Why It Takes So Long to Acquire a New Client

We live in an instant gratification world, don’t we? I suppose we could harken back to BF Skinner’s hungry rats, then combine that with the expectation of instant answers we get from the Internet to understand why we, as human beings, want and expect everything to happen the MOMENT we want it to happen!

Think it… will it… snap your fingers – there it is.

This concept came to mind after a conversation with my husband. He recently retired from his field engineering career. He loves to golf and fish and this time of the year, doesn’t lack for anything to do or play. But we also knew that if he didn’t have something to keep him busy the rest of the year he would drive me nuts with his nothing-to-do. (I know some of you can relate!) So together we have launched a new business for him, all internet based, advertising funded, and great fun.

This week we were discussing the progress (or lack thereof) of acquiring advertisers for the site. I am thrilled at our progress. After all, we have been online for only a few months, we average about 50 visitors a day which, for a new site, is actually quite good. But we need lots more content and lots more visitors before we hit our stride with advertising.

But he is frustrated because he doesn’t think enough paid advertising is coming our way. Why is it taking so long? Why don’t all these potential advertisers think we are the best thing internet advertising since sliced bread? Why aren’t they sending us all their advertising money yet?

At that point I realized – that’s exactly what I hear from new advocates. Not enough clients, not fast enough – resulting in frustration, and then, too many that just give up their practices because they didn’t anticipate they would have to wait so long.

Patience! Please! Patience!

For budding independent advocates, there are two main reasons the acquisition of a new client takes so long. Let’s take a look at them.

First: Many budding advocates look at the pool of potential clients (which for some advocates, could be anyone on the entire planet who gets a difficult diagnosis or is hurt in a bad accident) and figure that because so many people need help, the phone will begin ringing the minute they print their business cards and hang out their “I’m in business now” shingle.

Nope. Doesn’t – and won’t – happen.

Like any new business, it takes time to acquire new customers or clients. But unlike most new businesses, we advocates have the additional hurdle of having to explain what we do, how we can benefit our clients, and the fact that we are a new, and growing, profession.

It cannot, and will not, happen overnight. Yes – clients will come! But it takes time.

Here is a typical client-acquisition cycle in patient advocacy:

  1. Potential client becomes semi-aware that such a service exists (may take a month, or 5 years)? This may be the result of seeing an article online, or meeting someone in the checkout lane at the store, or hearing a speaker, just in a conversation with a friend or co-worker, or – the real truth is – It actually requires all of the above. 
  2. Potential client is faced with a major medical hurdle – a diagnosis, or a loved one who gets sick, or a parent who lives too far away, or medical bills that are astronomical and possibly wrong…
  3. Maybe potential client remembers that patient advocacy exists – or maybe not.
  4. Potential client is somehow reminded that there are professionals available to help them, and begins to get his/her arms around the fact that it’s an out-of-pocket paid service and not easy to find.
  5. The “pain” (which may not be physically painful, but may be mentally or emotionally painful) becomes unbearable enough that the potential client begins to get more serious about learning more about advocacy.
  6. Potential client begins to research the possibility of finding an advocate to help – perhaps does a search in the AdvoConnection Directory, or maybe just does a general internet search, may ask friends what they know about private advocates, etc. Wonders why it’s something that must be paid for. Gets caught in the erroneous idea that her insurer can help, then realizes she isn’t getting help from the insurer at all. She formulates questions, gets up the nerve to make contact…
  7. Potential client reaches out – makes a phone call or sends an email. (Finally! MONTHS or YEARS after you’ve begun marketing your availability….)
  8. And that’s when YOU, as the advocate the person has reached out to, finally hear from them… but still – she is not yet your client.

Here is the second reason client acquisition takes so long:

There is nothing QUICK about this process! There is no instant gratification.

Now perhaps you have a better sense of why acquiring a new client takes so long.

Do you still expect that once you determine you are officially in business that the phone will ring right away? Not gonna happen.

There are a few ways to improve and maybe shorten the acquisition process:

  • Realize that the more marketing you do, using the right messages for the right target audiences, the shorter the cycle will be. There are no short cuts, but there are definitely ways to be more efficient than others. More about this in the The Health Advocate’s Basic Marketing Handbook.
  • Make use of testimonials and evangelists as much as possible. (More about this, too, in the The Health Advocate’s Basic Marketing Handbook.)
  • Understand the client acquisition cycle as outlined above. Embrace it. Manage your own expectations to accommodate for it so that you don’t get frustrated or disappointed when new clients aren’t beating down your door right away. It’s not about how many people need help. It’s about how many people reach that turning point of needing it badly enough at the point they learn, and remember, that you exist.
  • Be prepared to answer questions in the way that people will decide to work with you, and not in the way that will simply cause them to hang up the phone. And note – the “right way” is probably not what you expect. Learn more here.


Sorry to offer such a frustrating reality check, but I’d rather you be thrilled that you have one new client in the first six months of business than to go out of business in three months because you don’t have any and you think you’ve done something wrong.

Now it’s your turn…. for those of you who have experienced the client acquisition cycle – in the same or different ways – please weigh in below!


7 thoughts on “Why It Takes So Long to Acquire a New Client”

  1. Spot on Trisha!! I found your book Basic Marketing Handbook, very helpful. It built a great foundation. However, it took Me, to build on it. Every Advocate has their own geographical location and hence, different ways and options to market effectively. I have identified a number of referral sources that I never would have, had people not asked me questions. As an example- a Placement Assistance contact that I met at networking event called me and said, “I think I have a client for you-she explained her situation and it was EXACTLY what I do! When we met at the mixer, I explained what I did. She remembered and called. I also have been fortunate to have two small local papers write articles about what an Advocate does. This helped get the educational area kicked started. Notice, I didn’t pay money to place an ad. It was a story about a brand new industry. Finally, I went to Assisted Living facilities and toured. I explained I like to know something about the local facilities and then explain what I do. I also ask if they will do a story about Advocacy, two of them have. One asked me to attend their next health fair. These are not one time contacts. You have to build and maintain a relationship with them. This is where Trisha refers to approximately 9 contacts, above and in her book. It’s about building a relationship with your contacts.
    Go to as many mixers as you can find. If you do a good job if explains what you do, they will remember you. Write each contact from the event, remind them who you are and include a link to your website. We have to support each other and contribute in whatever way we can, to the educational portion of getting the word out about what an advocate is, what they do and most importantly why they need you!!

    1. Hope I did not confuse you all. I meant Dory not Dora! Too many years have passed and I got my characters mixed up. I meant the blue tang fish with the short term memory issues.

  2. Thanks for the reminder to be patient and diligent in our efforts. As Sandy said, we need to get out to hospital and facility events and even do talks at the hospital if they have regular events. We need “Me” as Sandy said to DO after we KNOW what to do.

  3. This blog is perfect timing. I needed to hear this! I started the process of forming my Corp. in July. I was ready to roll by September. Within 6 months I had 10 clients. I was elated! I assumed that in another 6 months I would easily have another 10. This has not been the case. Things have slowed way down. I started to feel very disheartened and kept feeling like maybe this is not a sustainable business model. I am now realizing (with help of my family and friends), that I was very fortunate to have started off the way that I did. My initial wave of clients were my previous home health patients. They knew me, knew what I could do, because they had already seen me in action. Now, I’ve exhausted barrel of fish. I’m working really hard to meet new people and show them how great I am and how I can help. I’ve been going to mixers, speaking, and networking anywhere I can. I recently gave a talk about advocacy for a local Kiwanis club and they invited me back to speak for a larger group. Things are moving forward, just not like they were. I am going to be thankful for the boost that I had in the beginning and work my tail off to keep that forward momentum going.

    1. Kim – be sure to get testimonials from your happy clients. Make sure they add them to your AdvoConnection Directory listing. They’ll go a long way toward bringing in new clients!

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