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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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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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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It’s like referrals but without the sweaty palms

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Do you know any attorneys who could send you referrals but don’t? How about accountants, financial planners, insurance or real estate brokers?

You could ask them for referrals but. . . it makes you nervous. Okay, forget about that (for now). There’s something else you can do.

You can talk to them about a marketing alliance, where both of you benefit.

It’s a simple way for two parties to increase the reach of their marketing, reduce their costs, or both.

The result: more clients. Probably better clients, because the client finds out about you from a trusted source, just like a referral.

A simple example:

You send an email to your list and recommend the other professional’s services, webinar, or free report. They do the same for you.

Another simple example:

You interview said professional for your newsletter or blog, podcast or video channel, mention their special offer or book, and provide a link thereto. They do the same for you.

Another simple example:

You invite the other professional to write a guest post for your blog or newsletter; yep, you do the same thing for theirs.

Can you see how simple this is? And how it could bring in a lot of new clients?

Start with professionals you know who have a practice that’s a good fit for yours.

But don’t stop there. There are thousands more where they came from.

You can learn how to find them (and exactly what to say) in my Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals course. Details here

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How to get your SECOND client

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Let’s say you just got your first client.

Congratulations. What’s next?

Where will you get your second client? Or, if you have 100 clients, where will you get your next 100?

Many lawyers go back to doing whatever it is they did to get their first client (or their first 100). Networking, advertising, blogging, speaking, and so on, and that’s fine.

But there’s another way:

Leverage your relationships with your existing and former clients to get more.

Yes, I’m talking about referrals. But not just referrals in the way we usually think of them. And expanded view of the concept of referrals.

You know that some of your clients are willing to send you referrals but don’t have anyone to send you right now.

What else could they do?

They could refer you to (introduce you to) other professionals they know, some of whom might have clients they can refer.

Hold on. Those professionals might not have clients they can refer right now, or be willing to refer them.

What else could they do?

They could introduce you to other professionals they know who might have clients who need your help.

Hold on. What if they don’t know other professionals in your target market or they’re not willing to introduce them to you?

What else could they do?

They could introduce you to bloggers and podcasters and meeting planners and other people who write for, sell to, or advise your target market.

They could share your content or promote your event to their clients and contacts, subscribers, social media connections, and others they know.

Some of those people may need your services. Or know someone who does. Or know someone who knows someone who does.

Building a referral-based practice isn’t just about who you know. It’s also about who they know.

Everyone you know knows hundreds of people you don’t know.

And those people know hundreds of people.

Each person knows an average of 250 people, we are told. If each of those people knows 250 people, that’s 62, 500 people in your extended network.

You can build your practice by tapping into that network.

Where do you begin?

Start with my (currently free) introductory referral marketing course.

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No, the damn thing didn’t get up and walk out the door

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My wife and I can’t find “the clicker”–the remote control for our TV. We’ve looked everywhere–in the couch cushions, under chairs, in other rooms, but no luck. 

Usually when we lose something–sunglasses, keys, our sanity–we retrace our steps, look again, and eventually find the thing. Usually, right under our nose.

But not this time. This time, we’re convinced the clicker got up and walked out the front door. 

Okay, we know it probably got thrown out somehow and when we get tired of getting up every time we want to change something, we’ll buy a replacement. Until then, the struggle is real. 

The other day I heard from an attorney who is having trouble finding something. She’s looking for attorneys in another jurisdiction to whom she can refer some clients. “It is not hard to find someone who talks a great game,” she said. “But when it comes to actually getting things done, it’s been almost always rather lacking.”

The answer is probably right under her nose. 

One of the best ways to find attorneys to whom you can refer your clients is also one of the best ways to vet them. Talk to attorneys you know. 

Ask them who they would hire? Ask them who they recommend?

When you hear the same names being mentioned by two or three attorneys you know and trust, you’ve probably found someone you can trust. 

If the attorneys you know don’t have any names for you, ask them who they know who might know some good attorneys and talk to those folks. 

The same is true when you’re looking for any professional or business. Ask people you know and trust for referrals to people they know and trust. 

Now if I can just get the couch to tell me where the clicker went. 

Go here for more ways to find referral sources

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A checkup from the neck up

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Successful estate planning attorneys regularly contact their clients to inquire about life changes that might necessitate an update to their plan.

No matter what area you practice in, you should do something similar.

Once a year (at least), send your clients information about changes in the law and a questionnaire. Invite them to talk to you.

Do this even if your handle litigation or bankruptcy or another area where your clients are unlikely to need you again.

Why?

So you can find out about other issues or changes in their life or business that necessitate a referral to another attorney or to another professional.

Create your questionnaire or “legal checkup” checklist by asking other professionals to provide information. Ask an insurance broker, for example, for a list of questions your clients should ask themselves about their current risk-levels and coverage. Ask a CPA for questions related to taxes, a financial planner about investments or retirement, and other attorneys about their practice areas.

In addition to asking your “referral partners” to help you prepare your legal checkup, ask them to provide a special offer for your clients, if appropriate. A free consultation or document review, for example.

Once you’ve got your legal checkup up and running, help your referral partners do the same thing for their clients.

An annual legal checkup will allow you to better protect and advise your clients and stimulate referrals to you and your referral sources.

It’s a beautiful thing.

How to get referrals from other attorneys

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Why you need friends who do estate planning

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No matter what type of practice you have, you should seek out and befriend estate planning attorneys.

Why?

  • Because estate planning attorneys have clients who need what you do and can usually afford to hire you. Damages from wage loss, business loss, or divorce are often higher.
  • Because estate planning attorneys don’t have to wait for “something” to happen, ie., a loss, litigation, which means they have a bigger universe of prospective clients available to them.
  • Because estate planning attorneys often do types of marketing you may not do (seminars, advertising, direct mail), bringing in a steady stream of new clients they can refer.
  • Because estate planning attorneys usually offer services at different price points, appealing to a wider spectrum of clients.
  • Because estate planning attorneys usually write a newsletter and/or otherwise stay in touch with their clients and prospects, giving them more opportunities to tell people about you and what you offer.
  • Because estate planning attorneys network with many other professionals they can introduce you to.
  • Because estate planning clients associate with people of similar age, background, income, and need for estate planning, so estate planning attorneys usually get more referrals they can refer to you.
  • Because most of your clients will need estate planning someday and you’ll want to have someone to whom you can refer them.

If you’re looking to build your network of professional contacts, estate planning attorneys are a good place to start.

If you are an estate planning attorney, now you know what you have to offer other attorneys.

How to get more referrals from other professionals

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Where will you be in six months?

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It’s six months from today and things are little slow. (Or, things are fine and you want to take your practice to the next level.)

Either way, you want more business.

No problem. You have a list of lawyers and other professionals who have clients that are a good match for you. They can send you referrals.

Most of these professionals have colleagues who are similarly situated. They can introduce you to them.

Most of these professionals know your name and what you do. They know you’re good at your job.

Some of them have met you, either in person or online. Some could be considered friends.

So, you make some calls.

You re-introduce yourself or tell them you’re checking in to see how they’re doing. You ask what they need or want and how you can help.

Do they need clients or customers? Introductions, recommendations or advice?

You do what you can to help them.

They ask how you’re doing. They ask what they can do to help you.

They send you referrals. They introduce you to their colleagues. They give you advice and recommendations. Your practice grows.

You want that list, don’t you? It sounds like just what you need.

There’s just one thing. That list isn’t going to make itself. You need to do that.

Better get started. It will be six months from now before you know it.

Step-by-step instructions on how to do this: click here

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How to warm up a cold approach

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By far, the best way to approach a new business contact or prospective client is to have a mutual contact introduce you. When you identify someone you’d like to meet, go through your list of contacts to see if you know someone who knows them, or might know someone who does. Ask for an introduction or permission to use their name.

If you don’t know anyone who can introduce you, you can still approach them. But it will take more effort.

Whether you contact them by email or by phone, your initial objective is the same: to get their attention and stay out of the slush pile.

A few do’s and don’ts.

DON’T

  • DON’T pitch anything. Save that for later; probably much later.
  • DON’T ask for anything, e.g., a guest post, a link, etc.
  • DON’T brag about yourself; in fact, say almost nothing about yourself, focus on them
  • DON’T lie or exaggerate
  • DON’T ask them to read something or do something; they’re busy, just like you

DO

  • DO mention your mutual friend or contact. How did you get their name?
  • DO reference something you have in common (a mutual interest, cause, target market or industry, practice area, background, etc.)
  • DO mention something you like about something you heard about them or read, (their article, post, video, interview, etc.
  • DO tell them why you’re contacting them and what’s in it for them; give them a reason to listen
  • DO keep your message brief; get to the point
  • DO make the next step easy (ask them to reply, tell them you’ll call, tell them to watch their email)

So, what is in it for them? Why are you contacting them?

Here are some good options:

  • To offer information that will help them or their clients, or information about something that interests them
  • To discuss a mutual interest (an industry or local issue, similarly aligned clients, proposed laws or regs, etc.)
  • To invite them to speak at your meeting, to interview them for your newsletter, to participate in a panel discussion, etc.
  • To introduce yourself, learn more about what they do and how you might work together to your mutual benefit

To learn more about how to find and approach people you don’t know, and what to offer them, get this

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