While attorneys always covet referrals, many fall short when it comes to cultivating referral sources as part of their law firm marketing efforts. I believe that part of this stems from the attorney mindset of always being the helper, which often stands in your way of asking for the help you need to gain more referrals.
Getting a referral from a client really starts with this 5-step process:
- Be easy to do business with. Automation is great for many functions, but it should always be viewed as to the impact it has on the experience your clients have with your firm.
- Over-educate. Prepare a new client intake package that educates new clients on every aspect of your business.
- Over-deliver. Over-deliver not only in the services you provide, but by keeping in touch with all your clients. Many attorneys focus on getting new clients to the detriment of keeping contact with existing or old clients. Remember who got you to where you already are.
- Get feedback. Client satisfaction surveys are wonderful ways to get feedback that will help you improve upon areas of your firm you probably weren’t even aware needed improvement. There are many free survey services out there that can help you implement a quick email survey; use these to ask clients about your services and give them the chance to be heard. They will appreciate and remember it.
- Say thank you. Make it a habit to send personal thank you notes or make calls to clients whose business you value.
Education is Key
If you want more referrals, then you need to kick the education process into high gear. To provide you with great referrals, your referral sources need to know the answers to the following questions:
What does a great referral look like to you?
- Be brief, but clearly articulate it
- Give one or two examples, but make sure the examples reinforce each other and are not opposites or extremes. Focus on your typical client.
- Be specific, not generic. Don’t say, “anyone who needs a divorce lawyer.” Instead, say “a small business owner or executive who is considering divorce.”
How do I make a referral to your office?
- Do you prefer an email introduction, a phone call or an in-person meeting?
- Will you call the referral or do they need to call you?
What do I need to tell referrals about you and your firm?
- Be specific. Don’t list every practice area, focus on the one or two major areas where your best clients come from.
- Use language that non-attorneys understand. Don’t use terms like family law, civil litigation or commercial litigation because they won’t know what these terms mean and they won’t ask you to clarify.
What’s in it for me?
- If your state allows you to give a referral fee to other attorneys, do it.
- Otherwise, at least send a thank-you card or small gift or anything to acknowledge their referral, even if it doesn’t end up as a paying client.
Why should I refer to you?
- Most people believe lawyers don’t want or need referrals or they get all their clients from their own advertising efforts.
- Help them understand that your business is just like any other profession and relies on referrals to friends, family members, colleagues, business associates, etc.
- Educate them on how you are different from other attorneys and why they should send referrals to you. Do not say you are similar to other attorneys!
Do you charge a consultation fee and, if so, how much?
- Should you charge a consultation fee? It depends.
- If you have too many unqualified prospects, then charge a consult fee to get rid of the tire kickers. If you need more prospects, then make the consult complimentary.
- If you usually charge a fee, tell them how much
- If you normally charge a consult fee but will waive it under certain conditions, tell them what those conditions are.
- If you offer complimentary consultations, be sure to tell them what that looks like (not a sales pitch/over the phone or in person/how long does it go, etc.
What information can I give to interested prospects?
- Provide your referral sources with your business cards, brochures if you have them and a one-sheet of your skills, abilities, practice areas, etc. with your website address.
You cannot assume that the people you are counting on as referral sources know everything you know about your firm and why you are the best fit for someone they know. And once you educate them, keep doing it in informal ways that help keep you in their minds as someone who can solve specific problems for their friends, family members or peers.