The thing about referral-based marketing is that you have to have a driven, effective network to make it work at its best. That means that, as principal of your law firm, you’ve got to put the work in to build that network. The goal isn’t just to get your business card in others’ hands, either – it has to make it into the right hands. Here are six strategies to regularly find and recruit the right referral partners for your practice:
1) Dedicate Time to Outreach
This part should be a given, but it’s so frequently overlooked. We’ve presented attorneys with a referral strategy, and many have told us, “I know about that, I just don’t have the time.” If you’re not spending time on it, how can you expect to execute? That’s why a portion of every week (or maybe every day, if you need to make up ground) needs to be blocked off and dedicated to identifying your firm’s best potential referral partners, analyzing the work you’ve done so far, and crafting your next message that will get the right partners on your team.
2) Explore Your Marketing Channels
Sending blast emails will work if you’ve got luck on your side, but it’s just bad strategy to leave your practice growth up to chance. Instead of relying on outbound messaging, which is really just a disguise for widely-despised cold calling, attorneys need to present their targets with useful media at the places they visit most. This will vary, but social media platforms are usually a safe bet, or maybe a publication specific to a particular legal field. If you provide useful information through a blog article and tie it back to a call-to-action that allows the reader to identify themselves, you’re identifying interested leads – both for referral partnership and direct client opportunities. You just need to serve it up on the right platform.
3) Set Tangible Goals & Timelines
Most practice leaders are familiar with setting revenue goals for the year, or maybe volume goals for client caseload each quarter, but how often does relationship building get a goal? Simply stating, “We’re going to get more referrals this year,” is garbage. Your goals need to set accountability, timelines to completion, and have a specific target. “We’re going to pick up one new referral partner every month through LinkedIn connections,” is a manageable goal; plus, you’ve already set the high-level outline of your strategy to accomplish it, making it that much easier to execute.
4) Give More Value Than Just the Meeting
Let’s say you connect with a peer on social media who’s indicated they’re interested in discussing cooperation or referrals between your practices. It’s going to take more than time out of your schedule to indicate you’re committed to providing return value to your new ally. Bring some helpful third-party reading material to your meeting, or if you’re feeling generous, share a strategy that has worked well for your practice. Granted, the conversation will may turn to “I give you some, you give me some” in terms of referrals, but that initial offering helps you build trust up front and demonstrate that you care for your potential partner’s success, and earned trust makes these discussions so much easier.
5) Build a Strengths Map
It will be difficult to demonstrate the value of a partnership if you’re unable to identify what your firm has to offer in the first place. Build a strengths map that shows:
- How your law practice fits into the market
- What clients gain from working with you
- Your practice’s most effective growth strategies
- How you’re different from other firms in your field
- Existing partnerships that you effectively leverage now
Though you could present this map to your potential partner, that’s not really the purpose. By identifying and labeling your practice’s strengths, you can be more confident going into your meeting. On top of that, you’ll also indirectly identify challenges that your law firm could work on and your partner could help you with.
6) Find Common Ground
Try out the statement, “This is where I am now, and this is where I want to be.” By bringing up your goals to your potential partner, you open the floor for strategy discussion and for reciprocation. No practice is perfect. The sooner you find out what their own growth goals are, the sooner you can meet them halfway and discuss a plan for cooperation.
Networking isn’t easy, and it requires focus and a plan to build partnerships. Luckily, there are plans out there that involve leveraging your existing clients as referral engines for your legal practice. To get your hands on some of those referral plans, click here to download the Client Referral Cheat Sheets and you can kick-start your practice growth with minimal additional investment.