Lawyers, and frankly most professional services providers, know that a big percentage of our work comes from referrals – clients and others from our networks recommending us to other people who need a service that we provide.
So we know that they are important, but how do they really work?
We don’t often think about the fact that there are different kinds of referrals. Only one of the three is based on direct experience and each of the three are acquired by different, though in some cases overlapping, means.
The three types of referrals are:
- Experience based referrals. This is the traditional approach to acquiring referrals. Do excellent work and either expect or ask for referrals from people who have seen you doing it. Keeping up this kind of referral is extremely important, but also something that most of us understand and have in the front of our minds. So today I am going to focus on the other two types of referrals.
- Expertise based referrals. These are referrals from people who haven’t worked with you but know of your expertise in the area in which their colleague needs some help.
- Reputation based referrals. These are referrals from people who haven’t worked with you, and don’t necessarily have first hand knowledge of your expertise, but know of your reputation more generally.
Knowing lots of people isn’t enough to ensure you maximize your opportunity for expertise or reputation based referrals. You have to also find ways to project your expertise and enhance your professional reputation in your networks, target audiences and communities.
Research* indicates that over 80% of professionals have received referrals from someone who has never been a client. Those referrals are more or less evenly divided between expertise based referral and reputation based referrals. Only 5% of non-experience based referrals are made solely because the referrer knows the professional they referred.
It is also important to think about what inspires those who have not yet worked with you to refer you.
Research indicates that the top 3 motivations for expertise based referrals are:
- Hearing the professional speak (30%)
- Reading blogs or articles written by the professional (20%)
- Interacting with the professional on social media (17%)
Imagine what could happen if you were doing all 3 regularly!
For reputation based referrals the general perception of quality and the word of mouth from friends or colleagues both matter. The top 2 motivations for this kind of referral are:
- Heard of the professional through friends or colleagues (55%)
- The professional has a “good reputation” (45%)
If you want to garner the greatest number of referrals, target your activity so that it engages all three of these streams of referrals.
Until next time!