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Building a Practice in America?s Fastest Dying City

August 25, 2009

by Robert Huebscher

Young even brought in his local congressman to discuss how he is addressing Youngstown’s population decline.

Clients are always welcome to bring guests, and Young said that some guests attend events over a two-year period before becoming clients. 

Young employs a permanent part-time employee to manage his client appreciation program, which costs approximately $70,000 per year.  This is his only marketing expense; he does not spend any money on traditional marketing.  “Why would I spend money on people I don’t know?” he asked.

Young says his key competitive differentiator is that he commits 100% of his time and effort to transforming his clients into advocates.

Young is constantly refining his program and looking for ways to improve it.  He solicits feedback on each event, and he gets regular feedback from his advisory board on how to grow and improve in the future.  “We will never figure this out completely,” he said. 

Young gets as many as 65 unsolicited introductions per year from his program, and he converts about 75% of those into clients.  His client retention rate is exceptionally high, with less than 1% annual turnover, even during last year’s bear market.

Will this work for you?

Client appreciation programs won’t work for every practice, Young cautioned.  It won’t work for practices with clients that are in their 40s, with kids, or very busy.  (Young’s clients are mostly empty nesters.)  Clients in their child-raising years or with dual incomes often don’t have the time to enjoy his events.

If you want to try his approach, Young advised starting small – offering the program initially to just your 15 advisory board members.  You must be able to follow through and repeat the events on an annual basis.  And, most importantly, you must be patient and willing to wait two to three years, without looking back, for a payoff.

“You can’t force introductions – not the best ones,” Young cautioned.  “You must give without the expectation of return.  In order to connect you have to be sincere and not in it just for yourself.”

By starting small for at least the first three years advisors can avoid the significant commitment of money and resources Young now invests.  “But put your heart and soul into it, and do it because you love it and the people you serve,” he said.  “Remind them how to reciprocate and have the faith they will do so.”

Lastly, Young said none of this works if you’re not ethical.  “You must sincerely believe in what you are giving and not expect an immediate quid pro quo.  The receiving will take care of itself.  It really works that way.”