Building Relationships

Relationships are critical when it comes to business development. That’s why so many lawyers spend time networking and building relationships.

But there’s something that a lot of lawyers don’t seem to pick up on… which is that creating a great first impression isn’t enough! 

We’ve all been there – a great conversation with a potential referral source at a networking event. There’s great synergy, you really hit it off, and you leave excited by the connection that you just created.

But then… nothing happens.

Why? Because your first impression, no matter how good it is, is still just a first impression. It takes more than a first impression to create a relationship. It takes repeated interactions to reinforce that first impression and lay the foundation for a mutually-beneficial relationship.

The good news is that many of those touch-points can be systematized and scaled so that you don’t have to spend every waking hour staying in touch with your network.

The best way to make this happen is through an email newsletter that goes out once per month at minimum. It’s easy and inexpensive to get your newsletter set up. And then, it takes a few hours per month to create content, build the newsletter, and send it out. (Or you can hire a professional firm to handle this for you.) With the push of a button, you reach your entire network with a powerful reminder of who you are and what you do.

Social media is another great tool to accomplish this. Connect with everyone in your network on LinkedIn. I highly recommend a Twitter profile and a Facebook Business Page as well. Create and publish content on a daily basis, or at least a few times per week. This is another powerful and scalable channel that you can use to create repeated touch-points and create top-of-mind awareness.

Finally, it’s important that you have a website that positions you as a credible expert and thought leader within your niche. Many times, the first thing that someone does after they’ve met you is look you up online. If you don’t have a website, or if it’s not impressive, that good first impression you made loses some of its power. On the other hand, if your website makes you look good, it further reinforces their perception of you. Think of your website as your “wingman” when you’re out networking. It’s got your back, day or night, and it’s always making you look good!

A great first impression isn’t enough. It’s important to create a marketing system that keeps you top-of-mind with your network and positions you as a credible expert. That’s how you build a steady flow of referrals and repeat business for your law practice!

Want to learn more? Click here for instant access to our Special Report which offers practical tips you can apply immediately.

Smart marketing starts by focusing on your existing assets and resources. What do you already have in place that you can do a better job of leveraging?

For most lawyers, the first item on that list is their network – their relationships. Your network of current clients, past clients, colleagues, supportive family and friends, and others is a valuable asset that holds the potential for significant growth.

But when you talk to most marketing companies – especially internet marketers – you won’t hear a word about leveraging relationships. Instead the focus is on “cold” lead generation – often through SEO or Pay-Per-Click advertising.

And don’t get me wrong, there can be a time and place for that type of advertising. But it doesn’t make sense to spend thousands of dollars on a new, speculative campaign when you have existing resources at your disposal that aren’t being leveraged to the fullest.

Start with the low-hanging fruit. Start by maximizing your existing network to drive referrals and repeat business. 

Referred clients are almost always superior to new clients from other sources for several reasons. So it just makes sense to focus your marketing on referrals first. Here are five reasons why this is the case:

1 – Low Cost of Acquisition. Referrals are far less expensive to generate than any other type of client. There’s often no direct cost, and even when you factor in referral-generating tools such as an email newsletter and social media marketing, the cost-per-client for referrals is typically much less than a client generated through other forms of advertising. This is true in my business, at Spotlight Branding, and if you’d like me to share some of our internal marketing data illustrating this, just shoot me an email. Daniel@SpotlightBranding.com.

2 – Instant Trust. One of the hardest tasks for every business is persuading the client or customer to take the leap of faith – pull out their wallet, sign on the dotted line, and move forward. It’s particularly difficult in the legal field because the stakes are higher and the dollar amounts are significant. Building your practice through referrals helps you to circumvent this – because when a trusted friend or colleague makes a referral to you, their trust and credibility is transferred to you. You don’t have to start from scratch because someone has already vouched for you! This shows up in higher conversion rates. I was talking to a lawyer here in Charlotte last month and he told me that his conversion rate for referrals is approximately 70% – compared to about 25% for all other sources of business.

3 – Avoid “Sticker Shock.” There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great conversation with a prospective client, feeling like you’re aligned and that there’s great chemistry, only to have them freak out when they find out how much your services are going to cost. Referred clients generally know what to expect with regard to your rates, and they typically won’t reach out to you if they can’t afford you.

4 – Mutual Respect. We’ve all dealt with nightmare clients. Clients who abuse our time and abuse our staff. Or who simply have unrealistic expectations and become frustrated when the engagement doesn’t play out the way they expected it to. A client who is referred to you is less likely to go in this direction. There’s a preexisting relationship because of the mutual relationship you have with the individual who made the referral. If you look back at it, I bet you’ll find that most of the time, referred clients are easier to work with than clients who came to you through other sources.

5 –  More Likely to Refer in the Future. Finally, clients who have been referred to you are statistically more likely to make referrals in the future, creating the possibility for an endless chain of referrals. There have been a variety of studies on this topic, but the best breakdown I’ve seen comes from this book. I highly recommend that you check it out.

I could keep going, but hopefully you see the point. Referrals are the low-hanging fruit when it comes to your law firm marketing. Focus on maximizing your referrals before you spend money on speculative marketing and advertising to the outside world.

If you want some practical ideas, click here for free access to our infographic entitled “Four Ways to Generate More Referrals.

Chances are this is how you’re networking, collecting business cards that will remain in your pocket until you wear that jacket again. Instead, you could be building relationships that really matter?

Let me ask you. Do you look at an event on your calendar and think… I would give my right arm to just go home rather than this event? I hate smiling and acting as though I’m interested in what anyone is saying. Actually I don’t even like those people. Then you snap out of it. You grab a cup of coffee that gives you a little jolt and vow… I’m going and I will be the most charming person in the room!

Tell me which YOU really shows up at that event? Chances are its someone in between. And I guarantee you that whomever you meet recognizes the insincerity, forced smile and faked interest. I’m telling you now, instead go home because the event will be a big waste of time… yours and everyone you meet.

There is a better way.

Instead go home and think about what you really want in your practice. Who is your ideal client? Where do they go? What is important to them? How could you help them? What circles would you like to be a part of? NOW… how can you act on the answers to these questions? This process is strategic and it’s the foundation to building relationships that matter.

How can you build trust with these new people? There is one question that Inc. Magazine writer John Hall asserts will be a game changer.

How can I be helpful to you?

Yes, it’s a simple question that could change the trajectory of your practice and your life. Hall points out:

  • It allows you to help others better.
  • It cuts through any potential awkwardness of a new relationship.
  • It enables you to be proactive.

Try it! You will be building relationships that matter, and that IS a game changer!

Are you having marketing meetings? Talk is cheap. Buy-in and action is key. Thinking and planning is the easy part for lawyers. Implementation is not. Too often it is where the plan falls apart. Remember that discussions, meetings, and planning are only the start. The key is taking ACTION. The big question… What actions should be taken? Here are our Top Six Marketing Tips:

No. 6 – Be Active in Organization(s)

Over the years we have heard lawyers say that they belong to several organizations, but that it’s a waste of time and doesn’t lead to additional business. However, when examined further, one finds that although they are “joiners,” they are not “doers.” Being active in organizations requires just that – activity.

If you want this form of marketing to help you develop business you must:

• Be more than a joiner –make a meaningful contribution

• Seek leadership position – volunteer often

• Join business or trade groups that your clients and prospects belong to

• Believe in the organization’s mission so you will remain interested and active

There are other marketing activities that may produce quicker results, but being active and involved in organizations that your clients and prospective clients belong to can produce meaningful results in getting new clients.

No. 5 – Write Articles of Interest

While authoring articles isn’t a new technique, writing to demonstrate your expertise is still an effective marketing tool, if it is:

• Topical and interesting (to your target audience)

• Easy to read (not legalese, unless you’re marketing to other lawyers)

• Not too lengthy (short, succinct articles are better)

• Published in a publication that your audience reads (whether general public or business/trade specific)

Obviously, the purpose is to show that you know your topic and, accordingly, are perceived as having the expertise to assist the reader with those legal issues.

No.4 –Talk it Up

Speaking engagements are some of the best marketing activities. Like writing articles, speaking adds the additional advantage of putting you in the same room with potential clients where you can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise AND develop an emotional bond with your audience. These opportunities have led to immediate work when a potential client in the audience has an immediate problem relating to the same issues raised in the speech. Moreover, if the seminar or speech is sponsored by a respected organization, you receive instant credibility.

No. 3 – Communicate Often

James C. Turner, executive director of HALT, a national legal reform advocacy group in Washington, DC points out: One of the most frequent complaints his organization gets is that…

the basic communication between lawyers and clients is terrible.”

He cites one case where a client tried 13 times in a two-week period to contact the attorney. That’s the type of situation that leads to mistrust and, ultimately, to a consumer fraud complaint.

Poor communication between attorney and client is also the most common reason clients file complaints with state bars. A failure of communication is not only unwise, it’s just dumb marketing. Even if the client may not need your services again, the client is likely to tell a number of people, who could be potential clients, about their unhappiness.

There are scores of opportunities (in addition to keeping the client informed about their matter) to contact clients, referral sources, and even prospects; and the more contacts made the better. The best way to communicate would be with phone calls, handwritten notes, next letters, emails, and lastly texts. Obviously, they are in reverse order of ease of accomplishing, but think about what impresses you the most. The important thing, however, is constant communication.

No. 2 – Entertain Your Client

Okay, we can hear all the “duhs” from here. If it is so obvious, why don’t more lawyers do it? Clients are people too. In fact, entertainment is still one of the most effective one-on-one marketing techniques. It not only allows quality time with a client, prospect, or referral source, but also allows one to enhance a relationship on a highly personal level.

Clients want to be loved and appreciated. So, building on the emotional bond between lawyer and client is very important for long-term relationships, and for what is even more effective from a business development viewpoint – a lasting friendship.

No. 1 – Visit Your Client

The single most effective marketing technique, which leads to immediate business in the vast majority of cases, is to visit your client at their place of business.

This visit is not for the purpose of discussing a current matter you may be working on (unless client wants to, of course). The client should know that they are not being billed for the visit.

Your purpose is multifaceted: relationship building, listening, learning, meeting others, and uncovering issues of concern. The main point is to get into the client’s workspace where their day-to-day problems are found, and for which you may be able to assist them.

Such visits will not only enhance your relationship, but it will almost certainly lead to IMMEDIATE work. This has been validated many times over the years. Many of the lawyers we have worked with confirm that such visits result in immediate new business. So, starting today schedule a client visit or two. You will fast become a believer.

In 2018 get into action! These six tips are not complicated or overly time consuming. Start with two, then add one or two a month. We promise you that you will be pleased with the results. We have seen it over and over again… they work!