Why Doesn’t Your Firm Get More Client Referrals?
Would you prefer to build a business that no-one knows anything about, so that every new customer is hard won from cold calls? Or would you want a business that people know about, trust and happily approach to do business with?
It’s likely that every business that starts will always have an element of the hard won, cold called business. Like it or not, cold calling is still an effective way to build business. Cold calling needn’t necessarily even be picking up the phone and ringing prospects, it could be emailing, direct mailing, door to door knocking or any other way you can think of to put yourself in front of a potential client who has never heard of you before.
While this is a tried and tested method of business building it’s also exhausting, time consuming and inefficient. At times it can also be demoralising if you encounter multiple “no” or “I’m not interested” or “please don’t call again!”
What’s the alternative?
In an ideal world you would have customers coming to you. Not just once in a blue moon referrals, or one off incoming calls, but customer after customer approaching you to work with them.
The benefit of having a business that clients know of and want to work with are plenty and obvious. It enables you to spend less time on drumming up sales, more time on closing business and serving customers – increasing your bottom line.
If this is the ideal situation for your firm then why aren’t you doing everything you can to ensure that this happens? Or if you think you are already doing everything you can to generate more referrals why isn’t that your business isn’t growing? A steady stream of customers who are enough to pay the bills isn’t enough, what you want is as much as you can handle, or more!
For a business to successfully grow by referrals you need to have an excellent reputation, an easy to find, informative website, great customer service and possibly some kind of client referral or incentive scheme.
If you feel you’re already doing all of this and the referrals aren’t coming in thick and fast then the number one reason is probably down to you.
Referrals usually come from a few main sources. These are:
- Current Clients
- Former Clients
- Non competing firms in your industry
- Companies not in your industry but in a similar field.
In order to maximise the number of referrals you win, you should think about how you can best target these individual groups.
Email Marketing and Newsletters are great for getting back in touch with former clients, in fact they are one of the most effective forms of marketing when they are followed up consistently. One of the great advantages of email marketing over direct mail is it is a much lower cost, another is that the email can sit in someone’s inbox quite unobtrusively, whereas unwanted direct mail usually goes straight in the bin.
With existing clients you can publicise a referral scheme to them while you are dealing with their case. If you have done a good job for someone, the best time to ask them for a referral is straight away when they are happiest with your service. Some businesses have really great referral or loyalty schemes set up for their clients, and while it’s not appropriate for every business you could offer a prize for every fifth referral you get from someone, or enter a monthly prize draw and everyone who has referred a friend gets a ticket.
Consider setting up a joint venture with a like minded business. If you are a conveyancing lawyer, you could build relationships with local estate agents or removal firms – these businesses aren’t competing for the same business as you but they will certainly be interested in some of the same clients.
Look for opportunities to get involved in industry events where you can be seen as an expert speaker, or a moderator on a panel. Not all networking events are going to be right for you, you shouldn’t turn up to something just because it’s local or because you know a lot of people who are going already. Instead, target specific industry groups or target small client only seminars.
Finally, think about ways you can get referrals from within your own industry. If your firm specialises in certain areas of the Law for example, can you get referrals from another firm who offer their services in different legal fields, or maybe a firm from another town?
Some of you may have noticed that all of these things I have just mentioned are still you selling your business. Yes, they are. But the idea is that you aren’t touting directly for sales, you are targeting specific groups who are most likely to be in a position to help you. It will take time to build a good referral business, but by putting your efforts into getting groups of referrals rather than individual sales you are giving your business a better chance to be seen by as many people as possible.