One More Thing to Learn From Encyclopedia Britannica

Encyclopedia Britannica’s presses have grinded to a halt.

The handsome, gold bound tomes that line library shelves and were sold to many of our families by door-to-door salespeople, are now officially a thing of the past. The 2010 editions were the last to be printed.

The news is not all bad for the 244-year-old iconic institution; the physical reference books account for only 1% of the company’s revenue. Encyclopedia Britannica has an online membership community and remains an authority on all facts that matter.

The extinction of the encyclopedia’s print version marks the end of an era. It is a moment in history that gives us an opportunity to reflect on how far the digital age has taken us.

Encyclopedia Britannica’s decision to discontinue print is no surprise because it reinforces a fact that we all know–research now happens on keyboards and touchscreens, not in the library.

The implications of this new reality are fairly profound for advisors.

Clients look to the Internet for answers, making the web as much of a competitive threat as the advisory firm down the street.

As clients grow accustomed to discovering everything they need to know on the Internet, quickly and easily, they become more impatient. They want immediate answers. Many have decided, whether consciously or not, that a 140-character tweet gives as much valuable information as an 80-page prospectus. Getting a second, third and fourth opinion is easier than ever – and it’s free!

As an advisor, you should be asking yourself where your clients are going for answers. How are they validating the advice you give them? Can they find the information they need on your website? If not on your website, are you providing direction in terms of the best online resources that may support your recommendations? Do you provide ongoing education on issues that matter to your clients?

The Internet’s influence over clients cannot be ignored or underestimated. Rather than view the web as a competitive threat, consider it a strategic partner in an effort to educate and advise clients. Include web resources, whether “owned” by you or not, in your sales and marketing efforts.

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