What online dating can teach us about how people choose their financial advisor

Wondering how to position an advisor online to help them attract more clients? Consider these lessons from online dating sites.

Most people don’t equate searching for a financial advisor with online dating, but in many ways, finding a significant other and settling down with a financial professional are similar. With dating, people are looking to find that special someone they can trust, someone who understands their needs, and someone who will be there with them through thick and thin. It’s similar with an advisor – clients want to work with someone who gets them.

There’s another striking similarity between the two: In many cases these days, the search for love and the search for financial help happens online. With the former it’s through dating apps, with the latter it’s often on the firm’s website, where appearances and profiles matter. “Smart clients evaluate their advisors carefully, as they would their romantic partners,” says Clarissa Silva, a New York-based behavioral scientist who studies dating and human interaction. “It’s critical to their future goals and dreams.”

For wealth management firms that want to get more meetings and new business from their websites, emulating some of online dating’s tricks and tips – including how to present your team to advice-seekers and creating “swipe right”-worthy profiles – can help drive better results.

Create a likable profile

When it comes to dating, there are seven main criteria that people look for when searching for a mate, says Silva, who polled 500 people about their online dating interactions. It includes hair color, eye color, education level, body, personality, political views and religious affiliation.

While aspects of this will play into how people choose advisors – one researcher found that we are more receptive to working with people who look familiar and have strong facial symmetry – ultimately, being blond or brunette shouldn’t matter, and there’s not much you can do about your looks anyway.

What does matter, though, is what you say on your website. In 2015, Dr. Sameer Chaudhry, an internist at the University of North Texas, and Dr. Khalid Kahn, a professor at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, looked at 86 studies to see what made people go from interacting online to meeting in real life.

They found that 70% of the content on the most successful dating profiles focused on personal information, while 30% was about what the person wanted in a partner. In an advisor’s case, that could involve relaying information on how they help clients. The best profiles were also honest, likable, somewhat humorous, but not overly so – and they were short. Photos mattered, too: those who smiled in their pictures and stood in the center of the shot surrounded by others had the most successful profiles.

Don’t be generic

Emily Vogels, a PhD student who studied at the University of Wisconsin, looks at the intersection of relationships and technology and says there are three keys to dating app success, all of which also apply to finding a financial advisor online. The first tip is to not sound generic. “Often in dating profiles, people say and do what they think they should, and in the process, they sound like everyone else,” she says. “There’s nothing special.”

This is something a lot of financial firms can likely relate to. How many different ways can you tell a potential client that you care about their financial well-being and that you provide “holistic” advice? And do they really only care about where you went to school or where you’ve worked? You need to find something more to say, says Jason Heath, a CFP and advisor. “It’s important to have a good elevator pitch,” he says. “Everybody says, ‘I care about my clients.’ You need more than that.”

Know who you want to attract

The next step is to know whose eye you’re trying to catch, says Vogels. The most successful online daters she’s seen have a clear idea of what they want in a partner and they create their online profiles with that in mind. This doesn’t mean a profile has to explicitly say who they want to meet, but, rather, it involves listing specific qualities about oneself to grab the attention of the people who they are interested in, she says.

When it comes to financial advice, knowing your audience is also important. Most financial companies don’t want to work with just anyone – some want to attract high net-worth individuals, while others may want to work with people interested in socially responsible investing. Present your advisors in a way that speaks to your market. “You have to talk to the audience you’re trying to go after, and you can’t try to be something you aren’t,” says Randy Cass, a long-time financial industry professional, who’s currently the CEO of Nest Wealth.

Consider video

While most dating apps are photo only, some are starting to experiment with video, like Tinder, and for good reason: Video is far more engaging than most other media. Hubspot, a sales and marketing software company, asked its clients about what kind of branded content was most memorable to them. Some 43% said video, 36% said photos and 18% said written content.

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As well, several researchers have found that 83% of what we learn comes from visual cues, 11% is from audio, and the rest is from smell, touch and taste. By using video you’re giving people more information than you would be if you just had a website with a photo on it.

Go on a few dates

Your advisors may get more online attention if you follow this advice, but just like in dating, making a match doesn’t always translate into a happy union. Your advisors should carefully consider whether or not they want to take someone on as a client. “You may have to go on dates with several people before you find your ideal type,” says Silva.

It’s also OK for firms to turn someone down. “Every now and then, you just have to break up,” says Cass. If your company can’t land its ideal client, then take another look at how you’re projecting yourself online.

Despite all the research, there’s no silver bullet for finding a match in love, says Silva. That’s likely just as true for a prospective client seeking a financial advice partner. However, there are many evidence-based ways, both in dating and finding an advisor match, for increasing your odds of success.

Khalid Usmani