This is the next post in my series on how lawyers can build up their referral base. My last post laid out the topics I will be discussing over the course of this series. This is an important topic as, while most attorneys recognize the importance of referrals, they don’t take the steps necessary to truly build up that aspect of their business. In this post I’ll lay out why referrals are such an important part of your business. The reasons are simple. First, having a referral base frees you from being reliant on new business and, second, it provides you with the most sustainable form of marketing there is.
Everyone wants to be the successful lawyer. This “successful lawyer” is the person who isn’t struggling to get new business and who’s practice is completely self-sustaining. In other words, the successful lawyer isn’t worried about where their next case is coming from. The first step in reaching that point is to invest in marketing assets which you own and control (something I covered in my post on why attorneys must own their marketing assets). The second step is to ensure that you are not overly reliant on new business (meaning the reliance on receiving calls from people who have never heard of you before). You guard against relying on new business by having an adequate source of referrals. This second part is important as, no matter how good your marketing is, you’re never going to get ahead by being completely reliant on new business.
Why do I say attorneys can’t be completely reliant on new business? The answer is two-fold. First, the “new business” potential clients aren’t predisposed to retaining you. Even if they come in for a consultation it’s going to take a greater effort on your end to seal the deal. People who are referred to you, by contrast, are coming in much more likely to sign that fee agreement and to cut a check. Second, attorneys who completely rely on new business are more likely to go through dry spells. Someone who looks for a lawyer by asking a friend who they should retain is a market completely separate from one reached through your website or other marketing. The more markets you leave out of the equation then the more likely you are to have dry spells from time to time. The need to avoid these dry spells makes having a referral base crucial to any law firm.
The other benefit of having a referral base is that it provides lawyers with a marketing asset which is much less likely to disappear. Think about it for a second. If you’re making the mistake of relying on third-party advertising (such as pay-per-click, radio ads, etc.) then your future depends on your not being outbid for those resources (someone can always come along and bid more for those keywords after all). Third-party ads are the riskiest platform on which to base your future. Owning your marketing assets (which happens when you generate a quality website, quality blog content, etc.) protects your future much more than does the use of third-party ads. Your website and content can never be taken away from you and is much more cost-effective than using third-party advertising (see my discussion on why attorneys should avoid pay-per-click for more on this). That’s not to say that those assets are always guaranteed to have value though. Just think of how much the internet has changed in twenty years – who’s to say that the web won’t look completely different in ten years and that the idea of an attorney having their own website, for reasons we can’t anticipate today, won’t become antiquated? The idea of getting attorneys via a referral, however, isn’t going anywhere as there will always be people who ask their friends for guidance. This is why having a quality referral base is key to guaranteeing your long-term success.
Want to ensure your future and avoid dry spells? Focus on your referral base through the steps I’ll cover in my coming articles. In my next post I’ll discuss why having a quality website is crucial in today’s age for attorneys who wish to build their referral sources.