Building a solid business blog-powered website is challenging for all of us. But it’s even more difficult for anyone who lives in the financial services universe.
Because financial services professionals must adhere to strict compliance regulations, they must be very careful about what they say and how they say it. Dean Piccirillo a principal in HBK Sorce Financial, LLC, manages to convey relevant and compelling information while maintaining essential compliance.
Even more impressive is the quality of his own site’s design which manages to be simultaneously newsy and professional. To build DeanPiccirillo.com, Dean used a WordPress theme called Live Wire that can be significantly customized for the needs of an individual business. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that Dean did almost all the work himself. Although this may be beyond the capabilities of many of us, it shows what a non-technical businessperson can achieve using the power of a tool like WordPress.
Among my favorite elements:
- His horizontal navigation includes both page links and links to the most important categories so that visitors can search intuitively for exactly what information they want right from the top of the page.
- He has a featured blog post in the upper left which changes periodically to keep the site fresh.
- He includes a tabbed news feature which lets visitors choose from: latest news, popular, and latest comments. This makes Dean’s site look as professional as a major newspaper or magazine.
- The quality of his articles is first class. For example, he writes thoroughly and compellingly about the need for long-term care insurance. That’s a topic that is or should be top of mind for all of us as we approach a certain age.
- He includes both RSS links and social media elements so that we can connect with Dean pretty much anywhere.
Dean is relatively new to the blogging and social media arena but has found it an extremely valuable tool in establishing his credibility and that of his company among prospective clients in Fort Myers. So I asked him how he’s benefited and what he has learned from his experience. Here’s what he had to say:
A Q&A with Dean Piccirillo
What tangible benefits have you gained from your business blog?
- I think blogging makes you a better professional as you are compelled to write regularly about topics of importance within your field. Blogging challenges me on a daily basis to think carefully about the issues that are faced by my clients. Part of this process involves considering and researching solutions to these challenges and writing about possible courses of action in a concise manner. For this reason alone I would recommend that professional advisors blog.
- By paying attention to the statistical information available about my blog from tools such as Google Analytics, I am gaining extremely valuable information about what topics business people are interested in relative to my field. For example, I have learned a great deal by monitoring which articles visitors to my blog are reading and what keywords they used in their search that brought them to my site.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from the process of building your site?
- Design matters – I invested a considerable amount time examining the blogging tools and platforms available, reviewing other successful blogs and thinking about layout and design. I also invested some dollars with a professional designer for my site’s header. Additionally, I purchased a “premium” WordPress theme rather than using a free one. I think this effort has paid off as the feedback I’ve received related purely to site design, layout, organization, etc. has been excellent.
- Spend a significant amount of time monitoring and listening online to successful bloggers – I spent months reading other blogs, considering style, word count, etc. I don’t think I’ve really found my “blog voice” yet, however, this research was extremely useful to me when I actually began to create content for my site.
- Consider how you’re going to integrate social networking platforms and tools – Social networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn are a significant source of traffic on my site. They serve as “outposts” that allow me to easily promote the content on my site. Because Google Analytics shows me the sites referring visitors to my blog, I know that social networks play an important role in promoting my site.
- If you’re in a highly regulated profession such as financial services, work closely with compliance and get them involved early in the planning process – Communications in financial services are tightly regulated and in most cases must be preapproved, monitored and archived. This doesn’t preclude financial service professionals from participating in social media and social networking; it’s just more challenging and requires a considerable amount of pre-planning.
The bottom line: I believe it’s almost impossible to overestimate the power of a terrific blog powered website like DeanPiccirillo.com.
Here’s why: Of course, I can learn a little bit about Dean from his business card and from a brief conversation in a social setting. That doesn’t take him from stranger to trusted advisor, however.
On the other hand, his blog-powered website will almost certainly be the differentiator when it comes to comparing Dean to his financial services peers. His site conveys so much compelling information so professionally that it immediately generates a level of confidence in his knowledge and capability. That level of trust would otherwise be extremely difficult to achieve in so short a time.
Be sure to check out his site and see what you think.