My earlier thinking was that they were the same, or at least a distinction without a difference. But, I don’t anymore, and from a law firm marketing perspective, you shouldn’t either. According to Miriam Lawrence at Automatic Referrals, relying on word-of-mouth business is passive, while a referral marketing system requires a business to actively work those who do or could refer business to you. Waiting for clients to walk in the door, based on the hope that others speak well of you, is not a good strategy.

Whether you believe this is playing with semantics or not, Miriam has several excellent points worth taking to heart.

First, even if 20% of your clients are “raving fans” (who think of you often and are proactively referring others to your firm), 80% are spending their time thinking about THEIR business, THEIR problems, THEIR mortgage; they are not thinking about you or your business.

Secondly, you need to be proactive toward your referral sources by sending them e-newsletters (with their permission of course) that they can forward on to others, and asking them to not “keep you a secret.” Of course, you can do a lot more with your referral sources than that, including:

  • Networking,
  • Entertaining,
  • Sending articles, or other items of interest,
  • Referring others to them, and otherwise
  • Keeping in constant contact with them.

The point is, that if you are relying only on word-of-mouth to get clients, Miriam reminds us that you’ll have a long wait.