Your practice will die without relationships. They are the cornerstone of your business.
You need good people with the ability to refer you clients to invest their energy in your practice. They need to care about your success.
These referral sources need a strong connection with you: it's essential.
Once they like you, care about you, and want to see you succeed, they're going to send you clients. They're going to work hard making sure the people they refer to you actually connect with you. They're going to feel good about helping you, and that's going to positively reinforce their referring behavior.
You know how to start the cycle of referrals. You've got to invest some time getting to know your referral partners and building the relationship. We've talked extensively about what to talk about at lunch.
You've got to build relationships if you want the referrals. You've got to build the fire in order to generate some heat. Today, we're going with a campfire metaphor (it's still summer, after all).
Like a campfire, you've got to keep adding fuel to the relationship if it's going to grow. You can't expect to start the fire and have it burn indefinitely if you don't add more wood, right?
With referral relationships, you've got to keep adding fuel.
When I ask attorneys about their referral sources, it's fairly common for them to tell me that they haven't spoken to some of their people in a year or more. They haven't kept in touch because other pressures distract them from maintaining the relationship.
That's a problem. If you go to the trouble to start the relationship (which is the hardest part in my opinion), you've got to keep it going. You can't afford to keep starting over with new people: you've got to keep the existing referrals coming while you add to your network.
Put a log on the fire every month. Here's what you should do:
1. Take your referral sources to lunch again after about 90 days and then keep a 90-day cycle going indefinitely.
2. Send them an email each month: not a firm newsletter, but a personal email about pretty much anything. Find an article to send or ask them about something they said on Facebook. Stay top of mind by keeping in touch.
3. Send them a holiday card with a personal note.
4. Offer them tickets to an event. Buy a handful of tickets to the theater or a sporting event. Offer them to several of your referral sources. You can usually offer the same tickets repeatedly since you'll often find your people can't use them. You'll get a bunch of mileage out of one set of seats.
5. Send them a birthday card.
6. Send a newsletter if you produce one.
7. Add them to your blog email list if you're blogging.
8. Take them out to dinner once a year: bring spouses or dates.
9. Send them a thank you note each time they refer.
10. Send them a gift periodically (something special that you know they'll like) if permitted by your regulatory rules.
Don't pick and choose from this list: do them all for those who actually refer. Get in to the lives of your referral source: be very present.
A good referral source might send 10 consultations a year (some will send twice that many). Those 10 consultations can easy translate into more than $100,000 in revenue. A handful of referral sources who produce that kind of work will keep you busy throughout the year.
Are these people worth any less than the effort outlined above? The fire will die without attention. You've got to expend energy to keep the relationship going. Add a little wood to the fire, and your practice will keep you warm and cozy all year long.