Successful IBs without a website are an oddity in the FX market. Even though it is possible for an introducing broker (especially those with a local clientele) to succeed without an online presence, we strongly recommend that all IB businesses have a site. After all, clients nowadays expect it. It's the way of the twenty-first century and it makes sense. Think about it.
Customers' growing reliance on the Internet and digital media represents a natural transition from the traditional business world full of boundaries to the convenient online world with infinite global reach, a world that satisfies the modern consumer's desire for instant gratification and one that is now an inseparable part of our society. To see how important the collection of websites we call the "World Wide Web" have become, just look at the following statistic.
According to IBISWorld, the largest independent publisher of U.S. industry research, sales of business cards have been falling since the late 1990s. This is not a surprising stat, given the fact that the Internet started becoming popular only a few years prior. Consequently, it only makes sense for an IB to put their main focus on the business card of the new millennium, their website.
After having worked with hundreds of successful introducing brokers throughout the years, we have compiled a list of important tips to maximize the effectiveness of the website. If your site adheres to the suggestions below, your chances of succeeding will be greatly amplified.
Look Like the Biggest Company on Earth – Even though we continuously nag referral agents about having a website, we are not proponents of the view that having any website is better than having none at all. In fact, we recommend that IBs do not bother putting up a site until they are willing and able to provide potential customers with useful and engaging information about their Forex products and services. More importantly, they must not do so until they are prepared to make the site look like a BILLION bucks! This means having a website that looks extremely professional and which is designed to maximize user experience. Image is ridiculously important.
Unless an IB has an in-house staff of web designers and developers, we strongly suggest that they use a third-party, professional web design company for the job. After all, potential customers will form an opinion of you (whether accurate or not) within seconds after reaching your site. Furthermore, research shows that customers will tend to spend from 10 to 20 seconds, on average, on your site after landing on it. You don't have a lot of time to impress them. Doesn't it make sense to give yourself a good chance to do so by having a professional-looking website?
Be Social! – Those of you who are old enough…Ahem! Ahem!…might remember the lyrics of "Video Killed the Radio Star" from the British pop group The Buggles. Released in 1979, this was a song about a radio singer whose era of stardom was brought to an abrupt end by television. While this may sound funny to some, it symbolizes the drastic changes that technology has brought upon us, changes that businesses must embrace or risk facing extinction. Forex IBs are no exception. Consider these startling statistics from the United Nations.
"It took radio broadcasters 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, television 13 years, and Internet just four ."
Now here's something even more awe-inspiring: according to Socialnomics, a leading website about the online social revolution, Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months!
These trends cannot be ignored by any business. As social media expert and author Erik Qualman perfectly states, "We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it."
That is why we recommend that every serious IB business have a social media presence. Which social media websites should agents focus on? We recommend introducers have a presence on at least Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+ if possible. Furthermore, due to the proliferation of online video, we urge IBs with video content to have a YouTube channel as well.
Obviously, the time a business will need to develop and maintain their social media page is not insignificant. Consequently, some referring brokers might be overwhelmed by the size of this project at first. That is why we suggest that you develop your social media campaign slowly, one day at a time to avoid getting burned out. As your business becomes more successful, you can allocate more time and money to your social media expansion using third party assistance or additional staff to lessen the workload.
Blog till you Drop! – In today's competitive FX market, having a business blog is very important. A blog is a perfect medium to provide your existing and potential customers with useful industry/company updates and educational information, as well as to invite your users to interact with your company, by commenting and providing feedback on your content. Furthermore, a Forex blog will have an element of timeliness or freshness that search engines like Google crave, which can help drive an increasing amount of traffic and new customers to your site from Internet searches.
"How frequent should I blog?" is a question we get often from introducing brokers. The answer is really quite simple: "As frequently as you have something interesting to say!" Blogging is really about providing clients with fresh content they find useful and engaging. If your company also has a Facebook, Google+, and other social media pages, you can also have respective "like" or "+1" buttons on all your blog posts, which visitors can click on to create a bigger "buzz" in the social media sphere. They can also share your posts with their friends at the click of a mouse.
The number of Forex-related topics IBs can blog about are endless. These include industry related news, trading education or training, market forecasts and trade recommendation or examples, new product or service announcements, special promotions or contests, etc. The list is really vast and the appropriate categories for a blog will depends on the particular business model the IB has. Every agent is different. For general topics, even outside writers or bloggers could be hired to provide content.
Design Your Site to Support Your Customers – In the previous sections, "What Quality or Value Can IBs Offer Clients" and "How Important is the Broker?" we stressed the importance of providing good, friendly customer support. The website is the perfect hub or platform to spearhead the IB's support effort, since it provides customers with an instantly accessible, centralized point of assistance.
Forex introducing brokers who really care about making their customers lives easier should provide web-based customer support alternatives that clients know and love. Below are some of the ones we consider the most important due to the positive effect they have on lead conversion and user experience.
Live Chat: Industry research shows that live chat usage is on the rise, as many more customers prefer the convenience and cost effectiveness of live chat over phone support. Think about it. If an IB's customer is not local (and many are not), it becomes more expensive for that customer to pick up his or her phone and call customer support than it is for him or her to go to a website and click on a button to chat with a rep. Furthermore, since a live chat operator can handle multiple chats simultaneously (which is impossible to do over the phone), it also helps the IB business save money on support staff, phone equipment/service and long distance charges.
Studies also show that customers are more likely to buy something from a website that provides live chat than from one that doesn't. We believe that this occurs because customers get a greater sense of security when they know that help is just a click away, which boosts the loyalty effect between customer and company and is therefore a perfect reason why IBs should offer a live chat support solution.
An excellent free/low-cost live chat service agents might want to consider is LiveZilla. LiveZilla is easy to use, open source, and very feature rich. It does require installation on the hosting server of the IB's website, but it is a cinch to operate once it is up and running.
Skype: With over 760 million registered users in 2011, Skype (now owned by Microsoft) has become a household name in the instant messaging and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) market. Skype allows users to communicate in a real time basis using chat or a headset for free. It can also be used to call landlines and mobile phones and even to receive calls using a virtual phone number on your computer, all for a fraction of what traditional phone companies charge.
Many traders use Skype to communicate with each other for free, regardless of the physical distance between them. It is also widely used by companies to provide support and chat with their customers. Shouldn't your business follow the same footsteps?
In fact, we strongly recommend that introducing brokers who don't use Skype sign up with the service as soon as possible. During registration, they should try to secure a Skype handle (or username) that closely resembles the business or website name if they can. This will make it easier for people to find the company's account when searching from within Skype. It can also provide an additional source of potential clients to the Forex IB from internal Skype searches, especially if the domain name of the website contains relevant industry-related keywords that potential customers commonly search for.
One of the advantages of Skype over live chat is that referring brokers do not have to install any software on their web servers to make it work. They simply need to install the free Skype program on a PC and are then able to chat with customers who use Skype as well. A second advantage is that clients can use a headset to speak with customer support staff over the Internet for free. Regardless of these advantages, Skype cannot replace live chat as a customer support alternative because live chat does not require any program installation from the customer's end, making it more convenient in this regard. To connect, the client simply clicks on the live chat button on the website and presto! Nevertheless, Skype is so widespread that Forex IBs should aim to provide it as an additional customer support alternative regardless.
Forex FAQ Section: You'd be surprised at the percentage of customers who ask the same questions over and over. That is why it makes sense for an introducing broker to provide common answers to support-related questions via a centralized Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section.
An FAQ page with information on all of the Forex products and services you offer doesn't just add more value or Quality (as emphasized in earlier sections) to your website, but visitors have come to expect FAQs. Potential customers are not the only ones that love FAQ pages, search engines do too. As explained in the section below, content is essential if you want your Forex website to rank well in the search engines. FAQ pages give you the opportunity to add a lot of relevant content to your site, which should boost your overall ranking.
FAQs also allow you to effectively deal with sales objections from customers. To do this, focus on providing answers to questions that differentiate your product and services from the competition and deal with important FX-related issues such as safety of client funds, fees or costs, advantages of working with your company, etc.
One final suggestion regarding your FAQ pages: Make sure to add links to the most important sections of your site from relevant, individual FAQ pages. This will not only increase the amount of traffic to the main areas of your website from search engine users who land on your FAQs, but it will also make it easier for the search engines to find and rank your main pages well.
Provide Original Content – In 1996, what many consider the year for the Internet to have gone mainstream, Bill Gates wrote a visionary article titled "Content is King." In it, Gates used the rise of televised media as an example of how the Internet would evolve. Bill's "Content is King" statement is as true today as it was back then. Content is the blood that runs through a website's veins.
Because of a site's need for content, new IBs frequently ask if we provide them with this precious resource as an added perk. In fact, some introducers go as far as to demand it, so do we fulfill their wishes and make them happy? NO! Here's why.
If we had to summarize the reason, we would simply rewrite Bill's famous adage above like this: "Quality Content is King!" This means that what makes content valuable is not just that it takes up space on a page; far from that. Content needs originality. That is one of the ingredients search engines look for when evaluating how well or poorly a page should rank. Consequently, what Forex companies need for their sites is original, quality content.
If we were going to provide every IB with a fixed set of cookie-cutter content pages, we might as well hand them a live grenade, pull the pin, and ask them to count to ten very slowly as we sprinted away. We would be doing them the greatest disservice possible! Imagine if search engines, who scavenge the web for content, were to find a bunch of identical or nearly identical pages on foreign exchange. What would happen? A mass crucifixion of IBs at best, that’s what. Search engines are not dumb. They know that only one website should probably be the author of an original version of content that's duplicated throughout the web. The sites that reproduce the content will either be ignored or penalized (which would lower their search ranking and web business revenue).
So if you're an introducing broker looking for content, please rethink your game plan. First, think long and carefully about what you bring to the table; about the quality that you offer your potential clients. Write about that. It's not rocket science. "But I'm not a good writer," you may whine. If that's the case, hire someone who is and make sure your final content is attractive and highly professional. Globalization has brought the price many good writers fetch down to bargain-basement levels. It should be pretty easy and affordable to hire talented writers to express your online voice in an original way.
Hopefully, that'll be the last time an IB asks for content! I'm glad we got that out of the way. Phew!