Too often, digital marketers focus almost all of their attention on the most challenging marketing objective there is: turning complete strangers into strong leads through content marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and email drip campaigns. The reality is, though, that most of the attorneys we work with at LaFleur Legal Marketing don’t get the majority of their cases this way, and they never will.
In fact, leads generated from scratch tend to follow the Pareto principle (or the 80/20 rule, as most people know it): They take up 80 percent of the resources, but only produce 20 percent of the total results.
That’s not to say, of course, that generating new leads and guiding them through the sales funnel with digital marketing tools isn’t important. That hard-earned extra 20 percent can make the difference between a profitable business and an unprofitable one, between a law firm taking on a new partner or letting one go, or between scaling your business up or scaling it back. Most firms would be thrilled to get a 20 percent boost in new clients at any given time.
What it does mean, though, is that maximizing your referrals from existing clients and peer firms should be a priority for your business and its digital marketing strategy at all times. Compared to the process of generating leads from scratch, it’s relatively simple and produces an enormous return on investment. If you’re not focused on maximizing referrals, you’re essentially forsaking the easy money — the grease that makes the rest of the digital marketing gears glide.
In case you’re not sure whether your firm is making the most of its referral opportunities right now, we’ve compiled a list of five essential tips that can boost your referral rates and provide jumping-off points for other ideas, too. And of course, if you need help executing any of these ideas or are already employing them but aren’t getting the results you want, the dedicated team at LaFleur Legal Marketing is only a click or phone call away.
(What won’t make our list of points here, by the way, is the one that should go without saying: If you want referrals, create an experience that you would refer to someone. Provide a great service to your clients and be the professional advocate and expert they want to recommend to a friend, co-worker, or peer. Pay attention to the details, from the way you greet clients and the effort you put in to make yourself accessible to the amenities in your office. Find ways to let the people who hire you know that they matter, and do it in a way that’s honest to your firm’s brand and your personality.)
Assuming you’re delivering a great product accompanied by excellent customer service, then you’ve got the foundation that every referral starts with. Next, try implementing these tips to elevate your firm’s reputation and drive even more referrals for the future.
If your firm is following digital marketing best practices for law firms, then content marketing should be a cornerstone of your strategy, and you should be producing plenty of quality content for your prospective clients and peers to digest. Packaging this content into a monthly newsletter is an excellent way to drive engagement with existing clients and bolster your reputation as an active and vibrant thought leader among your peers.
In general, an effective newsletter should include images, links, and overviews for some of your strongest recent blog content. Older blog articles aren’t off-limits, either, especially if they’re in-depth and merit a second look, or if they pertain to legal issues or current events that are ongoing or have seen important developments recently.
Your newsletter should also share any recent news or announcements from the firm that your audience might find interesting or relevant. This can include important professional developments like case results and events that your attorneys are attending or sponsoring in the legal world, but don’t underestimate the power of “slice-of-life” information that briefs people about daily goings-on in the office and shows off your staff’s personality, either. Content like this tends to give your communications a more personal touch and make people feel invested in the real human beings behind your firm’s brand.
Of course, you won’t have much to publish in your newsletter if you don’t have a robust content marketing strategy in place. If your firm’s blog and social media presences aren’t active, then you’ll want to get these critical content sources up and running before you worry about leveraging them to drive referrals through a newsletter.
#2: Keep in Touch with Existing and Past Clients
Many attorneys that we work with simply keep in touch with clients as a matter of course. Checking in with clients even after their case concludes is a natural outgrowth of the close relationships that attorneys and their clients often forge during complex cases, and it’s an excellent way to drive referrals in an organic fashion, too.
When case workload gets heavy or a trial comes around, however, it’s easy to let relationships with past clients fall by the wayside amidst the deluge of legal work. Automated email campaigns and monthly newsletters both provide a way to keep past clients up-to-date about your firm’s latest news and to remind them of your relationship — although they should never be used as a wholesale substitute for personalized, one-to-one interactions over the long term.
Another aspect of client follow-up that many attorneys struggle with involves soliciting reviews from satisfied clients. Not only are reviews on sites like Yelp, Avvo, and Google Places an important part of your web presence, but they also create engagement among reviewers — a client who takes the time to write a review of your business and publish it is much more likely to feel invested in your firm and to actually recommend your services on additional channels or in conversation.
Of course, no one likes to hassle clients for reviews, especially if it requires follow-up and multiple requests. Unfortunately, in the case of soliciting reviews, we find that automated email follow-up rarely yields satisfactory results. In this case, there really is no substitute for a personal request (and additional follow-up if necessary) from you or a member of your team. Often, the point when your firm delivers a check from a successful financial recovery is one of the best times to broach this subject, as the person’s case and the details of their relationship with you are as fresh in their mind as they will ever be.
#3: Create Relationships with Other Businesses
Other law firms are the most obvious source of referrals, and we’ve seen several clients who sustained their business for years almost exclusively by receiving referrals from their peers. However, other firms can only refer cases to you if they know about you and think of you when the time comes, and they’re far more likely to do this if they interact with you, your firm, and your brand on a regular basis.
To this end, you need to form relationships with other firms who aren’t direct competitors and keep them in the loop when it comes to your team’s activity. This can be as easy as sending them your newsletter with your most recent content and announcements (as we outlined above), but corresponding via Facebook or LinkedIn to congratulate your peers on important professional developments or comment on their content can create an even more lasting impression. Even just sending a quick greeting or warm regards on an important day, like another attorney’s birthday or a firm’s anniversary, can make an important difference in strengthening the types of professional relationships that can lead to referrals.
Remember that referring cases is a two-way street. Other firms are far more likely to send valuable cases your way if you’ve done the same for them in the past or if they believe you’re likely to do so in the future. You may even want to establish a formal partnership with another firm you respect in which you agree to refer certain types of cases to each other.
Other law firms aren’t the only types of businesses that can provide referrals, either. Non-competing businesses with overlapping client bases can be an extremely important source of referrals. For example, attorneys who specialize in personal injury law can create a valuable channel for referrals by building relationships with local healthcare professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, and chiropractors.
#4: Connect with Local Organizations
Local trade groups, volunteer networks, nonprofits, schools, and other community organizations provide a great opportunity to raise your firm’s profile in your area and expand your local network. Most attorneys that we work with find giving back time to their community extremely gratifying, and doing so will provide you with even more positive activity to report in your firm’s monthly newsletter, too. When your peers and past clients see these activities, they’ll be that much more likely to think of your firm when a referral conversation comes up, as will the staff members and volunteers at these organizations.
When you and your staff do engage in volunteer work or other community engagement activities, don’t be shy about publicizing it on your firm’s blog and social media profiles, either. Informing your audience about your firm’s positive contributions to the community isn’t about bragging or trumping up your accomplishments — it’s simply a matter of providing valuable information to your peers and prospective clients, who generally want to know as much about a firm and the character of its staff as possible before they make a referral or hiring decision.
#5: Show Your Appreciation for Clients Who Refer You
One of the best ways to make sure that clients and peers who have already referred you keep doing so is to show your gratitude for the effort they’ve taken to help your business. This appreciation can be as simple as a hand-written thank-you card with a personalized message, but it could also extend to a small, thoughtful gift.
Make sure that you understand and abide by your state bar association’s rules, however, when it comes to giving gifts for referrals — especially items like gift cards that have clear monetary value. Many state bars have restrictions on this sort of gift-giving. For example, the rules on lawyer advertising and solicitation from the Virginia State Bar forbid attorneys from giving anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services, but make an exception for “nominal gifts of gratitude that are neither intended nor reasonably expected to be a form of compensation for recommending a lawyer’s services.”
In other words, not only does thanking people and giving tokens of appreciation for referrals not have to be expensive or extravagant, but it probably shouldn’t be if you want to stay on your state bar’s good side. When it comes to gift-giving, think useful items like branded mugs, apparel, and office supplies, and avoid trinkets that will just get tossed out. If you want to be a bit more creative, consider the sort of useful everyday items that people never purchase or think about until they need them (umbrellas, anyone?)
If you or someone in your office is feeling craft-y and has the time, you could even assemble a small decorated and personalized package of candy and snacks; Pinterest has lots of great ideas to get you started (as long as you remember to keep it simple and avoid falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole). You could also enter clients who submit reviews into a raffle for a bigger-ticket item (within reason) if you don’t think the small stuff will appeal to your clients.
Ready to Take the Next Step in Driving Referrals? Contact LaFleur Legal Marketing Today
The tips we’ve outlined above are just the starting points for an effective strategy to drive referrals. At LaFleur Legal Marketing, we help our clients generate new leads and referrals from existing clients through innovative solutions like automated email marketing campaigns, charitable donations and community partnerships, and responsive engagement with social media.
If you’d like to learn more about how your firm can maximize referrals and network more effectively with other businesses, call us today at (888) 222-1512 or complete our quick online contact form, and we’ll get in touch with you right away. We can’t wait to hear from you.
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Virginia State Bar. (2016). Rule 7.3: Direct contact with professional clients. Professional Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.vsb.org/pro-guidelines/index.php/rules/information-about-legal-services/rule7-3/