information. Nowadays, says Swift, advisor Web sites (just like Web sites in other industries) should post fresh content regularly, use multimedia clips, graphics and photos, offer information downloads via PDF or podcast, incorporate links for navigation to other sites or third-party content, and provide clients with custom content through a portal.

Using site of financial advisor Elizabeth Potts Weinstein-as an example, Swift illustrated the many multimedia tools at our disposal to help our Web sites reach clients. On the home page alone, Weinstein's visitors can listen to her "Wealth Spa Radio Show" (which uses the tool of streaming audio); order her book, 6 Simple Secrets to Get Out of Debt (which makes use of an e-commerce merchant account); receive a free special report, How to Avoid the Top Ten Money Mistakes (using the tool of a file-transfer protocol); or read Weinstein's ongoing "Chronicles of a Mompreneur" (her blog).

"Web 2.0" is the name given to this collection of tools, says Swift, who uses them liberally on her own and her clients' Web sites. The hallmarks of Web 2.0 are information sharing and user collaboration. "In other words, whereas advisors have used Web 1.0 tools to publish information unilaterally, Web 2.0 invites them to create a two-way flow of communication," says Swift. And with this back-and-forth comes innovation. Many of us use well-known sites that incorporate tools: eBay (e-commerce), Wikipedia (collaboration), Flickr (photo sharing) and any site that uses an open user forum (an online community).

As a client of Swift's and one of the panelists at the symposium, I showed conference attendees how my own Web sites demonstrate many of these features. Although I'm no longer primarily an advisor, many of the tools on my sites can find uses on the typical advisor's site. As someone who markets books, newsletters, conferences and speaking opportunities, I need to make the process of disseminating information about my services as simple as possible.

If an FPA chapter visits to consider making me a speaking offer, my Web site page, titled simply "speaking," not only tells them the topics I normally speak on but offers them the materials they need in order to hire me. To make it as easy as possible for them, I have not only posted the pertinent information they need on this page of my Web site, but I have also made it easy to download items needed to consummate the deal-my speaker's contract, my bio (under "Fast Facts"), my press photo and my speaker's introduction. Further, if the visitor has not seen me speak before, he or she can click on a link on this same page and watch a video of my presentation to the San Diego FPA in November of 2005. (Yes, I've probably violated a Web 2.0 rule by not keeping this video more current.)

At, another of my sites, visitors can easily follow links to learn about the location of our next Technology Tools for Today Conference in February 2009, see what sponsors we have lined up for it and read the testimonials of advisors who have attended the conference in its past three runs. Many of the attendees are subscribers to Virtual Office News, the monthly technology newsletter from which we spun off our technology conference, so they can go online to the Yahoo-based Virtual Office News forum and discuss all manner of technology questions. My partner Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Advisor technology writer, and I go onto the forum frequently to share in the discussions, communicate with our "clients" and help create the community that binds them all together (and keeps them newsletter subscribers, too).

Uncertain whether your clients would use all these features? Don't shortchange them. The Internet is playing an increasingly important role in many Americans' lives, said Gregory, referring to the Major Moments Survey conducted in March 2005 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project ( Adds Gregory, "This study showed [three years ago] that 54% of adults used the Internet to find information that would help them or another person cope with a major illness. Likewise, 40% to 50% of the survey respondents said the Internet played a major role in their training for their careers, making major financial decisions, looking for a new place to live or deciding upon a college for themselves or their children." In other words, just because your clients aren't asking for more functionality on your Web site doesn't mean they wouldn't use it (and like it) if it were offered to them.

Web Site Basics

Panelist Martin Baird, founder of Robinson & Associates Inc. Marketing Management in Phoenix, reminded us that many advisors need to master Web 1.0 basics before moving on to Web 2.0 features.

The simplest and most obvious question we should be asking ourselves, says Baird, is one advisors often fail to consider: "Who is this Web site for?" What clients want from an advisor's Web site is different from what prospects want. Clients, for example, want to know about your ongoing work for them, such as financial plans and account balances, and they want to know what you have done for them lately. Prospects want to know about services and fees.