Law Firm Marketing Plan Must Include Referral Source Targeting

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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.