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Boosting referrals has always been a significant part of attorney marketing strategies. It remains so today. In fact, last year professional services organizations cited this initiative among their top marketing priorities.
Humans have a primal need to earn the praise and respect of others—and so do companies. But how we’ve gone about securing those good words, we’re learning, may have been too limiting. Referral marketing is bigger than combing the database and asking for recommendations. Referrals now play into a wholly integrated media strategy, including the ever-changing role of attorney television advertising.
Referrals three ways
First let’s clarify what constitutes a referral in today’s digitally centered environment. The answer may be surprising. New research from Hinge Marketing, dissected in a recent report called Referral Marketing for Professional Services Firms, shows that over 81% of 532 firms interviewed, including legal services, have received a referral from someone who wasn’t even a client.
This telling statistic immediately counters the idea that attorneys can only garner positive feedback, reviews and references from clients they’ve represented, won a significant case for or even know personally, for example. In fact, there are now three commonly accepted referral categories based on very different parameters:
Experience: The most traditional form, experience-based referrals are the ones that you are mostly likely already chasing—clients who can adequately recommend your firm based on an experience of working directly with your lawyers in the past.
Expertise: This is a recommendation based on a firm’s implied ability to handle a specific case type or area of expertise. So a person that might know of you as the “car crash attorneys,” even without direct or extensive knowledge of your results or reputation, may still refer your lawyers based on this general brand knowledge.
Reputation: This referral form is more common in law than many realize. An organization that has never worked directly with your law firm can still speak highly of your attorneys’ capabilities, based on your reputation in the marketplace alone.
What this insight tells us is that many professional service organizations may be selling themselves short by not taking a wider view of referrals—both seeking them out and advertising around them. In fact, focusing too tightly on tracking down clients for comment could be limiting the potential of your referral marketing campaign.
Instead, consider extended associations and “non-clients” as untapped resources, and start to uncover and leverage what all kinds of people and other organizations have to say about the important work you do as lawyers.
Ramping up your online reputation
Before you can run with your new referral-marketing program, however, it’s important to make sure you’ve put in place all the tools possible to ensure potential referrers don’t rule you out before they even have the chance to refer your law firm. The golden ticket? Making sure people get to and “past” your website.
The Referral Marketing for Professional Services Firms research found that 51.9% of respondents “ruled out referrals before speaking with the firm in question.” And the issues most mentioned were directly related to a company’s lackluster online presence. Almost 30% cited an unimpressive website for turning the other cheek. About 23% were turned off by poor-quality content, and another nearly 16% stopped cold when they couldn’t even find the firm in an initial search.
None of this information is surprising since previous research has shown that some 80% of buyers head directly to a corporate website to evaluate an organization first. If your law firm’s web presence is apathetic at best, earning those extra-credit reputation-based referrals is out of the question. Ramp up your referral marketing efforts by getting your website—everything from design upgrades to intuitive usability to compelling content—in order first.
A dynamic duo: Referrals and TV advertising
Attorney television advertising remains a crucial part of the marketing mix for professional practices around the country. This far-reaching visual advertising combined with a strong web presence and database or referral marketing plan will keep your firm squarely in front of past contacts—and potential cases.
Once you start to look with a wider perspective at what may be deemed a referral in the first place, as well as how to ensure you continue to get acclaim going forward, what you need to do from a media and marketing standpoint may start to crystalize before your eyes.
Look the part: If you’re indeed getting referrals without a referrer even talking to a lawyer at your firm, let alone trusting you with a legal case, where are these people coming from and what’s making them believe in you? The Hinge Marketing report showed the top type—expertise-based referrals—came from channels that might not even be on your radar:
- Speaking engagements (30%)
- Articles or blog posts (20%)
- Social media interactions (17%)
What do these results convey? While TV remains a prime resource for spreading the brand gossip far and wide, interpersonal communications, social-media engagement and thought-leadership-style content must support the bigger message you’re putting out there.
Lawyers have to look the part—on both first and second screens—not to mention in-person at reputation-building sessions such as keynotes, round tables and conventions. Referral marketing has become a sophisticated engine: all the parts must look the part to create a cohesive, believable, trustworthy brand.
Leverage your luck: Now comes the fun part. What do you do with all these new referrals from new referral avenues? Smart attorneys are leveraging recommendations in cutting-edge TV advertising. You’ve probably heard of the customer journey and the customer experience. Now pair that with first-hand client feedback, or a person’s overall impression of your firm based on a specific area of expertise or reputation in the industry. Why not leverage these realizations in your advertising campaign?
Just as you are now thinking out of the box about referrals, your attorney television advertising campaign should project the same perspective. Instead of recycling conventional “talking-head” client commercials, delivering canned-sounding recommendations, be creative. (Or at least let your legal marketing and advertising agency have some fun.) You’ve been given new tools—three types of referrals. Now let the legal marketing experts develop a campaign that conveys that client experience (or potential experience) in a fresh and memorable way.
Want to take advantage of more referral opportunities and leverage the people who already support you? We can help. Call us today! (888) 461-1016