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Word of mouth referrals are a lawyer’s best source of business. And there is a growing connection between the internet and word of mouth conversations. But what, if anything, can lawyers do to help nurture and foster these word of mouth conversations?
Perhaps Sam put it best:
do good work, share knowledge, and be social.
While this is an excellent mantra, you might be wondering what types of things you can do to grow the number and quality of word of mouth referrals you receive. Here are just a couple ideas.
Write, Speak & Meet
Sometimes, nurturing a word of mouth referral is about staying top-of-mind. Are you the lawyer that comes to mind when people think about the type of work that you do?
Of course, becoming a top-of-mind authority isn’t easy and it isn’t going to happen overnight. Nonetheless, spending some time building top-of-mind awareness is a great way to nurture potential referrals:
- Write – Writing is probably the single most effective way to begin to build top-of-mind awareness. Whether it’s blog posts, infographics, slide presentations, tweets or emails, your writing will play a large role in demonstrating your knowledge, skill and experience.
- Speak – If writing isn’t your strong suit, maybe you can focus on speaking. Be on constant look-out for speaking opportunities. These might include conducting seminars, CLE, or creating informational videos.
- Meet – Face-to-face meeting is still the best way to solidify relationships and word of mouth referrals. Food makes friends.
With as little time as you have already, if you’re not proactive about setting some aside time to reach some very specific writing, speaking & meeting goals, it just won’t happen. And you’ll be missing out on some great opportunities to nurture your word of mouth referral relationships.
Tip: Think small, local & organic. Your reach is not nearly as important as your engagement.
Listen to Them
People just want to be heard. Are you listening to what people are saying about you? Unfortunately, many people aren’t comfortable telling you how they really feel about you to your face. Take steps to find out what your clients really think of you.
But don’t listen passively. Ask them what they think. Provide them opportunities to give you feedback. And once you’ve received feedback, act on it.
Tip: Provide visible and easily accessible ways for clients to leave feedback.
Sometimes, nurturing a word of mouth referral relationship is as simple as reminding them you’re out there. Whether it’s a monthly newsletter, or just a “hey how are you doing?”, sending occasional emails to referrals sources can serve as an excellent reminder.
Put referral reminders in your email signature block and on your website/blog.
Of course, you don’t want to damage these relationships by inundating them with email spam. Be conscientious of the frequency with which you send emails. Especially if they’re regularly recurring emails or email drip campaigns.
Reminders are especially important if you haven’t yet developed top-of-mind recognition. Staying in regular contact with colleagues and happy clients is one of the best ways to nurture referrals.
Tip: Use email marketing techniques to provide regular reminders.
When thinking about marketing, lawyers tend to get one-dimensional. They forget that, all things being equal, people tend to gravitate, and refer to, people they like. While you’re certainly not going to learn how to “make friends” from this blog post, being more engaged, both online and offline, with people that are interested in the same “stuff” you are, will lead to more referrals.
Do you like sports? Do you know other lawyers that like sports? Do you know other people (non-lawyers) that might interact with your potential clients in other ways that also like sports? Talk sports with them.
Don’t think of your referral sources as only referral sources. They’re people. They’re not sitting around thinking about your practice all day, every day. They have other interests. And so should you. Go out and make some friends.
Tip: Spend time actually meeting and interacting with people that share similar interests, not just related to your practice.
Thank your referral sources. Make it personal. Auto-responder emails are not the way to say thanks.
Tip: Saying thank you is not just good manners, it’s a practical way to stay in touch with the people who have gone out their way to help you.
Return the Favor
As Kevin puts it:
Giving referrals to get referrals is a cornerstone in the foundation of business networking.
If you’re doing a good job, chances are that people are going to come to you for referrals for work that you don’t do. Instead of simply saying, “I don’t do that”, spend some time helping them find someone who does.
Doing great work for clients is the foundation for getting referrals. However, what comes after (and in between the times) you’ve done a great job, may be the difference between whether you get more referrals in the future.
(Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Illu_mouth.jpg)