I’ve got a list, her name is Sal. 15 miles on the Erie Canal

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A personal injury attorney friend sent me an email. He said, “I have a list of about 500 auto repair facilities. I want to approach them via letter, include a copy of my book [for auto accident clients], and ask for referrals.”

He wanted my opinion, particularly about what he could say that might motivate them to send him business. He said he can’t promise to send them referrals.

“I don’t think you’ll get too far sending a letter,” I said, “unless you enclose a blank check.”

These are body shop owners. You might as well be negotiating with the mob.

Many (most?) body shops have lawyers they “work with” (meaning they pay them for referrals). If not the owner themselves, the manager or someone who deals with customers is getting kickbacks from lawyers for their referrals.

They don’t care how good you are as an attorney. They care about “how much?”

At least that’s what you have to assume.

Not all of them. But enough to make the proposed project more than a bit challenging for someone who isn’t willing to offer illegal kickbacks.

Okay, let’s assume that 40% don’t take kickbacks. I know that’s probably crazy but hey, I’m feeling magnanimous today. Out of a list of 500, that means you might have a shot with 200.

But, some already have lawyers (in your area) they send business to. No cash changes hands, but they do get some referrals from those lawyers, not necessarily on a quid pro quo basis, but because they do good work or provide those lawyers’ clients with additional service and value.

So now, still guessing here, let’s say that leaves 20 body shops who might be open to sending you referrals. How do you find out which ones? You have to talk to them and feel them out. And you probably have to do this yourself since they need to feel you out, too. And the best way to do this is to do it in person.

So. . . how about if we look at another idea?

What if, instead of asking for referrals you contact the shop owners and ask them if they accept advertising. Your letter (or a phone call) will weed out a lot of them and that’s exactly what you want. Some will be open to advertising, probably those who don’t accept kickbacks and aren’t already committed to other lawyers, and you can talk to them and negotiate a deal.

You put up a sign in their waiting room, buy space on their invoices or on their paper floor mats, a banner on their website, and so on. You pay them $X dollars per month and see what happens.

You can also provide them with a display rack for your books which they can put on their counter and sell your books to their customers at a discounted price. They keep 80-100% of the sales price as their advertising fee. You’ll probably have to offer them an additional fee on top of that for putting your rack in a prominent place, like food companies do with grocery stores.

Another option: you provide free copies of your book which they can give to their customers as a way to provide extra value to them and distinguish themselves from other lawyers who don’t. You might have to pay them a monthly fee in addition, but everything is negotiable, right?

How to get referrals without paying for referrals 

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