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Referrals are the ultimate gift to your firm. They are a sign that your attorney team is doing the right things to help clients and providing great experiences. Referrals also act as warm inbound leads that can covert more easily into clients than cold leads.

While all of your efforts shouldn’t be geared toward gathering recommendations, they should still play an important part in your comprehensive legal marketing strategy. Review the three steps below to set up a referral-gathering system that makes accruing a greater number of referrals quicker and easier, and gain more clients with less effort.

Step 1: Understand the different kinds of referrals

Generally speaking, there are two types of referrals. The one you may be most familiar with is your standard client referral, where a current or former client recommends your legal services based upon his or her positive experience with your firm. Let’s call this a direct referral.

Some referrals are more indirect, as they’re made by people who haven’t worked with your firm before. These recommendations arise because the people making the recommendations:

  • Know of someone who had a good experience with your firm
  • Possess a good impression of your firm thanks to marketing and branding

While direct referrals can be a more powerful legal marketing tool than indirect referrals thanks to their personal nature (the referrer can speak about their personal experience of working with you), a good referral strategy focuses on gathering both types.

Step 2: Implement tailored strategies

Gaining both direct and indirect referrals requires a multi-pronged strategy.

Direct Referrals

Because this type of recommendation arises from positive client experiences, the key is to build excellent client relationships from the start. Here are just a few tips to do this:

  • Anticipate client issues and proactively resolve them
  • Provide alternative billing options for greater flexibility
  • Install a live chat feature to your legal website so that prospects and clients can immediately communicate with you
  • Train office staff on client interaction protocols during the on-boarding process, hold everyone to a high standard, and brush up on training regularly
  • Respond to client communications as quickly as possible

After a positive relationship is established, some clients will feel compelled to share their great experience via word of mouth and social media; according to American Express, nearly half of all consumers claim that they always tell their connections about a good experience.  Others may need a bit of prompting, such as your team requesting a review on social media or a good word to their friends who may need legal help.

Indirect Referrals

Indirect referrals stem from non-clients who believe that your firm is a standout in the industry because of either legal marketing/branding or a connection with someone who has had a good experience with your firm. Therefore, in addition to making positive client experiences a priority, the best way to garner this type of recommendation is to represent your firm well to the public.

  • Create good content on your blog and spread it to social media
  • Craft helpful materials such as white papers, guides, and Q & A sheets for clients to download from your website (these can also act as lead magnets!)
  • Have a well-designed legal website that is professional and user-friendly

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Step 3: Streamline referral-gathering processes

Knowing how to promote referrals is great, but it’s only one half of the puzzle. The other half is streamlining the referral-gathering process as much as possible to ensure that you continually attract warm leads without taking too much time from other legal marketing priorities.

Direct Referrals

Use the tools already at your disposal. If you have an email management system such as Constant Contact or a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce, set up a Referrals email campaign that automatically sends to the clients of all newly closed cases. In the email, say that you enjoyed working with the client and that if they feel the same way, you would appreciate a referral so you could help more people who need assistance.

Also take advantage of social media marketing. Regularly encourage people to share their positive stories on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and LinkedIn. The comments will reach their connections, which could result in a greater number of referrals. Plus, once your pages have accumulated a good number of reviews, more visitors will be inclined to share their stories to add to the collection.

Indirect Referrals

Make the most of each client review to promote more indirect referrals as well.

  • For Yelp, enable auto features like email messages sent to your inbox every time someone leaves a new review—that way you respond quickly to clients, and also demonstrate to all that your firm cares about feedback and makes communication a priority.
  • After responding, share snippets of these reviews on other social media pages like Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as on your website. This can further every Yelp review’s reach and build your brand, influencing potential clients and looky-loos as well.

Also be sure to participate in awards programs. (Note: be sure to follow all guidelines when referencing any awards in your legal marketing). Awards like “Best of Atlanta” or “U.S. News’ Best Law Firms,” for instance, establish credibility. While participating in programs may require some manual labor on the front end, once you’ve received an accolade, all you have to do is feature the awards logos on your website and social media pages to reap the benefits.

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