For many firms, word-of-mouth (a.k.a. “referral”) marketing is the lifeblood of their marketing effort.
However, quite often, most firms are passive or needlessly conventional with this important source of new business. That is, they either take a wait and see approach (“I’ll just wait for so-and-so to send me some clients”), or they use old strategies that aren’t taking advantage of new technologies and ideas (“we’ve always gotten clients this way, and I am not into new technologies, so we’ll just keep doing what we know even though we need more, better clients right now.”)
To really achieve the full benefits of referral marketing, you need to ensure that they’re proactive and dynamic. Here are 15 strategies to nurture and develop your referral network. Some of them are the tried and true, but updated using what is available online.
1. Use Social Media to stay connected with your referral sources.
Utilize various technological tools to establish and track contact with your potential clients. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter offer numerous ways to connect with and pass information along to referral sources and even prospective clients in a matter of minutes. Keep in mind that your communications should be geared towards the interests of your intended audience in order to establish you as a thought leader and to keep you top of mind with your audience.
2. Send timely information to professional and personal contacts.
Be on the lookout for any news stories or information of interest to your contacts, and forward it through e-mail or regular mail. Subscribe to news feeds or Google’s News Alert service. Choose whatever topic interests you and the related news will show up in your mail box. You don’t even have to hunt for them. If your referral source is frequently in the news or is a savvy marketer who is always marketing themselves online (using press releases, blogs) you can get news alerts using their name. If they are on Linkedin, facebook or twitter, make sure you connect and follow them.
3. Create a memorable experience for your client.
Pay attention to your client’s emotional and psychological needs, don’t just focus on producing the results. If you are a lawyer, don’t just concentrate on the legal needs. Pay attention to process and the way you communicate with your client as well. Let your clients know how you do business is as important as what you do. Keep them updated and keep in touch with them even if you don’t have any news. Don’t use jargon that they do not understand. Make of pint of telling them that you are using plain English to help them better understand the issues and what needs to be done. This can make a lasting impact, because it’s been well documented that people may forget what you did for them, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
4. Create a Client Information Package.
Your Client Information Package should include information and resources that can help your clients understand issues in a clear, practical manner. Make sure they are available in hard copies and electronically. While an electronic version of your brochure and website are great for those who are online, printed, collateral materials are very impactful, especially when a client can walk away with them at the end of your meeting.
5. Create and send out a free newsletter.
Few tools will keep you at the top of a prospective client’s (or professional’s) mind than a regular electronic and/or print newsletter, provided that the information is perceived to be of value to the recipient. eNewsletters are relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute online. But remember, if you are not great with design and computer, use a professional service to design your newsletter and show you how to use it. The last thing you want is a newsletter that is un-presentable or is not consistent with your branding.
6. Write articles.
Writing articles helps establish you as expert in your field. You can also contact magazines/publications directly and offer to write articles for them. After you have written your articles, submit them to websites that will publish articles with your name and contact information plus a link to your website. Then send these articles and links to those who can refer business to you.
7. Thank your referral sources three times.
Thank your referral source when you get the referral, when you get the business and when the case is complete and your client is happy. You can thank them in many different ways: in person, by phone, by email, or send them a gift.
8. Start a workshop, teleseminar or online seminar.
Join with other professionals and hold workshops for divorcing people. In-person workshops and webinars require more preparation, but allow you to connect with the person directly. You can easily offer a seminar on topics you know well, such as “ How to file for a divorce”, “What you need to know before you separate from your spouse”. Topics like these will likely bring in prospective clients who have not yet retained a lawyer. You can offer a teleseminar at no cost to your audience. It is simple to organize and for your prospective clients to attend. All they need is a phone. Tape your teleseminar and you can offer them as podcast on iTunes.
9. Give your clients something extra by going “beyond the call of duty.”
When you pro-actively provide clients with helpful information and resources they do not expect, they will be more likely to reward you with referrals. You could give them a book, a copy of Divorce Magazine, or a meditative CD that ease their stress and helps them sleep better.
10. Get involved with professional association activities.
Get involved with your local, state, and national professional associations for the purpose of credentialing, adding credibility and connecting with your colleagues.
11. Find (or create) speaking engagement opportunities.
Offer yourself as a speaker to professional groups, support groups, community groups, spiritual groups, and so on. When you give a speech, post the information about when and where you will be speaking on your website before and after you’ve spoken. If you tape your speech, you can offer it to your referral sources as podcast and on iTunes for downloading.
12. Host a networking event.
Put together a session for you and other professionals. Use this opportunity to meet, mingle and exchange information. This session can be a daytime coffee, lunch, or an after-work get-together. You can announce this on your social media pages or send a press release about it.
13. Feature professional contacts on your website.
Have a section that links to other professionals you know and recommend. If you help your colleagues get exposure, they’ll be more likely to want to refer clients to you (if they have websites, ask for a reciprocal link).
14. Attend functions for professionals that are not in your industry.
You may not start out by being a speaker at these events, but the more you become known and the better you understand their interests, the more of an expert you’ll become at giving talks or writing articles that will be valued by the group.
15. Ask for referrals.
Politely and professionally ask for a referral, and of course, offer yourself as a referral as well (it’s a two-way street).
This article was written by Dan Couvrette and Martha Chan, Co-Owners of Divorce Marketing Group, Divorce Magazine, and www.DivorceMagazine.com. Divorce Marketing Group is the only marketing agency dedicated to helping divorce lawyers and divorce professionals grow their practices. Divorce Marketing Group offers a wide range of marketing services, including website design, hosting and promotion, social media marketing, press releases, video production and promotion, print advertising, advertising on multiple divorce websites, electronic promotions, and providing content to divorce professionals with websites.