How Lawyers Get More Referrals
There’s a lot of information on the Internet related to marketing for lawyers. Some of that information is high quality strategic advice. Some of it is crap. Most of it falls somewhere in between.
One thing missing from all that advice is a simple tutorial on how lawyers get more referrals.
So here it is. The quick and dirty version of a process I have shared with hundreds of lawyers during the past five years:
Step One: Be Easy To Work With
Say “please” and “thank you”. Return telephone calls within one business day. Listen before you speak. Think before you send an email or text message. Respect everyone and fear no one.
Step Two: Be Loyal
Don’t steal people’s clients. When another attorney sends you a matter, handle it and then send the client back to the original referring party if the client has work in an unrelated area.
Defend people who are not in the room. If everyone is gossiping about someone, shut it down, regardless of your personal feelings about the subject of the gossip.
Step Three: Be Generous
Share your valuable relationships with people in your network. Make introductions that will lead to business. When you refer clients to other lawyers, set the other party up to succeed. Actually bring the client to the other lawyer’s office, or to lunch if possible. Otherwise introduce the parties live on a conference call.
Step Four: Be Different
If you want to be the “go to” person for a particular type of matter, you must give people a reason to select you rather than one of the other hundred lawyers they know. Differentiate yourself and your practice and let people know about that difference.
Step Five: Follow-up
Send a weekly email newsletter. Send people holiday cards and birthday cards. Invent ways to keep your name in front of them with low labor intensity for you. People may want to send you business but they have simply forgotten about you. Don’t let them forget about you.
Step Six: Ask for Referrals
Let people know that you value relationships and, you practice relationship marketing. This means your law firm grows based upon the business sent to you by people who know you, like you and trust you. Ask them if they will keep you in mind when they are presented with a case in your area. Then after you ask, go through all of the five preceding steps.
Step Seven: Educate Your Target Audience
The final step is one of the most important. Each month you should get in front of at least 50 new people and provide them with educational information that will entice them to find out more about you.
The best ways to reach people en mass are through writing articles and getting them published (trade magazines are terrific for this purpose) or speaking to large groups of people.
People will rise up from the ranks of the audience and ask you for additional information. When they do, follow the steps listed above.
That’s it. That’s my simple seven step referral process which helps with marketing for lawyers. Give it a try in your law firm and let me know how it works by posting a comment on Google+ (link below)
Is Email Part Of Your Law Firm Marketing Plan?
Email should play a critical role as part of your law firm marketing plan. Here are three ways you can use it to your advantage:
As a weekly newsletter: Email newsletters are a staple of a law firm marketing plan. Each week you should write an article that is interesting, informative and is reflective of your personality. Send this article to: potential referral sources, past clients, current clients and friends and family.
If the information is relevant to the audience and interesting, your email message will be widely read.
The frequency of your email newsletter is critical. Weekly “conversations” with your target audience is the key to building trust.
As an educational course: This often overlooked use of email is highly effective. Offer visitors to your website the opportunity to enter their name and email address into a box on your website that will enroll them in your email educational course delivered each day for X days (I deliver mine over five days). You then subscribe to a service that automatically sends out this email each time a new person enrolls.
How does this fit into your law firm marketing plan? It helps position you as a thought leader by providing educational material to your prospective clients. You help them understand how to hire the best possible lawyer.
As a client survey tool. Want to know what your clients (and past clients) think? Ask them. Responses to an email survey can be useful for developing future marketing campaigns and they can also help you detect issues with your service delivery. The same email service that you use to deliver your weekly newsletter and use to provide your educational course can also send out these surveys.
These are just three of the many ways to incorporate email into your law firm marketing plan. There are dozens of others. Implement these three today and you will be pleasantly surprised at the referrals you receive as a result.
How Lawyers Get More Clients By Referral
One of the questions I am asked most often is: “How can lawyers get more clients?”
The best way for lawyers to get more clients is by referral. But referrals must be earned. Here are five ways you can BEGIN to earn more referrals from your clients, centers of influence in the community and other lawyers.
Do Great Work
This is the minimum standard for positioning yourself to receive more referrals. There are lots of lawyers out there. Many of them do what you do. Lots of them went to great schools. Lots of them have terrific experience. If you want a referral, you have to do outstanding work.
That’s the least you can do to earn a referral.
I’m sick of lawyers who think that being “aggressive” means being a jerk. That’s just not the case. You can be aggressive and be a professional. You can be aggressive and be a gentleman or gentlewoman.
Say “please”. Say ‘thank you”. Admit when you screw up.
Be the kind of person people respect.
Keep Your Commitments
Do what you say you are going to do. Tell the truth, even when it’s tough. Return telephone calls. Meet deadlines.
Stay In Touch
People may want to send you business but they don’t remember you. Stay in touch with your past clients and your referral sources by writing a newsletter and sending it out monthly (at minimum). Send birthday cards. Send holiday cards. Call your past clients and referral sources occasionally.
If you want to get referrals, start by giving them to others. Send people business. Generously recommend people who meet the above criteria. Go out of your way to help peers and colleagues. Provide guidance when asked and support when things go wrong.
These five ways will not earn you referrals from everyone but they are a great way for lawyers to get more clients. How do you measure up to these criteria?
How to Replace a Lost Client
Losing a client is never fun but it happens to everyone.
One of the most important things you can do when you lose a client is immediately bounce back and take aggressive action to replace him. Here are three things you can do to get past the loss of a client relationship.
Call all your current clients and offer to add value to your relationship. Deepening your relationship with existing clients is a smart move. These folks have already given you their trust. They’ve hired you to work with them. You probably have an intimate familiarity with their situation. Give them a call and offer to help them with another aspect of their business/life.
This offer should be a way for you to add additional value or improve the client’s situation. You should charge your normal fee and not seem desperate. You are calling your client as one of his trusted advisors and you have valuable advice to share with him.
Call your current clients and ask for a referral. All of us forget to ask our clients for referrals. Here is a script you can tailor for your own use:
“Joe, I know you are well connected in the community. Aren’t you on the board of XYZ charity? Who are some of your fellow board members? What does Mr. Jones (board member) do for a living?
You know, I really appreciate our relationship. Since my firm does not advertise, we rely on referrals to grow our practice. I’m wondering if you have a few minutes to think about people you know who may be a good fit for my services.
Who do you know who (here you add the qualities of an ideal client) regularly uses complex agreements or contracts in their business?”
Most clients want to help but they can’t come up with a name right away. That’s why it is important to warm them up by getting them to think about the people they know in a specific business context (the question about the board of directors).
Call past clients and ask them for a referral. Your past clients have probably forgotten about you. Call them up. Ask how they are doing and explore ways you can help them. If they do not have any new work for you, go through your referral script with them.
This approach may seem forward. It may not be comfortable for you at first. In fact, you may view this as “selling” or as “self-promotion”. It is all of those things. But it is also necessary if you ever plan to grow your law firm.
It takes a confident person to use these techniques. You need to find it within yourself to aggressively bounce back from the adversity of a lost client relationship. I have a specific tool that can help you.
It is a video I recorded on this very topic.
Are You Worth the Risk?
When a client comes to you with a problem he is anxious. He may never have faced this kind of situation before. He is worried about losing money, time and/or an opportunity. He knows that hiring the right lawyer is going to be the most important decision he will make toward achieving a favorable result.
In short, he is worried about the risk he is taking in selecting you as his lawyer.
Overcoming the client’s fear of making a mistake in lawyer selection is the single most important factor in law firm marketing. Most lawyers underestimate the depth of that fear.
There are six different elements of risk that come into play when a client is looking to hire a lawyer and you must overcome all of them.
Below are these elements of risk. I have also included some thoughts on how you can address this risk head on and make the client’s decision easier.
The risk of poor performance: The client hires a lawyer and the lawyer is not able to achieve the desired result.
To overcome this risk, show the client your past work. Help him feel comfortable with your skill level. Give the client the names and phone numbers of other people you have represented so he can check up on you.
The risk of financial investment: The client invests in you, you do not perform well and he is responsible for damages awarded to his adversary.
To overcome this risk, show the client the value he is receiving by hiring you. Help him see that NOT hiring you is the true financial risk because you are their best option.
The risk of loss of time: The client helps you become familiar with his situation. This takes time. If he needs to find another lawyer, he has lost the time he invested in working with you. In many matters, time is of the essence. If the client works with you and you cannot act quickly he may not achieve a favorable outcome.
Overcome this risk by demonstrating sensitivity to his time investment. Show up on time to meetings with him. Return his calls promptly and be attentive to his needs. If you are unavailable, make sure a member of your team responds to the needs of the client in timely fashion.
The risk of the loss of an opportunity: Your depth of knowledge is critical to the client’s success. If you miss an opportunity while working on his matter, you may cost him money or you may even jeopardize the entire engagement.
Start the relationship off by asking in-depth questions about the client’s situation. Show him that you are thinking about his matter beyond the superficial aspects of it. Asking good questions demonstrates the desire to completely understand a situation. This is critical to alleviating the client’s fear of loss of an opportunity.
Psychological risk: How does the client feel when he works with you? Does he feel like he is in good hands? There is a fine line between giving your client peace of mind and promising an outcome. You need to walk that line effectively and make the client feel good about your work. When you present your client with options and he makes a decision, reassure him.
Social risk: Clients talk to other people in their sphere of influence. Every interaction you have with a client or on behalf of a client either enhances or detracts from your reputation. Monitor what is being said about you in the community and realize that what you do is also a reflection on your clients.
Many times the client is making the decision to hire a lawyer during a brief conversation you have with him. You must, through your actions and your words, address each of these elements of risk to his satisfaction in order to be hired. Lawyers who are good at business development have made this a natural part of their initial client meeting.
If clients come to see you and leave without hiring you, you have a problem addressing these six elements of risk.
This is not unusual and it can be corrected. Call me today to find out how.
Law Firm Marketing Plan Must Include Referral Source Targeting
A few days ago I was speaking with a Criminal Defense Attorney about his marketing strategy. He had employed a number of law firm marketing tactics designed to reach out directly to his end user. He was spending a significant amount of money on pay per click advertising on the Internet. He was in three different legal directory services. He was doing a local radio question and answer “show” a few times each week and he was all over the latest fads – Facebook and Twitter.
All of these marketing tactics are fine. In fact his activity was terrific. But he was missing the most important element of a law firm marketing plan for any lawyer who handles consumer issues…
This attorney was missing a huge opportunity. He had no plan to reach out directly to referral sources.
All law firm marketing plans should include a strategy designed to specifically target referral sources. Lawyers who focus on criminal defense law, family law, immigration law and trusts and estates law in particular should heavily weight their marketing toward referral sources.
Why target referral sources?
Because of their lifetime value.
Think of it this way: In each of these areas you will probably only be able to work with a client once or twice in their lifetime. If you try to market directly to the client, you will spend a significant amount of money focusing on them and, in many cases, the amount of matters you source will only cover your marketing expense.
If you target referral sources and you attract one and that one source sends you several clients each year for five years, the lifetime value of that referral source is much higher than the value of an individual client. This means you are able to spend more money attracting them and your return on investment is higher.
Who are good referral sources?
Most attorneys forget to target other attorneys with their marketing. This is a mistake. Some of the best referrals will come from attorneys in noncompeting practice areas. Develop specific marketing tactics designed to reach out to local attorneys who do not compete with you.
Another great source of referrals is competing attorneys who are not located in your city or state. I often find that great referrals are passed among attorneys who meet in my coaching programs and, although they are in competing practice areas, they only practice in a narrowly defined geography. Sometimes these folks will source a case in your area and they need to find someone to whom they can refer that matter. You want to be that attorney. Target attorneys in your practice area in other states.
Accountants have built up a significant amount of trust and good will with their clients. People share their most confidential information with them. As an attorney, you should spend some time targeting accountants as potential referral sources. A good accountant, particularly those with high net worth individuals as clients can be worth his weight in gold to your referral program.
It goes without saying that leaders of religious organizations have a tremendous amount of influence over their congregation. These are important people to target with your referral campaign. One of the best ways to build up goodwill with religious leaders is by volunteering to give regular talks to youth groups or senior citizens on topics of interest.
Civic or Community Leaders
Leaders of the local chamber of commerce or of a community or condominium association can also be valuable referral targets. People will often approach these folks when they have a problem or question. You can target these people in the same way you reach out to religious leaders. Offer to give a talk or presentation to their group a few times each year. Help them understand the issues of the day and you will be happily surprised at the results.
Legal work can come from just about anywhere but your time is limited. Make sure your law firm marketing plan includes some form of outreach to referral sources. They will reward you handsomely for your efforts.
The Most Misunderstood Aspect of Law Firm Marketing
There is one aspect of law firm marketing that is totally misunderstood. In fact, most people disregard it completely. They think it is a waste of time. They forget to do it, or the just flat out discount its effectiveness.
This critical component is FOLLOW-UP.
Yes. You read that correctly.
The simple basic process of following up with a prospective client, colleague or referral source will make you more money than any other marketing technique you will ever employ.
Need some proof?
Follow-up Success Story Number 1
An intellectual property attorney gives between 6 and 10 talks each year to business owners in the publishing and Internet marketing industries. He collects business cards at these talks in exchange for a free report he distributes via email. He then proceeds to email these SENIOR EXECUTIVES a weekly email newsletter. About 3 percent unsubscribe over the course of a year. About 26 percent of his recipients open his email each week. On average, he has retained two new clients per month from this follow-up process during the past two years. His client lifetime value exceeds $20,000. So each month, on average, he is acquiring $40,000 in assets from sending four emails.
Key points in this story:
Frequency: This guy sends an email every week. Most attorneys tell me that is too often. Most attorneys tell me their clients will get annoyed. Yes. About 2-3 percent will get annoyed and unsubscribe. So what?
Recipient Sophistication: This guy sends email to senior executives (some of them are in Fortune 500 companies). Most attorneys tell me their clients are too sophisticated to read and respond to an email newsletter. That is not true. We have had success using this at every level with people in every industry.
Follow-up Success Story Number 2
A divorce attorney in Illinois meets about 20 new lawyers each month. She religiously adds them to her database in a list marked “colleagues”. Each week she sends them an email giving them an update on some of the happenings around the local courthouse. (Apparently this attorney has a knack for getting all the latest news and gossip directly from the source). Her emails have an astonishing 44 percent open rate and even though her list is relatively small, she receives an average of 10 new referral cases per year in direct response to her emails.
Key Points in this story:
Content: People will read things they find interesting. Although most people will turn up their nose at gossip, they will not hesitate to listen to a good story about someone else. If you add a “human factor” to your email, people will read it.
List Composition: Most lawyers tell me they do not want to put other lawyers on their email newsletter lists. This is a mistake. Your colleagues are some of the best sources of referrals. Make sure every lawyer you know gets your email.
Follow-up Success Story Number 3
A personal injury attorney in Virginia sends a weekly email newsletter to past clients, friends and family. In the newsletter he only discusses things that have happened to him. He then transitions this experience into a “life lesson”. He closes his email with the line: “Remember, you have a lawyer in the family. Please do not hesitate to call me for any of your legal needs.” This attorney has a list of about 1,300 people. He consistently receives 3-5 calls to his office after the email goes out each week. He makes at least 2 referrals to other attorneys from those calls.
Key points in this story:
Trust: People want to feel connected to you even after their case is resolved. They placed their trust in you. That does not happen easily. Allow them to remain a part of your life afterward and they will call you when they have a legal need.
Give Referrals: Passing a good, qualified referral to another attorney is like handing him some money. He will want to return the favor. Do not turn away your former clients when they bring you a need outside your area of expertise. In fact, you should use your weekly email to solicit those issues and refer them to others.
Here is the bottom line when it comes to follow-up: IT WORKS.
You should immediately begin to send out a weekly email newsletter. Even if you only have a small list of people to send it to, it will pay dividends. I have at least 25 more stories like the ones I listed above. There is no reason; I repeat no reason, (other than your own stubborn refusal to take good advice) for you not to implement this strategy immediately.
If you like attracting more clients, no matter what your practice area, this will work for you.
Attorney Marketing: The Easy Way to Getting More Referrals
Referrals are part of attorney marketing and you should receive more referrals. Think about it. You know people you believe should be referring you more business, but, for whatever reason, they do not.
Don’t you wonder why?
The reason is simply because they are not thinking about referring you business. In fact, they are probably not thinking about your ideal client. Ever.
Don’t you want to fix this problem?
Here is a three step attorney marketing referral system that will help you fix this problem forever. You will need to practice it a few times. It will not seem natural at first. But once you get the hang of it, you will be amazed at how well it works.
Our brains function like computers. We store information in organized files. In order to remember something, we need to know which file to look into in order to retrieve it. To get someone to remember a person who could be a potential client for you, you have to get them to open up the mental file where that information is stored. The exercise below will help you do that when you are in a one-on-one setting.
Attorney Marketing Referral System Step One: Start up a referral conversation
Usually I start a referral conversation by asking how the other person finds his clients. They usually reciprocate and ask me how I find clients for my business. When they ask, I tell them most of my clients come to me through referrals. They usually say they like receiving referrals too. At that point I ask them to describe their ideal client. That leads step two.
Attorney Marketing Referral System Step Two: Get the other person into a referral mindset
Now you have to shift the other person from thinking about their clients to thinking about people they know who might be good clients for you. To make this shift I usually say something like:
“Getting referrals can be tough because people do not always recall everyone they meet.”
Then I ask them if they have ever met a famous person. This can be a celebrity, it can be a politician, it really can be anyone. You just want them to recall the meeting and the person. I ask them to describe the event where they met the famous person and I ask them to describe the qualities of the famous person. Where were you? Was he nice? What did he say? Getting them to recall details is important because it helps them open the mental file completely.
Attorney Marketing Referral System Step Three: Use a memory jogger
The next step is to get them to think of the kind of person you want to meet. You can transition into asking for specifics by saying something like: “It is amazing how many people we meet on a regular basis. Did you know most people in business meet, on average, over 300 new people each year? By any chance do you know someone who…”
This is where you fill in the person you want to meet. A trust and estates attorney, for example, would ask about a CPA. An immigration attorney could ask about Human Resource professionals. An attorney who practices administrative law would ask about doctors. A criminal attorney would ask to meet attorneys in any number of practice areas.
After you ask for your referral, make sure you are clear on who is a good referral for them (so you can send them someone for their business).
Attorney Marketing Referral System Step Four: Follow up
After you get back to your office immediately do an email introduction of the person you were just speaking with to someone who could be valuable to their business. Always give before you expect to receive. This is extremely important.
Nine times out of ten, you will receive a referral in return.
If you use this strategy once each week for 50 weeks a year, you will come away with 50 new referrals. If you only do business with half of them you will wind up with at least 25 new clients. That’s not too shabby.
Find a way to work this referral process into your weekly activity. Once you master this attorney marketing referral system, it will pay you dividends for a long time.
Hey Lawyer I have a problem…
I have a problem…
Those are the magic words every attorney wants to hear. Unfortunately many of the people who have problems you can solve don’t even know you exist.
So what is an ambitious, ethical attorney supposed to do to gain some visibility?
Here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to gain greater exposure within your community:
Market to Your Referral Sources
All attorneys have a natural pool of referral sources that should be regularly reminded of your value proposition.
Real Estate brokers and loan officers should regularly receive communication from Real Estate Attorneys.
Trust and Estate Attorneys should be well known in the local community of financial advisors, insurance professionals and accounts.
Personal Injury Attorneys should reach out to other attorneys, doctors, chiropractors, members of the local clergy and bartenders.
Criminal Defense Attorneys should be well known within the courthouse. Bailiffs, guards, clerks, court reporters and process servers should all be treated like potential clients since they see and hear many of the people who may need your services.
There is a list equally as long for each and every practice area specialty. Market to your referral sources just as hard as you would market to potential clients.
Educate the Community
Hold educational seminars whenever possible. Host these seminars on your own as well as in conjunction with other attorneys or referral sources. These seminars serve two purposes:
1). They provide valuable information to people who need it.
2). They position you as an expert in your field.
Holding a seminar on a different topic each month gives you a reason to get some folks together in your office. Even if you only have 10-15 people attend, those are now 10-15 “sales people” who will be referring you to their friends and neighbors.
If you can work with a local civic organization or religious group and have them host or sponsor your educational events, you may have a more significant audience and a larger “sales force”.
Look for trade magazines in your niche and submit articles regularly. Many of these publications need content and their editors are thrilled when people send them high-quality information.
Local newspapers often have guest columns written by influential members of the community. Find out how you can become one of those influential people.
Send your newsletter to editors of all trade magazines and local newspapers. You never know who will read it and call with a potential lead.
There are probably twenty more things you can and should be doing to raise your profile in the community. The real key is not so much WHAT you are doing…The key is that YOU ARE doing SOMETHING.
Doing NOTHING is easy. Doing NOTHING gets you the results you already have.
Get up, get going and get clients.
Your Law Firm is Leaking
Each and every month you lose influence over your clients. Each month some of the people who have paid you the highest fees or done the most work with you become less and less interested in you. Each month your stellar reputation fades a little more in the minds of the folks who refer you new clients And most people are probably not doing anything about it.
Because most people are lazy.
You lose 10% of your influence with your clients, prospects and referral sources for every 30 days you do not have contact with them.
This means ten months from now, the great client you had lunch with today will have forgotten all about you. It means the doctor who sent you that great referral last week will have a hard time remembering what you do for a living. It means the business owner you met at the networking event yesterday will not recognize you if you hit him with your car next spring.
So what is the solution?
The answer is to start communicating with these people. Each month you should have some kind of communication with your clients, prospective clients and referral sources. This communication can be a newsletter, it can be a card or it can be a phone call or an email. It really doesn’t matter how you interact with them. You simply want to remind them that you are here and ready to help them and the people they know.
Some people will say: “I don’t have the money!”
Do you have a real business or are you just playing around? You need to invest money in your client acquisition efforts in order to develop a real business (a law firm is a business by the way).
It costs less than a dollar to purchase and mail a greeting card each month. It costs about $2 to send out a printed newsletter (in small quantity). Email is practically free – just type and hit send.
But some people will need to be convinced. Here’s how the math works:
You mail 1000 newsletters at $2 each (the cost for printing and mailing). You mail 1000 greeting cards at $1 each. You type and send 1000 emails to the people within your database (only to those from whom you have received permission). You do these three things every month. That is a total monthly expense of $3000.
Let’s say it takes you three months to see any business from these efforts. So you have spent $9,000 in keeping up with the most valuable 1000 people in your database.
On the first day of the fourth month you get a client as a direct result of these efforts. This client is your average client. And your average client pays you $10,000 in fees.
Was your investment worth it?
Will you get more than one client from these efforts?
Most likely. There is a cumulative effect to this kind of system. After about six months you will start to see more and more interest in your services. It takes some people a little longer to absorb the information and react.
Will you get more clients by doing this compared to doing nothing?
What are you waiting for?
If you need a kick in the rear end and want some help in setting up this type of system, give me a call. If you want me to show you how, I will. If you want me to set it up, I will. If you want me to do this for you each and every month I will.
You can be lazy and outsource this system to me or I can show you how to do this for yourself. The choice is yours but doing NOTHING is the worst choice you can possibly make.
Call now. 1.888.692.5531