Be Neutral
A Publication of the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution


This is one in a series of marketing articles that will explain e-marketing in layman’s terms.  This information is provided to help you modify your online presence to get your practice noticed.

Marketing Tip:  Building Your Referral Engine

As we’ve said repeatedly, people do business with people they know or people their friends and family know. The referrals you get come principally from the people who know you well and who have seen you in action. How do you ensure that you keep getting those traditional referrals ?

  A. Say “thank you” for every referral you get even if you don’t manage to close the business. Thank you is the most underused phrase in the English language, and anyone who takes time to use it stands out from the pack.
  B. Refer business to others ! The fastest way to turn people into power referrers is to refer business to them. Think you don’t know about opportunities for others ? Think again and start listening carefully in every conversation. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities you stumble across that you can use to remind others that you’re thinking of them. People who benefit from your referrals will become your biggest business boosters.
  C. Make sure your friends and family understand what you do for a living. How many times have you said you are a mediator, only to have people ask questions that show that they clearly don’t understand what a mediator does ? Take time to educate others – once they understand exactly what you do they’ll be able to refer appropriate business to you.

While face-to-face marketing is valuable, most people find that they can get more referrals if they ramp up their digital marketing engine. Prior to doing this there are several items that need to be in place:

  A. Your website needs to be up, rank well, and provide all the information needed by someone looking to hire a mediator, including a scheduling link.
  B. All your marketing collateral (website, brochure, business cards, etc) needs to have a common look and feel.
  C. You need a system in place to be able to track the lead source and be able to say “thank you.”
  D. You need a business presence in the social media environment that is most appropriate for your prospective book of business. If you market to other professionals, then you need to be on LinkedIn, but if you market to end users, then Facebook is a better environment. If in doubt – join both.
  E. You need to build lists of prospective contacts and referrers with e-mail addresses. It is important in the beginning to separate these e-mail addresses into lists that will allow you to send targeted e-mails. For example, if you are going to market to attorneys, you might want one list for those who do divorce work and another for those who do personal injury work.

Once your foundation is in place you can now start the tough work of getting your name out there in front of your potential referrers !

Social Media Marketing
Let’s start with social media marketing. The biggest misconception that we see here is that people think they are supposed to hang out their virtual shingle and by “advertising” people will flock to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The objective of a social media campaign is to get people to recognize you as a trusted expert in your field…it is not to stand up and yell “hire me!” How do you achieve this recognition ? Post at least 1 link per day to an article in the press about mediation or an affiliated topic.

In the past we would all forward interesting articles to a couple of friends. Today by posting it to your social media page, all of your friends will see it at the same time. If you make that posting prior to 9 a.m. you’ll actually get a 20% higher read rate than you would if you posted it later in the day, because most active social media users check their accounts first thing in the morning.

But you say, all of my friends know what I do….what good does it do to remind them ? Well, all of us are busy, so a little reminder never hurts. But the reality is that you’re really not trying to reach your friends. You’re trying to reach THEIR FRIENDS. Take Starbucks for example. They have 23 milllion Facebook fans. These are typically dedicated customers who are thrilled to hear about a new seasonal beverage or get a coupon for an occasional discount. However the more important number is 690 million….that number is the number of friends that the 23 million Facebook fans have. If only 10% of those 23 million fans “share” a posting from Starbucks on Facebook then Starbucks will have reached 100 million people ! Consider what happens if 10% of those people repeat the behavior – suddenly you’re reached a huge number of prospective consumers, and all you had to do was post one comment that your fans thought was sufficiently interesting that they chose to share it.

Now clearly your numbers won’t be as big as Starbucks’. But if you spend a little time linking to your friends and colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn, you’ll probably find you have a couple of hundred contacts, and you’ve now got a method to reach them all quickly.

Newsletter Marketing
Similar to social media, newsletters give you a way to do the work once and reach hundreds of people with a couple of keystrokes. We’ve written about the mechanics of publishing an electronic newsletter in prior issues (that are available in the GODR archives) so I won’t get into the mechanics of developing a newsletter. But I do want you to consider several points:

  A. Even if your recipients don’t open your newsletter, they’ll see your name in the subject line and be reminded that you are a mediator.
  B. If there’s is one catchy / interesting article in your newsletter, then you’ve increased the chances that your recipients will forward this vehicle to their friends and family.
  C. If the newsletter is easy to read (we recommend 2-3 teaser sentences with a link to the full article) the chances are better that people will continue to read it every time you publish.
  D. Correctly written, a newsletter will allow you to track the trends in your audience, which will help you focus your practice in areas where there is more likely to be work.
  E. A good newsletter will allow the reader to easily link to your website to get more information about you, contact you, or schedule a mediation.

Push vs. Search
Just a few years ago while the economy was still relatively healthy, businesses were spending the bulk of their time optimizing their websites so they could be found easily in a search. However once the markets crashed, people stopped spending time aimlessly searching and more time trying to keep their heads above water. Therefore we’ve now seen a dramatic move to push media. By definition, push media are those media streams that push content to users once they have established a connection with you. Both social media and newsletters / email are examples of push media. Once someone has connected with you on a social media platform they automatically get your posts…and once they’re on your mailing list they automatically get your mailings. No further action is required on their part. While they may not read everything you send, you’ll remain in the front of their mind and make it easier for them to refer their friends and family to you when a need arises.

Referrals are the heart of your practice. Take the time to develop your infrastructure and spend a few minutes each day, week, and month to push out quality content. And you’ll find that your phone is ringing and your calendar is full.


Coming next month:  Mobile Media...What is it and how does it affect your marketing efforts ?


Michele Gibson is a Georgia-registered neutral and a certified emerging media consultant.  She is the president of Digital Smart Tool, LLC – an e-marketing firm offering website design, SEO, electronic newsletters, social media coaching, and marketing training seminars.


Phone: 404-592-3367  E-mail: