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In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners to develop a simple process to identify and nurture client advocates – those clients who will refer the firm to other clients when the opportunity arises.

Learner Reflection

We already have some client advocates, however these have not been actively nurtured. We assume they will continue to refer potential clients to us because they have done this in the past.

To be more proactive, we can implement the following actions:

  1. Ask for referrals: This is the most direct way to identify client advocates. We can ask our clients if they would be willing to refer us to their friends, family, or colleagues.
  2. Look for positive reviews: Using our website for positive reviews from clients. These reviews can be a good indicator of which clients are likely to be advocates.
  3. Track client interactions: Track our interactions with clients to see which ones are the most engaged. These clients are more likely to be advocates because they are already familiar with our services and they are satisfied with the level of service they have received.
  4. Look for clients who are a good fit for your firm: If we have a specific niche or target market, we can look for clients who are a good fit for our firm. These clients are more likely to be advocates because they are already interested in the services we offer.

Feedback from our experts

Client referrals are still one of the most valuable ways of identifying new clients for professional service firms. Usually these prospects are ‘similar’ in needs, goals and values to the clients that do the referring.

Most firms we have been involved with over the years don’t really make a proactive effort to identify and nurture client advocates. The best way to start is simply to ask clients for referrals when they are pleased with the level of service that has been provided to date. Then recognise and reward clients that do refer, often a simple thank you is sufficient.

Key actions to consider:

  1. Actively train your team to ask clients for referrals. Ideally, this should be as soon as a job or matter is successfully completed. You should have the courage to ask your clients ‘if you’re happy with what we’ve done, can you recommend us to your friends or colleagues?’ Inevitably the response is positive.
  2. Put in place a formal process in place to recognise all referrals in a timely manner. By all means, thank them face to face or over the phone, but there is special impact with a formal, personalised thank-you. Particularly ensure that the top referrers are acknowledged and supported proactively. Take them out to lunch. Ask them what you can do for them.
  3. Incorporate requests for referrals in all your general communication with clients. For example, consider asking for referrals in email footers, client feedback forms, monthly newsletters, website and other general correspondence with clients. Use strong case studies and written recommendations to drive referrals.

Remember that developing a successful referral strategy takes time and effort. Don’t expect an immediate response from your team, your clients and your networks. My experience with many firms suggests that it takes at least 6 months of consistent effort to implement an effective referral program. Identify the people in your firm who are most able to assist with implementing this program. Focus on a few key actions and review progress with your team on a regular basis.

This assessment task and response is taken from the Path to Partnership eLearning Course. Click here to explore this course

Also, take a look at the Client Concierge eLearning course

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