Maddy Martin is the Head of Growth & Education at Smith.ai Receptionists & Web Chat, a company known for superior virtual receptionists and intake services. Today we share her presentation, “Referrals are Not a Growth Strategy” from MaxLawCon 2019.
Watch the presentation here.
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Transcript: “Referrals are Not a Growth Strategy” w/ Maddy Martin
Run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast, podcast, your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson metrics. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.
In today’s episode, we’re throwing it back to a presentation from Max law con 2019. Maddie Martin, head of growth in education at Smith AI shares her presentation. Referrals are not a growth strategy. Let’s get to it.
So I have about a decade of experience in digital marketing. I’ve spent the last 10 years plus working for three startups, tech startups, I worked for Smith AI, we’re Virtual Receptionist service for live calls and web chat. And actually, most of the time when I’m talking to attorneys, particularly those in solo and small firms, I’m talking about how to outsource and automate and release control. And today I’m going to be talking to you about referrals, which is the main point here is increasing your control over a primary growth channel, which is oftentimes not handled very strategically. So when I say referrals are not a growth strategy. What I mean, really, is that referrals are a huge part of your growth, most likely, but they are not often done strategically. So how can we be more strategic about referrals and increase your control because one of the things that we know is that for people who many of whom are in this room and solo and small firms, one of the motivating factors of creating a small firm environment for you to work in, is increasing your control over you how you how you work, whether it’s your practice area, or your methods of work, or your work life, balance, whatever the case may be. At your core, I think a lot of people in this room identify with appreciating and feel more feeling more satisfied with having more control. So that ties in perfectly here and how we can give you more control over your growth by being more strategic with your referrals. So already introduced myself or past that. So what is a referral? It’s really just a response to a request. It’s someone saying I have a solution to your problem. And it’s this law firm in this case, what is growth? Well, it’s more work than you have right now. And there are different ways to define that. So maybe it’s more work with existing clients and deepening that maybe it’s more clients. In this case, we’re talking about the latter. And in terms of a strategy, and I know, I’m ruining all of the rules that we learned in the beginning of the, you know, day today don’t have so much text on the slide, and just bear with me here, I’m gonna geek out for a moment with you, I’ll share these slides with you later. There’s a lot of information here and I only have been given 15 minutes. So we’re gonna get through as much as we can. And I apologize for breaking all the rules. But a strategy is a plan of action or actions that you set to control that’s tied to a goal. So strategy involves having control over your plan of attack. And a growth strategy involves having a plan of attack for growing your client base in this case. So who has control when it comes to referrals? Well, that’s your referral network. So these can be friends and family. They can be other firm owners, they can be financial planners, they can be chiropractors, they can also be distributed control organizations, where it’s not just like one person who’s actually making the recommendation, but you’re in a marketplace or on the Bar Association website, you’re part of a lawyer referral network. Now, what we want to do is increased your control. And the way that we do that is by identifying the sources of referrals, who are the driving the the best clients, the clients that you want to work with, and you want to focus on those channels, and increase your attention to those referral sources, so that you get more good leads and fewer bad leads and focus your limited time, money and energy on those clients who are best for your practice and best for you. So we know not only let me just say 62% of people looking for a lawyer, ask their friends and family for recommendations. Well guess what? They also go online to verify, trust, but verify. I think that’s the first time in my life I’ve ever quoted Regan, but trust but verify. And the most important thing to focus on when we just for a moment talking about online reviews that are being checked by your referrals, is that referral reviews don’t just have to be from clients, but they can also be from your referral partners. An attorney can say I so off and recommend this firm, you know, he, he or she has taken care of so many clients and we’ve known each other for a long time, and that carries weight. So if you haven’t explored that as an opportunity for building your reputation, when a potential new client searches for you online after receiving a referral, that is another opportunity. And 80% plus of people who receive a personal recommendation, still check online reviews. So keep in mind that this is part of a strategy. But when we’re thinking about friends and family, what are we thinking about? Well, who has a higher likelihood or lower likelihood of recommending an attorney? Typically, people who have more life experience or older are more likely? And how close they are? How well they know what you do? And then also, what is the size of their network? Are they in the community? Is your dad, the mayor? Or are they in a smaller network, and they don’t get out as much, and they’re not as deeply connected. The other factor of success in terms of control are your existing clients. So if you’re in a practice where you’re focused on personal injury, referrals are not necessarily going to be a big driver, because it’s circumstantial. Whereas if you have, you know, estate planning practice, and a lot of your clients average in their 40s, they’re going to be referring heavily, who is the you know, firm or attorney that you use for this estate matter. So think about your practice, and how relevant referrals are and where the best sources of them can come from. Also, one thing that’s not often talked about is sentiment. So I have to say, when I was getting married, and I’m divorced, so I have a couple of experiences with attorneys in that regard. I had to have a prenup. And I was not thrilled. In fact, I was totally embarrassed that I had to get a prenup. And it was not something that I was going to bring to light in my group of friends. I was also 23. So I didn’t have any friends who were going to recommend an attorney for a prenup for me. And my parents had a limited network, I wasn’t living in the same area. So my sentiment there actually reduced my chance of getting a referral and even the opportunity for that for someone in my network. So compare that to the sentiment of IP or a new business establishment or something that is a positive addition to your life. Yes, a marriage should be but a prenup isn’t necessarily. So how do you capitalize on that positive sentiment? To say, here are opportunities and they’re consistent and within a business networking group. They’re constantly referring business law attorneys like Joey, who’s standing up right there. And and how do you capitalize on that positive sentiment to say, this is a great opportunity to expand that positivity into a really high quality referral.
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One other thing is I go back there is also the comfort level and disclosure and I kind of got into that with the prenup. But also think about DUIs and things like that people are not disclosing so they’re often not even asking for a recommendation, because they don’t want to tell their friends and family or their networks, that they have this issue that they need to be resolved. Now in terms of other attorneys, how are you building this network? I mean, for sure it happens in this group on our Facebook group, and through you know, in person events like this, but also who did you go to law school with? Are you still very close to them locally? Are you involved in your Bar Association? And how familiar are you and comfortable? Are you with referring this practice also, just because someone is your friend or you went to law school together or you’re very comfortable and you’re very knowledgeable about their practice, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to recommend the firm. So think about what Does your gut say are you actually making a recommendation that you want to stake your reputation on? Now? What are the cooperative industries in which you have close ties or that you rely on? So Christopher and I were talking last night, about the industries that he relies on one of which is, you know, chiropractors and medical professionals and, and health professionals that may be doctors or it could be yoga teachers, or naturopaths, or homeopaths. So if you’re in a personal injury practice, those can be very important sources of referrals for you. Now, if we look at the relevance to your work, we see a state lawyers being highly relevant to financial planners, and there’ll be a good relationship there or realtors and real estate attorneys or bankruptcy lawyers and accountants. Now, if we say, medical Medicare lawyer and a kindergarten teacher, like probably not a whole lot of overlap there, so think about the overlap, where you can expand in your community. And also, if you’re already working as a personal injury attorney, with a chiropractor, and you’re seeing the quality of leads there. Then think about how you can deepen your network with other chiropractors. And as you begin to expand, pull in your existing network and have them validate that as they’re getting to know your firm, there are other people who are actively recommending you, and they can have candid conversations with them. So when it comes to distributed control businesses and organizations like Bar Association’s you know, there may be a pay to play opt in model, it may be okay also to monetize these referrals, for example, in Illinois, they actually say that you can receive referral fees, whereas in Vermont and many other places you can’t. So a lot of the time, what I recommend is not to have the incentive be the referral fee, but to have it be good. Well, it’s really the golden rule that is most important to abide by here. And to be proactive. First, the best recipe for getting more referrals is to make more referrals. So if you’re not already doing so, and if you’re not already doing so in a way that is very obvious, then I encourage you to make it more apparent, put your firm’s that you refer on your website, make sure that your staff and any outsource resources, know very well that you are recommending business to these firms in these practice areas. And these are the steps to take to evaluate who to recommend and to where. Now, if you have that on your website, a really nice thing is to be able to point to that page, if you have staff, or web chat, or SEO that’s coming to that page. And maybe there’s a topic area, and you’re noticing that, oh, you’re ranking really well for this topic. But you don’t really actually serve that practice area. Maybe you wrote a blog article a long time ago, where you’re getting certain leads that are not great. And you’ve put in those negative keywords in your search campaigns, etc, you can make sure that people are directed to the resource to contact the firm’s, and then hopefully, they cloud your phone lines less and that referral happens more automatically. And you don’t have to send that follow up communication, where you’re saying sorry, we’re not the right fit for you. But we recommend this, you can skip that step entirely and have it on your website. And it is also a great thing. If we think about the last session. And we’ll Annika was saying incorporating referrals and other businesses will one thing that you can do to extend the golden rule is to say I’m going to feature firms that I recommend, and maybe they’ll do so in the same email. But you can then forward that to the referral partners that you have. And you can say I just want to let you know I feature you in this email, and keep being proactive about the sources of referrals that you want to get more clients from, the first thing that you can do is to refer more to them. It keeps you on their radar. Obviously, you have control as well. So how much are you networking? And how much is your practice area benefiting from networking because it is easy to drive referrals in that area. A state law is a great example. Family Law is another great example. And a lot of folks are in communities where they are making referrals to one another. Then there are more formal communities like BNI, business networking groups and things like that, that you can be a part of yourself to increase your control of your referrals. So there are a lot of factors that play we’re just talking about a few right now. But one of the things that I recommend is that you identify who are the key players and who among them are sending the best clients and double down and reach out and make sure that you continue to make maintain and then build similar relationships to them. Because many of these things can be more systematic. And then track and measure, you can even route referrals with priority so that you are being extremely responsive to the referrals that come in the new potential clients. And you can say, I am going to make it the best possible experience. And I’m going to be the most responsive, because I know that not only are these people more likely to become new clients, but referred clients are actually five times more likely to refer new clients to you as well. So it is a self fulfilling and, and adding cycle that we get going here. Also, evaluate who the best referrals are, and then expand more deeply into that network and and sort of cut ties and draw back from from the least successful referrals. And remember that it’s extremely important to protect your time. And I’m just wrapping up right here to say that two out of the three potential clients say that their decision to hire is based most on your responsiveness to their first caller email yet, almost 60% say they didn’t hire an attorney, even after a console. So protect your time, drive the best potential clients to your firm, so that you have the most energy and time and money to spend on increasing your base of good new potential clients, and that you’re not wasting time with clients who aren’t likely to hire you. And this is an example of just the conversion flow and how referrals in the beginning as a source lead to new clients, but also for even the bad leads, refer them out, that’s an opportunity for you to get that word out that you’re making referrals proactively to other firms. And the last thing that I will leave you with is that even the leads that you reject are a source of referrals in the future. So take a moment, instead of just saying, I’m sorry, we don’t practice that area of law, click or go back to your Google search results. Instead, take a moment to explain what you do. So that when they’re out in their communities, they actually are more knowledgeable about the firm that they didn’t initially hire because you’re not the right fit right now. But they are more educated so that in the future, if they have a need or if they know someone who has a need for your particular area of law, that they think about you and that you’re top of mind. So thank you very much. If you have questions, I am at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m also in the back at my table.
Thank you very much Maddy, that was fantastic. Thanks for listening to the maximum lawyer podcast. Stay in contact with your hosts and to access more content. Go to maximum lawyer.com Have a great week and catch you next time.