Stephen Fairley 2013-03-06 00:13:34
3 Myths Attorneys Believe About Referrals Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, LLC, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in small law firms. Over 8,000 attorneys have benefited from applying their proven Rainmaker Marketing System. Stephen is a bestselling author of 10 books and a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert. He has appeared in the American Bar Association’s Journal, Harvard Management Update, Inc and Entrepreneur. To receive your FREE copy of his book “Top 10 Marketing Mistakes Attorneys Make” visit www. TheRainmakerInstitute.com or call 888-588-5891. At The Rainmaker Institute, we specialize in helping legal practitioners generate more revenue and increase the quality and quantity of their referrals. One of the things attorneys most frequently asked us is: “How do I find more clients fast?” The answer to this question is deceptively simple, yet amazingly complex to resolve. Referrals are near the top of the list when it comes to the best ways of finding new clients, but there are four pervasive myths I would like to dispel about referrals. First Myth: Clients Make The Best Referral Sources Clients are generally not the best source of referrals to your law firm. This surprises a lot of legal professionals when I tell them this is a myth. While clients can be a good source for referrals, this isn’t always true. Clients are merely the most obvious source of referrals, not the best source. There are simply too many variables you cannot control when trying to get more referrals from clients: Do they know all the different services you offer? Can they accurately explain who your perfect client is? Will they remember you when they meet someone who needs your legal services? Can they accurately tell others what makes you different from your competitors? Did they hire you to resolve a legal issue that could be potentially embarrassing to them? Did they just receive a large bill from you? Was their entire experience with your law firm positive or were there some “issues”? The truth of the matter is that clients are not dependable. Most legal professionals find referrals from current clients happen haphazardly, not consistently. While a lawyer may get a few great leads from a current client, it is not a reliable source. That being said, you shouldn’t intentionally ignore potential client referrals. Every law firm should have a long-term client education plan that positions your law firm, explains your current services, and keeps your current clients informed as to what’s going on in your firm. One of the most cost effective ways to do this is with a monthly newsletter. Our clients consistently tell us sending out an electronic newsletter every month is one of the best ways to keep their firm in front of their potential referral sources. Second Myth: Most Referrals Come From Other Attorneys This is another commonly held myth among attorneys. According to industry research, only about 25% of an established attorney’s practice is referred from other legal professionals, so logically about 75% of clients come from other sources (this may vary greatly by practice area). A good tip is to set up an easy tracking system as part of your client intake file and then review on a quarterly basis where your leads are coming from. There are three keys to increasing referrals from other attorneys: First, do not try to be a generalist. The fastest way to lose referrals from other attorneys is by practicing several different kinds of law. In fact, for every practice area you add over your primary one will cost you many referrals over time. For example, if the vast majority of your practice is transactional business law and occasionally you will take a litigation matter for an existing client who practically begs you to help them, but you tell other attorneys you also do litigation, every litigation attorney now sees you as a competitor not a referral source. Second, actively build relationships with at least half a dozen new referral sources each year (I know, easier said than done), but the best way to have your practice “crash and burn” is to totally rely on a handful of referral sources. As the saying goes, “it’s not a matter of if, but when” one or more of those referral sources will dry up. You need to keep expanding your network and there’s no better time than the present to get started on that. Third, keep in touch with them on a consistent basis, at least five to ten times per year. This can be a combination of emails, LinkedIn or Facebook comments, newsletters, phone calls, small thank you gifts, and in person quarterly visits. Unlike client referrals, referrals through other legal professionals must be reciprocal. If you want to build a thriving network of attorney referral sources you must be prepared to go out of your way to generate referrals for them as well. Other legal professionals are not the only people who make great referral sources. Non-legal professionals who target a similar clientele are often your best sources of referrals. For example, if you are a business transactional attorney then your best bet for getting more referrals is to build relationships with accountants, financial advisors, investment professional, commercial real estate brokers, local business leaders, business bankers, managers at community banks, specialized consultants, and other professionals who have contact with and influence over your target market. Use LinkedIn to find these people, make the connection online and then send them an email or call them for an invitation to lunch or coffee. Third Myth: Networking Groups Make Great Referral Sources Over the last 12 years of helping legal professionals grow their referral base, we have found that formal networking events (like trade shows and chambers of commerce, etc) work exceptionally well for a very small group of attorneys— and not at all for the majority of attorneys. There are a couple reasons why: first, they attend the wrong kind of group— one filled with their peers not their prospects. I recommend joining your local bar association, but not for the purpose of gaining new business. It may happen occasionally, but not nearly as often as you would expect. You are much better off targeting an industry trade group filled with your perfect clients or best referral sources, not your competitors. The second reason why networking does not work for most attorneys is they don’t know how to network properly and so it becomes a game to see how many business cards they can pass out in 2 hours. Networking is more about quality than quantity. The purpose of attending a networking event is to connect with someone who you can later invite to meet with you one-on-one. The third reason why networking fails is attorneys do not create a plan for following up in a timely manner. You have about 48 hours after an event to follow up with a “hot lead” or they will likely forget about you. We had one attorney client who reported building a substantial book of business through networking. He was a transactional business attorney and joined the local chapter of the CPA Society as an associate member. He then volunteered to chair the “New Members” committee, which no one else wanted. Every time a new member joined he would make it a point to reach out to them via phone, welcome them to the association, take them out to lunch, learn about their business and goals, and then make a few introductions to people they should know. Now that’s smart networking! Following up after the event is one of the biggest steps attorneys skip. You need to get in touch with them in the days following the event. Ask if they want to meet for a cup of coffee or for lunch. Prove that you listened to what they were talking about by telling them you would like to continue your conversation about their practice. Tell them you’re interested and act interested. By actively listening to what their practice goals are and then introducing them to people who may need their help or may be a good contact for them will help you create a solid base of referral partners. Accidental Referrals Building a referral-based law firm does not happen by accident. Referral relationships must be cultivated. Sure you may get an occasional referral from a former client or someone you know, but if you want to take your legal marketing to the next level, you need a systematic approach to developing more and better relationships with a wide variety of referral sources. A key component of your referral plan is to create systems for staying connected with prospects, clients and referral partners on a regular, consistent basis. You need to stay fresh in the minds of all your possible referral sources. Part of this system should include: • Monthly Newsletters – keep them apprised of what your firm is doing, new employees, new practice areas, and content that is beneficial to them. • Annual Client Satisfaction Survey – find out what your clients think about the services they have received from your firm and how you can improve. • Keep In Touch Letters – on a regular basis, every 2-3 months, send a letter to referrals, prospects and clients just to touch base. This top of mind awareness is crucial for generating referrals. • Referral Education System – your referral sources need to know what kind of prospects you are looking for. It does no good for them to refer prospects to you who are not looking for what your firm offers. Keep your referral sources updated on your practice areas and any changes in your firm if you want to receive high-quality referrals.
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