The first question I’ve consistently asked the thousands of attorneys I’ve met over the past 10 years is “What is your best source of new business?” Twice, I’ve heard something other than “referrals”. Even in this day and age, referrals remain a primary source of new business. The conclusion that inevitably follows should simply be: “What can we do to lock in the highest percentage of those who are referred to us?”
The process of referrals has radically changed over the past 3 to 5 years. 10 years ago, if “Bob” were going to refer someone to you, he would probably call you directly from his office with the potential client sitting across from him, and you would schedule an appointment with the new client on the spot. At the very least “Bob” would write down your name and phone number, or give them one of your cards. “Bob” would only provide one name, and the client would follow Bob’s advice.
Today, “Bob” is required by the referral themselves (as well as his malpractice insurance) to provide 3 to 5 names. In addition to those names, the prospective client is doing their own research on the internet, as well as openly asking their own circle of friends and electronic acquaintances for recommendations. 10 years ago, a person would keep their intention to file bankruptcy a closely guarded secret – they wouldn’t dream of allowing the world to know. Today, they boldly ask their Facebook and social media community if anyone knows a good bankruptcy lawyer.
After accumulating a list of potential attorneys and narrowing the list down, most referrals go directly to a search engine like Google and simply plug in the attorney’s name, and perhaps “attorney” or “lawyer” (searched equally by the way) and perhaps a geographical reference such as their town. This is known as a “branded” search. What comes up for you at that point is mission critical – and the first thing you should pay attention to when marketing your practice. It is known as “reputation management”, a critical element in branding.
For most attorneys and law firms, their website is (and should be) the first thing to come up when their name is searched. There should be multiple results from a variety of sources – each providing a comprehensive bio and information designed to lock in that referral, and guide them to your own website or to contact you directly. All of the information provided in this venue is designed to validate you or your firm, and to move the prospect to a point of action: contacting you immediately.
Our next installment will discuss ideas for expanding your presence on the search engine results for a “branded” search – “(your name) (attorney or lawyer) (City/State)”. The results of that inquiry have a powerful impact on locking in and converting those who are referred to you. If referrals are an important source of new business, then this is an area you must be vigilant at developing and protecting.