How to Close the Referral Gap

This post was originally published as a guest-blog for Evolve Law

According to a marketing survey conducted by Texas Tech, 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer products and services. But only 29% actually do.

In other words, the average business is only receiving one-third of the referrals they could be getting from their customers and clients. Apply this statistic to your law firm and you’ve got an opportunity to dramatically increase your revenue simply by increasing referrals from clients who are already willing to send work your way. We call this the “referral gap” and one of the primary ways we serve our clients is by helping them close this gap.

Here are four ways to make this happen.

1 – Educate your referral network. Your network needs to know two things: first, they need to know how you help your clients, aka what kind of work you do for them. And second, they need to know what type of clients you’re looking for – who’s a good referral? Use communication channels like social media, your e-newsletter, and your website to accomplish this goal. And when you’re out networking, be sure to clearly communicate these two points during your conversations.

2 – Build a system to stay top-of-mind. We are all busy – and we’re constantly bombarded with distractions. Text messages, email, Twitter, and so on. No offense, but there are a lot of people who you’ve met that have probably forgotten about you over time. Including potential referral sources! It’s not enough to have lunch with somebody once – you need to create a system to maintain top-of-mind awareness. Obviously personal phone calls or sharing a meal is great – but are you really going to personally connect with hundreds or thousands of people each month? Of course not – and that’s why scalable methods of communication, such as an email newsletter and your social media presence, are so valuable. It’s not enough to send a Christmas card once a year – you need to create multiple touch-points every single month.

3 – Narrow your focus. Focusing in on a single practice area, or at least a group of related practice areas, is a good business move on many different levels. It’s helpful when it comes to generating referrals for a few reasons, not the least of which is that focusing on a single practice area makes it easy for your network to remember what you do and recognize opportunities to send you work. Narrowing your focus also allows you to build a brand as an expert in that particular area of law – which is critical for referrals because people are much more likely to refer to a lawyer who is an expert in a particular area of need. One final note on this, because I know how resistant most lawyers are to narrow their practice areas: You can start by simply narrowing the focus of your marketing – you don’t have to turn down clients in other practice areas. We all have bills to pay and you may not be ready to turn down paying clients. But with time, as you focus your marketing and build a brand as a leader in your area of practice, you’ll attract more of that work, you’ll be able to charge higher rates to do it, and you’ll build a much more sustainable and efficient practice because you won’t have to re-invent the wheel every time you get a new client.

4 – Ask. You’d think this would be obvious, but I exchanged emails with an attorney a few months back who stated that “I would never ask for a referral. That’s not how I do business.” In my opinion, that attitude demonstrates that he doesn’t recognize the value of the work he provides for his clients. Asking for referrals isn’t about begging for someone to send work your way – it’s about communicating the ways in which you improve the lives of your clients. If you don’t ask, you’re going to miss out. Here’s one way to approach this: we’ve helped our clients create a “Referral VIP Page” on their websites – a page that they can then share with their referral network. When somebody has a referral, they fill out the website form, which promises “White Glove VIP treatment” for the new client. This can include extended office hours, guaranteed call-back times, or whatever other “perks” they offer. Click here to see an example. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t be shy about asking for or encouraging referrals – because most people are more than happy to refer others your way if they’ve had a good experience working with you.

When most lawyers think about internet marketing, they think about Google rankings. But in our opinion, closing the referral gap is one of the most valuable ways in which lawyers can leverage the internet. Tools such as social media and an email newsletter can very effectively educate your network, keep them engaged, build top-of-mind awareness, and ultimately lead to more referrals for your practice. Take advantage!

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Daniel Decker

Daniel Decker is a Partner at Spotlight Branding. He is passionate about marketing strategy, copywriting, and creating value. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys playing sports, guitar, politics, and Minnesota sports.

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