Solicitors Love Referrals. This is a fact. However, I know from experience that not many solicitors have a plan to generate more referrals. In this article I will show you how to generate more law firm referrals?
We all like a referral don’t we?
Somebody who already knows, likes and trusts you refers you to a friend or colleague. You get a new client who is pre-sold on you. Cost is not usually an issue. Everyone is happy.
With that in mind, I have some questions for you:
- How many referrals did you get last month?
- What were they worth to your business?
- How did you reward your referrers?
- How will you get more referrals next month?
What do you mean you don’t know? You just nodded your head when you said you love referrals, didn’t you?Therefore, you should know the answers to these questions.
When you do, you get even more referrals which make you even happier. They are important to your business. Spend more time ensuring that you have a system in place for them and you will get more and more of them. Maybe putting into place a proper, watertight referral system could be your core marketing task for the next few days?
- They are referred by someone who already knows, likes and trusts you; and
- They usually know, like and trust the person that has referred them.
Therefore, unless you completely blow it, they are more likely than not going to become a new client of your law firm.
Two things puzzle me when it comes to referrals and solicitors, though:
- The fact that nearly every solicitor that I speak with doesn’t actively measure who refers what to them; and
- No solicitor I ever met has actively sought out more referrals through a ‘referral campaign’.
I have covered with you before that if you receive referrals it is absolutely your duty to measure them so that you can ensure you thank, reward and reciprocate your referrers. If you don’t what is to stop them going elsewhere?
I am not for a minute suggesting you start offering them referral fees, by the way. I hate that stuff as much as you do too. That being said, you must measure the volume of referrals that you receive from all of your referral partners so that you can ensure that you either reciprocate, send them a bottle, take them out to dinner or at the very least send them a thank you note.
If you tot up your referrals you might be pleasantly surprised what they are worth to your business.
You might have three active referral partners each sending, let’s say, just one client each month to your business. Using a very low average billing fee of £1,000 per client, that would be £3,000 per month or £36,000 per month in fees. What would you pay someone to give you £36,000 worth of business?
What would you pay someone to give you £36,000 worth of business?
Most solicitors receive a much larger volume of referral business than this, but I wanted to put a financial figure on this so that you realise how important this topic is.
Here is my three step plan for you to transform that £36,000 into £100,000 or even more!
- Measure your current referrals
- Reward your current referrers
- Actively seek more referrals and more referral partners
I will look at each part in turn, because every step of the process has opportunity for you to optimise and improve it and the results that it produces for you.
Measuring Your Current Referrals
“I knew it was good, but I had no idea it was that good!”
I have heard this several times when I force a new client to track and measure all of their referrals. I say ‘force’ because that is what it usually takes to get them to do what I know they need to do to improve the success and profitability of their law firm.
Once I have forced them to look at all of the referrals that they have received and calculate the value of those referrals to the business in terms of straight profit costs they then say:
“I knew it was good, but I had no idea it was that good!”
This made me chuckle. After I had finished writing the part of M4S above to take scheduled client calls, on one of those calls a client said exactly these words above as I had ‘forced’ him to see who referred business to him and how much it was worth to his business.
Referrals matter! What gets measured gets better!
Once you see the pounds and pence figure of profit costs that referrals bring into your law firm, you realise how very important it is to consistently track and measure this and then to ensure that your referral partners are happy with the relationship.
Let’s move on to the reward part now.
Rewarding Your Referral Partners
My clients often find this part the most difficult, yet I think it is really quite straightforward.
As I have said before, I am not looking for you to pay referrers for each peace of work. I think that if you do pay referrals for every piece of work the relationship is doomed for several reasons:
- You will soon resent paying for new clients;
- You are not in charge of your own marketing but relying on someone else to deliver clients to you. If they become a major provider of work to your business, you can break my Golden Rule of Marketing4Solicitors number One and become too reliant on one source of new business above all others (as many personal injury solicitors did with accident claim companies).
- Once your referrer gets used to receiving regular chunks of money from you, the natural and inevitable conclusion is that he or she will ask for more money, i.e. larger referral fees. We have seen this with estate agents and accident claim companies. I remember when in practice that referral fees for accident claims started at around £250 but very quickly went past £1,000 per claim and beyond. Unsustainable.
So, if not referral fees, what should you do for your referral partners?
If you want to know what to buy your other half for Christmas, or your children or anyone for that matter, how do you find out?
You ask them!
Same with referrals. If you do your measuring from step one above and discover that one referrer is sending a huge amount of new business your way (which most solicitors do when they do this exercise) the easiest thing to do is to go old school. Take them out to lunch or dinner, spend some time getting to really know them, discovering their own and their families hobbies and interests and their food and beverage preferences, pay for dinner and you will be armed with all of the information to randomly reward them when the time feels right.
I want to stress the RANDOM part there. Keep the gift random so that it doesn’t become tied to referrals or raise an expectation in your referrer’s mind that they receive something every time they refer some new business to you.
You might buy them one bottle of wine, two or six. You might give them tickets to a concert for a musician that you now know they like or buy them a voucher for dinner with their family at a nice restaurant. It might even be as simple as a thank you card. What it can’t be (or continue to be if it has been until this point) is absolutely nothing.
There simply cannot be a long term relationship of any type where one side constantly gives and the other constantly takes. Remember my “Referral Triangle of Mutual Benefit”?
In this relationship between the referred client, the referrer and the solicitor everyone has to get something from the relationship for it to work:
- You, the solicitor, receive the referred business.
- The client receives the great service that you provide.
- The referrer receives some form of recognition from you for the referral.
If three-way mutual benefit doesn’t exist guess what happens? The triangle collapses and becomes a flat line! That won’t work.
Reward your referrer from time to time and you will keep them happy and keep them referring.
Now that you know how to look after your existing referrers, shouldn’t you think about obtaining some more?
Finding More Referrers!
Good news, there isn’t just one opportunity for referrals here. Nor are there just two, but there are in fact three potential sources of referrals for solicitors:
- Business referral partners;
- Your existing clients; and
- Other solicitors
Let’s look at each of them in turn.
Referral Opportunity 1 – Business referral partners
There are two ways here to get more referrals from business partners:
- Get more referrals from existing partners; and
- Find more referral partners just like them.
The first one is as simple as asking your referrer if there are opportunities for you to help them more that may also produce more referrals for you. Yes, I am banging on about mutual benefit again here, because this will be far more effective for you than just asking for more referrals.
Here are some ways that you can generate some referrals for your business whilst adding benefit to your referral partner’s business too (win, win):
- Write an article for their blog, email newsletter or printed newsletter if they are clever and do one of those; or
- Present at one of their events or a seminar or webinar; or
- Offer some free initial advice to their clients on a specialist ‘hot’ topic, such as when GDPR came in which will of course lead to you having conversations with many future potential clients. Do provide some free advice as promised, but if the conversation develops and they need some additional advice, that can of course be paid for. In addition, ensure that for everyone you speak with you add them to your email marketing database and connect with them on LinkedIn so that you can maximise your chances of future business by keeping in touch with them (on your regular minimum monthly email marketing newsletter which you absolutely definitely do send don’t you?).
This is how you can add value to your existing referral partners and generate new referrals for your business whilst providing some value for their business too.
Once you have maximised the referrals from your existing referral partners, why not find some more?
If you are regularly told by your existing referral partners that you add a lot of value to their clients, why wouldn’t someone else with the same type of business as your referral partner want to send their clients to you too?
This is the approach I suggest that you use to find these prospects:
Step 1 – Connect on LinkedIn
Head to LinkedIn and do a search in the top bar for the type of business that you know has potential clients for you:
Make sure you select the “People” search rather than the “Jobs” one.
You can only connect with people who are second connections with you, so select this from the “Connections” drop down.
Then filter your search to find people close to your business (if geography is important to you) by adding your county or town name as shown below:
You will now be presented with a list of potential referral partners.
Connect with them. Preferably add a personal message, for example:
“Nick, I see you are also in Reading so I thought it would be worth connecting as I am sure we can help each other’s businesses in some way, shape or form. I would be happy to meet for a coffee and a chat.”
It will work without a personal message too; just possibly not quite so well.
Step 2 – Post articles to LinkedIn
Now that you are expanding your network with people who could be potential referral partners, you need them to see that you are an expert in your field. You should really be doing this already, but if not then starting it now would be a good idea.
Post articles about your topic of expertise (linking to the main article but including the headline, topic summary and if possible at all ask a question about the subject matter to get responses on LinkedIn).
Check to see who engages with your post (likes it or comments on it) and of course if and when potential referral partners do so, message them inside LinkedIn to push for that coffee that I mention above. Remember to talk about the benefits to their business not your own.
Step 3 – Rinse and repeat ad inifinitum
Keep posting to LinkedIn (weekly if you can, monthly as a minimum – make a diary note) and also make a repeating diary note to do the ‘search and connect’ process every month to continually grow your network with potential referral partners.
Referral Opportunity 2 – Your existing clients
Your existing clients already know like and trust you.
Q. What is the easiest way to obtain recommendations and referrals from your existing clients?
A. Send them an email EVERY.SINGLE.MONTH.
I love it when one feature article (referrals) allows me to smash you over the head with another of my Marketing Arteries (email marketing), also known as the methods of marketing that every smart solicitor should be doing which by way of a reminder are:
- A website that consistently grows with lovely new content;
- Email marketing
- Google Adwords
By sending an email every month to your clients, you are forced to create new content for your website (Artery 1), you send that email to your clients (Artery 2) and also to all of your referrers (Artery 4).
That can’t be a bad thing can it?
In addition to this you are also reminding your clients that you exist and of the range of services that you provide, so that when a friend or family member asks them if they know a solicitor, instead of saying “I can’t remember who I used last time because it was three or four years ago and I haven’t heard from them since…” they now say: “Oh, hang on a minute, I had an email from my solicitor last week.”
Let me forward that on to you so you can give them a call.”
Note the use now of My Solicitor because you have remained in their mind since that lovely employment law matter you handled for them four years ago.
Two additional ways of obtaining more referrals from your existing clients are:
- When they say those lovely words that we all like to hear “Oh Mrs Grant, you have done such a good job for me on this legal matter. I can’t thank you enough….” you then reply with “I am so pleased to hear that Mr Jameson, is there anyone else you know that we could help?”. You then remain silent to make them think. They might not have a referral for you immediately, but just by hearing the question it will wobble around in their subconscious mind for a while.
- Ask them for referrals in your monthly emails from time to time or in a unique one-off email no more than once every three months. You can be as soft or as blunt as you like, but here are some ideas or wording for you to steal and use:
Monthly email wording for near the end of the email
We are incredibly lucky to work with some wonderful clients. If you know anyone else that could benefit from our legal services, please do introduce us. We really appreciate recommendations and referrals from our clients.
One off email
Subject: Can we help anyone that you know?
Dear Mrs Grouse,
Having used our legal services in the past, we hope that you experienced how hard we work to deliver a great service for our clients.
We don’t know if you know this, but a lot of our new clients are recommended to us by existing clients. This has the benefit for us that we know we will get on with them because they are recommended by someone that we already know, like and trust.
I am emailing today to explain that we are currently running a campaign to raise money for the local charity XXX. For every new client that comes to us in January recommended by one of our existing clients, we are donating £50.
If you know anyone that could use our legal services right now (the full range of our services is at the foot of this email) all that you need to do is to forward this email to them and ask them to mention the XXX charity and your name when they call us so that we can make the donation in your name by way of a thank you for recommending us.
Even if they do not refer you as a result of the email (I suggest sending one at the beginning of the month and one nearer to the end to give yourself two bites of the cherry), two things will happen:
- You will gain some goodwill by saying that you “know, like and trust” them; and
- They will be aware that you get a lot of new business from existing client referrals so will be more likely to refer you in the future.
Could you run this promotion in the next month or two to drive more referrals from existing clients?
Put it in the diary. Be brave. Get some new work the easy way and support a charity at the same time.
Referral Opportunity 3- Solicitors
Other solicitors are one of the biggest referral methods for many of my clients. If you work in a niche, there will be three or four firms that also operate in niche areas who would be very happy to refer work to you on the basis that you reciprocate to them.
The additional benefit of this three, four or eight way symbiotic relationship is that you can now talk about other areas of law in your email newsletters aside from just your own. You can ask your fellow solicitors for content for your email marketing newsletter and provide content for theirs too so that you cross-promote each other’s services.
Remember when you do this though to keep control of the referral so that you can track how many clients you have sent to each solicitor to ensure that they reciprocate. The easy way to do this when you include their article in your email newsletter is to not name the solicitor, but to explain that you have a very close relationship with a solicitor in this field of law and if your clients would like an introduction all they need to do is to call you or reply to the email. You can then introduce them to the solicitor, thereby ensuring that you receive the credit for the referral.
How do you find more solicitors like this to generate referrals from?
You use my LinkedIn three step referral process above!
I started by saying that solicitors LOVE referrals.
I have given you several opportunities to generate MORE referrals. I ask of you two things:
- Please, please, please use these opportunities in your practice; and
- When you do, and they work, which they will, please do let me know. It’s what makes my day and keeps me going😊.