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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5 ways to build trust

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Marketing isn’t just telling people what you do and how you can help them. Marketing requires targeting the right people with the right problems and providing them with the right message and offer.

One of the biggest hurdles is building trust.

People are scared about their legal situation and skeptical about your ability to help them. They don’t know if you’re competent, honest, or charge reasonable fees.

They may like what you say but if they don’t trust you, they often keep looking.

It usually takes time to build trust, but here are 5 ways to speed up the process:

  1. Referrals. Prospective clients “borrow” trust from the people who refer them, thus making them more likely to hire you. Referral marketing shortens the sales process, saves time and money, and usually brings in better clients.
  2. Content marketing. Blog posts, articles, presentations, etc., allow you to show people what you know, what you do, and how you work with your clients. This works even better when you are published by or interviewed on authority sites or podcasts or speak at industry events.
  3. Social proof. Ask people to share your content with their friends and neighbors, colleagues, clients and customers. Get testimonials and reviews from clients and endorsements from influential people.
  4. Free consultations. Let people sample your advice and demeanor, hear more about what you can do to help them, and get their questions answered straight from the horse’s mouth.
  5. Build a list and stay in touch. A simple email newsletter allows you to build trust over time. It helps you get more clients, more referrals, more people sharing your content, book more free consultations, and get more testimonials and reviews.

If you want to see how to use a newsletter to build your practice, go 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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Will you do me a favor?

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If you’re like most people, when you heard me ask for a favor you probably thought, “It depends on what it is”.

If I ask you to do something that’s

  • easy to do
  • doesn’t require a lot of time or money
  • doesn’t take you outside your comfort zone/embarrass you

. . .you would at least consider it, wouldn’t you?

If I ask you to take a survey and tell me which book title you prefer, for example, and all you have to do is click button A or button B, you’ll probably do it.

Because you like being asked for your opinion and because you want to help me. So. . . why not?

Well, your clients are no different and if you ask them for an easy favor like that, many of them will come through.

Ask them to Like your video or blog post and most will give you a thumbs up.

Ask them to forward your video or blog post to a friend, however, and you won’t get as many to do that but you’ll get some.

And “some” is good. Some are better than none.

Now, if you ask for a testimonial or a referral, you may get only a few to do it, but you would be happy with “a few” wouldn’t you?

So, take my challenge: ask your clients for a favor.

Start with something simple. Easy for you to ask, easy for them to do.

Later, as you build your “asking” muscle, you can ask for something better.

Start by asking the next client you speak with, either in person or on the phone, to do something for you.

Want a suggestion? Okay, how about asking them for the name of a real estate or insurance broker they know?

Easy to ask, easy for them to reply.

Later, once you’re comfortable asking for a name, you can start asking for an introduction.

Now, will you do me a favor? Will you forward this email to an attorney who might like to read this?

You don’t have to introduce us, just forward the email. I appreciate it and they will, too.

Easy for me to ask, easy for you to do.

Marketing is easier with email

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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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Have I got a deal for you!

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It’s Memorial Day weekend and everybody and his brother is having a sale. Everyone except lawyers. But that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all the fun.

Do you have any clients or business contacts who are having a sale? Why not email your other clients and contacts and tell them about it.

Wait. Maybe your business clients are willing to offer a little extra to people who mention your name.

How ’bout them apples.

Your clients will appreciate you for tipping them off (and arranging the extra discount). Your business clients will appreciate you for sending business their way.

Could it get any easier?

What’s that? You don’t have any (or many) business clients or contacts who are having a sale?

No problem. Go knock on some doors.

Talk to some local business owners and ask them if they’re planning to (or willing to) put anything on sale. Tell them you’re sending an email to all your clients and you’d be happy to mention them.

Hold on. You’re not done. Ask if they know other merchants (businesses, professionals, etc.) you might talk to. Betcha they do.

This is a simple way to meet and introduce yourself to business owners, get on their radar and in their good graces.

Who knows, they might mention you in their newsletter. Or let you put some brochures on their counter or in their waiting room. Or send you some referrals. Because no other lawyers in town are promoting their business.

Leverage is a wonderful thing

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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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They key to better relationships

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Think about some of the successful professionals you know, the ones you like and trust the most. What is it about them that makes you feel closer to them?

My guess is that it’s because they’ve been transparent with you about certain aspects of their professional and personal life, revealing to you a weakness or flaw.

Vulnerability is a key to better relationships. Showing people that you have flaws, things you struggle with, problems like everyone else.

Contrast that with people who never have a hair out of place. They have a “perfect” life. Everything is under control. They don’t have any problems or weaknesses. At least nothing they tell you about.

And that’s the problem. We don’t trust this. It’s not. . . real.

If you want better relationships–with other professionals, with clients, with friends or family–one of the best things you can do is be transparent about certain aspects of your life.

Let your clients see that you don’t know everything. Let other lawyers and referral sources know you do better with certain types of clients or cases. Let people know about some of your mistakes.

Not everything. Not all the time. Selectively, with the right people at the right time.

You don’t want to blurt out your flaws, you want to be intentional about this, so I suggest you give this some thought and choose a “safe” weakness you’re willing to own up to.

What’s safe? Something that doesn’t irreparably impair your character or core set of skills.

You might reveal that you still get nervous on the first day of a jury trial. You might share the time you lost a case (and paid dearly for it) because you didn’t listen to your partner who warned you not to trust a certain witness. You might admit that you have a soft spot for clients who don’t pay on time.

A weakness, a flaw, something you’re not particularly proud of. You know, the kind of stuff that makes you human.

At the same time, be prepared to talk about what you have learned about yourself, or how you got the problem under control. For example, if you confess to being a perfectionist and how this causes you to take too long preparing documents, you might say that you have adopted a strict rule about the number of re-writes you allow. If you are lax about billing, explain how you’ve turned that function over to your merciless partner.

Once you have a few safe flaws you’re willing to reveal, look for safe situations where you might reveal them.

Not with everyone, not all the time. Selectively, when it is appropriate.

One thing you’ll find is that as you open up to people, they will often open up to you. They’ll tell you they have the same issue, and share how they dealt with it, or they’ll tell you about something else.

This is how strong relationships are built. Sharing vulnerabilities and trusting each other with that information.

Tell other lawyers what kinds of cases you do and don’t handle and get more referrals

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Who’s coming to your party?

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If you were opening your practice this year you might hold a grand opening. Invite friends and business contacts to come celebrate with you and get some information they can share with their friends and clients and business contacts. It’s a great way to generate some momentum, make some new contacts, and take the first step toward signing up a few new clients.

Well, guess what? It’s not too late. You can hold a grand re-opening party and accomplish the same thing. Only now, it will be better because you have actual clients and referral sources you can invite. You can use the occasion to introduce your guests to other guests, helping them make some new contacts and get some new business.

You can also use your grand re-opening to make some new contacts.

In addition to inviting people you know, invite people you don’t know but would like to. Invite prospective clients, professionals, business owners, and other centers of influence in your niche market or community. Invite people who can hire you or recommend you. Invite people who are influential with a big network of contacts you’d like to target.

It’s your party; you get to make the guest list.

Imagine what your practice will be like by next year at this time if you invite 50 centers of influence to your party this year.

Everyone loves a party. Start making your list.

Once you meet them, here’s what to do with them

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Who’s on your marketing shopping list?

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You want new clients. Okay, what kind? Write down a description of your ideal client. Do the same thing for your ideal referral source. And be specific.

Great. You’ve got yourself a shopping list. With people on it.

Why is this a good idea? Because by identifying who you want to come into your life, you are more likely to find them.

Instead of networking “anywhere,” you’ll go to events likely to be inhabited by your ideal client and the people who can refer him.

Instead of writing articles and posts that target “everyone” with a legal problem you handle, you’ll write posts tailored to the specific types of clients you want to attract.

Instead of waiting for things to happen, your shopping list will help you make things happen. When your list says, “commercial leasing broker on the Westside,” for example, that’s who you’ll find.

It works like this: once you get specific about who you want, your reticular activating system (RAS) sifts through the mountain of input you encounter each day, looking for clues, and alerting you when it finds them. All of sudden, you start seeing Westside commercial brokers everywhere.

You’ll look at their websites and social media profiles and learn about them. You might identify a mutual acquaintance who can introduce you. Or you might send them the article you wrote about issues important to commercial real estate brokers on the Westside. Before you know it, you’ll be meeting for coffee and finding ways to work together.

Can’t this happen without a list? Of course. But the odds of finding precisely the kinds of professional contacts or clients you want to meet, at random, are about as good as getting the Christmas gift you want this year without giving your family a list.

I already know what I’m getting from my daughter this year. Funny how that works.

How to identify your ideal referral source

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