When you are focused on online marketing, it is easy to forget the importance of in-person meetings and word-of-mouth communication. A lot of an attorney’s work is generated by way of referrals. Thus it’s absolutely imperative to develop and maintain your referral network. When you have referral sources, you must figure out a way to keep them.
To begin with, you have to make sure your referrers don’t forget about you. And to do that, you must maintain contact. But first, to facilitate this process, you must organize, organize, organize. For all you type-A attorneys out there, this might sound like a joy, but for everyone else, this may appear daunting. No need to be overwhelmed. All you need is a spreadsheet.
There are a number of things to consider when organizing your referral sources. For starters, you want to note their level of importance, and you want to keep track of your interactions.
A, B, C, D
First, you might want to take the American Bar Association’s advice and divide your sources into four categories: A, B, C and D. All you’re A referral sources are the ones who refer you paying clients on a consistent basis. You want to limit this list to somewhere between 1 and 20, but if you have more than 20 A sources, you’re probably doing pretty well with referrals.
B referrers are family or friends that can potentially lead to referrals but that require more time and effort. After B comes – you guessed it – C sources. These people might come to you with work but without any sense of good business practices. For instance, they might ask you to represent their friends for free. This person, after some one-on-one meetings, could potentially become a B or A.
Lastly, at the very bottom are the D-listers. These are people you don’t know very well, but that might one day turn into referrals. Ideally, you’re able to move people up the list. The more As and Bs, the better!
Record and Maintain Communication
After you’ve prioritized your referrers, you may want to mark, on a quarterly basis, the amount and type of contact you’ve had with each referral source. You can check this list as part of your regular business routine, to see if you need to reach out to a source. It’s probably a good idea to contact referrers at least a few times a year. You can set up a coffee date, a phone call or you can even send an email. The priority level can help you determine the level of interaction. The bottom line is this: you want to stay on their radar. Falling off their radar could prove dire for your firm’s billings.
Of course an ongoing drip marketing campaign (with a monthly or bi-monthly e-newsletter from your law firm) can be a great way to support all of your other efforts.
So you can prioritize your contacts and you can keep tabs on your communications. You can also include other helpful tips in your master document. For instance, high level contacts might require detailed information about their likes, dislikes and schedule – it might be good to know when they’re on vacation. Include whatever information will help you maintain a good relationship with your referrers.
It’s very important to show appreciation to your referral sources. If you fail at this, you could risk offense and potentially losing their referrals. There are a number of things you can do to show your appreciation.
After receiving a referral, it’s a good idea to literally say thank you in some formal way. To that end, handwritten thankyou cards are a good bet. Or if you live in a state that allows you to give gifts, be sure to do so. If it’s permitted, you can bet other people are sending gifts to their referrers. However, because of the ethics rules, you want to be sure that nothing you do could be interpreted as inappropriately sharing legal fees.
In the long term, it can also be good to support your referral source’s business by displaying their business card or brochure in your office. If you don’t have a lot of people coming through the office, this might not be very effective, but other cross-advertising efforts can show appreciation and loyalty to your referrer.
However you show your appreciation, be sure it’s personal and not cookie cutter. An automated email is a perfect way to push someone away.
In the end, you want to make sure you maintain consistent contact and show earnest appreciation for referrals. These simple principles can help you maintain a solid referral network.