SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE:
- How to Develop your referral network offline
- Establish yourself as a credible authority
- Stay top of mind with your referral sources
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Thank you for joining me today. I’m Dan Couvrette the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group. Every month we offer free Marketing Teleseminars to give professionals serving the divorce marketing ideas about how they can better market their practice. We promise to provide useful information whether you are a Divorce Marketing Group client or not.
During this presentation, I will refer to some of marketing products and services we offer at Divorce Marketing Group because they are helpful tools for developing referral sources. But most of the products I will refer to can be created by you if you don’t currently use our services.
If you’d like a transcription of this podcast or a link to the Podcast on iTunes please send an email to DanC@DivorceMarketingGroup.com. My phone number is (866) 803-6667 extension 24.
The subject for today’s podcast is “Strategies to Develop your Referral Network” – Part 1
I will be talking about:
- Develop your referral network offline
- Establishing yourself as a credible authority
- Staying top of mind with your referral sources
Part 2 of this Referral Development podcast will be given on Thursday, June 23 at 2 pm EDT
So let’s get started. Your Referral Development plan should include:
- A timeline for the execution of your plan – I’ve got to tell you that I moan and complain every month when I do these podcasts, because of course it takes time and energy to create these podcasts and I need to constantly be looking for new ideas and strategies to share with you but because we have a set date and time for these podcasts. I have put myself in a box and I must deliver – that is probably the sort of structure you’ll need to create to make sure you’re properly marketing your firm and developing your referrals.
- A list of goals and objectives for your marketing plan. For example – How many contacts will you have in database by June 15th, by August 15th, by October 15th. Set those goals.
- A list of strategies for your plan. What are you going to do and when will you do it by.
- A list of things that need to be investigated. What do you need more information about?
- A dollar amount you’re willing to invest in referral development. You might ask yourself the question, how much is a new client worth to you?
- Dates for when you will analyze and review the results
For the past 15 years, we’ve been working with family lawyers, financial planners, accountants, mediators, and other professionals. One thing we’ve found to be consistent among these professionals is that they rarely have a system in place to build their referral network, stay connected with their referral network, or nurture their referral network.
What most family lawyers and other professional have is an informal, ad hoc system for building their referral network. And for many professionals, that system worked to whatever degree. But now with the Internet, the game has changed.
There a many ways that the game has changed and one of those ways things changed is that consumers now have an easier way to find professionals. So to a certain extent, the old referral networking system has become a less necessary, because people can simply go online and find anything and anybody they need.
The internet has created more of a level playing field, which is good news for some professionals and bad news for others. If you’re listening to this podcast you can probably decide for yourself whether you have been a winner or a loser during this transition.
I realize I might be preaching to the converted, but typically if you ask 100 family lawyers where they get their business from, the largest percentage of them would tell you they get 50% to 100% of their business comes from referrals.
When asked what they are you doing to make certain they continue to get business from their referral sources, the answers include:
- I attend lawyers conferences
- I send thank-you notes
- I’m on Linkedin
- I socialize with professionals who refer business to me from time to time.
Some of you may be the exceptions to the rule, because you have a system in place for nurturing and developing your referral sources – but some of you likely have nothing in place. No matter where you are, both groups will benefit from this two-part teleseminar on Referral Development.
It’s probably obvious to you that, given that a good percentage of your clients come from referrals or could come from referrals, it makes sense to at least pay some attention to developing those referral sources. What might be less obvious to you is that if you don’t develop your referral sources, somebody else will be developing your referral sources and your business will suffer.
Some professionals would rather advertise than develop their referral network. And while I’m not against advertising — of course because we sell advertising in Divorce Magazine and on DivorceMagazine.com the time — the money and energy you put into developing your referral network will pay higher returns on your investment than advertising will.
Now, fortunately, Divorce Marketing Group offers products and services that can help our clients stay connected with their referral sources. But I can guarantee that most firms selling advertising or website services to you will never talk about referral development, because to a large extent they have nothing to offer you that will help you develop your referral network – I’m talking about firms like Findlaw, Lexis Nexis, and also every firm who’s trying to sell you a listing on their website, etc.
In fact, you’re likely to get no calls from businesses other than Divorce Marketing Group who will even mention tools and services to help you develop your referral sources, so you’ll either need to develop your own strategies and products or use ours.
From our point of view you should do both – advertise and work on developing referrals in order to create a more rounded marketing strategy.
Why are referrals better than advertising? Here’s the answer:
- If you get a referral from somebody, trust is already established.
- Referrals are more qualified. To a certain degree, the person has already been screened and qualified.
- A higher rate of success. Referrals are more likely to retain you and they are more likely to refer business to you in the future if you do a good job.
So let’s first talk about what you can do to develop your referral sources off line.
First, make a list of anything you’re currently doing to nurture and develop your referral sources off-line.
The reason you want to do this is that we don’t want to add a bunch of new things to your “to do” list. Instead, I recommend that you maximize the current things you’re doing that are working first.
For example, if you send out a thank you card when you get a referral from somebody, ask yourself how could you make that thank you note more effective, what additional information could include with that card, what request could you make of that referral source that would deepen your relationship, what could you do to let that referral source know how much you appreciate that referral.
In some cases, it might be a gift as a thank you (when you are allowed to give a gift, of course).
In some cases, it might be that you make a donation to the person’s favorite charity as a thank you and acknowledgement to them.
In some cases, you could let them know that you acknowledged them for giving you a referral on your website, in your newsletter, etc. I’ll get back this idea a little bit later.
You could include an article you’ve recently written that you think the referral source might find interesting.
If you’re a client of Divorce Marketing Group, you might want to include a copy of your customized Divorce Guide that we provide you with your thank you note, or you might create your own divorce guide.
You might include a request for them to send you information and resources that would be of interest to your clients. You could either include that information in the client information package you give out, or that you plan to create and/or you put that information on your website.
So that’s just a few examples of what you can do to enhance something you’re already doing.
If you go to networking sessions, you might consider creating something that you could give out that would be of value to the other attendees. You might offer yourself as a speaker. You might request that attendees provide you with information that you can give to your clients and/or add to your website. The goal is to not only expand your referral sources but to deepen your existing referral sources.
If you’re a family lawyer, you should ask other family lawyers to give you articles – preferably family lawyers who are not your direct competitors.
If you’re a family lawyer, for instance, and you attend only events that involve other family lawyers, you might consider spending some of your time attending events of other practice areas. Again, to make those meetings and that effort pay off the best, you need to have some way to stay in touch with the lawyers you meet at those events, or have you be remembered if they ever need a speaker for those events. That’s where mailings and emailing newsletters comes in.
Of course another major referral source should be your clients. So let’s talk about what you can do to generate more referrals from your client.
You can start with taking better care of your clients in every way you can. Taking better care of your clients requires that you do an analysis of what your clients experience, so that you can manage their expectations. You can think through the experience yourself, but the only real way you’ll know what the client experience is like is to ask your client. Some firms we work with do a client exit survey when the case is done. This is a good idea, and here’s couple of things you might consider doing:
- Create a client expectation form, and be real clear at the beginning of your engagement with the client about what the clients expectations are and what you can promise to deliver.
- Schedule time with your clients to discuss expectations as the case goes on, and, of course, have a client exit survey at the end of the case – you might change it to client satisfaction survey because that’s what you really care about. Of course it’s best to do the survey in person with your client, but if your client doesn’t feel comfortable doing a survey in person, you might give them the option to do the survey on their own. In some cases, you might get a more honest result if you ask clients to fill out a client satisfaction survey and then sit down and discuss it with you, versus simply sitting down with your client and going through the survey of questions and not giving them time to prepare.
Now most professionals such as family lawyers, mediators, and financial planners will talk with their clients about their goals, but you may not talk with your clients about how they will FEEL during the process.
For example, if you were to think about climbing Mount Everest, you would probably have the expectation that at some point you’d probably want to quit. But if prior to your trip you learned from experienced mountain climbers what it’s really like to climb, you’d probably discover that you had seriously underestimated how early in the trip and how frequently during the trip you’d want to quit and go home.
Having input from the experienced mountain climbers would give you a different perspective on the climb. You would either decide not to do the climb at all, or you would be better prepared for the climb so that when those negative thoughts came up you would be better prepared to manage those thoughts.
So if you want more referrals from your clients, I recommend that you manage your clients’ expectations better, and actually create a structure to get as clear as possible to help you understand what your clients’ expectations are, and how well those expectations are being met during the process.
As you probably know only too well, things don’t always go according to plan. Managing your clients’ expectations is critical to have a more satisfied client which in turn translates into more referrals.
If a client has been referred by somebody else, you might want to let your referral source know the results. I don’t mean that you give any real details of the case itself, but what I’m suggesting is that you follow up with the referral source after you’ve done the client survey with a short report on where you believe you met, exceeded, or didn’t meet the clients’ expectation. In this way, you’re actually showing that you’re committed to doing a great job for your clients, you’re doing the best you can to manage your clients’ expectations, and at the same time, you’re managing your referral sources expectations.
Now for some of you, this idea of surveying your clients and then reporting back to your referral source will seem crazy. If so, then what you might want to do is let your referral source know that the case is complete, and thank them again for the referral.
Also, taking better care of clients also means providing them with information, resources, and help to support them through the divorce process. One of the ways we help our clients is by providing them with information and resources that they can share with their clients. Our belief is that if you provide prospective clients with information that can help them through the divorce process, you will be better thought of, remembered, and recommended on a more regular basis.
The information we provide our clients with comes in a number of forms:
We produce a monthly electronic newsletter. If you aren’t a Divorce Marketing Group client, you could create your own newsletter. I’m not trying to sell you on our e-newsletter, but what distinguishes our newsletter from say, the newsletter that Findlaw provides, is that our newsletter covers a wide range of divorce-related subjects from legal to financial, from children’s issues to divorce recovery, and everything in between. If you are going to create your own newsletter, then I recommend that you create a newsletter that offers this type of diversity.
Whether you are a DMG client or not I recommend that you thank your referral sources in your e-newsletter. Acknowledge people in your newsletter who have sent business to you and give a link to their website in your e-newsletter. Doing so will at some encourage other people to refer business to you.
If you think that clients who refer business to you might not want to be mentioned in your newsletter, you might restrict your thank yous to professionals who refer business to you.
By the way, you should thank those people who have sent referrals to you, whether those referrals panned out or not.
You can also invite your referral sources to contribute to your e-newsletter. Again, whether you use our e-newsletter service or not, you can be asking professionals who refer business to you to provide you with articles to include in your e-newsletter. You need to make sure that you have an open policy on articles, and the articles should not be self- promotion articles, but rather information-based articles that your referral sources provide you with.
In your e-newsletter invite people to provide you with information and resources.
• Your Website
If you want more referrals you need to have the best website possible.
By great website, I mean a website that:
- Offers information and resources that help your clients.
- Provides new information and resources on regular basis, so your clients and potential clients know they can come back to your site and get new and more information.
- Shows off the fact that you’re a thought leader. From my point of view, you’re a thought leader in your field if you understand that your clients’ interests and concerns are not just legal, or not just financial, or not just emotional, etc. Rather, they have a broad range of interests and concerns, and the broader the range of information you offer the more you’ll be seen as a thought leader.
Now if you can also demonstrate that you are an active member in your profession and that you’re committed to ongoing education (which of course by rules of your profession most of your are required to do take CLE courses), you further reinforce your credentials and sets you apart from others in your field.
I don’t often mention one particular client on these podcasts, but I’m going to mentioned on particular firm today so you can see exactly what I mean.
If you go to the website FMBKLAW.com and go into their newsletter section you’ll see that in their newsletter there are two categories of articles: one category is their firm announcements/updates which they write, and the other category are the articles we provide them. The reason I point this out is that they use the e-newsletter to keep visitors abreast of what the firm is up to, which covers a range of things including media appearances, CLE, acknowledgments the firm or its members have received, etc.
The e-newsletter appears on their website, but it’s also emailed to their clients and professional contacts-so EVERY month the message they are sending out is
- They are a firm that’s constantly updating its knowledge base
- They are actively involved with the development of their profession
- They contribute to their community through donations and civic involvement
- They are used by the media, etc.
These are the messages you want to reinforce with your referral sources. By the way, on the subject of providing information to your clients and branding yourself at the same time, you should click on the “Articles/Cases section of the FMBK site where you will see four of the customized divorce guides we provide them with. Each of these divorce guides is about 30 pages, and provides helpful information for divorcing people. This is the type of content you’d want to have on your website, and this is the type of content that would differentiate your firm from all others.
Part 2 of this Referral Development podcast will be given on Thursday, June 23 at 2 pm EDT. On that day we’ll talk about:
- Advanced social media strategies including
- LinkedIn and Facebook strategies to develop referrals
- Materials you can produce that will help you stand out with your referral sources. By the way, we now have 6 different versions of our Divorce Guide (Divorce Recovery Guide, Children and Divorce Guide, Co-Parenting Guide, Mediation Divorce Guide, Collaborative Divorce Guide, the Divorce Guide, and four more guides are in the works – Divorce and Finance, Women’s Divorce Guide, Men’s Divorce Guide, and the Step-Parenting Guide.
By the way, you can visit DivorceMarketingGroup.com to read articles, listen to previous podcasts, or download transcripts of previous podcasts.