Note: The following is a guest post by Lee Frederiksen a managing partner at Hinge Marketing.
Generating referrals has always been an essential part of law firms’ marketing strategies. In fact, when we asked professional services firms what their biggest marketing priorities were for 2015, generating more referrals was the top priority, with 61.9 percent of respondents citing it. Yet focusing on referrals solely from clients could be significantly limiting your firm’s referral marketing potential. Rather than leaving missed opportunities on the table, your law firm could be capitalizing on referrals from non-clients as well.
To dig deeper into referrals and learn how firms can effectively generate referrals today, we surveyed 523 professional services firms in several different industries – including the legal industry. We discovered that 81.5 percent of professional services firms have received a referral from someone who wasn’t a client. This suggests that non-client referrals might be more readily available than most firms realize. So, what motivates people to give referrals? And how can law firms take advantage of non-client referrals?
That’s exactly what we set out to determine in this latest research study. We found that there are three types of referrals that make up a balanced and effective referral marketing strategy.
- Experience-based Referrals. This is the type that most law firms are already actively pursuing. An experience-based referral occurs as a direct result of your firm’s work with an organization or individual.
- Expertise-based Referral. These referrals occur when someone recommends your firm based on their awareness of your expertise. While they haven’t worked with you personally and don’t have detailed knowledge of your reputation, they recommend your firm due to your perceived expertise in the marketplace.
- Reputation-based Referral. Similarly to expertise-based referrals, reputation-based referrals come from people who have not worked with you directly, but know of your reputation. While they might not have the specific expertise knowledge to give an expertise-based referral, they may know someone who has worked with you or have heard of other clients with positive experiences.
Seeking out all three of these referral sources can create a more balanced referral strategy. We learned in our previous research that, even though 69 percent of clients are willing to refer their service providers, a small percentage of them actually do. This only serves to highlight the importance of taking a more comprehensive approach to referral marketing.
However, referrals don’t always translate into new business.
How to Use Better Referral Marketing to Get More New Businesses
A surprising 51.9 percent of our respondents admitted to ruling out referrals before even speaking with the firm in question. That means that over half of the potential clients referred to your law firm are deciding against your firm before even giving you a chance to earn their business. Why?
Our research showed that the top reason for ruled-out referrals from over 43 percent of respondents was, “I couldn’t understand how they could help me or my firm.” Several of the other top reasons seemed to point to poor marketing and a weak online presence as key indicators, with overly promotional marketing materials and an unimpressive website also ranking high.
Taking these responses into consideration, alongside the need for more balanced referral marketing, the solution seems simple. Better online marketing gives your firm the chance to showcase your expertise and improve your overall reputation – which can lead to more referrals from non-client sources – while also increasing your chances of converting on referrals.
With over 80 percent of buyers looking at a professional services firm’s website to check them out, your law firm can’t afford to have a weak online presence. Improving your digital marketing can have the domino effect of improving your reputation, generating more referrals and gaining more new business.
The full Referral Marketing for Professional Services Firms research report is freely available for download from Hinge Marketing with registration here.
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Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.
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