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Referral Marketing 101

By September 27, 2019October 13th, 2020Marketing

The most powerful kind of marketing for solo and small firm lawyers is referral marketing.

Some people might call it schmoozing, or relationship marketing. What you call it isn’t as important as understanding how it works, and how you can make it work even better.

Why does it work so well? Simple, because it leverages trust that you’ve already established with people you know.

Building trust with strangers is hard. And that’s what online marketing is all about. But referral marketing is easy because you’re exploiting trusting relationships you already have.

Well, the word “exploiting” is perhaps a bit harsh. But again, let’s not get distracted by nomenclature.

The key to making referral marketing work better is to do it intentionally and strategically. As opposed to not doing anything more than hoping that serendipity takes care of everything for you.

Lawyers who say “well, I just rely on word of mouth” are almost certainly not as successful in getting referral as they would be if they were more intentional and strategic.

Some of those lawyers don’t care if they get more business. Perhaps they’ve practiced so long that they have a gigantic network of potential referral sources. That’s great for them, but I don’t recommend you copy that strategy if you don’t yet have an excess of work coming in via referrals.

I’m guessing, if you’re like most lawyers, that you’d like to get more referrals and you’d like to get better quality referrals.

Is that true?

Great, then you need to act intentionally and strategically.

So, here’s the simple formula that drives every kind of referral marketing. One that’s based on deep-seated human nature.

  1. Remind your referral sources that you exist, and refresh their memory about what kind of legal cases you handle (or which ones you most want to handle).
  2. Regularly engage with your referral sources—so you can explain what you do (or remind them), and so you can emphasize how much you care about helping your clients (people prefer to send cases to lawyers that they sense are motivated by something other than just earning a fee).
  3. Reasonable – Always be reasonable in how you communicate with prospective referral sources (first, don’t be annoying; better yet, be low-key and humble).

Now, if you’re wondering how to put these 3 R’s into practice, here are some concrete action-steps:

  • Take prospective referral sources to lunch or coffee from time to time to regularly engage with them.
  • Be reasonable in how often you communicate with them (unlike your mom, you don’t need to call them every day).
  • Use your lunches or interactions to casually remind them what you do, and what you can do for them.
  • Call prospects up every once in a while to chat, see what’s new, and remind them about what you do.
  • Send out emails with articles that you think would be of interest to them, in a no-strings-attached way. This also reminds them that you’re available and care about them.
  • Send out branded notepads (which should indicate the kind of work you do, to remind them) with your email address and phone number so they can easily get in touch with you if they want to make a referral
  • Engage with your prospects on social media by liking their posts
  • Also, on social media you can offer helpful snippets of advice (using links to useful articles). You’ll earn bonus points if your social media messages establish that you care more about helping people than just earning money by representing them.
  • Link your social posts back to your website so prospects can easily visit your main online platform, and start to engage with you there. (For example, even if you don’t have a website you can use LinkedIn or Facebook pages to post your latest articles)
  • Show your knowledge through writing articles and doing speaking engagements – this is a reasonable way to show your authority and build rapport as an expert who can help people with their legal problems.

Do these things take time? Yes they do. But…

Doing these things is a low-cost, high-value strategy that helps you get more referrals from people who already know you and trust you.

P.S. If you want a practice optimized for remote work & virtual collaboration, get this 24-page guide.
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