The $27,000 Advisor Website Package: A True Tale

There’s an old saying in the financial services industry: insurance is not bought, it’s sold.

I’m seeing that with advisor websites.

Advisor websites are getting sold. Instances of price-gouging and sales hype have come across my desk more often lately in the sale of advisor websites.

Admittedly, my evidence is anecdotal, but in the 15 years since founding Advisors Products, I’ve only seen this level of hype once before—during the dotcom boom of 1999.

The rise in unsavory sales of advisor websites accompanies a shift in the industry in favor of local independent design shops. Advisors are using local designers and consultants more often, getting sold “branding packages.” In fact, local design firms and independent are now the main competitors to Advisor Products.

Advisor Products has focused in recent years on developing client portals for advisor websites, which shifted the company away from competing with traditional advisor website development companies. We often work with independent designer and marketing consultants because advisors utilize our “backend” tools—AdvisorVault, portfolio performance reporting, email newsletters, financial advisor content—while hiring  independent consultants for marketing and design assistance.

What I’m seeing is that a small number of these local design firms and independent consultants are using the technical mumbo-jumbo as an excuse to overcharge advisors, and sometimes problems are arising with misleading claims about search engine optimization or an advisor website.

This week, I worked with an advisor now on the hook for $27,000 for a website, logo, and SEO copywriting package that gives him far less than what Advisor Products provides for about a third of the cost. He’s switching to Advisor Products.

The site looks good, but it was built using an open-source content management system (CMS) template.

Open source CMS platforms are great. The big ones, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, are growing explosively, and local design shops have flocked to them, and for good reason.

Open-source platforms publish their source code, enabling programmers all over the world to develop plug-ins and overlays. So if you want to add a blog you your Joomla site, for example, Joomla has an app store and you choose from a long list of add-ons, called extensions, that are free or low cost.  

Cool features like blog moderation, integration with email newsletters, event calendars, news headline display, and other functionality can be added easily to a website using the extensions. Apps stores for Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla make it easy to display a Twitter-stream on a page of an advisor website, add and manage polls, or embed videos you post on YouTube.

Point is, the advisor who called this week was sold a template website built on Joomla plus a few website pages of copy that had been optimized for search engines, and a logo. Total cost: $27,000.

In addition to overcharging by a huge amount, the advisor is very limited in his ability to change content on his website because of an extremely restrictive configuration of the Joomla CMS platform.

Advisor Products works with many outside designers and marketing consultants and the vast majority are good and honest. We don’t have a monopoly on great graphic design and our development process enables advisors to use their favorite designers and consultants and leverage our specialized tools.

Advisor Products builds websites for firms using open source CMS when appropriate, depending on your circumstances. In fact, we’re in the process of integrating our proprietary financial advisor content and compliance tools for advisor websites with an open-source CMS platform.

But the growth of open source CMS platforms has allowed some greedy operators to take advantage of advisors who don’t know much about website development. So watch out.

If you want to work with a marketing consultant or design firm and also leverage AdvisorVault, Client Portals and other apps we provide to financial advisors, we welcome your business. And if you want us to evaluate the deal you are getting from a local designer or marketing consultant, we’ll give you an honest assessment.  

We’re transparent.
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