Get Out of “Marketing” Mode!
Why do so many attorneys hate marketing? Because they think they have to “snag” a client, “drag” a referral out of a source or “beg” for support, which makes marketing unpleasant and ineffective. Not so.
People refer business because they like you, trust you, and want to support you. So make marketing primarily about connecting with referral sources honestly and personally. Get to know them; learn what you have in common, and how you can help them.
Done this way, marketing is both enjoyable and powerful in increasing your referral network.
Do You Remember? The Power Of A Marketing Database
How can you speed up the relationship-building process with referral sources? By remembering conversations and important information about them.
Instead of starting the next conversation with “How are you?” start with a nugget from your last conversation: “How’s your wife Jane after the operation?” “How’s junior like his new school?” It’s a powerful, flattering way to tell someone “you’re important to me.”
Powerful marketers use a system — a database, with notes from every meeting, which they review before the next meeting. It’s what separates the also-rans from the masters, and what can put you on the winning track.
The Power of The Lowly Business Card
The lowest-tech marketing tool is still important in modern marketing. The business card is an essential tool for “capturing the moment” in conversations ranging from the official to the accidental.
When a prospective client or referrer asks for a card and is told “sorry…” the initial positive impression is tarnished. After a profitable chance encounter at the beach, one master marketer even determined to carry them in his bathing suit. (With thanks to Jeff Keiner of Gray Robinson)
Every master marketer has stories of big clients met at random, or accidentally through friends, so make sure you carry a few business cards at all times.
Startup Tip for Associates and Those Who Mentor Them
Associates often say “I don’t know anyone with much influence,” are usually right. But now is the time for action in creating the business equivalent of the “old school tie” with people at your level in businesses and other firms. As your practice grows, so will their influence. Eventually you’ll both be able to support each other through referrals.
Ask partners if they’ll take you along on lunches with their referral sources and ask their referrer to bring a younger team member for you to meet. A foundation laid today will create a powerful referral structure for tomorrow.
Too Busy For Marketing? Not a Chance!
Even in the busiest of days, time and opportunities for marketing are abundant. Answering an e-mail to an attorney or referral source? Add “let’s do lunch” and tell your assistant to set up a lunch for you. 10-minute mental break? Call a referral source just to say hello. Dash off a funny e-mail to a colleague. Scrawl a “Thanks – let’s get together” on top of a cover sheet of material just sent to you by a colleague, and throw it in your secretary’s box. Call a referral source buddy and set a golf date. Effective marketing doesn’t have to be work, or take more than two minutes, to be valuable.
“Tell Me More” – Developing the Art of Listening
Effective personal marketing has many parts, but one of the most important is the art of listening. Attorneys are trained to talk, argue and persuade, but a trust relationship grows out of listening, understanding, and empathizing. Instead of aiming to convince, go to lunches and meetings with curiosity and interest. You’ll learn more, and develop more real relationship that will translate into trust – and referrals. You’ll know you’ve developed a trust relationship when your colleague or prospect starts asking you questions about what you do –a true invitation to explain how you can help them or their clients.
How To Keep an Important Client: Visit Them!
Nothing builds client trust like an on-site and off-the-clock visit to their facility. Ask if you can come to their office and meet key people, so you can learn more about their business and support them better. Go, be interested, make notes, and ask astute questions. Your client’s respect will grow, and often discussions turn to subjects that may lead to more business for you. Help associates develop this important habit, so they become sensitized to the crucial differences between the “real world” vs. the legal world.
Memory Boosters to Multiply Your Relationship-Building
After every meeting, jot some notes on your conversation with a referral source. Before the next meeting, review them so you can follow up the previous conversation, or inquire about discussed issues. Be sure to capture important information – spouse and kids’ names, favorite restaurants, hobbies, anniversaries – because remembering personal details tells others “you’re important to me.” Acknowledgements are more meaningful when they’re personal; dinner at their favorite restaurant on their anniversary, or a present for their son at graduation. Your firm software, or any of dozens of “contact management” programs can make this easy.
Every Referral Means Four — Or More — Opportunities to Build Trust
No time for marketing? Turn every referral into a mini-marketing campaign. First, when a referral source tells you they referred someone, do a thank-you call, e-mail or voice mail. Second, when you see the prospect, send them a personal note informing them if you accepted them or not, and thanking them. Third, send them a general mid-term “status report” note. And fourth, at file-closing, send a note letting them know it was completed. Your courtesy and commitment to keeping them informed is a powerful trust builder. And don’t try to remember it all – build a system that makes it happen every time.
How to Cement a Referral Relationship
An essential element of a referral relationship is trust that you will take good care of the referred party. So, at the end of work with a referred client, ask them to thank the referrer: “Mrs. Jones, I am pleased you are happy with our work together. It would not have happened without John suggesting you talk to me. Would you do me a favor and drop him a short note, or call him and thank him, and let him know we took good care of you?” When he receives the note he will quickly decide you are the right person to receive even more referrals.