I spotted this pattern in a past life. And yes, talking about referrals in a legal practice context opens up many cans of worms. Those that are ‘purchased’. And frankly, the many and various repercussions of doing so.
Whether you circumvent what is legally or ethically acceptable, or indeed, should you, are challenges which cause sleepless nights for many in the profession.
But a genuine recommendation from a client. Enthused by the results of the legal input they received is acceptable from virtually every perspective. And what about repeat business? A litigation client for example seeking some employment contract advice?
In this most recent past life, I noticed something which to be fair you do also see outside of the world of legal practice. And when I say something, I mean two completely distinct characteristics:
1) Lawyers don’t internally recommend their clients to their colleagues anywhere near as much or as often as they should – for example, a wills and probate department creating a link to their conveyancing colleagues when there is a likely near-future need for a property sale.
2) Quite simply, little or nothing is done to cement loyalty with existing clients, or, keep in touch with them – especially important when many areas of law are infrequent, one-off transactions and engagements. And worse, even less is done to encourage natural referrals.
I’ve had this experience many times. I’ve used many different lawyers. But rarely twice. For example, I invested a fair sum in a partnership agreement. And once the bill was paid, they never got in touch again.
What about our trading terms and conditions? Did we have any aged debts? Did I have a will (at the time I didn’t)? What about employment contracts?
These were all areas I think the same practice covered. So why didn’t they stay in touch?
I met people subsequently who spoke about partnership agreements, but I had no affinity with that particular practice and said nothing when they said they would shop around.
There was simply nothing they did that inspired any loyalty, and nothing that stood out as special other than the large invoice at the end.
What Causes A Natural Referral?
Unless you do something which makes you stand out, referrals are triggered situationally rather than your customer being proactive in talking about you without that prompt.
For example, it’s commonplace for a friend to recommend a lawyer they know when they discover a friend has a need that a good lawyer they know can assist with. Situationally rather than unsolicited in other words.
But that is also dependent on you being top of mind. In other words, they recall that service you may have done for them several years ago. And they know you are still there.
Otherwise you get “I used a firm in the city centre about 6 years ago – what was their name again? If it comes to me, I’ll let you know”. If of course you left them with a good impression and showed you care at least a little at the time.
The law is a profession that seems to shy away from engaging in activities that will make you stand out so you are remembered. Creative “word-of-mouth” savvy companies incorporate a nice touch-point with their clients.
For example, when you complete the paperwork on a conveyancing transaction, give your client a gift-wrapped energy-efficient light bulb – something everyone needs when they move in?
Buy a batch of them in bulk so they cost very little and have them wrapped in a box with a nice message inside. Put them on the shelf and give them to every house sale completion.
It doesn’t cost much, but it makes you stand out. Next time they hear of a friend about to move house – even if it’s many years from now, you’ll far more likely inspire recollection of who you are – and they may even share the story of how you gave them a light bulb.
But you may also inspire proactive “mentions” as they speak to their friends about the light bulb moment without being prompted.
And it’s these small touches which can clinch the deal. It shows you care. Wouldn’t you be drawn to a law firm that cared and treated a friend so well?
How Important Is Word Of Mouth As Part Of A Purchasing Decision?
Let’s look at the facts. Which form of advertising is trusted most? What influences the purchasing decision more than anything else? Let’s look at survey specialist Nielsen who ask this question to thousands in many countries globally every 2 years:
So the top 2 are different forms of word of mouth. Recommendations from people you know. And recommendations from people you don’t know (opinion posted online).
So How Do Busy Fee-Earners Stay In Touch So You Remain Top Of Mind?
Let’s face it, many areas of law are now commodity services from the perspective of the customer. Prices have been aggressively driven down for many years now.
So you can’t have a fee-earner putting time aside to ring a client who purchased a will a few months ago. Their repeat business potential may not be there, even though their potential to refer is.
Business legal work however is often higher value. And they can avail themselves of additional services. A client who engaged you to draft a partnership agreement may also have overdue invoices.
Or the need for contracts of employment. Or could do with their trading terms and conditions reviewed.
And they can also recommend you to other businesses.
But will fee-earners realistically be able to find the time to stay in touch?
The clue is in the survey. The second most popular influence on purchases is opinion from people you don’t know.
Produce a company newsletter – but DO NOT just sell your services.
Instead, capture opinions from your clients. Turn their experience into a story. Give the client a boost by including their profile and getting them a little publicity among the other businesses reading your newsletter.
Create a magazine format. Vibrant stories. Use a word of mouth expert (someone like me).
Let’s use an example. A client interviewed about the impact of outsourcing their collections may produce an article with this headline:
How Phil Boosted His Cashflow To Spark Further Growth
And what about best practice for others reading the same newsletter? An article with the following heading will add that value:
3 Easy To Apply Tips To Improve Your Cashflow
A series of vibrant client interviews, best practice articles, profiles, all linked to full pieces on your website.
And on your website, the client will notice triggering mechanisms – invitations to refer a friend, or, an enquiry form to complete.
And this is just part of a process which very gently cross-sells without your fee-earners losing valuable time.
It’s means you stay top of mind with clients. It doesn’t annoy them because you are always selling – instead you are giving value and sowing seeds which can germinate into a harvest of repeat business and referrals.
Would You Like More Repeat Business And Referrals? Without Doing It Yourself?
How about a free consultation? Just tell me in which areas of law you’d like to have more clients, and I’ll tell you how I can make that happen.
Complete the form and I’ll get in touch: