One of the top challenges solo practices and small to midsize law firms face is one that has been troubling law practices for some time: acquiring new client business. Thomson Reuters has consistently been reporting the same in its annual State of U.S. Small Law Firms report. It makes sense given the fierce competition that has arisen alongside the rise of the Internet. Updating a law practice’s business growth strategy to accommodate and optimize for the Internet and expand online presence is not an option but a necessity.
There is, however, an old tried and true method to grow a law practice that doesn’t necessarily require the technology but that can be maximized through the use of the latter, and that is: referrals and reviews.
Unfortunately, most people, whether you’re an attorney or another professional, are not asking for referrals–– that’s according to Alfonso Villareal, Account Manager and Consultant at ONE400, who has more than 8 years of marketing and business consulting experience. Alfonso says from his experience, most businesses and law practices aren’t saying thank you to their clients and then following up with a request for another lead.
This seemingly simple task can prove powerful in growing a law practice. Having a solid understanding of the importance of client referrals and reviews is the first step. The next step is the incorporation of a system that strategically capitalizes the value current clients bring to your law practice.
Lawyers should ask clients for referrals and/or reviews because it’s the fastest and most direct way to build and grow your law practice. This concept is so basic that it is often overlooked and under-rated.
But here’s the simple truth: it’s about trust and credibility.
Alfonso describes it this way through a simple question and answer, “Do you know why referrals work so well? Sales are built on trust. The best way you know someone trusts you is if they give you their money.” Then he adds a quote by Jim Rohn:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
“Your client is spending time with five people who need you. Likewise, each of those five persons is spending time with five people who may also need you.” Keeping the latter in mind, Alfonso adds, “Someone else is going to trust me [if I were the attorney] just because you [the client] trust me. That’s very powerful.” That bit of trust can lead to a referral to one of those other five people, and so on.
Building trust and credibility, though, comes by first valuing your client. Valuing your client isn’t something you say but something you show:
Once you build that trust with your client, you can begin requesting referrals and reviews.
Alfonso proposes three key reasons why referral clients are the most valuable clients:
What’s more: “referral clients are more likely to give you another referral. And that’s the jackpot.”
You don’t have to leave it at a simple request for a referral; you can also ask clients to provide a review of your services.
Referrals are your primary aim. Referrals give you concrete leads for potential new clients. Reviews, however, are a great way to build your trust and credibility online. Reviews, like referrals, are not an option, but something you should be actively and intentionally trying to build by directly asking your clients to do it.
According to Alfonso, approximately seventy-five percent of everything people are buying is either being bought online or first being researched online. Thus, online presence is critical. Imagine if “you have 300+ reviews [online], that builds a lot of trust with your clients.” It also builds a lot of credibility so that people searching for legal services (but who don’t know any of your current clients) can trust that––given the extent and quality of the reviews––you’re the attorney they need to hire.
You must systemize a process to acquire and capitalize on referrals and reviews. A system, according to Alfonso, “can be as basic as asking the client for the referral.” You will not, however, optimize your opportunities through this task alone. You need to track and manage referrals as well as reviews.
Alfonso recommends keeping a record of each client, including:
These bits of information can be tracked through software and web services that allow you to manage a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. CRM systems help you manage customer data and build strong client relationships.
When you build your CRM, you want to consider ways to acquire referrals and where to build up reviews. Here are some suggestions.
The first way to acquire a referral is the most basic and obvious way: ask your client. When you ask your client, make it easy for them. For example, send them a link to a referral form on your website. They should not have to search for it but simply open the form and fill in the lines.
Filling out a form is one thing, but building a relationship with your client is another thing, especially if that client is a professional in an industry where attorneys like you are in high demand. Alfonso once worked with an attorney who represented a dental distributor. He approached his client and basically asked him to recommend his services to the dental distributor’s clients as well. You, too, can build relationships with non-attorney professionals in your specific practice area.
With that said, you always want to be certain to comply with any and all ABA rules regarding referrals in your jurisdiction.
A client review or testimonial are great opportunities to build your law practice without ever having to spend a cent specifically on that lead. Some of the best places to procure reviews so that they are most likely to garner maximum visibility include local directories and lawyer review sites like:
Remember that most clients use the Internet to research attorneys, so testimonials should be strategically located for this purpose. It’s also important, though, to ensure that the reviews are quality. There’s no harm in reminding this to your client as well. It goes without saying that quantity plus quality will maximize the benefit of reviews.
Clients are critical to your law firm’s development strategy. With that in mind, Alfonso leaves us with five points:
You do a lot for your clients. You provide them valuable services. You get them through hard times and good times. But they can be just as valuable. It all starts with a simple request. It can then multiply into something bigger and better so long as you have in place the right system and structure to manage and build on it.
We know it can be confusing how this all fits into your solo practice or law firm. If you have questions or would like a consultation, click here to set up your free meeting with ONE400.