How to build your referral network

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Your referral network is more than just people who are willing to send you clients. It includes people who are can introduce you to people they know who are influential in your target market.

This includes other professionals, business owners, consultants, sales people, and others who sell to or advise people in your niche. It also includes bloggers, authors, editors, meeting planners, podcasters, and others who have a list or a following.

It also includes people who can send traffic to your website, promote your events and offers, and provide you with testimonials and reviews.

Because a referral is more than just, “I have a new client for you”.

When you think of referrals this way, you realize that there are a lot of people you’d like to have in your network.

How do you find them?

The simplest way is to leverage your existing contacts. Your current and former clients, professional contacts, and other people who know, like and trust you, can lead you to people they know that you’d like to have in your network.

Prospective clients can also send you referrals and/or introduce you to others.

Okay, so what do you do?

Well, how aggressive are you willing to be?

If the answer is, “not very,” then simply stay in touch with everyone in your existing network.

Send them something useful–information, a checklist or form, your newsletter–and ask them to share it with people they know who might like to get a copy.

For better results, suggest who that might be–their colleagues, their clients, or their friends and family, for example.

You could also invite them to an event you’re conducting, and ask them to tell people about it.

Make sure you have a way to capture the email addresses of the people they tell about you. Build your list and you will build your referral network.

Now, if you’re willing to step things up a bit, pick up the phone or email a specific person you know. Tell them you’re building your network and could use their help. Ask them to introduce you to someone they know.

Ask a former client to contact their accountant or broker or former business partner, for example, and suggest that the two of you get together or speak on the phone.

Why should their contact speak to you? Because the two of you “might have some mutual business interests” or simply because the client thinks the two of you “should know each other”.

It doesn’t have to be brilliant. Just as you want to build your network, these other folks want to build theirs. With a mutual friend or client introducing you, everyone wins.

Here’s how to build your practice with email

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Do you talk too much?

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Many lawyers are verbose. They use 100 words to explain something when five or ten will do. They “bury the lead” under paragraphs or pages of background information. They clear their throat for ten minutes before they get to their first point.

Early in my career, I did this. I’d like to think I’ve nipped that habit in the bud.

Why are lawyers like this?

Could be because we were taught to be thorough, to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to persuade.

I’m sure some lawyers want to impress people with the depth of their knowledge, the breadth of their experience, or the thoroughness of their research.

Some want to display their intelligence. Some want to hide their shortcomings behind a wall of words.

And, in a profession that often equates value in terms of time, more words or pages or minutes can mean more income.

But most people, especially high-achieving, busy people, don’t want or need all the details. They want their lawyer to get to the point.

They want us to be more concise.

How do you do that? How do you write an email, memo, or article, or do a presentation, that clearly and concisely says what you want to say, and no more?

How do you persuade someone to do something or believe something, without taking them to school?

Knowing your audience helps. What do they already know about the subject? What questions are they likely to have? What problems do they want to solve, and what’s in it for them if they follow your advice?

Confine yourself to what you know your reader or listener wants or needs to know and leave the scholarship on the bookshelf.

Providing examples and stories helps. Help the reader understand what you mean, with fewer words, by showing instead of telling.

Re-writing and editing help. Cut out the fluff, use shorter sentences and paragraphs, and make the page scannable with lots of white space, bullet points and numbering.

More than anything, see if you can boil down your message to a single idea.

Ask yourself, “What’s the ONE thing I want my reader (or listener) to take away from this?”

What do you want them to know, believe, or do?

Use that as the lead to your presentation, the subject line in your email, or the conclusion of your article.

And once you’ve delivered that takeaway, stop talking.

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Why I don’t have an email signature

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At the end of my emails, after I “sign” my name, you won’t find anything more than a link to my website.

No social media links, logos, or images. No list of my credentials, disclaimers, or anything else.

This is true for both my newsletter and personal email.

Why do I do this?

One reason: I don’t want to look like everyone else.

When everything is pretty, you stand out by being ugly. When everyone’s email looks like an ad, a magazine article, or a web page, you stand out by looking like someone who banged out some words (to a friend) and clicked send.

I don’t want to look like I’m trying to impress anyone, or pushing products or services like a carnival barker.

That doesn’t mean I don’t promote anything. I do that in almost every email. But unless I’m writing a full-on sales pitch, my promotional efforts lean more towards “informing” or “recommending” rather than selling.

Email is a medium of personal communication. Even if it is sent to thousands, it’s just the two of us spillin some tea.

If you like what you read, if you’re interested in learning more, you can follow the link to my website, or follow the second link I provide to the applicable sales page, and see what it’s all about.

Like this: If you want to learn more about using email to build your practice, check out my email marketing for attorneys course.

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Clean up on aisle nine

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I’m cleaning up my filing system. Why? Because I’ve got too many digital files (and duplicates thereof), in too many folders, on too many hard drives and in too many cloud accounts.

It’s a mess and I’m in the process of cleaning it up.

The first step is to move everything into one digital pile, to eliminate duplicates and see what I’ve got.

(I still have some paper docs which I’ll scan and upload later.)

I’m using Google Drive but you can use any cloud service, a local drive, or both (i.e., to back up your backups).

My new system reflects the different roles or areas of focus in my life and consists of these top-level folders:

Personal, Business One, Business Two, and Miscellaneous. I also have an Inbox.

Each of the top level folders has sub-folders related to different areas of my work or personal life, or different steps in my workflow.

There are many ways to organize sub-folders:

  • Category
  • Date
  • People (Clients, Partners, Family, etc.)
  • Cases
  • Steps/stages
  • Type of media
  • Projects
  • Subject/topic

I’ll use different organizational structures for different areas of my life and for different projects.

As for file-naming, I plan to be specific but not too specific because it would take too much time to maintain this and because each file will enjoy the context of the folder(s) that house it, meaning I’ll have clues as to what something is by where it is filed.

When I’m done, I plan to add shortcuts to “frequently accessed files” on my desktop (Quick Access menu), and/or by adding a star in Google Drive.

And then, I’m going to re-organize my notes (in Evernote, etc.) with a similar setup.

This is a work in progress and I’m open to ideas. What does your file system look like?

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You’re not in the information delivery business

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Prospective clients visit your website and dig through your articles or posts. They watch your videos or listen to your podcasts. They consume your FAQs.

They have questions. You have answers. And I’m sure you do a good job of providing valuable information.

There’s just one thing.

If all you do is give people information and answer their questions, you’re dropping the marketing ball.

Prospective clients want information, it’s true. They visit your site, read your article, or watch your presentation because they’re curious about the law, their rights, their risks, and the solutions that are available to them.

If you satisfy their curiosity, however, by explaining the law and telling them everything they need to know, you’re not giving them a reason to hire you or take the next step in that direction.

Basic information? Sure. General guidelines? Of course. But anything you do beyond that is antithetical to the purpose of your marketing.

Which is to convert prospects into clients.

Look at your website. Look at your email sequences, brochures, ads, and other marketing communications. Are you satisfying curiosity by telling people everything, or building curiosity and inspiring them to call or write?

You’re not in the information delivery business. You use information to attract people who are looking for solutions, tell them enough to show them they’ve come to the right place, and persuade them to contact you.

Because if they don’t do that, they don’t get the help they need, and you don’t get the clients you want.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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Timeless or Timely?

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If you produce content for a blog, a newsletter, a podcast, or anywhere else, one question you need to answer is how much of that content should be evergreen.

Evergreen content is important because that’s what first-time visitors to your blog and new subscribers to your newsletter are looking for. They have questions or a problem and they’re looking for answers.

If you’re starting a new blog, make sure you have at least 10 or 15 evergreen posts to start out.

Talk about the kinds of things clients typically ask you about. Talk about problems and solutions, risks and benefits, frequently asked questions about your services, and the like.

These serve as the foundation of your blog, attracting visitors though search and sharing, and helping them to understand their situation and learn what you do and how you can help them.

Once you have some evergreen content posted, you can write about anything else, whether timeless or timely.

Write about your interesting cases or clients, news in your target market’s industry or niche, trends, ideas, and more.

Yes?

One more thing.

On a blog, you have the option to indicate the date each post was published, something I’ve done since I started and still do today. Some visitors, however, see an older date and conclude that the information is out of date, even if it’s not.

Omitting the date, on the other hand, as many bloggers do, may cause visitors to wonder how current the information is, and reject it if no date can be found.

If you’re wondering what you should do, take a gander at what Darren Rowse of Problogger.com says about the pros and cons of timestamping blog posts.

And, for more about the kinds of content to include on your blog or website–what to write about, where to get ideas–check out my course on online marketing.

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Do you have a Zoom headache?

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I heard from a friend who has been on one too many Zoom “conference calls” lately and is feeling overwhelmed.

These calls or chats take up a lot of time, time she could use to build her business.

And, she didn’t mention this, but I suspect there are times when she would rather not have to dress up or “put on her face” to get on a call.

I’m sure she’s not alone.

The worst part, however, is that these calls are so impersonal.

Many people thrive on meeting people in person, one-on-one and in groups. This was the norm for my friend before and I know that not being able to do this now makes here a bit. . . sad.

For a lot of people, this new way of doing business has become tiresome and they would like things to go back to “normal”.

What can we do?

For now, if you’ve taken to conducting video conferences to communicate with your team or your clients or colleagues, consider standing down a bit and communicating the old-fashioned way: email, text, or regular mail.

Let folks see the information on their own schedule.

If you don’t have to see each other or talk to each other, let it go.

And, if you do need to talk to each other, consider using the phone.

You can do group calls on the phone and nobody has to dress up. And you can do one-on-one calls, talk to each other and have a real conversation, without anybody focusing on how anyone else looks.

If you’re being asked to get on one too many video conferences and you’re finding it a bit much, talk to the organizer and let them know.

This new age of video conferencing is amazing and tremendously useful. But like any “shiny new object,” perhaps we’ve all taken things too far.

Hey, want to know a secret? I wrote this without combing my increasingly unruly hair. How about them apples?

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If your net isn’t working

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Many lawyers find networking to be a waste of time. Ditto for networking online, aka Social Media. 

Some have been at it for a long time with little to show for it. They may have collected 1000 business cards from events they’ve attended, or have thousands of connections on LinkedIn (et. al.), but, their phone isn’t ringing. 

That’s because it’s not quantity that’s paramount, it’s quality. 

A handful of high-quality connections can eventually lead to a steady stream of new business for you. 

What is a high-quality connection? 

Someone who has influence in your target market. They know people who might need your services (or have clients or customers who do) and will listen to them when they recommend you.  

In other words, they have the ability to send you referrals or introduce you to business and professional contacts who can do that.  

That’s the easy part. There are plenty of people who meet that definition. 

The hard part is finding people who are willing to send you those referrals or make those introductions.

That’s a daunting task when you’re trying to sort through a thousand contacts. 

That’s why the best networkers don’t show up at events seeking to meet everyone they can. They don’t follow anyone they find on socials, hoping they will follow them back. 

Instead, they have found that the best way to meet and connect with the right people is to deliberately target them. 

Make a list of 25-50 of the most influential people in your target market. Contact them, introduce yourself, and find out what you can do to help them. 

Because helping them is the best way to get them to help you. 

Here’s how to find and approach influential people in your target market

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How to choose your priorities

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Someone once said, “You can be, do, or have anything, just not everything, because there isn’t enough time.”

So, what will it be?

What’s most important to you? What are your highest values? Your biggest goals?

Yes, we’re talking about your priorities.

With so many options available, how do you choose?

The best way to do that is to look at all of your options and compare them to each other.

We don’t make decisions in a vacuum. We look at everything in the context of everything else.

At one point in your life, you could have chosen medical school or law school or some other career path. In making your choice, no doubt you looked at your other options and compared them.

You may have fallen into your practice area or areas, but at some point, you examined your other options and compared them to what you were already doing.

You have followed a similar process with other aspects of your work and personal life.

You didn’t choose your spouse randomly, did you? When you met them, you compared them to other people you had met or dated. You may have loved other people, but the odds are you loved the one you chose even more.

Prioritizing is about making choices. This instead of that, these things more than those things.

Sometimes, your priority is clear. Sometimes, you like a lot of things and have difficulty choosing.

This article suggests a way to make choosing easier. It describes an exercise for groups or teams but there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself.

The basic idea is to examine each option and compare it to another option. You may like both options but decide you prefer one “even over” the other.

For example, you might like getting clients via referrals and via search, but decide you like referred clients “even over” clients who find you via search.

Knowing your priority will inform your marketing decisions–what you do, what you don’t do, how you allocate your time and resources.

Sure, you can use both marketing methods, and others. But knowing your priorities gives your clarity and allows you to focus on doing things that matter most.

Ready to take a quantum leap in your marketing?

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The future of your law practice

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It should be obvious that some practice areas will soon be “hotter” than others, if they’re not already. Divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, loan workouts, evictions, and other areas are likely to be in high demand.

What can you do with this information?

If you’re starting (or re-starting) a practice, it makes sense to practice in one of these areas. Get ready for the coming wave.

If you have a general practice right now, get prepared to emphasize these those practice areas. Work on your skills, create more content, and explore ways to market your services to clients who need those services.

If you don’t practice in any of these high-demand areas, consider adding them to your repertoire.

Finally, if you don’t practice in any of these areas and you’re not inclined to start, align yourself with lawyers and firms that do.

When the wave hits and your clients and prospects ask you for help with something you don’t handle, you want to be able to refer them to someone.

Helping the client, and scoring points with attorneys to whom you’re referring business, can only lead to more business and good will for you.

Of course, this is something you should be doing anyway. It’s a smart way to build your practice.

Start by making a list of practice areas you predict will be in high demand. Then, make a list of attorneys you know who practice in those areas.

After that, begin looking for attorneys you don’t know. Start by asking your current contacts who they know who specialize in those areas.

Contact them, introduce yourself, and tell them you’d like to know more about what they do. As you get to know them, they will get to know what you do.

Which should lead to some referrals for you.

Start now. Get ready for your clients and prospects to ask you for a referral.

Because they will.

You can learn more about how to do this in my Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals Course.

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