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The Big Lie You've Been Told About Immigration Referrals

by Nader Anise, Esq.

Don't you hate being lied to? Yeah, me too.

You know how some "gurus" tell you your best referrals come from lawyers, friends and relatives - those with whom you have a real strong relationship? You might believe that wholeheartedly.

In fact, during many of my marketing seminars, I also talk about how important building relationships is for generating referrals. (It's true. It is.)

But… listen to this:

You may be overlooking a referral gold mine by focusing primarily on those closest to you. In fact, you may be missing the "hidden" source for multiple referrals.

How so? Let me tell you about a fascinating little experiment that has important and direct implications to your immigration law practice. The study was done by sociologist, Mark Granovetter. It is a classic study from 1974.

Granovetter looked at several hundred workers - some professionals, some technical, some blue collar - and interviewed them about how they got their jobs.

He found that 56% got their job through a personal contact. Another 18.8% had found their job through advertisements and headhunters.

This isn't so surprising, right? Personal contacts can be a powerful way of getting what you want in life.

But, here's the really neat part: Granovetter found that of those who got the jobs through personal contacts, the majority had gotten them were through "weak ties" not through people with whom they were closely-knit: 55.6% saw their contact only "occasionally," and 28% saw their contact "rarely."

How can this be - and what does it mean to your immigration practice? Well, Granovetter believes that when it comes to finding out about new opportunities, information and ideas, weak ties are more important than strong ties.

The reason is simple. Your friends, close associates, immediate family, etc., all typically occupy the same world you do. You are exposed to many of the same things and share many of the same experiences. Thus, there is a good chance that any new immigration cases or referrals they know of - you know of too.

Acquaintances and individuals with whom you maintain minimal contact, on the other hand, give you connections and exposure to an entirely different segment of people. They are much more likely to know things and people you don't. Granovetter called this:

"The strength of weak ties."

And so it follows that the more acquaintances and introductions you have, the greater your exposure to potential immigration referrals. And although I'm not a huge fan of expending all your marketing energies jumping from networking function to networking function, Granovetter's theory makes a good argument for increasing your exposure to weak ties.

There may be an even more important lesson here: don't immediately pre-judge a new acquaintance by what he does, where he lives or his social circle - that he or she does not qualify as a solid referral source. The truth is, you never know if this new acquaintance will eventually demonstrate the "strength of weak ties" and surprise the heck out of you.

This reminds me of a story: Within two days of listening to one of my tele-seminars, a solo practitioner immigration attorney in New Jersey had landed a referral source that proved to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in business.

How did she do it? Simple. By the strength of weak ties.

She was standing in line at the post office 10 days before Christmas. (As you can imagine, the line was out the door.) She quipped with the man in front of her, "I should give up my day job and just stand here and sell hot chocolate. I'd make a fortune!" He chuckled and suggested the two of them become partners and get rich together. (It's interesting to note that the man's appearance looked less than impressive - ripped jeans, unshaved and boots with holes in them.)

The line was moving at a snail's pace and they continued joking and talking. He asked her what she did for a living, to which she replied, "I do immigration law - I help people and companies with their immigration issues."

"What do you mean you help companies with immigration issues?" he inquired.

"Well if a big company needs to hire foreign workers, I handle that sort of thing," she responded

He understood. "Oh, OK. My brother does that kind of thing all the time. He's the head of personnel at __________ (a major hotel chain)."

That's all he needed to say. Her "referral radar" went off and the rest is history. They exchanged business cards and the new acquaintance put her in touch with his brother who ultimately gave her more than a quarter of million dollars worth of new immigration business.

(And to think she almost didn't tell him exactly what she did because she thought, why bother?)

So is this a matter of being at the right place at the right time? It's more than that. It's a demonstration of the power of weak ties… the power of a clever introduction…and the power of the ATM (Always Think Marketing) mindset.

This lawyer succeeded because she set the power of weak ties in motion. Even though the man at the post office was not someone with whom she would normally socialize, she viewed the long line as an opportunity for an introduction. Many other lawyers would have done everything possible to avoid this "loser."

WHAT TO DO NOW: Here are two things that will boost your immigration marketing:

First, starting immediately, you should expand your circle of new acquaintances, whether standing in line somewhere, attending a party or bar function, being introduced to a "friend of a friend," etc.

Second, make a list of all the acquaintances who you thought were too far removed from you to be of any benefit in building your immigration practice. They may actually turn out to be a golden source of referrals. Send them a card or quick email and say hello. Touch base, remind them of who you are and the types of immigration matters you handle. Tell them you realize you haven't spoken in a while - but you wanted to re-connect with some people who made a strong impression on you.

The worse that can happen is you will expand your referral base and possibly land $250,000 worth of business.

About The Author

Nader Anise, Esq.'s newest 2-hour tele-seminar is STRICTLY for immigration lawyers. It is on February 20 and is priced at a very low $27. Only 500 immigration attorneys will be eligible to register and it is selling out quickly. For more information, please go to Nader Anise is an attorney and the nation's highest-paid legal marketing expert. His strategies have been showcased on many national media outlets such NBC Television, PBS, Access Hollywood and Lawyers USA.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.