Being proactive about referrals

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Referrals happen, right? You don’t have to say anything or do anything other than provide great service. Happy clients tell others about you, give them your business card or your website, and magic happens.

Your business contacts do the same thing. They might say that you did a good job for some of their clients or customers, or they know you by your stellar reputation, or they know you from church or your kid’s soccer team, and you’re a nice fella or gal.

More magic.

If you get any referrals right now, you know this is true. Referrals happen this way all day, every day.

Without you doing anything extra to make that happen.

But while you don’t have to say anything or do anything, there are things you could say or do that could significantly increase the number of referrals you get.

You might double or triple them. You might increase them tenfold.

How much would it be worth to you over the course of a year to get even one additional referral each month?

Okay, enough with the sexy numbers. You want to know what you could say or do to stimulate more referrals, and you don’t want to work hard to do it.

I’ll give you 3 things you can do, starting today.

First, you can talk about referrals. No, I didn’t say ask for them. Talk about them. In your blog posts and articles, in your presentations, and in your conversations.

When you tell a story about a client with a problem, simply mention that they were referred to you by another client who had a similar problem, or by another lawyer or influential person in your community.

Every time you do that, you tell people that you (routinely) get referrals, suggesting that they might do the same.

Thing is, some people can send you referrals but don’t, primarily (according to surveys) because they “didn’t think of it”. This is a simple way to help them think of it.

The second thing you can do is to equip your clients and contacts to refer you.

Give them something they can hand out besides your business card, so that when they talk to someone who might need your help, they can give them something that tells them what you do and how you can help them.

They don’t have to explain. The handout does that for them and tells the prospective client exactly what you want them to know and what to do next.

One more.

Make a habit of asking people for referrals to other professionals.

Tell them you like to network with other attorneys, real estate or financial professionals (or whoever might make a good referral source for you), and ask if they know anyone. If they do, ask for a name, tell them you’ll call them to introduce yourself, and ask, “is it okay if I mention your name?”

You get to talk to potential referral sources who will know that you represent one of their clients or business contacts. You still have work to do, but your mutual client or contact gives you a huge head start.

And yes, it is as simple as that.

Learn more about what to do with this (for clients) and this (for professional contacts).

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Your best source of referrals?

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Many people say clients are your best source of referrals. They know, like, and trust you and can share their experiences with your firm with their friends and business contacts.

True, but they might not know that their friend or contact has a problem or needs to talk to an attorney. They might not know about all the services you offer or how to recognize when someone needs your help. They might not think of you when someone they know has a problem, or know what to do to refer them.

Which is why you need to educate your clients, equip them to make referrals, and stay in touch with them.

Some say other attorneys are your best source of referrals because they know when their client or contact needs the help you provide and can influence them to talk to you.

That’s true, too, but those attorneys might have other attorneys they work with and refer to, or they might not know you well enough to trust you to properly handle their client’s matter.

Which is why you need to build relationships with other attorneys, make them aware of what you have done for your clients, and stay in touch with them, before you can expect them to send you referrals.

Some say your best source of referrals are people who have previously referred clients to you. That’s also true, but only if those previous referrals were happy with you.

Which is why you have to provide your clients with great results and great service, properly thank the referral-giver, stay in touch with them, and continue to build your relationship with them.

Your best source of referrals? I don’t know who might be yours, but I can tell you one thing. It will be people with whom you have a good relationship.

Which is why you need to stay in touch with people, instead of assuming they know who you are and will contact you if they need you.

I’ve never found an easier way to do that than an email newsletter.

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Two birds. One stone.

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You: “I want to help my best clients and referral sources but I’m not always able to provide referrals.”

Also you: “I need more ideas for content for my blog and newsletter and social media.”

Me: Pay attention to what your best clients and referral sources are doing and talk about that in your blog, newsletter, and on social.

When they have news or post new content, when they announce an upcoming event or get an award, when they run a promotion or launch a new product or service, share it.

Re-post their news release or article. Share their links. Ask them questions and quote them.

They get free publicity, traffic, leads, and new business.

You get free content for your blog, newsletter, and social media.

Also you: your best clients and referral sources see you promoting them and helping them and most of them will want to do the same for you.

Actually, that’s three birds with one stone. But who’s counting?

How to take a quantum leap in your practice

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Another day, another newsletter alternative

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Yesterday, I suggested sending an occasional “client alert” as a less-demanding alternative to the usual newsletter.

It takes less time and can bring you a lot of repeat business and referrals.

Today, another idea:

News and information for professionals and other referral sources.

You send occasional alerts or bulletins to other lawyers, business owners, and anyone else on your contact list who might like to know what’s going on in the legal world you inhabit.

You can do this for:

  • Other lawyers in your practice area
  • Lawyers in other practice areas
  • Business owners, executives, community leaders
  • Anyone you know who might send you referrals, and/or introduce you to other professionals who can.

Yes, you can include professional contacts who are themselves prospective clients, and anyone else with whom you would like to stay in touch.

One difference between this and the alert you send to clients, however.

With the client alert, I said adding your comments is recommended but not essential. With a bulletin sent to lawyers and other professionals, I suggest always including your comments.

Why? Because with clients, the alert is about staying in touch and building the relationship. That’s also true with professional contacts, but with the latter, you also want to position yourself as a thought leader in your field.

Thus, the necessity of including your thoughts.

Tell them what you think, what you’re doing with the information, and what you think they might want to do with their clients, practice or business.

Of course there are no absolutes here. Do what feels right for you and your practice.

But do something.

Repeat business and referrals are waiting for you.

How to build your law practice with newsletters

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Learn, do, teach

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You learn about marketing. You do it and get good at it.

Life is good.

Life gets even better, however, if you take what you’ve learned and teach it to your professional contacts.

Teach them some things you’ve learned about marketing professional services, from me and others.

Teach them how to identify their target market and ideal client, and why it’s important to focus.

Teach them how to get more referrals from their clients and their professional contacts.

Teach them about using content to attract more prospects and show them what they can do to help them.

Teach them about the power of staying in touch with clients and prospects and the best ways to do that.

Teach them by sharing information and by the power of your example. Tell them what you’ve done to bring in new business, repeat business, bigger cases and better clients.

Share your process, your forms and checklists. Show them how you market your practice without spending a lot of time or breaking the bank, and how they can do the same.

As you do this, they will also learn more about you—your target market and ideal client. They’ll learn how to recognize them and the best way to refer them.

As you do this, you will train a small army of new referral sources for your practice.

They’ll appreciate you. They’ll want to help you. And they’ll have more clients or customers coming in that they can refer to you.

And they will, since no other lawyer is helping them this way.

This will help you identify and approach prospective referral sources

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How to get more referrals without asking for referrals

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Three things I know about you:

  1. You understand that your clients and contacts could send you more referrals than they now send you;
  2. You know that asking for referrals is an effective way to get more of them, and
  3. You don’t want to ask.

What if you could get more referrals without asking or saying anything?

You can. I promise.

All you need to do is give your clients and contacts information—a report, a letter, a brochure—that explains:

  1. The services you offer, problems you solve, and benefits you help people achieve. Provide examples for each problem and/or service.
  2. The types of clients and cases that are a good match for you, and how to recognize them.
  3. What to do when they recognize someone who might need your help, now or in the future. Tell them what to say, what to tell them about you, and the best way to refer them.

In other words, write something that tells your clients and contacts what you want them to know and do, and makes it easier for them to do it.

When you do that, you will get more referrals.

If they have sent you referrals before, they will send you more.

If they’ve never sent you referrals, they will be more likely to start.

Your report or letter tells them everything they need to know and tells them that referrals are a normal part of your practice and a simple way to help the people they know get the help they need.

Bottom line: more referrals, without saying or asking for anything.

You can learn what to put in your report or referral letter, how to distribute it, and other strategies for getting more referrals, here:

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It’s all about you

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Your services aren’t unique.

You may put your own spin on them, offer lower fees or other benefits, package and present them differently, but in truth. . . .

You and your competition offer essentially the same services.

And clients are just a five-minute search away from choosing another lawyer.

Yes, the quality and scope of your marketing plays a role. But in the realm of professional services, that can only do so much for you because a professional services practice is built on relationships.

So how do you get clients to choose you instead of the guy next door? That’s simple.

Put more of YOU into every aspect of your practice.

Because YOU are original.

And because clients buy you before they buy your services. They choose you and stay with you because of you.

Simple as that.

How do you put more of yourself into your practice?

  • Show people how you think by writing and speaking more openly, and more often
  • Champion the causes that are important to your target market; let them see that you care about the things they care about
  • Share some details about your personal life—what you do outside of work, your family, what you do for fun. Let people get to know the “real” you, not just the “lawyer” you
  • Judiciously share some of your flaws and blemishes. Let people know you’re human (just like them)
  • Own up to errors and mistakes; give clients the benefit of the doubt on billing issues.
  • Build relationships with clients and prospects and the professionals in your network. Stay in touch, mostly via email, so they can learn more about who you are, what you do, and how you work with your clients.

New services? New solutions? Original ideas? They’re great, if you’ve got them. But you don’t need them.

Because there’s no one else like you and clients buy you before they buy your services.

Why email is still the best (and easiest) way to build your practice

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How to say no without coming off as a jerk

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Your inboxes and ears are filled with requests from clients, friends, family, co-workers, subscribers, people in your social network, and others who want something from you but can’t or won’t hire you.

How do you say no without feeling guilty or appearing to be a jerk?

First, make sure you’re clear about your areas of responsibility, so you can focus on what and who are important. If building stronger relationships with your clients is important to you, giving a client 30 or 60 minutes of your time without charge might be a very good use of your time.

Second, do what you can to manage the expectations of the people in your life. Your new client kit or welcome letter should spell out things like how you bill, when you will respond to calls or emails, and what to do in case of emergency (and what constitutes one).

Make sure your website has answers to FAQs and tell visitors you can’t respond to every comment or request.

If you have partners or work on projects with other people, clarify who handles what, deadlines, and other agreed standards.

Third, understand that you don’t have to respond to every request. You can (and should) ignore spam, and just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

If you feel the need to respond, do it in a way that validates the other person but makes it clear that you can’t drop everything to give them what they want. Respond with one or two sentences, to let them know you’re not ignoring them, but don’t lead them to believe there’s more to come.

Fourth, tell them “not now” instead of no. Tell them you need more information or time to think about what they’re asking, or you’re not sure when you’ll be able to do it because of your other commitments. They may find other ways to get what they need, or realize they no longer need it.

Finally, when you turn someone down, do what you can to direct them to another person or resource that might help. Refer them to another lawyer, give them a website or two, or a book you recommend.

The key is to make people feel that while you can’t help them, you heard them and support them and invite them to contact you again.

How to get your website to bring in more business

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How to write an effective follow-up email

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“Follow-up to our call,” is not the most effective subject line in a follow-up email to someone you just met or spoke to. You want them to open the email immediately, if not sooner as my grandfather used to say.

The subject line should make them curious and/or promise a benefit, or otherwise get their attention.

Depending on the circumstances, you might use something akin to one of these:

  • “You asked for a copy of my xyz report–here it is”
  • “This [form, app, site, idea, etc.] has saved my bacon more times than I can count”
  • “I won’t be able to sleep tonight unless you do this”
  • “I was surprised when you told me this. . .”

Use humor if appropriate. And funny. (If you’re not sure, talk to my wife.)

For the body of the email, reference your conversation, thank them, and be yourself. Not your lawyer self if you can help it, your real person self.

More.

  • Keep it simple–one thought or question.
  • Keep it brief. The longer the email, the less likely they’ll be to read it.
  • Lots of white space. Short paragraphs and sentences, bullet points, and a smattering of bold and ALL CAPS, so they can skim or read it quickly.
  • Informal. You know them, now, so write like a friend or colleague.
  • Tell them what you want them to do. Ask for the sale, invite them to take the next step. Or tell them what you’re going to do next.
  • Consider using a P.S., to remind them what to do or to add something personal, eg., “Say hello to Jack from me,” or to say thank you (again).

Save your best messages as templates. Make sure to change the name of the recipient before you hit send, however. [Smiley-face goes here.]

How to market your practice with email

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This marketing strategy may be the only one you ever need

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If you like referrals, if you like working smarter not harder, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time or money on marketing, if you want to build your practice organically and know you will never run out of clients. . .

I have some advice for you.

You can start doing this immediately. You can take tiny steps or go whole hog. You can do it in addition to everything else you do to bring in clients, or you can replace everything else with this one, simple strategy.

This:

Get to know everyone your clients and contacts know.

If you handle consumer matters, get to know your clients’ friends and neighbors and the owners and employees of the businesses they patronize.

If you have business clients (even if you don’t practice business law), get to know their customers or clients, vendors or suppliers, colleagues and competitors.

Instead of building your practice linearly, one new client or new contact at a time, build it geometrically–10, 50, 100 at at time.

Because each new client or contact is the gateway to hundreds more.

Because everyone knows other people who might need your services at some point, or know someone they can refer.

The average person knows 250 people. If you have 250 people on your current list of clients and contacts, your list can potentially reach 62,500 people.

Think about the leverage this gives you. People who know, like and trust you recommending you to people in their warm market.

When you meet someone new, don’t just look at them, look “through” them, at the people they know, because there are a lot of them.

How do you implement this? There are many things you can do.

Here’s a great place to start.

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