Research that reveals what your prospects want – For Financial Advisors

If you’ve read my previous articles, you’ll know that understanding what motivates your target market at the deepest level is the most important first step in creating marketing strategies, tactics, and campaigns that actually perform and get you new clients. 

But… how do you do that? 

How do you understand what someone wants so you can offer it to them?

If you recall from a previous article with a case study about this, we originally assumed the advisor’s prospects simply “wanted a good retirement.” What we found through research was that they “wanted self-paced, written information about inflation and steps they can take to mitigate the effects of inflation on their retirement portfolio.”

Once we had that, we knew what to offer to grab their attention and start building a relationship.

And now you’re probably asking yourself, “how did you figure that out?!?”

Why did your current clients pick you?

And how can we leverage that answer to get even more clients?

Well, here are the steps we take to figure out what people really want and why they picked you to deliver.

If you already have a client base with at least a few hundred clients, you can start there (if you don’t have any, or only a few, clients, keep reading because I have a method that works for that, too). 

What you’ll want to do is to go to Google Forms and create a new questionnaire you can send to your current clients. This is going to let you get and easily organize their responses so you can detect themes in what they tell you and learn how to find more clients like the ones you already have..

But what questions do you ask? 

Sure, you could just ask them “what do you want from a financial advisor?” but that question is so open-ended that most people won’t even know how to answer it. It’s like asking “what do you want out of life?” Some people will be able to give a direct answer, but most people will get overwhelmed with options and not be able to answer. 

So you can try that open-ended question if you’ve got several thousand clients to ask, but chances are you’re going to get better responses if you ask specific questions.

Here are some of the questions I would ask a current client base:

  • What made you first realize working with a financial advisor would be helpful?
  • Why did you choose [our firm] instead of any other?
  • Before you started working with [our firm], did you [download whitepapers, come to seminars/webinars, read our blog, etc]?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to recommend [our firm] to friends or family?
  • Why did you give us the number you did?

Typically, you can expect a 1-5% response rate. If you’ve got 5,000 clients, that’s fine. If you’ve got less than that, you may want to incentivize responses with an Amazon gift card or something to bump that number up. 

However, you need to assure people their responses will be anonymous. If they know their name will be associated with their answers, they may tell you what they think you want to hear and not what they really think. You might let them know that a staff member will record who responded (so you can send a gift card) but you won’t be reading the responses until PII (personally identifiable information) has been removed. 

So when you get these answers, what are you looking for, exactly?

You want to find the most common patterns in why people choose you. What content did they consume? What topics interested them? How did they find you? What platforms were they on? Did they read reviews? Everything. Once you have enough responses, you’ll start to see a picture of what your real appeal is. 

Chances are, you’re going to see several possibilities that spell out the ideal way someone came to work with you. How do you know which is best to use for your marketing? That will be the next article, where we’ll start talking about running real ads.  

So you’re a new FA, or want to attract a new niche

What if you don’t have any clients (or just a few) or you’re trying to attract a totally new market?

You can still get the information you’re looking for!

I use a service called for doing market research, but you can find any polling company you want to get questions to your target market. Be aware, the service isn’t free, and the more detailed the target market you want to get, the more expensive it gets. So if you’re just starting out and don’t have a big marketing budget, you’ll probably want to stick to a more general audience (like just 55-70 years old instead of 55-70, with $250k+ in savings, who retired as the VP with a pension). But if you’ve got the money and want to target that niche and find out what they’re looking for in a financial planner, you certainly can. 

Using a service like allows you to get answers from hundreds or thousands of people who you’ve never talked to before in a market you don’t currently work with. If you’ve ever thought “I would love to work with this certain market but don’t know how to talk to them” then this is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.

So what do you want to learn?

  • What information most interests them
  • The best way to present that information (video, text, seminars, books, etc.)
  • Why they would be more likely to choose one advisor over another
  • Anything else you think would help you appeal to that audience.

So here are the questions you may put in your questionnaire:

  1. What information about retirement are you most likely to consume?
    1. Tax planning
    2. Social security
    3. Inflation
    4. Etc. 
  2. When looking for information about retirement, how do you prefer to receive that information:
    1. Videos
    2. Blogs/articles
    3. Seminars
    4. Books
    5. Etc. 
  3. Assuming you found two advisors who offered the same information and assistance, what would you look for to help you choose which one to hire? 

Generally speaking, you’ll want at least 400 good responses. But since not everyone will take the time to answer the questions thoughtfully and completely, you’ll probably want to aim for 800-1,000 total responses so you get 400-500 really good ones. But if you’re a new FA and getting 1,000 is too expensive, just get as many as you can afford. Some information is always better than no information.

With just these 3 questions, you’re going to learn: 1. What to talk about. 2. How to present the information. 3. How to differentiate yourself from other advisors going after the same prospects. 

It’s that simple

And it’s as simple as that! Whether you have a large client base and you want more clients like the ones you already have, or you’re starting out or approaching a new niche, these two techniques can be used to get insider information and learn how to best communicate with your prospects and differentiate yourself from other advisors talking to the same people. 

What’s next?

Now, chances are, you’re going to see multiple themes throughout the answers you get. You may find people commonly want social security and tax planning information, and they’re equally split between wanting video and seminars. How do you know which combination will work best as a client acquisition strategy? 

And even if you know what they want and what interests them, there are a thousand ways to present the same piece of information. So how do you know which is best before you commit substantial resources into creating new whitepapers, books, seminars, or webinars?

That’s all coming up in my next post!

If you have questions or want to work with Next Level Advisors directly, shoot me an email at

About the Author

James Campbell

James Campbell

James is the Director of Marketing and Optimization for Next Level Advisors. He handles the paid media, analytics, and figuring out how to make things work better for the same price. He's most interested in understanding marketing as an ecosystem, not just a series of tips, tricks, and hacks to make things work. He also runs Next Level Optimization (still in production), a program focused on helping 7-figure advisors improve the results from their marketing.

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