Like most professional services, many law firms rely on referrals. 62% of clients found the law firm that they chose to represent them through referrals. That’s not exactly a trend, however. It’s always been like this for attorneys and that it continues to be an important factor in bringing clients to your law firm should surprise no one.
As a trend, lawyer referral service can play a huge role in all of the law firm marketing that you do. That includes digital marketing. But traditional advertising methods are a scattershot approach to drawing referrals. Most law firms are not using their digital tools effectively as a lawyer referral service.
This year we expect more firms to tap their digital resources in order to draw in more referrals.
How can they do that?
Referrals Make For Effortless Marketing
Attorneys who show dedication to their cases and build strong relationships with their clients usually have no problem gaining new clients effortlessly. Establishing a personal connection with your clients will help your practice stand out amongst your competitors, regardless of how flashy your lawyer website is or where you rank in the search engines.
Unlike other lawyer marketing strategies, generating new business from referrals doesn’t magically happen (like a Pay-per-click campaign might). You must dedicate yourself to a high quality of personalized service and really listen to your clients’ needs. Remind your clients to refer their friends, and they will be happy to do so. But you will also find that referrals simply generate themselves.
It’s also important to show your gratefulness and make sure your clients know how much you appreciate the business they are bringing you. Referrals can do more than generate clients; they can also enrich your existing client relationships.
While referrals often come naturally, it can’t hurt to use some special tools to make them happen.
Client Email Lists
We touched on email lists in the last section and their importance for targeting prospects. The truth is they’re also effective at maintaining a relationship with your former clients. Monthly newsletters allow your firm to stay in your clients’ field of awareness.
Email lists can be useful for discussing:
- Changes to the law,
- Lawsuits your firm is pursuing,
- Major decisions that affect your area of practice,
- Major victories for your law firm,
- Links to your page’s blog.
Beyond newsletters, clients can also be addressed directly via personalized emails. For instance, a personal injury lawyer reaching out to their client after a serious accident to ask how they’re doing goes a long way toward developing a human-to-human rapport with them. The fact that you care enough to do that will let your client know that you understand that they are suffering person and not just a case.
Targeting social media pages like Twitter and Facebook are not exactly game-changing maneuvers. Today, law firms are spreading themselves out over a much larger landscape. This includes formats that may seem counterintuitive like Instagram. Law firms are now even broadcasting podcasts!
The role social media plays is distinctive. It allows you to establish your identity as a law firm. This is true for your clients, yes, but more importantly, it is true for other law firms as well. You can develop a referral network through likes and follows.
This is also where finding your niche can have a major impact. There are plenty of firms that do not handle certain kinds of cases or they believe a specific lawsuit may be better handled by a specialist. They pass these cases off to law firms that are specialists in the niche. It’s a great way to sell yourself.
You can also share some of your content marketing initiatives over social media, allowing your content to do double work.
This doesn’t replace the need to get out there in the real world and shake hands with people, but as we discussed earlier, social networking over social media is often a preferred mode of contact for modern professionals. This is why professional networking sites like LinkedIn are so important. Statistically, 31% of Americans find the law firm that will manage their case by referrals from other lawyers.
Are you using LinkedIn to gain referrals to your law firm? You should be. LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that can help you get recognized amongst a sea of competitors.
Why Are Referrals Important?
The benefits of referrals should be obvious. When a potential client finds your website via a search engine inquiry, you are being judged solely upon the site itself. The potential client knows nothing about you, and while you may have a testimonial page available, even glowingly positive reviews of your practice are essentially statements by strangers to anyone not familiar with you.
On the other hand, if a potential client needs help and is referred to you by a friend or family member, the bonds of trust are higher. Far from being a stranger, in the eyes of your new potential client you’re now a “friend of a friend” or “the attorney who helped my sister,” which gives your working relationship an instant and added level of credibility. People who need the help of an attorney are often anxious or scared, and the steady hand of a close, personal connection can help assuage those fears and bolster your credentials significantly.
How Can Referrals Be Generated?
Similar to many other attorney marketing techniques, generating referrals shouldn’t be rocket science. A few simple practices can typically kick-start your referral engine:
- Ensure that your current and past clients have useful materials featuring your firm name and contact information. Educational brochures and newsletters can do the trick, for instance, and if you couple these with a short but useful booklet that features handy advice about a range of legal issues your firm can address, clients may pass these materials to friends or family members also in need of assistance.
- Keep your name top-of-mind whenever possible. Gather digital contact information from your clients upon first contact, and put this into a database. Create an email auto-responder campaign that will automatically send relevant tips, tricks, and advice to your email list at regular intervals. These messages may be forwarded to other potential clients you may not have reached otherwise.
- Utilize your firm’s social media accounts frequently by posting a variety of content that those associated with your business might find interesting enough to share with their own networks. Don’t rely solely on educational articles discussing legal topics; you can also make headway simply by sharing and commenting on a local news story, posting a photo and quick message for a holiday, and so forth. Engage with your followers and encourage them to spread the word.
- Sponsor a local event like a 5K race or charity event. Get your name into the community and you may be surprised how quickly your referral network grows.
In case you missed it, here’s a recorded version of our recent Attorney Webinar: How LinkedIn Can Boost Your Referrals
Reviews and Testimonials
Reviews and testimonials still matter. Most of what we’ve talked about here boils down to the oldest (and still the most effective) form of marketing. Can you think of it? It’s word-of-mouth. After a case has been successfully handled, it’s a great time to ask for a testimonial or a review.
Google now allows clients to rate and review just about any kind of business. If you are one of the three businesses that happen to rank on Google Maps, then you’ll see client ratings right next to your law firm’s name.
But you do have to ask. While some clients will be of a sort who rank and rate just about everyone they do business with, others only bother when their experience is very bad. A little nudge to show their appreciation for successfully managing your case should do the trick.
General law practice marketing tip: To increase referrals, who do I reach out to?
Most lawyers we speak with understand that they need to stay top of mind with prospective referral sources, and that they should communicate regularly with these prospective referrers.
But not every lawyer is clear on who is likely to be a prospective referrer. Whatever communication method you choose, who should you try to stay in touch with to maximize your referrals?
Make Regular Contact With:
- Your current clients.
- Your former clients.
- Anybody who has previously requested information from you.
- Business service providers: accountant, banker, broker, commercial realtor, office neighbors, etc.
- Personal service providers: barber/hairstylist, dentist, doctor, residential realtor, etc.
- Referral sources: anyone who has provided a referral or is likely to give you a referral.
- Local media: bloggers, broadcasters, magazines, and newspapers.
How To Stay In Touch
The easiest way to keep your name in front of so many different prospective referral sources is with helpful information that you push out on a regular basis. This information can take the form of a client advisory, news flash, newsletter, or letter. The format is less important than (a) the outward push and (b) the content.
- OUTWARD PUSH. Blogs are great for generating content enticing to search engines, but lousy for making sure your referral sources remember you. You need something that falls into their laps … something that many recipients will glance at for value before discarding. Mailed hard copies are best for this purpose, but can be expensive if you have a large distribution list. Email distribution is virtually free, but open rates can be low. Combining the two (print to high-value referrers and email to others) can be a good compromise.
- CONTENT. How-to, answers to common questions, explanations of the legal process, and what makes a good case will receive high readership from people in need of your services. That type of information will also help minimize unsuitable calls.
5 Engaging Strategies to Promote Client Referrals
As an attorney, you are constantly focused on winning new cases. Too much attention on that goal, however, can detract from giving existing and past clients the attention they deserve, and cause your law firm to spend way more on attorney marketing than necessary.
It is six to seven times less expensive for law firms to retain existing clients than to attract new ones, according to ThinkJar. It can be just as cost-effective to prompt happy clients into referring new business than to gain the attention of a stranger and convert them into a client.
Decrease your attorney marketing budget and attract a steady stream of new business with the following five strategies.
- Overdeliver on service
If clients do not leave your office happy, they are not going to refer you to their friends, family, and colleagues. In fact, they may actually sabotage your ability to gather referrals; according to an infographic created by Vision Critical, clients are three times more likely to tell their friends about a negative experience.
Combine that with BrightLocal’s findings that 90% of online users read online reviews, yet 88% of those people read no more than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a law firm, and it is clear that even a small number of negative client experiences can seriously damage your law firm’s referral strength.
When seeking to turn clients as a lawyer referral service, always focus on wowing clients first. You will build a strong group of brand evangelists while minimizing any negative PR.
- Never fall out of touch
Constant communication ensures that you never come to clients saying, “We haven’t spoken in a while but can you do us a favor and refer a few connections?”
Stay in touch with clients from the get-go and don’t stop communicating with them once their cases are over. You never know when a past client will require additional legal assistance or know a friend in need. A few ways to keep in touch with past clients include:
- Sending bi-weekly email newsletters (these types of email campaigns can be easily automated using a legal client relationship management system, or CRM)
- Sharing your latest blog articles and interacting in the comments section
- Connecting on social media and promoting follower engagement
- Sending out a client experience survey to gather constructive criticism
- Mailing holiday or special occasion cards
- Checking in via phone or email
- Providing additional value through content, such as a post-bankruptcy webinar to help clients learn strategies to save money
Employing some of the attorney marketing strategies above can help your law firm promote your brand while providing additional value to existing clients.
- Get to know clients
Similarly, getting to know clients can help you uncover details that lead to more business. For instance, bankruptcy attorney Susan works with a great client named Jim. While helping Jim declare bankruptcy, Susan discovers that he is an active member of the local Rotary club.
Realizing that Jim probably knows people like him in his network, Susan knows to look at the Rotary club as a client referral service.
She could even offer to speak at one of Jim’s Rotary meetings to address common questions, concerns, and misconceptions about bankruptcy and home foreclosure—the perfect attorney marketing opportunity that involves both engaging with the community and handing out business cards to potential clients.
- Gather online reviews
BrightLocal determined that a huge number of people trust online reviews as much as they trust a recommendation from a friend or family member (assuming that the reviews are authentic and numerous enough to build trust).
Therefore, asking for online reviews is a great way to promote referrals above and beyond word-of-mouth recommendations. However, you do not have to spend hours every week chasing down clients and begging for reviews.
Instead, use the innovative review-generation software included in the James Legal CRM to automate review-gathering and pre-screen all testimonials before they hit the internet.
- Show your appreciation
Once clients do refer new business to your law firm, be sure to thank them. This ensures that they feel appreciated for their efforts and increases the likelihood that they will continue to send business your way.
Consider sending a handwritten or hand-signed thank you card rather than an email or e-card; you will avoid the email clutter and demonstrate your law firm’s sincerity at the same time. If you are feeling particularly generous and have the attorney marketing budget to do so, your legal practice could also establish a referral reward program to thank loyal clients.
For instance, a family law attorney could send thank you/donation cards to all former clients who refer a friend:
“Thank you for your referral. As a sign of our appreciation, we would like to donate $50 to a charity of your choice. Please contact us at or to tell us which organization is nearest to your heart. If you are too busy to reach out within 30 days, we would be honored to make a donation to the Austin Happy Foster Families Association on your behalf.”
Rewarding clients with a gift that they can enjoy—the knowledge that they helped support a charity with their actions—establishes an emotional bond with your law firm that can result in happier clients, a stronger brand, and more referrals in the future.
Simple Ways to Boost Client Referrals
Average firms wait until marketing campaigns roll out to hit referrals hard. Top-notch attorney teams make client loyalty a priority from day one, ensuring a high client satisfaction rate and a steady stream of referrals coming in year round. If you’re wondering how to turn new clients into brand ambassadors, look no further than these three lawyer marketing to-dos.
Welcome them to the team
“At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” These wise words from Maya Angelou can be applied to your service strategy from the very first day with a new client.
True, clients are hiring you to provide a service, but they probably don’t want the relationship to feel purely transactional. Dedicate some time to creative lawyer marketing and put together a welcome packet that introduces new clients to your firm. This could include:
- A letter from firm partners
- A bio about their case manager (with a photo if possible)
- Background information about the firm
- Contact information for their points of contact at the firm, such as those involved with their case and billing
- Your engagement agreement
- A lawyer marketing piece advertising the other services offered by your firm
- A call to action piece urging recipients to follow your firm on social media
- A few business cards for referrals
If clients feel as if you’re working with them and see them as an important partner in their case, they’ll feel like they’re being well treated. This connection could lead to long-term loyalty and significantly up the odds that they will recommend your services to others.
Validate and address concerns straightaway
When a client turns to you for help, it’s understandable that they’ll have questions and concerns. Ease their mind right away by giving them time to ask questions. Even just a few minutes of open discussion time during in-person and telephone meetings with a client can go far in settling their mind, validating their worries, and leading them down the road toward becoming a brand ambassador.
Your law firm’s marketing strategy should focus on creating such incredible experiences that clients can’t help but rave about you. However, the truth is that even the most wowed clients won’t always go out of their way to pass on a recommendation for your firm. That’s where incentives come into play.
If you don’t already have one, consider creating a simple referral reward program. For instance, every prospect who mentions that a former client—let’s call him Jimmy—referred them earns $100 for both them and Jimmy if your firm picks up the case. Take it a step further and include time constraints; if Jimmy sends a prospect your way within two weeks after the close of his case, he’ll earn $150.
Promote positive testimonials and online reviews.
Written client testimonials can be just as powerful as word of mouth recommendations. Online review sites like Yelp have become even more popular destinations for prospects to discover insights into actual client experiences, and posted reviews and testimonials can either convince prospects to work with your firm or avoid you at all costs.
Ask clients… and then explain how!
As mentioned above, not all clients will refer your firm to prospects without prompting. If you’ve developed solid client relationships, simply asking satisfied clients may be the push they need to take action and fulfill your law firm’s marketing strategy.
Don’t hesitate to ask clients to refer you to their friends, acquaintances, coworkers, social media connections, etc. But here’s the important part—provide clients an easy way to do it. For instance, have a page on your website where clients can write a recommendation/testimonial or answer questions about their experience, and then share their feedback to social media in one click.
Resolve issues immediately
Client issues are make or break lawyer marketing opportunities. In a study conducted by an established client service software company, 40% of respondents claimed that they avoided working with firms that provided poor client service after a problem. On the other hand, more than 60% of people attributed positive satisfaction levels to quick problem resolution.
When a problem arises for your firm, be sure to:
- Name one point of contact responsible for reaching out to the client
- State that you’ve received their email/phone call and are investigating the matter
- Do everything you can to resolve their issue quickly and fully in order to see satisfaction rise
Take charge and follow up.
People get busy. Life happens. The client who just worked with your divorce and family law firm to settle a nasty separation could be so wrapped up in sorting through her post-divorce life that referring your firm is the last thing on her mind.
Therefore, it falls upon you to follow up. Use calendar reminders to remind you to reach out to clients soon after wrapping up their cases, and create a well-worded email template that you can effortlessly customize for each client.
Our social media marketing services can help establish your brand online. Find out how today!
More Referrals, Less Work: 3 Steps to a Top-Notch System
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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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How To Nurture Referrals From Live Chat
Your live chat service has pulled in some good referrals to your law firm. Now what do you do? You likely have the contact information for these visitors, and a chat record of some kind—it’s time to nurture these live chat referrals, and turn them into paying clients.
First Step, Contact the Chat Visitor Directly
If you have a visitor’s contact information, use it. The live chat visitor, if interested in your legal services, likely left contact information in the form of a phone number, email address, etc., and their preferred method of contact (professional live chat operators should and will obtain this information).
Upon Making Contact, Listen To Them
This is your first time speaking directly with your live chat referral, so listen carefully to what they have to say. Sometimes a great lead can appear not-so-great because the potential client in question doesn’t know how to explain his or her legal situation. This is where your listening skills come in.
Ask questions, give examples of similar cases, and try to understand exactly what this individual needs from you. Your listening abilities, and discernment therein, can mean the difference between a good referral, and a solid client lead.
Put Out the Welcome Mat
Offer to send the referral a comprehensive welcome packet that describes how you’ll proceed with their case, direct contact information of other members of your firm that will be working with you, and free, helpful content specifically pertaining to their legal situation. This can include medical support information for injury victims, transportation options for driver’s license-suspension defendants, etc.
Sweeten the sound of your legal services by providing a service guarantee of sorts; e.g. how your firm will respond to phone calls/emails within a specific period of time, follow-up with case status reports, etc.
A welcome packet can show what sets your firm apart from other firms your referral could be considering.
After Making Contact, Make Contact Again
Nurturing a referral can be as simple as reminding them you’re there. After the initial contact, if a business relationship doesn’t immediately develop, send your referral an email from time to time, or leave a voicemail asking how they’re doing. Let them know that you’re available to talk, and provide any help they may need. This will show that your firm is attentive, responsive, and puts the needs of your clients first.
Convey to your Live Chat referrals that they made the right choice by contacting your firm in the first place, and they will continue to make the right choice by hiring you.
Our Live Chat Product Is Different From the Rest!
We provide live chat services for attorney websites at a fraction of the cost of our competitors. For more information on how our Live Chat product can effectively promote your firm, contact one of our legal marketing experts today.
Word-of-mouth advertising is still important. It’s just entered a new landscape. There are more ways to reach people. Information moves much faster. It reaches more people in the process.
But word-of-mouth is no longer just related to speech. It’s related to text as well. Firms are diversifying their approaches to reaching out to clients and other lawyers in their practice. Here, what we’re trying to do is bring all of the disparate concepts together into a unified whole. There is no “one trick”, and the process of marketing in the age of the digital cannot be reduced to any one tactic.
Today, simple concepts such as word-of-mouth have become far more complex. Nonetheless, the importance of word-of-mouth remains as high as ever.