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Reviving A Broken Racehorse: The Increasingly Difficult World of Surveying Financial Advisors

For market researchers in the financial services space, surveying financial advisors, brokers, and registered investment advisors (RIAs) has never been more difficult. We are facing a perfect storm of challenges that is making it excruciatingly hard to reach this critical audience.

The Core Issues

Let’s start with the fundamental issues that have plagued online surveys with financial advisors for years:

  • Lack of Relevancy: Most survey requests fail to emphasize why the study is important and how advisors and/or their clients could benefit from the findings. Without clear relevancy, they are quick to ignore or dismiss requests.
  • Spamming/Over-surveying: Financial advisors routinely receive 6 or more survey invitations per month. They are bombarded and desensitized with too many requests.
  • Deception: Survey invitations almost always understate the actual length of the survey. Advisors feel misled about time commitments, eroding trust.
  • Inadequate Compensation: Advisors are business people who understand the value of their time. Paltry incentives like $5 gift cards are insulting and ineffective. Proper compensation is critical.

The above pain points were highlighted in interviews with Boston-area financial advisors. These are long-standing grievances that could be remedied through better industry practices around effective communication, invitation frequency, survey length estimates, and respectable incentive levels.

The New Challenges

Layered on top of the age-old issues are formidable new obstacles making it even harder to penetrate this audience:

  • Rising Threats of Fraud/Ransomware: With cyber risks increasing, financial firms have clamped down on allowing unfamiliar emails and links through their networks. Firewalls and security filters routinely block survey requests.
  • Corporate Policies: Financial companies have strict IT policies prohibiting employees from clicking on links or downloading files from unknown senders due to malware risks. Survey links are blocked.
  • Survey Fatigue: The pandemic led to more surveys as companies scrambled for feedback from overwhelmed consumers/businesses. Everyone is exhausted.

In summary, financial advisors have always been a difficult group to survey due to lack of relevancy, spamming, lack of transparency, and poor incentives. But now technological barriers, corporate lockdowns, and Covid-related burnout have made this critical B2B audience virtually impenetrable for market researchers. Accessing their opinions has never been harder.

Reviving the Broken Racehorse

So how can the market research industry revive this “broken racehorse” and increase survey participation among financial advisors? Here are some thoughts:

  • Make it unmistakably clear why the research matters for advisors and their clients. Advisors’ prime objective is providing solutions that maximize client outcomes. Don’t approach them with another study of marginal value. Articulate how the insights could usher in new tools, strategies or intelligence that allows them to serve their clients better. Demonstrate how participating gives them a voice to influence products, services and industry practices that directly impact their business and those they advise. Astutely linking the research to advisor benefits and client alpha will elevate response rates. They’ll be more compelled knowing their time facilitates greater value creation for the people who depend on them.
  • Treat advisors with respect. Honor permissions and suppress unsubscribed records properly across providers. No more badgering.
  • Rebuild trust through transparent survey lengths and respectable incentives commensurate with the ask.
  • Find new sample sources beyond the over-used databases.
  • Attempt to get “whitelisted” by advisory firms to bypass corporate email filters, though this is an extremely difficult and time-consuming process. Establishing your research brand as reliable and trustworthy may make firms more amenable over time.
  • And for studies branded under a client’s name, collaborate with their marketing and email deliverability teams to have invitations deploy directly from the client. Though it adds administrative burden for the client, even an increase of a few percentage points in response rate is transformative – like shaving hours off a marathon time. The results justify the extra coordination. Advisors are far more likely to engage with a recognized brand they trust versus an unknown market research firm’s email which may get caught in spam filters. Leveraging the client’s owned channels and sender reputation drastically improves deliverability and credibility. The incremental effort yields exponentially better results.

The financial advisor audience is too vital to become completely unresponsive. But market researchers must evolve new approaches that address their long-standing concerns while hurdling alarming new roadblocks around security, access, and saturation. It’s the only way to get this “racehorse” fit and running again.

About Brookmark Research:
Brookmark is a data driven consultancy focused on developing powerful marketing strategies to fuel the growth of our clients’ businesses. We leverage primary marketing research, 1st party, 3rd party and proprietary data sources along with proprietary tools and strategy frameworks to develop, test and evaluate marketing driven strategies that deliver exponential ROI.  Whether you are an early-stage growth company or a Fortune 1000 company, we help successful companies accelerate, and stagnant companies invigorate growth.