Kris Hartland

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Associate Business Consultant

 - Marketing
 - Advisor Coaching 
 - Growth Programs
 - Tax Strategy & Planning

The 3 Secret Ingredients Essential to Gain High-Quality Referrals from Attorneys and CPAs

A must read before you network with an attorney or CPA again.

Shouldn't every smart marketing plan begin with finding the people who are already working with your target market and partnering with them to develop a strategic partner referral program?

Consider that advertising firms get businesses to pay big bucks to place a product or service in front of a certain demographic, and that is a long way from a personal endorsement or specific introduction to the perfect prospect. On the other hand, partner referral programs provide a solution for reaching potential clients and customers with little upfront cost and tend to produce high-quality leads.

High-quality prospects are probably already working with CPAs and estate attorneys. The fact that they are already paying a fee for advice and assistance can be a first-level qualifier itself. If additional qualifiers can be added, such as clients with a trust vs. a will, or clients who have more complex tax returns or estates, some firms may be able to reach their ideal target market with this referral resource.

So, the question is, how can you form this profitable partnership?

It'd be great if the process was just simply asking for referrals, offering quid pro quo, or dazzling them with your service. However, it usually isn't that simple. It's not your "Shark Tank" presentation that needs polishing, rather it's coming to understand why they are guarding their clients and customers against you in the first place.

And, the thing is, it's actually their job to do so.

Your client list is of high value to your firm. What if someone asked you to personally call each client that fit their target audience and suggested that they do business with that company? How would your clients feel about that? What would happen to your business?

The key is knowing the secret ingredients that will make the “head chef” want you to serve his or her clients.

Discovering the secret ingredients begins with understanding why they would refer a client to you in the first place -- and it's probably not the reason you think.

You may be surprised, but the best way to gain access to the high-quality prospects who are already doing business with another company ISN'T having the perfect product/service or being likable, smart and competent.

Yes, you have to be good. That's already presumed. If you're not, improve or quit; no one who is mediocre should expect to play in this area. But, you may be wondering, "Kris, my current clients and I are firm believers in my business' offerings, but how do I get referrals if that's not enough?"

My answer is this – purpose, design, and integrity.

Purpose, design, and integrity will help you create a compelling reason for an attorney and/or a CPA to refer clients to you. Integrate these three core ingredients into your strategic collaboration program and you will see significant results.

Here's how these 3 secret ingredients can help you create a steady stream of referrals.


The Recipe for Reducing Mental Risk

Realize that the first and foremost purpose of referrals is to help your partner's clients, not to help you. This is how you clearly shift your thinking about the purpose of the referral. 


The Recipe for Reducing Behavioral Risk

Get your process right. Provide clear, sensible circumstances and cohesive processes that benefit all parties.  


The Recipe for Reducing Emotional Risk

Reduce the risk of the relationship through communication, time, and positioning.

The next step is learning how to mix these three ingredients into your referral-obtaining process.


Answering WHY they would do this

Most of the time when you refer a restaurant or movie to a friend, it’s not because you care about the restaurant owner or the people who invested in that movie, it's because you care about your friend, right? It’s no different when you ask people for referrals to your business. The referral is to you, but FOR the friend (client). 

The whole focus of your strategic marketing plan should be centered around thinking about everyone else involved, including why they would give the referral and how it would happen. 

Discover and be able to clearly articulate the ways your service can complement your professional partner's offerings. Explain how they can provide additional value to their current customers by referring them to you. This, in turn, will provide them with the following benefits:

  • Help them with sticking points with their current clients
  • Enhance their perceived value
  • Bring them additional business

And, of course, you want to be referring leads back to them as well. Since you have a similar target market, identify how your current clients can benefit from their services and how you would promote them.


Answering HOW they would do this

First, you want to make sure your partner has a clear understanding of what type of people you help and how you can solve their problems and challenges. Provide materials and content that they can reference and easily share with referees.

Next, you need to make sure they know how to refer and that the process is as simple as possible. Refer.com offers a list of 17 ways referrals can be shared in a partner program:

  • Email
  • Social Posts
  • Endorsements
  • Introductions
  • Newsletters
  • Ratings & Reviews
  • Bonuses
  • Bundles
  • Discounts
  • Gift Certificates
  • Contests
  • Direct Mail
  • Online Ads
  • Print Ads
  • Brochures
  • Sponsorships
  • Referral Cards 

And, of course, you need to set up an easy (preferably automated) way to track referrals and incentivize this partnership. How will your partner be kept in the loop about the status of the referral, and how will they be compensated?

Having a streamlined process already in place will make your request for a referral partnership much more appealing and help you to easily manage and continue the relationship into the future.


Making them comfortable and confident in making the referral

Like all relationships, building a referral partnership takes communication and time. This is where it is important to build trust by having no tricks, hidden costs or agendas. They need to see that you deliver on your promises in a timely manner and that there is no risk to them in referring people to you.

Stay top of mind by keeping in touch and answering their questions. When they know that you, your offering and team are trustworthy, they will have ultimate confidence in being your advocate.

To sum it all up, purpose, design, and integrity are the secret ingredients that are going to provide an attorney and/or a CPA a reason and desire to refer their clients to you. Purpose addresses why they would want to give you referrals. Instead of making things about you, these potential partners will be pleasantly surprised if you can clearly articulate the value you can provide their clients and, in turn, them. Secondly, design addresses how they can refer you. With some effort on your end beforehand, you can provide an organized process and ready-to-share materials that makes sharing referrals quick and easy for all parties. Last, integrity brings everything together in making them comfortable and confident about giving the referral. Take the time to build the relationship through open and honest communication.

This recipe requires all three ingredients to work; but, if you can mix them all together, you’ll be on your way to cooking up some high-quality alliances and referrals!