7 Steps to Build a Robust Referral Base Building a strong referral base should be a top priority for every law firm, every year. Below are seven proven steps you can take to grow your referral base and to catalyze multiple, repeat referrals from your contacts. All are designed to keep your name and reputation top of mind with your connections and to reward and recognize them appropriately to encourage referrals short-term and long-term as part of your overall law firm marketing strategy.

  1. Educate Your Contacts About Referrals: Don’t assume people are actively thinking of whom they can refer to you. Let them know your practice relies on referrals and how much you appreciate them passing your name along. Educate them on what makes a good referral; what does your perfect client look like? The more information you can give them, the better chances they will remember you when that person calls them on the phone.
  2. Immediate Appreciation: When a contact does refer you, call or send a thank-you note to both parties the very same day.
  3. Reward: Within the next two days, send your source a small gift of appreciation like a handwritten thank you card or perhaps even a gift card to Starbucks or Amazon.com.
  4. Recognition: Once you’ve successfully scheduled a meeting with the potential client, email your source to let them know you have scheduled that meeting and that you will update them again if the referral signs up.
  5. Reward and Recognition 2: When the referral becomes a new client, send a “level 2 gift” to your source. A level 2 gift should be something your source will value and appreciate. However, be aware of dollar-amount gift limits your referrals are able to accept and be sure not to run afoul of the fee splitting prohibitions with non-attorneys in your ethics rules. Also, be sure to include a personal note that tells your source the positive outcome of their recommendation.
  6. Stay Top of Mind: Even when your referral sources haven’t recently referred, stay top of mind. Send them a monthly newsletter or a note periodically thanking them for past and future referrals. The holidays provide you with the perfect opportunity to get back in touch, but too many attorneys focus all their keep-in-touch efforts around this busy season. To make sure you stay top of mind, you need to stay in touch regularly throughout the year.
  7. Rank Your Referral Sources. Here is the criteria I recommend so you know who you should spend more time with:
    1. Referral sources who have the same target market as you and have already sent you at least one great referral. Spend most of your time cultivating these relationships.
    2. Referral sources who have a very similar target market and have good potential to send you great referrals. Consider holding a joint marketing event or seminar to assist them in making the referral to you.
    3. Referral sources who have some potential, but may serve a different market and have not referred anyone to you yet.