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.

Referrals are the number one source of business for most solo and small law practices. But according to a Texas Tech survey, the average law firm is only receiving about 1/3 of the referrals they could be receiving from past clients.

This might sounds like bad news. But what it really means is that there’s a huge opportunity to grow your law practice simply by doing a better job of cultivating your referral network.

The really good news is that you can leverage the internet to make this happen, without a significant increase in the time and effort on your end. There are two key goals that you need to focus on in order to drive referrals: Top-of-mind awareness and education.

Top-of-mind awareness. For a referral to happen, your contact needs to recognize the opportunity when it presents itself. If a friend is looking for bankruptcy help, there’s a limited time window for your referral source to make the referral happen. That’s why top-of-mind awareness matters. You need your referral network to immediately think of you when the opportunity arises. Not hours later, certainly not days later. Right away. It takes an ongoing strategy to make this happen – to claim and defend valuable “real estate” in the minds of your referral sources.

Education. Second, your network needs to know what you do and who you can help. This sounds obvious, but many lawyers struggle to communicate this information to their network. If you have a single area of practice, it’s easier and more memorable. Your goal should be to educate network on what a good referral looks like. What types of clients do you serve, and what challenges do you help them overcome. Think of your referral network as an army out there working for you – it’s your job to give them clear and memorable marching orders.

Now, here are two great ways to use the internet to accomplish these goals:

Your Email Newsletter. This is your secret weapon. Every single lawyer should have an email newsletter that goes out to their entire network, once per month at minimum. It’s shocking to me how many lawyers don’t do this. This strategy guarantees that everyone in your network will hear from you once per month, at least. Previously, I wrote an in-depth blog entry covering the ingredients of an effective email newsletter, so if you’d like some practical tips to help you get started, I recommend that you check it out. For our purposes today, it’s important that you understand the strategic guiding principle: Your newsletter isn’t about you – it’s about your readers. Build a resource that your subscribers will look forward to receiving each month. Provide value. Educate them. This is how you keep them engaged.

Social Media. While your email newsletter is ideal for a few significant “touch-points” each month, social media can create multiple quick touch-points every single day. An active presence on the major social media networks – particularly Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – gives you the ability to quickly and easily connect with your network, remind them that you’re still out there doing great work, and remind them exactly what it is that you do. Encourage your network to “Like” your Facebook Business Page, follow you on Twitter, and connect on LinkedIn. For more details on how to create a successful social media marketing strategy, check out this blog entry.

I hope this is getting your wheels turning. There’s a huge opportunity here! There are more referrals out there to be had for your law practice, and you can use the internet to cash them in.

If you’d like some more information about how to use the internet to grow your law practice, click here to request our complimentary Special Report. You’ll find practical tips that you can apply immediately!