The most profitable leads your law firm can get are clients and referrals. Period. However, these great leads don’t happen by osmosis! They happen only if there’s an effort made to develop, nurture, and protect your existing client and prior client relationships.

Your list is solid gold, so start harvesting it.

Here’s an absolute fact: The law firms that get a high percentage of their business from repeat and referrals don’t get there by accident, luck, or chance. They have a system.

Without a system, you’re leaving thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table. With each passing month, you are giving your past clients permission to do business and refer their friends to some other lawyer.

I want you to think about this: do you remember the company that last cleaned your carpets? The glass company that replaced your broken windshield? The plumber who last fixed your leaky faucet? The company who last fixed your computers? Probably not.

Most consumers do not remember the company or service provider they hired in the past—even if they received great service!

Why? Because the company made no effort to stay in touch with them. The company gets paid, and then moves on to the next job, without making an effort to keep these prior customers engaged and without actively doing anything to create and maintain top of mind awareness.

Which leads me to my big money question.

Are you doing everything you can to keep in touch with your past clients so the next time they need your services, they remember who you are, what you do, and where to find you? I want you to ask yourself the following: “Will my past clients call me the next time they have a question or need legal representation, or will they call some other lawyer? Will they refer a friend or relative to me, even though I haven’t made the slightest effort to stay in touch with them? From my experience, the short and likely answer is a resounding NO. Oh sure, a few clients might hang around with you, but most will move on.  Out of sight, out of mind. End of story.

It’s a bad strategy to hope your past clients will automatically come back to you or refer others to you. For every client who does, there are fifteen others out there who will find some other lawyer. Remember this, real profits and wealth are built through “trust-based long-term relationships.”

It has always been that way, in any business and in any industry. You can think of it this way; it’s like a good marriage. A good marriage takes some ongoing work and effort. It requires always being there, always having the other person’s back, so they trust your commitment to them, and they know you care about them. The same is true for your former and current clients. However, most lawyers don’t think about nurturing these long-term and highly valuable relationships. They’re 100 percent focused on income, not equity. They don’t think of what a relationship needs to be like for a client to stay with them for life. While it’s actually not that difficult to do, the trouble is very few lawyers are willing to take the simple steps necessary to sustain these connections.

The truth is that there are profound links between trust and relationships, and equity and wealth. Trust-based marketing strategies give you four clear advantages:

1) More high-quality leads.

2) Leads that are easier to convert.

3) Prospects that are less price-driven.

4) Clients that are more likely to refer and recommend others to you.

No Marketing Strategy can compete with the speed and effectiveness of “trust-based marketing.” When it comes to opening more files, getting more referrals, and having your past clients use you repeatedly, nothing will put more money in your pocket faster than “earned trust”. Trust will build huge dividends for your law firm. Trust-based marketing extends the length of relationships you have with your past clients and their lifetime value to your law firm.

Trust-based marketing is a game-changer. The rules are simple. Where there is high trust, there is a high dollar return. Where there is low trust, there will be poor dollar return, affecting almost every part of your law firm.

Trust means your client has confidence in you. Where trust is not present, confidence drops, and clients become suspicious.

Are you a Hunter or a Farmer?

This is a critical question to ask yourself and the answer will shed light on the subsequent steps you should take to improve your marketing efforts.

HUNTERS: Law firms have traditionally been dominated by hunters. These are the Lawyers who are primarily focused on what they can kill and eat today. They think in terms of “How many leads did we get today?” “How many conversions today?” and “How much net money did we deposit today?” Hunters are about transactions. They get a client and are happy. They sign, settle, and move on.

FARMERS: A farmer, on the other hand, is not only thinking about eating today but is also thinking about the effect of today’s harvest (actions) on tomorrow, next month and next year. A farmer plants a seed, nurtures that seed, and understands that his or her efforts over time, produce a bountiful harvest. Seeds from one harvest will produce future yields. In business, the farmer is the lawyer who nurtures client relationships. Their mindset is a long-term yield. They recognize that today’s client is tomorrow’s referral source.

The Hunter or Farmer distinction is simple but significant. It can easily be the difference between maintaining or doubling your case load over time. It is a critical mindset.

Lawyers who understand this distinction and shape their marketing efforts accordingly will maximize their profitability long term.

For example, one of my private coaching clients is a hunter. He’s good at it. Probably one of the best in our industry. His law firm averages about 750 cases per month. (Yeah, you read that right- 750 per month!) He gets a few referrals and repeat clients, but they make up less than 9 percent of his overall business.

He knows by not having a better relationship with his clients, he’s leaving thousands, or even millions of dollars on the table. But he’s okay with it. Why?

Because he’s a hunter. It’s what he knows. It’s what he’s done for years. He makes money, and he doesn’t want to change. That’s fine …

But as successful as he is – he spends double in advertising/lead generations than most every other law firm does. So, while his revenue numbers are impressive, his Cost per Case is not, and his profit margin shows it. If he has to curtail big spending marketing, he’s in trouble. Think about this for a minute. He spends double what most similar law firms do to buy a new client and then does next to nothing to encourage that client to make referrals. To me, this is a risky and expensive way to make a living.

Now let’s Compare his business strategy to another one of my private coaching clients. She is one of the best farmers I’ve ever seen. She understands the importance of repeat and referral clients and takes systematic action to nurture these valuable relationships. She doesn’t spend nearly as much in Advertising as our Hunter lawyer above, and 61 percent of her business comes from her repeat clients and referrals.

Her philosophy is simple: “We want our clients to love us.” Everything she does is about building a long-term relationship with each and every client. She wants them to be clients for life. She wants to be their trusted legal adviser. Not only does she provide them with an experience that they can confidently brag about to their friends, family, neighbors and coworkers, but she keeps in touch with these past client on a regular basis using a variety of simple systematized steps such as frequent emails, letters, holiday cards, newsletters, client advisory board and an appreciation program. She makes sure her clients know she cares and the reciprocate by returning and referring their friends and family. By nurturing her client relationships, she has built a powerful marketing strategy producing business equity and wealth.

So, which do you want to be; a hunter or a farmer when it comes to your law firm?

I think the answer is clear. The Farmer mentality- based on Trust Based Marketing principles will yield the greater and more sustainable results virtually every time.

If you want to Leverage Trust-Based Marketing in your own firm, try implementing the following 9 Powerful Trust-Based Marketing Strategies:

1) Take time to personally call or check in with as many of your clients as you can or send a letter to all of your current and prior clients letting them know you are thinking of them during this difficult time.

2) Send holiday and birthday cards. Have your case managers send personal or congratulatory cards or notes at milestones such as births, promotions, deaths, etc.

3) Send a regular monthly newsletter to all of your current and former clients and recognize the names of any who have referred cases to you in a special appreciation section of the newsletter.

4) Create a Client Advisory Board. Your PILMMA Member Resources has a step by step guide for how to set this up—and trust me—it WORKS. During Covid you can use Zoom or FB to gather these important clients together—and send treat baskets or grub hub cards ahead of time so you can “share” a meal together.

5) Offer free notary services to your clients.

6) Make sure each and every staff member in your office understands your commitment to excellent client service and to sustaining all client relationships. Help them see the direct correlation between their actions and the increased repeat and referral clients that will make your firm more profitable.

7) Host Client Appreciation days when COVID is over and organize drive-by giveaway of masks or hand sanitizer with your firm’s logo until then.

8) Start sending your clients short personal videos via email or fb messenger for case status updates.

9) Create a systemized Client Referral Appreciation program- sending clients special gifts for 1-3 referrals, 4-6 referrals, and so on. (You should be fine from an Ethics standpoint, as you are not providing a quid pro quo exchange)

This kind of marketing truly produces results- and keeps producing results long term- like the ripple effect of throwing a stone in a pond. As I discuss in my book Under Promise and Over Deliver, there are 3 distinct phases of successful law firm marketing: 1) Generating New Leads, 2) Providing Exceptional Client Service Once these Leads Become Your Clients, and 3) Nurturing These Clients after Representation so they become Raving and Referring Fans. No great law firm or business can ever be built on just the first phase of marketing creating new leads. You must have the second phase during representation and the third phase after representation if you want to build a great and profitable law firm.

So, if you want to be a Farmer, whose firm grows exponentially with ongoing Repeat and Referral clients, the big question is “what will you DO in the next 90 days to make it happen?” Create Your Strategy and then TAKE ACTION. And as always, if you are feeling stuck, contact me and we can talk about it. ◆

Click here to order Under Promise and Over Deliver.

*** If you want to learn MORE Powerful Strategies for Law Firm Growth then check out PILMMA”s 2021 Legal Marketing & Management Super Summit- Sept. 29- Oct 2, 2021 in New Orleans.  It’s 50  Super Lawyers and Marketing Experts giving you the Latest Strategies for Law Firm GROWTH  in 3 1/2 Days.  Click here for more info: www.pilmmasummit.com