9 Referral Marketing Strategies for Your Law Firm
Every law firm loves referrals and for good reason – and the statistics agree about referrals. Clients referred to our practices are pre-disposed to sign a fee agreement and trust us more, making the whole process better. It’s great to have clients who listen to your advice and do what you ask!
If referrals are indeed so valuable, then why do most attorneys not pursue more ways to get them? It’s probably because of the unfortunate adage preached across the profession: “do good work and the cases will come.” There’s no shame in wanting it to work that way, but it defies reality. If you’re serious about increasing the amount of referrals you get in your practice, then you need to first stop waiting for them to happen and start pursuing new referral opportunities.
When BenGlassLaw decided to go after more referrals for long-term disability cases, the results quickly added up. After less than two years, that practice area quadrupled in size and is still growing! Putting your mind to a task alone reaps large benefits.
Here are 9 ways you can add more referrals to your law practice’s books…
1: Show Up at Bar Association Events
Okay, it’s not enough to just show up. You need to mingle, and you need a willingness to talk shop with other attorneys. The most important part of the equation is to ask others about themselves and their practices. Don’t just walk up to someone and say, “I handle divorce cases. Want to refer those cases to me?”
The good news about bar association events is that you’re certain to find attorneys there. The one drawback is that many of them will be attorneys who still believe firmly in the “do good work” mantra and may not be receptive. However, their opinions don’t matter and aren’t helpful to your success. Proceed with positivity and build connections!
2: Congratulate Other Attorneys on Their Victories
Every state and some regions have publications that report on the victories of law firms in many practice areas. All you need is a quick Google search to find out where the law firm is located. Then, send a congratulations note. Tell the recipient that you would love to treat them to lunch or coffee to talk about their legal expertise and law firm. There’s nothing wrong with stroking someone’s ego in order to open up a relationship. You will quickly find an opening to talk about referrals – but remember to place the needs of the other attorneys first.
3: Publish Your Victories
The same publications mentioned above are always looking for submissions. When you win a case or do something of even mild interest in your law firm, submit the news to the bar association periodical. Other attorneys comb through the pages and may see an opportunity to refer cases to you. (Bonus points if you can mention that another attorney referred the case to you in your submission.)
4: Use Social Proof
I already alluded to this strategy right above here, but here is the explanation. Attorneys are more likely to refer to an attorney who is already getting referrals. You need to broadcast your acceptance of referrals from other attorneys – we would call this social proof in your marketing. The legal community is cautious about referring and wants to send clients to a reliable source. One indicator they look for is an already-trusted law firm. Make a big deal out of referrals from other attorneys! It both proves you are a reliable referral partner and gives you the chance to make the referring attorney a hero as well. That attorney will be extra grateful for your gratitude and public recognition, locking them in as a referral partner for a long, long time.
5: Mail a Great Referral Letter
It’s an old-fashioned strategy that can yield tremendous results. Lots of law firms overlook this idea as either antiquated or just plain gauche. The truth is that most referral letter are just done wrong. They use an in-your-face direct approach method. The worst of the letters just say here’s my practice area, so refer me cases. Or something along those lines.
A great referral letter first and foremost builds value for the referring attorneys. It offers a referral fee if possible, offers up the opportunity for reciprocal referrals, and/or at least addresses the usual concerns with referrals: reputation, quality of service, etc. Skipping past the value-building process will yield a dud – I guarantee you that much.
The potential benefits of a great referral letter are why we actually published The Ultimate Referral Letter program for attorneys as part of our new member program. The letter is already written for you – just add your name and practice area. There are even instructions on how to select your targets for the mailing and the assembly of the letter itself. If you’re keen on quickly adding new referrals to your practice, this is the #1 way to make it happen, and it’s part of the best program for attorneys to improve their marketing overall.
6: Show Up in the Community (in the Right Way)
Sometimes, you just need to be visible to get referrals. I would encourage you to select an activity that allows you to be part of a community. Many members of Great Legal Marketing use a personal hobby, such as cycling, as an in-road to building community connections. For example, Jim Dodson in Florida is a cyclist who handles many cycling personal injury cases. He speaks about bike safety in front of cycling organizations and regularly participates in cycling events. The important part is to make sure your legal service is known in whatever community you choose.
7: Broadcast and Celebrate All the Referrals You Get
Referrals have a compounding interest effect – if you make them part of your message. Public gratitude about referrals goes a long way toward getting more referrals. People like to know you will celebrate their contribution. Other businesses can offer discounts and gifts. Your law firm is held to a higher standard, but that can’t stop you from yelling “THANK YOU” from the rooftops. Posting a thank you video on social media and sharing the news in a mailed newsletter are both great ways to celebrate the referral.
8: Mail Out Seasonal Gifts to Referral Sources
Keep a list of the people who send you referrals. Then, regularly mail out a little gift to the whole group. Seasonal/holiday items are always a hit. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. Send an ice scraper before winter sets in (with your firm’s branding on it, of course). Coffee mugs and tumblers are always enjoyed by recipients, as are books. The expense is minimal compared to the payoff of more referrals in the long run.
9: Nurture Existing Referral Relationships
This is quietly the most valuable tip and builds on the idea immediately above this one. It is easier to maintain a referral relationship than it is to get a new one. You need to shore up your defenses around existing partners, otherwise an attorney may come along and poach the pipeline of cases you developed. I’ve heard of this happening far too often. The worst part is all you need to do is be kind and thoughtful – two attributes we all preach but often fail to act on.
Say thank you for every referral. Send handwritten notes of appreciation.
Take the top sources out to lunch or even arrange a group dinner to introduce a small crew of referral sources to each other. Never underestimate your status as a “center of influence” by being someone receiving referrals. When you create connections, people look to you as the leader of the relationship.
In the long run, your investment in maintaining relationships pays off big time. It also helps you slowly stack the benefits of these relationships, as you create a larger and larger pipeline of referred cases to your law firm. Plus, the more referral partners you accumulate, the less vulnerable you are to damage from losing one or two. You’re diversifying your referral portfolio!
Most attorneys start their firms assuming that being a really, really good attorney should, in and of itself, be a marketing advantage. Those attorneys believe that joining a whole bunch of committees and putting their name in lawyer directories is “marketing,” and they never bother to ask if there is a better way.
Attorneys are catching on, however, and those who succeed learn to leverage their current resources to create effective (and ethical) marketing. What they discover isn’t a magic pill or silver bullet but a different approach to marketing that your competitors haven’t considered.
by Charley Mann
Charley is the Chief Marketing Officer at Great Legal Marketing and believes in results, Results, RESULTS!