You will always have competition and that’s good

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Are you concerned that there too many attorneys in your market? Don’t be. As long as there is demand for the legal work you perform, it doesn’t matter how many other attorneys there are competing for it.

The reason? Clients buy you before they buy your services, and you are unique. Build relationships with prospective clients and referral sources and you will effectively have no competition.

But hold on. Having competition is good.

It’s good because the existence of competition proves the existence of demand. If the work wasn’t there, the other attorneys would find something else to do.

Having competition is also good because it forces you to find ways to differentiate yourself. When you do, marketing is easier and more effective because you are able to show your market an advantage to choosing you.

Your competitors can also provide a fertile source of ideas. Follow them on social, subscribe to their newsletters, study their ads and blog posts, and discover what they’re doing that you can do better or differently, or discover market segments they have overlooked.

Meet your competition and get to know them. Find out what they need and how you can help them. They can become a source of referrals (conflicts, clients that are too big or too small, etc.) for both of you. And, if you find yourself on the opposite sides of a case, your relationship might help you reach a better resolution.

Don’t worry about the competition. Embrace it.

How to get referrals from your competition

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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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Say ‘thank you’ for referrals. Loudly.

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One of the best ways to get more referrals is to thank the people who provide them. Do it quickly, sincerely, and appropriately. Make the referral-giver feel appreciated for their gesture and they’ll be more likely to do it again.

In addition, let your other clients and contacts know that you regularly get referrals and that you appreciate them.

Find ways to mention it in your newsletter, on your website, and in conversation.

For example, when you tell a client story (to illustrate a point), mention that the client you’re referencing heard about you from a co-worker who had a similar issue. Or you might say, “I just started working with a business owner referred to me by one of the tenants in his building we also represent.”

You can tell people that if they know someone who [has an issue you can help them with], to give them one of your cards. “Tell them to mention your name so I’ll know who to thank!”

When a professional sends you a referral, thank them, by name, in your newsletter, and give their practice a plug.

In your new client kit, describe how to identify someone who could use your help and how to make a referral. Mention that you get most of your clients through referrals and how much you appreciate your clients for supporting you.

It’s simple. Find ways to talk about referrals and you’ll get more referrals.

This will help

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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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Helping the competition?

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In Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals, I show you how to find and befriend lawyers who work in complementary practice areas and can send you referrals. One way to get on their radar, and in their good graces, is to help them do a better job for their clients.

Educate them about your area of expertise, even if that means they help those clients instead of referring them to you.

Karma, and all that.

It’s similar to what I said yesterday about encouraging clients and prospects to call you for “micro-advice,” without the meter running.

My friend Steve Emmert, a very successful appellate lawyer, emailed and said, “I always give free micro-advice to my customers (trial lawyers). It quite often comes back to me in future business, when they need an appellate lawyer and remember who looked out for them all these years.”

Indeed.

He continued, “. . .I also give free micro-advice to my competitors. It’s the neighborly thing to do, it promotes collegiality within the appellate “guild,” and refusing to do so would be giving in to a scarcity mentality. There’s plenty of work to go around.”

He gave a couple of recent examples–showing a new-ish appellate lawyer how to set up a section of a document, going to lunch with other lawyers who want to start an appellate practice and telling them what to do. “Why should I make them learn the hard way all the lessons I’ve learned in almost 15 years?”

He continued: “Most lawyers wouldn’t think of doing this because they have a scarcity mentality: ‘I have to take this client because I might never get another. I have to guard all my secrets so no one can compete with me.’ Jeez Louise!”

Aint that the truth.

It seems counterintuitive to share your time and expertise with lawyers who do what you do, or want to. But not only does it feel good to help others, it can pay dividends.

“One fringe benefit: My competitors get the message that I’m confident in my market position, and that means they’re very unlikely ever to really challenge that position.”

I’ll tell you what else it does. It gets other lawyers sending you referrals when they have a conflict or a case they otherwise can’t handle. They know you’re the BMOC (that’s “Big Man on Campus” for you Millenials and other whippersnappers.)

“I got some great advice long ago: “Identify a niche market and seek to dominate it,” Steve said. “This is one way I do that: I let my competitors know that I don’t regard them as competition, but as my friends. All the while, they’re realizing that I’m very good at this. See how that works? As long as no one gets the idea of hiring a hit man to take me out and make room at the top …”

Ah, there’s the catch. You actually have to be good. (Or make them think you are.)

Anyway, great advice from a very smart guy. If you want more of his advice for building a successful practice, read my interview with him in my Kindle book. 

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals

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Do you charge for “micro advice”?

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Many business attorneys won’t talk to a client without the meter running. So many clients don’t call their attorney before they make important decisions, often to their detriment.

The client then has to pay the attorney to fix their mess, often a lot more than they would have paid had they gotten advice in advance.

In the short term, the attorney makes out. In the long run, maybe there’s a better way for both client and attorney.

What if attorneys let their clients know they won’t charge them for “micro advice”? A quick call to find out if they’re going in the right direction, a question or two to see if they do (or don’t) need something else?

I heard that’s what many smart business attorneys do.

I concur.

You want your clients to call you often and they’re more likely to do that if they know they won’t be charged by the nanosecond. Maybe they have something that needs your help, maybe they don’t, but it’s better for both of you to find out.

How is this better for you? For one thing, it builds trust. The client sees that you’re looking out for them, not just sucking them dry.

It can also lead to more work for you. In the short term, if they need your help, you’ll be able to show them why. In the long run, by looking out for your clients, you help their business grow and you can grow with them.

Yes, some clients will (try to) take advantage of you. You will have some line drawing to do. But most clients will appreciate you for “not being like all those other attorneys”. You’ll earn their loyalty and their referrals.

This isn’t just for business attorneys. It’s a good policy for all clients. Even one-off clients can send referrals.

Referrals are good for your fiscal health

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Stirring the marketing pot

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I assume you have a list of professionals you know and respect and who know and respect you. People who could send you referrals but haven’t. Or haven’t done so in a long time.

Don’t wait for them to send you referrals on their own. Stir the pot. Make something happen.

Call through your list. One a day, five a day, whatever you can handle.

Say something like, “I want to start working with you (again). Can you send me some information I could share with my clients? Not a brochure or sales piece, a report, an article, an ebook, or something else you wrote that you send to prospective clients?”

When they tell you they do, tell them great, send it over. (If they don’t have anything, ask if they could put something together.)

Before you hang up, say, “If any of my clients want to talk to you, ask some questions or get some additional information about what you do, can I tell them to call you? Is email better?”

Make sure they are open to being contacted and you know their preferred method. Plant the seed that this might happen.

Finally, say, “I’ll make sure they mention my name so you know where they came from.”

What’s next?

Send the information to your clients and prospects, along with a note about your friend. Say something nice about them. Tell how you met, share a story. Encourage your clients to call them if they have any questions or want more information about what they do, and to mention your name.

And, that’s it.

What will happen? You think I have a crystal ball? Something will happen. I don’t know what, or when.

Okay, some of your contacts will ask you to send them something they can send to their clients. Some will ask this before you finish that first conversation. Others will do that down the line.

Either way, go ahead and send their information to your list.

And then, wait.

Something will happen. The professional will contact you and tell you they signed up one of your clients. Or your client will contact you and tell you they had a nice conversation with that professional and thank you for putting them in touch.

Eventually, more will happen. Clients will sign up, money will change hands, and out of nothing, you will have created something. Which is better than waiting and doing nothing.

How to get referrals from other professionals: here

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Are you focusing on referrals?

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What you focus on, grows. If you want more referrals, you should focus on referrals.

Most lawyers don’t. Do you?

It’s not difficult. Dedicate a few minutes each week specifically for referral development.

Here’s how that might go:

The first week of the month could be dedicated to communicating with your referral network. Send an email and update them about what’s new in your practice–new content on your website, guest posts you have written, where you will be speaking, success stories, changes in the law that might necessitate a consultation, interesting cases or clients you have acquired–and offer ideas they can use to spread the word.

You could have two email lists: one for clients and former clients, another for professional contacts. Or just one list for everyone who has provided referrals or indicated a willingness to do so.

The second week of each month might be dedicated to brainstorming and executing ideas for improving client relations. What can you do to help your clients have a better experience with your firm?

The third week could be used for reaching out to prospective referral sources. Introduce yourself, find out about what they do and how you can help them, and tell them how you can help their clients or customers.

The fourth week might be used for improving systems and marketing collateral. Update your website, edit your social media profiles, develop new handouts and other marketing documents, and so on.

Focus on referrals thirty minutes a week, every week. Over time, you should see a dramatic increase in referrals and client retention.

Make sense? Good. Now go make some dollars.

A system for getting more referrals from your clients 

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Marketing is simple

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Yesterday, I told you about the dentist who sent a gift card to old patients (i.e., me) and how you could do something similar to activate old clients and/or get some referrals.

No doubt you loved the idea. You want old clients to hire you again. You want more referrals. You want to get this done.

But. . .

What if your old clients are unable to hire you again, at least right now?

Or, what if you really love this idea and want to scale it up big time.

No problem.

All you need to do is contact other professionals or business owners and ask them if they would like some business. When they say, “Yes I would, kind sir/madam,” you say, “I’m going to send a letter (email) to my clients and former clients, tell them about you, and offer them a $100 [$500, or whatever] discount card [coupon, voucher, etc.] for your services [products]. Would that be okay?”

If it’s not okay, go find someone else who wants a bunch of new clients or customers.

If they say, “I love it, what do you need from me?” work out the details and send your clients an early Christmas gift, courtesy of your new friend.

Your clients will love you for helping them find a professional/business who does good work and for saving them some cash.

Your new friend will love you for helping them bring in new business.

And you’ll love you because your new friend will be obliged to send your offer to their clients or customers.

Hello? McFly? That means you’ll have a bunch of new clients. Quickly. Which means you’ll love me for telling you about this.

And then? And then, go find another professional and make them the same offer.

Note, your offer (or your friend’s offer) doesn’t have to be a discount. It could be a free consultation, an ebook or report, a checklist of important items to keep track of or do (eg., information to collect when they are in an auto collision, an estate planning guide), or anything else folks like your clients would find valuable.

Whatever it is, you can set this up quickly and start pulling in business long before Rudolph’s nose starts blinking.

Find someone with a list of customers, clients, prospects, or other contacts who might be a good fit for your services. Show them your discount card (or whatever). Tell them the results you got sending it to your older clients (if you did that), and off you go.

Marketing is simple. Try it, you’ll like it.

Getting more referrals from other professionals made simple

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