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Lawyers on phone outside of building symbolizing why lawyers should engage their referral sources through thought-leadership marketing content

How lawyers can use thought-leadership marketing content to engage their referral sources

Lawyers and their law firms can boost their referral marketing efforts — and their business — by crafting thought-leadership marketing content aimed squarely at referral sources.

If you are like most lawyers, you are familiar with thought leadership as a form of marketing. It is a classic marketing technique lawyers have been using for decades. It follows a simple, logical path:

“If I write or speak about issues that arise within the area of law that I practice, I can convey my knowledge—and perhaps mastery—of those issues. By doing so, would-be clients will come to the realization, once they have read or heard what I have to say, that I am THE person they should contact when they have a legal issue that falls within my practice area.”

When it comes to thought-leadership marketing, lawyers often focus on their past, current, and future clients—with good reason. Clients are the people hiring lawyers and paying their bills.

But if you craft thought-leadership marketing content solely for clients, you miss out on a huge audience that, when actively and strategically engaged by you, could be a steady source of new clients for years to come: referral sources.

Best of all, using thought-leadership marketing content to actively and strategically engage referral sources is so underutilized and under-appreciated by lawyers that if you actually do use thought-leadership marketing content in this manner you will likely do so without much competition.

Developing a strategy to target referral sources in two easy steps

To keep the good news rolling, there are only two steps you need to take when developing your strategy to target referral sources with thought-leadership marketing content.

First, you must identify the lawyers and non-lawyers whose legal practices and professions are complementary to your legal practice and are likely to attract your ideal clients.

In terms of lawyer referral sources, if you have a civil rights practice, for example, criminal law could be a complementary legal practice because criminal defendants are the kinds of clients who could have possible civil rights claims for wrongful arrest, excessive force, etc.

Likewise, if you have a special education law practice, family law could be a complementary legal practice because inevitably in conversations about family law issues, a child’s struggles at school are likely to be discussed.

The same approach should be taken for non-lawyer referral sources.

For a civil rights lawyer, religious leaders would be good referral sources as they will have their fingers on the pulse of their communities and will know when congregants or people in the community believe they have had their civil rights violated by a government agency. For family law lawyers, professionals who are likely to treat children with developmental issues such as child psychologists and speech therapists would be good referral sources because those children might require special education services.

Second, once you have identified the audiences you want to target with this endeavor, you must then identify the overlap between your practice and your target audiences’ legal practices and professions. In other words, what kinds of issues are your referral sources running into that are the kinds of issues you would normally handle within your legal practice?

For example, lawyers with criminal law practices could encounter clients who were injured during their arrests. How is that relevant to their criminal cases? Is that a sign that the client might have a civil rights claim against the entity that arrested them? By tackling these topics through thought-leadership marketing content directed to lawyers with criminal law practices, a civil rights lawyer could position themselves to those lawyers as THE lawyer to contact when those lawyers have clients who might have civil rights claims.

As another example, speech therapists might learn that their patients who are school-aged and living with disabilities are not getting the special education services they need to excel in school. When must a school provide a student with special education services? What are signs that their school might be violating federal law by not doing so? What can families do before hiring a lawyer to help their school-aged children get special education services? A special education lawyer who addresses these issues with thought-leadership marketing content in plain English and targeted to speech therapists could position themselves as THE lawyer to contact when speech therapists have clients who might have legal claims against a school district regarding their children’s education.

The special sauce here is consistent thought-leadership marketing content that addresses these overlapping issues.

The fact that you addressed a single overlapping issue signals to a current or potential referral source that you might be someone they should get to know. But the ongoing creation and dissemination of the content is what demonstrates your deep knowledge—and dare I say mastery—of these issues.

“Funny you should mention that”

What’s really nice about a strategic thought-leadership content creation program targeting referral sources is that if you are consistent with your efforts, you will create a content library with individual pieces of content that will be relevant to your target referral sources.

Yes, they might find your content proactively through a web search or on social media. But sometimes they will learn about that content directly from you.

That’s where the magic happens.

Imagine meeting with a potential referral source over the phone, via video, or in person.

After exchanging pleasantries and making small talk, you start talking shop. The person you are meeting, let’s say a child psychologist, laments the lack of special education she thinks many of her patients are receiving.

You say, “Funny you should mention that. I wrote a blog post a few months back about that very issue. I’ll email it to you later today.”

You think that exchange will make a lasting impression—the kind of impression that builds referral relationships?

You think that exchange reinforces that you’re the lawyer that particular child psychologist should be referring potential clients to?

You better believe it.

The more content you produce, the more topics you cover with your content. The more topics you cover with your content, the greater the likelihood that you will have covered a topic likely to arise during a conversation with a referral source.

Pretty cool, right?

Now is the time to start targeting referral sources with your thought-leadership marketing content

Strategically identifying would-be referral sources and using thought leadership to connect with those referral sources can pay dividends for your legal practice.

Thought leadership is a fundamental marketing tool that all lawyers need to have on their tool belts when they engage clients. But using thought leadership to create and engage referral relationships is something most lawyers aren’t doing. Ironically, it has the potential to help you grow your law firm to new heights because the right referral sources could provide you with a never-ending stream of client matters.

All that is required of you is that you (i) strategically and proactively identify potential referral sources, and (ii) address the issues they deal with in their legal practice or profession that intersect with the kinds of legal problems you help your clients with.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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