Stephen Fairley 2013-07-17 00:06:15
Proven Strategies for Increasing Your Client Referral and Retention Rates 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 best-selling 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. According to the ABA, 46 percent of people surveyed say they go to a trusted source like a family member or friend to find an attorney. That certainly comes as news to no one. Referrals continue to play a huge part in new business for attorneys because they are based on trust, and trust is based on the customer experience. An old saying goes like this: people will forget what you tell them. They may even forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel. One of my employees recently had an experience that illustrates this powerful marketing principle beautifully. She relates... “I went to the dermatologist for my annual skin scan, a necessary evil when you live in Arizona, and as usual, I was handed several forms to update my medical records. The receptionist also handed me another piece of paper and asked me to read it as I waited for the doctor, telling me it was mine to keep. “As I read it over I had several impressions. First, it was clear the doctor had written it himself. My doctor has quite the personality, and it shone through immediately. The gist of his message was this: There are circumstances when I will have to take a piece of your skin for a biopsy. Your insurance company requires that we send it to their preferred lab, where results are read by machine. However, my preferred method is to send it to an alternate lab, where results are examined by medical technicians and shared with me. This gives me the opportunity to confer directly with the biopsy specialist about your diagnosis. I am ultimately the responsible medical party for your health, and this provides me with the comfort of knowing I have obtained the most accurate diagnosis. You should know that your insurance company may charge you a bit more for using this alternate lab since it is not their policy to use them as a preferred vendor, but it is my policy to obtain the most accurate diagnosis. “I was unbelievably impressed by this. I did not care one whit that the biopsy may cost me a little more out-of-pocket. But I certainly cared immensely that my doctor explained this to me in a way that clearly demonstrated his top priority was my health! If anyone I know ever needs a referral to a dermatologist, this guy is certainly at the top of my list!” This story is a perfect illustration of how doing something simple to build trust and a relationship with your clients can come back to you many times over in new client referrals and repeat business. However, there is much more you can be doing to increase your number of client referrals. If you want and need more referrals and they aren’t coming to you like they used to, maybe you are doing something wrong. Here is my list of the 10 Reasons Attorneys Don’t Get More Referrals: 1. No goal. Have you set a specific goal for a specific number of referrals you want to receive as part of your law firm marketing plan? Did you break it down by current clients, former clients, attorney referrals and non-attorney referrals? If not, you’re just going down the same old road with no map. 2. No gratitude. Have you thanked your referral sources and kept in touch with them, just to say “hi?” Do you thank people online who say nice things about you? I met with an attorney the other day who writes a handwritten thank you note to every person who sends him a referral. What are you doing to express your thanks? 3. No response. Have you been tardy about responding to a referral? I recently had a good friend of mine who called me for a referral. His brother went in for a routine surgery (if there is such a thing) and unfortunately passed away. They believe there may have been medical malpractice involved. I called an attorney I know in Atlanta where the surgery took place and left him a voice mail. Within 45 minutes he had called me back and within 90 minutes was on the phone with my friend. I was immediately impressed by his responsiveness and was grateful I had selected him to send the referral to. 4. No engagement. Are you engaging potential referrals on your social networking sites, or do you just leave boring “hire me” messages? Social media is about being social and engaging people online, yet far too often I see attorneys “shoving” their content down the throats of their followers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Social media can be used to sell your services, but only after you have established that you are trustworthy, reliable, responsive and authentic with your audience. Your primary goal must be to engage people with your social media, not simply sell them a service. 5. No reaction. If someone comments on your blog, do you respond? Then follow-up with an email to further the discussion. 6. No participation. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, “Social media doesn’t work. I set up a Facebook fan page and haven’t landed a single client from it!” Did you really believe it would be that simple? Seriously? If it was easy to build a million dollar law firm there wouldn’t be any attorneys out of work or struggling to pay their bills. Setting up your social media is just the first step, you need to then build your connections and participate in online conversations with them. You can start the process by commenting on other people’s Facebook posts, endorsing them for specific skills on LinkedIn, retweeting their posts on Twitter, sending out a simple survey, asking thought-provoking questions, and responding to them when they engage you. 7. No requests. If you don’t ask for a referral, chances are pretty good that you won’t get one. There are at least five times you should ask clients for a referral: at the very beginning of your legal relationship with them, right after a “win,” just before any major holiday, anytime they say “thank you,” and every month for the rest of your practice! Encourage everyone you communicate with through email or e-newsletter or on your social sites to tell a friend about you and your services. Here’s an easy way to ask that I teach my consulting clients, “The best way you can say thank you is by sending us a referral. If you value the services we have provided you please keep us in mind when speaking with your friends and colleagues.” 8. No staying power. Keeping in touch with current and former clients is critical to getting more referrals, even when they are not currently looking for an attorney. You never know when a friend, family member, colleague or neighbor may need an attorney. One of the most cost effective ways to keep in touch is with a monthly newsletter. 9. No reciprocity. When it comes to referrals, do you give as good as you get? Don’t expect other professionals to continue to send you referrals if it’s a one way street. You need to actively look for ways to promote the services of the professionals who send you referrals. You can do this on your blog, with your social media sites, by hosting an open house for your clients and inviting them, having them give a seminar to your clients, or by asking them to write an article for your monthly newsletter. 10. No personality. Let your true self shine through in everything you do. Bob Berg in his best-selling book “Endless Referrals” makes the point that people do business with people they know, like and trust. Be authentic with your clients and your referral sources. I’m convinced one of the biggest reasons that attorneys don’t receive more referrals is because they don’t take the time to educate and remind their clients of the various services they offer. Most clients immediately put their attorney in a box and believe the only service the lawyer offers is the one they used. I remember a conversation I had with an attorney who practices business law. He was upset because a former client, whom he’d helped set up an LLC three months earlier, referred a competing law firm to a friend looking for representation in a multimillion dollar lawsuit. When the lawyer explained that business litigation was precisely his specialty, the client was shocked and said, “I’m sorry, but you really need to do a better job informing me of what you do and what kind of cases you want because I don’t keep track of that information!” How much business have you lost because your clients simply aren’t aware of the various services your law firm can provide? One way to increase client referrals is to make certain that your clients can accurately explain who your ideal target market is. Your ideal target market is the person or company most likely to hire you initially, repeatedly and at the highest profit margin. With so many attorneys struggling to define their ideal client, it’s no wonder if your clients don’t know whom they should refer to you. Here’s a small challenge: this week, ask three of your clients to describe your ideal client and listen to how accurately they respond. Note to self: be sure you can clearly articulate what a great referral looks like before asking them. Remember that memory is elusive and just because you wowed them once and they sent you a referral doesn’t mean they will always remember you. Don’t take referral relationships for granted. Finding another high-quality lawyer is easy and it takes more than quality to make a lasting impression - it takes a relationship. Just like any relationship, you need to be connecting with your current and former referral sources every month to ensure the health and longevity of the affiliation. If you’re like most attorneys, you have helped hundreds of people over the years, so staying connected to them every 4-6 weeks can be an overwhelming task. Here are a few tips we recommend for keeping in touch with your clients: Use a contact management system. Have your assistant enter their contact info into a database program like Infusionsoft, ACT!, Goldmine or Salesforce.com. Information is only as useful as it is accessible. Collect their email addresses. Add a place for their email addresses on your intake form. Send out a “Keep In Touch” letter to former clients thanking them for the opportunity to serve them. Conduct an annual client satisfaction survey. Ask clients what they liked most and least about your firm as well as what upcoming challenges you could assist them with. Offer them a special report or “Top 10 Tips” sheet and request they update their contact information. Send them practical, educational information every month. E-newsletters are the best way to stay connected. Make them short. Focus on informing, educating and adding value to your clients (do not turn this into a sales pitch). We recommend Constant Contact to manage your e-newsletter. If you want help creating and sending out your newsletter we invite you to give us a call as that’s one of the ways we can help you market and grow your law firm. Rainmakers don’t wait for the door to knock or the phone to ring or the referral to come in. They take the initiative, stay in touch, and focus on serving their referral sources. If you’d like to learn more proven strategies for increasing referrals and improving your client retention rate, I invite you to attend a Rainmaker Retreat, our two-day law firm marketing intensive. We hold these seminars every month around the country–go to www.RainmakerRetreat.com to see upcoming dates and locations.
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