Leverage Your Marketing Efforts with Referral Sources

Legal marketing experts agree that one of the keys to building a book of business is to create and maintain strong relationships with past, present and potential clients. We are told that attorneys’ marketing efforts should be client-centric, and we should always put clients first. It’s clients, Clients, CLIENTS!

Focusing on clients’ needs and interests is of course sound advice, but attorneys sometimes take this approach too far and too literally. A purely client-centric approach where attorneys only cultivate relationships with prospective clients is counterproductive if it leads them to neglect people who are potentially more important than clients. What? People more important than clients? Who can they be? Is it heresy to think that there may be people more valuable to attorneys than clients?

To learn who these people are, let’s first look at the concept of leverage. Most attorneys are skilled at using leverage even if they’re not familiar with the term. Time is a precious commodity for all attorneys: we constantly ask ourselves if what we are doing is this the best use of our time? If we have a task and can find someone else who can do it better or cheaper, we delegate it. Or at least we should. Delegation is basically having other people do stuff for us. We leverage our time and expertise by using others whose time is either non-billable or billable at a lower rate. By having them complete these tasks, our time becomes available for potentially more remunerative activities.

So how does the concept of leverage play out in the area of marketing? The most obvious way is to use legal secretaries or other office staff for routine administrative tasks. Unless there are compelling or unusual circumstance, attorneys should delegate tasks like updating client lists, making appointments, and sending out collateral materials. In similar fashion, associates and paralegals can be used to prepare articles for newsletters or write first drafts of presentations for clients.

Delegation of administrative tasks seems pretty simple, but can attorneys really delegate the creation and maintenance of personal client relationships? To a surprising degree we can. With the urgency of client matters, few of us have large amounts of time for marketing activities. To make the most of that time, we need to be strategic and selective. We put our energies into relationships with those past, present and prospective clients where there is the greatest likelihood of generating work. But by focusing only on clients, we often overlook far more important relationships – those with connectors and referral sources.

It’s really quite simple math: would you rather use your marketing time to reach out to one person who might become a client; or would you rather invest that limited time in building a relationship with someone who might regularly refer you to three, four or more people who could become clients? Connectors and referral sources do some of the preliminary work of relationship building for you: they identify people who may need and benefit from your legal services, and then they make a warm introduction. It’s still up to you to follow up and cultivate relationships with those people, but a tremendous amount of time and energy is saved. Some may question whether this is technically delegation, but it’s having people do stuff for you, and as such it’s very useful leverage–marketing leverage.

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