Law Firm Marketing and Powerful Referrals

The LMA Bay Area put on a great program in San Francisco regarding generating more powerful referrals via law firm marketing. I was honored to share the dais with Vickie Spang and moderator Alison Coleman. Below are a few key points from the wide-ranging discussion.

Not All Referrals Are the Same

Terminology is important. There are at least three types of referrals, ranging from the ordinary to the exceptional.

  1.  Introductions – “Here are a few names from my Rolodex.”
  2.  Referrals – “I’ll send an email to connect you to a few people. One of them should be able to help you.”
  3.  Recommendations – “I know several people who do what you need. However, knowing you as I do, Chris at Jones & Smith is perfect for what you need because. . .”
People provide multiple referrals when they don't know who is the best choice for a given situation. They're hedging. Click To Tweet

Don’t Worry About Quid Pro Quo

People make powerful recommendations to important clients and colleagues when it is in their self-interest to do so. A good recommendation makes them look smarter, better connected, and more valuable. When they know a specific provider will be seen as a great choice, offering other names increases the risk their client or colleague will make a bad choice. Bad referral outcomes make the person offering the referral look bad to people they want to impress.

People provide multiple referrals when they don’t know who is the best choice for a given situation. They’re hedging to minimize the risk to their reputation.

Law Firm Marketing & Being Easy to Recommend

No referral source is going get trained on your firm. Not going to happen. If you want single-name recommendations, the onus is on you to:

  • Explain how and where you excel: the situations, clients, and needs where your firm does a consistently great job.
  • Do it in a way that is easy to remember. Use stories, not bullets or “facts.” Talk about impact rather than tasks performed.

Cross-Selling Is a Source of Frustration

Getting attorneys to cross-sell their colleagues is a universal challenge. Some firms offer financial incentives, others hold internal training for key practice areas. No one seemed happy with the results. My guidance was to view internal and external referral sources the same. Make it easy for referral sources to know where an attorney or practice area will make the person offering the referral look great. Use stories of impact rather than facts and figures to be easy to remember. If you want to be recommended, make it easy for referral sources to look great by recommending only your firm.

Changing Attorney Behavior Is Hard

Aligning rewards with desired behavior is good, but often isn’t enough with attorneys. My approach is to reinforce good behaviors by demonstrating how how the things they already do have powerful impacts on clients. I get them thinking in terms of the impact on their client’s business rather than the tasks performed. When they move their thinking beyond merely being experts, the various points above all flow naturally.

Attorneys and firm cultures vary, so what works at your firm?

Contact me to learn how I generate more and better referrals and recommendations for law firms and professional services firms as part of a Strategic Marketing Plan built on direct client input.

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