Whatever form your rolodex takes, it is time to not only review it for the names of contacts you want to remember during the holidays, but also to work on your referral system. As we approach year-end, it’s a good time to ensure your business development is on track for 2008.

Since referrals (also called word-of-mouth marketing) are so valuable, you don’t want to sit around just waiting and hoping that referrals will occur. Rather, have a system in place that will increase the chances that they will actually happen.

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame has a 7 step process for the “ultimate referral marketing system” in his recent newsletter. Not all the steps fit exactly for lawyers, but there’s enough that does apply and is worth sharing:

Step 1: Develop a list of likely referral sources from people you know;

Step 2: Identify your best referral types (actually I’d do this first);

Step 3: Develop a value-added message (or elevator pitch) for referral sources;

Step 4: Design an education system for letting sources know what makes a good referral, what the advantages are for them in helping a client or friend, and how you will help those referred;

Step 5: Offer something in return (here’s where it gets a bit iffy for lawyers ethically – better to simply start referring potential clients/customers to them first and letting them know about it);

Step 6: Create a process for turning referrals into clients, if they don’t become one immediately; and

Step 7: Have a follow up strategy, both for those referrals not yet clients, and for referral sources to thank them (and send a gift), as well as keeping them informed and motivated.

Don’t sit back and wait for referrals, be proactive to develop business sooner rather than later.