Activating client referrals

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If you treat them right, many of your clients will tell others about their great experiences with you. They’ll also give you referrals, post positive reviews, send traffic to your website, promote your events, and otherwise help your practice grow.

But not everyone will do that.

Some clients don’t know you want this kind of help. (True). Some don’t want to “share” you with others. (Also true). Some are willing to help, but don’t know what to say or do.

And some won’t do anything, even if they love you to pieces. Just the way it is.

So that’s it? You take what you get? Do good work and hope for the best?

Negatory.

While organic word-of-mouth is best, there are things you can do to get more clients to talk about you and (directly or indirectly), send you more business.

First on that list is to educate clients, prospects, and professional contacts about you.

They know some things; make sure they know more.

Inform them about all of your practice areas, services, and offers. Your clients might not need something, but talk to someone who does.

Tell them why your clients get better or quicker outcomes from you, or other features and benefits not available from other lawyers.

Share your success stories, testimonials, and reviews, showing how you’ve helped others, why they chose you, why they would hire you again, and why they recommend you to others.

Tell them about endorsements you’ve received from other lawyers and judges, business leaders and respected individuals in your niche or local market. Tell them about your awards, the books you’ve written, and your speaking and writing credits.

Second, when someone does something nice for you, e.g., referral, review, etc., go out of your way to acknowledge them (publicly, if appropriate), and genuinely express your gratitude.

That doesn’t mean a form letter.

Send a hand-written thank you note. Say something nice about the friend or client they referred. Take them out to lunch or send them a small gift—a book is a good choice.

Show how much you appreciate what they’ve done and they’ll be more likely to do it again.

Third, make it easier for them to spread the word. Equip them with language they can use to describe what you do and for whom you do it. Give them handouts, links to your best blog posts or articles, forms and checklists they can share.

Fourth, do all the above more than once. Because people forget and because over time, they make new contacts who haven’t yet heard about you.

Finally, do what you can to make it more likely that prospective clients and referral sources hear your name from others, so that when your client mentions your name to them, they’ll recognize that name.

The simplest way to do this? Niche marketing. Go deep into business or industry groups, for example (even if you don’t handle business matters), because word-of-mouth is strong in niche markets.

For more about how to stimulate word-of-mouth, get this

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Onboarding new clients

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No doubt you give new clients information about what will happen with their case or matter—a general timeline, a list of steps, what to send you, what to expect, when you will update them, how to reach you in an emergency, and other do’s and don’ts.

This is good because

  • It helps you do a better job of protecting and serving them
  • You’ll have fewer issues because of misunderstandings
  • You can better manage clients’ expectations about what will happen, and when
  • Your clients will be impressed by your thoroughness and professionalism, and thus more likely to trust you and follow your instructions
  • Your clients will feel well taken care of, and thus more likely to stick with you, refer you, and say good things about you

One benefit you might not have considered is that you’ll get more referrals doing this because the information you provide shows that referrals are a common and makes the process easy and non-threatening. (See Maximum Referrals for more.)

As I say, I’m sure you do this. But you should do it more.

More means providing this information in more formats:

  • Handouts you give them or mail them
  • Email autoresponder sequence (break it up into smaller pieces, sent over time)
  • FAQs on your website
  • A dedicated ‘new client’ section of your website
  • Videos, webinars, audios

More also means

  • Sending the information every few weeks or months, to make sure they have it, haven’t misplaced it, remind them to read or listen, and to see if they have questions
  • Talking to them about parts of the instructions when they are in the office or on the phone
  • Sharing success stories about how your clients are benefitting from this information
  • Giving them forms and checklists in addition to written instructions

This is important because people

  • Lose things
  • Don’t read everything
  • Don’t understand everything
  • Need to be reminded to read things and do things
  • Process information differently (all at once vs. drip, read vs. video)
  • Are often distracted by life, especially when they are occupied by a legal issue
  • Might not realize how serious you are and need to hear it again and again
  • Might have trouble explaining what you want them to know or do to people who need to know and/or assist them; (tell them to share your information and let you explain it)

The more you do this, the better your clients’ experience will be with you and your staff. Which is good for them and good for you.

It means extra work, but you’ll be glad you did.

How to talk to clients about referrals

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Leveling up your referral game

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Yesterday, we talked about the value of educating other lawyers about your practice area, to build your reputation and get more referrals. You can do that, I said, by disseminating information, e.g., reports, checklists, that helps other lawyers understand your field, spot issues, and answer their clients’ basic questions.

But there’s a lot more you can do.

If you want to be perceived and followed and sought after as the go-to expert in your field, you can do the kinds of things experts do.

Number one on that list is to write a book.

As an author, you will, by definition, be an authority. Your book is a doorway to requests for interviews, being invited to speak and sit on panels, and otherwise expand your reach.

When you are introduced as “the lawyer who wrote the book on. . .”, you are at the top of your game.

Publishing a book is also a great way to get more leads, both from other lawyers and other centers of influence, and also from prospective clients.

If you’re not ready to do that, or perhaps while you are writing your book, there are other things you can do to establish your authority and get more referrals.

You can conduct seminars, start a podcast, or write blog posts, teaching lawyers the basics, discussing changes in the law, and answering questions. You can interview others in your field (or your client’s industry), and offer downloadable resources (which helps you build a list so you can stay in touch with these prospective referral sources).

If you’ve got enough to share, and the quality is there, you can even turn these into paid seminars.

Your object is to establish yourself as the go-to lawyer for all matters related to your field, and you can start with a single video, blog post, or seminar. You’ll begin to build a following and, before long, one of your followers will ask you to look at one of their cases or speak with one of their clients who needs your help.

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals

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Teach and grow rich(er)

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You know the value of educating prospective clients in your target market about the law in your practice area(s), the risks, the options, and the benefits to be had working with a lawyer who does what you do.

And why that lawyer should be you.

You’re also hip to the value of educating other lawyers who don’t do what you do, because they have clients with problems they don’t handle, but you do. Those lawyers don’t always have someone to refer their client to, which is where you come in.

The easiest way to get on their radar is to provide them with information about your field of expertise. Teach them everything they need to know to spot issues and explain the risks and options. Educate them about the law and procedure and ethics, the way you would if you were teaching a continuing education class.

The more you teach other lawyers about your field, the more you will be seen as the expert they want to refer their clients to when those clients need help.

But you don’t have to create continuing education classes to do that. Create some reports and articles, forms and checklists, and other resources that speak specifically to lawyers.

What do they need to know? What do they need to ask their clients, and tell them? And make sure you tell them that you’re available to answer their questions and to speak to their clients.

Okay, I can see you nodding your head. This makes perfect sense. But there’s something else.

Wait for it. . .

You should also educate other lawyers who do exactly what you do.

What?! Teach my competition what I know? Why would I do that?

Because they can (and will) get this information somewhere and it might as well be from you.

When your competitors have a case they can’t handle, because it’s too big for them or they have a conflict or they’re too busy to take on more work, they will think about the lawyers they know and respect and refer that business to you.

As the go-to expert in your field, you’ll not only get more referrals, you’ll build your reputation and get invited to speak and publish and network with the stars.

Build a bigger practice by helping other lawyers with theirs.

Here’s how

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What if I don’t play golf?

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Playing golf is a great way to meet other professionals and prospective clients and many lawyers do. But what if you don’t play golf and don’t want to learn?

Sorry, you’re out of luck. No clients for you!

No, there are many ways to meet prospective clients and referral sources that don’t require you to take up a sport or do anything that doesn’t appeal to you.

You can meet people at formal networking groups where professionals and business owners go to meet people, hear speakers, and exchange ideas and leads. You can also meet people informally, as you go about your regular day.

But you don’t have to do any of this. You can meet the kinds of people you want to meet through the people you already know.

Your clients and existing referral sources can introduce you to the professionals and business people they know and do business with.

Lawyers, insurance agents, financial planners, real estate brokers, of course, but also business executives and other influential people in their industry or market. If they’re consumers, they can introduce you to their friends and neighbors.

This isn’t the only way to network, but I can’t think of anything better.

You’re talking to people who know, like, and trust you and are willing to help you. They know people you would like to know, and all you have to do is ask.

But you have to help them help you. You have to tell them who you would like to meet, by name if you know it, or by occupation, business or industry, or other identifying factors.

Tell them who would like to know and ask them to introduce you, or ask them to tell their contact about your upcoming seminar, or about an article you just posted on your blog that might be helpful to them, or anything else that will connect you with the people they know.

This is a remarkably effective, highly targeted way to grow your network. And doesn’t require you to wear any funny pants.

Here’s how to get started with your clients

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Simple dimple

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Let’s face it, marketing can be a pain in the behind. There’s a lot to learn (and keep up with), a lot to do (and/or supervise people who do them), expenses, compliance issues, and the cost of our precious time.

Which is why a lot of people hate marketing. Including me.

But we do it because of the results it delivers and the lifestyle this affords.

But there’s marketing and there’s marketing. It’s not all the same. I don’t do anything I really detest and you shouldn’t either.

Because when you force yourself to do something you hate, you resent doing it, cut corners, and get poor results. Not to mention the ill effects of constant stress.

When it comes to marketing (or anything else), it’s always better to do things you enjoy or are at least comfortable enough to continue doing. And if you can’t find strategies out of the tin that fit that description, choose something and find easier ways to do it.

For me, easy means simple. Certain methods may be more profitable, but if it’s not simple, I don’t do them. I’m not willing to pay the price for complexity.

In my practice, as a young (starving) lawyer, that meant focusing on referrals. It was simple. It meant doing good work, treating people right, and staying in touch with everyone.

I could do that. And I did.

Later, I gave my clients handouts (reports, referral cards, etc.) they could share with people, and did some other things to generate even more referrals.

But I always kept it simple.

We have more options for marketing today, but referrals should always be at the top of every lawyer’s list. Your clients and business contacts can send you all the business you can handle, and/or introduce you to people who can.

Once you’ve got referrals squared away, you can add other strategies. A content-rich website or blog and/or a newsletter are also relatively simple.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather write something once a week than go to a weekly meeting.

More good news.

You can build a very successful practice using just one or two effective strategies. Find something that’s simple and appropriate for your practice, temperament, and resources, and once you’ve chosen them, stop looking. At least for now.

Instead, get better at implementing those strategies. They may be all you need.

How to get more referrals from your clients

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New clients from old contacts

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It’s exciting to meet new people, whether prospective clients or business contacts who can send you referrals, and this should be a regular part of your practice-building routine.

That doesn’t mean you need to get dressed up and go to networking events, however. You can do this without leaving your home or office.

My “Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals” mini-course makes this easy. It shows you how to find them, what to say, and what to send them, and is not just for other lawyers but for any type of business or professional contact.

But I don’t want you to do that. Not yet, anyway.

Because it’s a lot easier to get referrals by re-connecting with your old contacts. Including (or maybe especially) your old clients.

People who would know your name if I mentioned it to them. People who will remember you and ask how you’re doing since you last spoke. People who have sent you referrals in the past, or would have if they had had any to send.

Because they know, like, and trust you.

Yeah, those people.

Your old contacts will take your call and respond to your email. And most of them will be glad to hear from you.

They’ll want to know why you’re calling or writing, of course. Just say something like, “I saw your name (or thought about you) and wondered what you were doing since the last time we spoke”.

Catch up with them. Business, family, life. Ask about them. They’ll ask about you.

This is easy to do, doesn’t take a lot of time, and can bring you a lot of repeat-business and referrals.

And you don’t have to ask.

If they have legal questions or need help, or they know someone who does, they’ll tell you about it. Simply because you’re on the other end of the phone or sitting in their email inbox.

If they don’t, that’s okay. Confirm that you have their best email and ask if you can stay in touch.

And then stay in touch.

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals (for professionals) and Maximum Referrals (for clients)

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Paying clients for positive reviews

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How much is a good review worth to you? A client who says you helped them, made them feel safe, gave them tremendous value and solved their problems, someone who ssays they recommend you to everyone who needs help?

You’ve gotten great reviews before, so you know how good it feels when they show up. You also know they are worth a small fortune.

They bring you more cases from people searching for a lawyer online. More referrals from professionals who check you out before they refer their clients to you. And they make your other clients feel good about their decision to hire you because they can see that others say you’re the best.

Who wouldn’t love to get more positive reviews? You can’t buy that kind of marketing.

Ah, but you can. You already do.

No, not with cash. Don’t be silly. You pay for positive reviews by giving your clients an incredibly positive experience with you.

You don’t just do the work and deliver the results. You do more. You invest your precious time to serve them, go out of your way to take care of them, surprise and delight them, and build a relationship with them.

When they notice and thank you and say they appreciate what you do for them, there’s only one thing left to do.

Give them the link to the review site you favor and thank them, in advance, for sharing their experience and recommendation.

Okay, one more thing. After they post a review, thank them again.

In writing.

Send them a handwritten note and tell them how much it means to you that they took the time to write that review and say those nice things about you.

You’re not done paying until you do.

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What would have to be true for that to happen?

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I’ve heard versions of this question from different sources. I like it because it makes you think, not just about what you want but the prerequisites for making it so.

“What would have to be true for me to double my referrals this year,“ for example.

What conditions would have to be in place? What additional skills, knowledge, or contacts would you have to acquire? What would you have to do?

A question like this can lead you to new insights, ideas to research, and projects to get to work on.

It will also make you think about things you know but haven’t thought about or done.

You can take it deeper. If you said you would need to have more referral sources to double your referrals, you might then ask, “What would have to be true in order to get more clients and professional contacts to send me more business?“

You might get even better answers by making the question more specific: “What would have to be true in order to get 50% of my clients to send me 1 additional referral this year?”

You can use this approach for any goal. “If I wanted to work a 4-day week and continue to earn what I now earn, what would have to be true?“ for example.

You can also ask follow-up questions: “If [that] was true, what else would need to be true?“

The key to these types of questions is that they are assumptive. When you ask this way, you direct your subconscious mind to look for the answer you’ve told it is there. It will keep looking until it finds it.

Choose a subject. Phrase the question any way you like, as long as it assumes a favorable response. Write down the ideas that come to mind.

Any of these ideas might be the precise idea you need to make your goal come true.

How to get your clients to send you more referrals

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Put this in your phone

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A Connecticut attorney and long time subscriber recently wrote a newsletter article with some common sense advice for her readers about what to do if they get served.

Essentially, “It’s scary. Don’t panic. Call or text me (and her phone number).“

Good advice for any lawyer to offer his or her clients, because anyone can be sued or subpoenaed, most don’t know what to do and may indeed panic, and we want them to know they can and should turn to us for help.

Which is why this attorney also recommended her readers program her phone number into their phone, “because you never know when you might need it”.

This is also smart because while most clients won’t get served, they might think of other legal issues they need to ask about and having the phone number programmed in their phone makes it more likely they will call.

It might also prompt them to think of their attorney when someone they talk to has a legal matter. “Let me give you my lawyer’s phone number. . .” means more calls for the lawyer.

I really like her final suggestion, that readers program her phone number not under her name but under the word “Lawyer,“ because, ‘“when you need a lawyer, you might not remember my name but you will certainly know you need a lawyer.“

Small thing, but a big thing. Maybe a very big thing. Which is why I’m stealing this idea and passing it along to you to use in your newsletter.

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