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Referral Networks: Your Free Sales Force

What is the difference between a referral network and a contact database? It's a good question, and one I was just asked the other day. A referral network is a group of 5-10 professionals who have the ability to send you high quality business leads, while your contact database is a list of all your prospects and clients.

As an attorney or expert, your referral network may include non-competitive attorneys, litigation support experts, bankers, accountants, consultants, financial planners, or others. If you don't have a strategic referral network in place working for you, set one up soon. It is like having your own personal sales force without the commissions!

You should plan to meet with each referral network member individually every 30-45 days. Set up a one-to-one lunch or breakfast where you can discuss industry news, pending deals, recent job changes and other events that may create business opportunities. For example, if you learn that an influential CEO or VP just moved to or from a local employer that may signify an opening for new service providers.

Referral networks are a two-way street. In order to get leads, you also need to give leads. Make a point of reciprocating by sending business opportunities to those who are providing you with leads. If you find that a network member becomes less productive over time, replace them with a new player.

Depending on your practice area, you may find that some existing national referral networks work for you in addition to or in place of your own personal referral network. BNI is an international networking group with active chapters in most cities. Linked In is an online network with millions of members. Linked in can help you find the missing link in the "6 degrees of separation."

Now that you understand the importance of a referral network, let's turn to the contact database maintained by attorneys, law firms, and experts. Your contact database includes your clients and prospects, in addition to members of your referral network. You can prioritize contacts andprospects on an A/B/C basis. You may want to make personal contact with your "A" (best) candidates every 2-3 months, while you contact "B" prospects by phone or in person every 6-8 months. Maintain communications with "C" prospects via email or direct mail.

As much as you may not want to admit it, chances are your contact database is in the form of a pile of business cards scattered over your desk or tucked away in a drawer. I say this as I look at unrecorded business cards sitting next to my own laptop. It may seem that you network faster than you can organize all these odds and ends.

Consider buying a card scanner, or ask your administrative assistant to enter all this data. Popular contact management software programs include Act!, Goldmine, Contact Ease, Interaction (for big firms), or similar services.

Contact the author for more business development ideas in the legal and litigation support markets. Happy networking!

By Legal Expert Connections, Inc.
Legal Marketing, Expert Marketing, Attorney Marketing, Lawyer Marketing
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Grisdela, Legal Expert Connections Inc.
Margaret Grisdela is a legal marketing consultant and the Author of "Courting Your Clients: The Essential Guide to Legal Marketing." She is the President of Legal Expert Connections, a firm specializing in marketing and business development for attorneys, lawyers, law firms, forensic accountants, and litigation support experts. 

Copyright Legal Expert Connections, Inc.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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