Lots of IFAs and financial planners lack the skills to generate leads from their own websites. So they end up turning to lead generation companies to do the work for them in return for a fixed cost per lead.
But recently there have been questions raised over how trustworthy these lead generation companies are and whether they are generating leads for IFAs in a transparent way.
For example, in February 2020, it was reported that Tilney, a restricted firm, had been buying leads from lead generation companies that were describing Tilney as being independent.
Lead generation companies themselves are often unregulated, so the burden of making sure that consumers are not being misled is likely to fall instead to the regulated adviser that is buying the leads.
However, in the majority of cases, the advice firm won't actually know what website(s) is being used to generate the leads or what the consumers are being told about the how their enquiry will be handled. It therefore seems a bit unfair to expect the IFA buying the leads to be able to police the way in which they are generated.
In a recent interview with Laura Purkess of the New Model Adviser podcast, I discussed these issues and also talked about how financial advisers and mortgage brokers can break away from using lead generation companies and use tools like Google Ads to create their own supply of leads instead. You can listen to that podcast episode here:
A couple of weeks after we'd recorded that interview, Laura contacted me to tell me about another lead generation issue she had come across.
Laura had discovered that Ellis Bates Financial Advisers had been using Google Ads to bid on the keyword "unbiased" so as an ad for a lead generation website of theirs appeared at the top of the search results page when people searched on Google for Unbiased (the IFA directory site).
The site that users were taken to if they clicked this ad looked very much like a standalone lead generation site that would connect people with a local financial adviser after they had entered their postcode. But the reality was that, whatever postcode someone entered, they would always be referred to Ellis Bates.
Ellis Bates has since changed the website so as it makes it clear that all enquiries go to their advisers. But were they actually doing anything wrong with the original version of the site - the one shown below which some people took to be an independent directory site that would connect them with one of a range of different advice firms?
Because all IFAs have access to the same range of products and providers, a lot of consumers end up choosing an IFA based on the adviser's personal qualities and/or their location. And it appears that Ellis Bates was trying to play to this by creating a site where the consumer was given the impression that the most suitable firm and/or adviser was being specially selected for them based on their postcode and their requirements.
However, the messaging was confusing as it made it sound like it was connecting people with advisers from multiple firms and yet the site was branded as Ellis Bates. On that basis I'm not sure how effective it would have been anyway.
Is This Lead Generation Strategy Misleading?
I do feel the original site was a bit misleading because it didn't make it clear that it only searched for advisers from Ellis Bates. But, to be fair, this probably had little detrimental impact on the consumer.
However, it could have been quite damaging for Ellis Bates themselves, as anyone who realised the site wasn't a true independent lead generation site would surely have questioned whether they could trust the firm to be 100% honest and transparent at all times.
With the revised version of the site, it is now clear that the adviser search only looks for advisers from Ellis Bates. But the postcode search is rendered meaningless by the fact that it works even if you enter a completely fake postcode.
The postcode question is probably put there purely to get the consumer to take that all-important first step towards submitting an enquiry. It's fairly well known in the world of conversion rate optimisation that if you can get the potential customer to make a series of small and simple micro-commitments, they will quickly become "invested" in the enquiry process and will be more likely to complete the whole process than if they are simply presented with a single-page enquiry form.
Using Competitor Bidding for Lead Generation
With regards to bidding on "unbiased", this so-called competitor bidding is a totally legitimate and fairly commonly used strategy in Google Ads. And it works well in some industries.
For example, if you needed a new windscreen and searched for Autoglass you might see an advert for a local independent windscreen company who is bidding on the larger company's brand name. And, even though it's not what you originally searched for, you might well click on the local company's ad. That's because a windscreen is a windscreen at the end of the day, and you probably don't have any particular brand loyalty towards Autoglass.
But if someone searches for the name of a specific IFA firm or a specific directory site such as Unbiased, then the chances are they already know exactly what website they want to visit. And so they are unlikely to stick around if they click an advert that takes them to a different site such as the Ellis Bates one.
The cost per click for "unbiased" probably won't be very high. However, I'd imagine that Ellis Bates' cost per lead generated using this method is going to be fairly high, due to the high bounce rates and low conversion rates they'll experience once people realise the ad hasn't sent them to the site they were looking for.
Of course, not all lead generation companies are bad but, as with any industry, there are bound to be a few suppliers whose practices are somewhat questionable. And if you buy leads from one of those companies, it could be your reputation which suffers.
So my advice is that, if you are going to buy financial adviser leads from a third party lead generator, you ask to see the website(s) where the leads will be coming from. That way you'll be able to reassure yourself that the leads you'll be buying are being generated in a way which is ethical, transparent, and not misleading.
Alternatively, you could learn how to generate your own financial adviser leads from your own website.
If you want to know more about that, book a free strategy call with me and I'll be happy to give you some ideas on how to do that.
Have you had any experiences - good or bad - with companies that generate leads for IFAs? If so, please use the comments box below to share your story.