Building a Practice in America?s Fastest Dying City

Youngstown, Ohio has the distinction of being America’s fastest-dying city, losing its population more rapidly than any other large metropolitan area.  It is also home to Young Financial Group, whose founder, Mowry (“Mo”) Young has developed a unique client-centric marketing strategy that enabled him to acquire several hundred new clients over the last four years.

While many – perhaps most – advisors use client appreciation programs as part of their marketing efforts, Young has embraced this idea and made it his sole marketing focus.  Young believes other advisors can utilize his strategy, and he agreed to tell me how it works.

Young began his career in 1996 and developed a successful brokerage practice selling investment and insurance products.  To attract prospects, he had a telemarketing staff cold-call residents in local counties to find attendees for seminars he ran on a weekly basis. 

In 2003, the federal Do Not Call list made his strategy obsolete.  Young’s practice had grown to $50 million, and he no longer needed a prescribed rate of growth each month, but he still needed to grow.

Young decided on a marketing strategy based on regularly scheduled client appreciation events, with the long-term goal of having his clients show their appreciation by providing referrals.

Developing the strategy

To develop this strategy, Young formed an advisory board of 15 of his most loyal clients, and used the first two meetings to educate his board about the proposed new approach.  He wanted his client base to be his salesforce, but he didn’t want to press them too aggressively for referrals. “I believed I could rely on the nature of quality people – my most loyal clients – to reciprocate for the value they received,” he said. 

Young first converted his board to his way of thinking, because he knew they would be good advocates.  He had chosen his board based on their asset value, attitude, and ability to advocate on his behalf.

Young then ranked his clients by those three criteria and surveyed his clients to identify their interests beyond those he already knew.  He went back to his advisory board to refine his plan.  They confirmed his belief that clients would value special events with educational content geared to their interests more than they would other incentives, including fee reductions.  “Most of my most loyal clients were not even aware of the fees they were being charged,” he said.

“You go to church because of the minister,” Young said, “and I realized I was the minister.”  Young wanted to develop a degree of fraternity among his clients, and to position his program as a scarce resource.  Under that premise, he invited only the top two-thirds of his clients, based on his three criteria, to his special events.

He held informational meetings with small groups of those clients to incorporate them into the process, just as he had with his advisory board.  He included members of his advisory board in those meetings to get additional feedback.