Referral Marketing: How To Google Proof Your Business

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Looking for a great way to grow your business that has nothing to do with Google in any way whatsoever?

If so give a listen to the latest episode of my Podcast Series, The Marketing Fast Track. In it I get a successful tax attorney to share the system he uses to generate referral leads for his practice.

What I like best about his system is that it is independent of Google or any other search engine for that matter.

That means the success of his practice isn’t at their mercy.

I’ll leave it up to you whether or not this short podcast falls into the must listen category.

Podcast Transcript

Opening Announcer: You are listening to another episode of The Marketing Fast Track, where Matt LaClear teaches you everything you need to know about how to make your online marketing efforts much more profitable.  The opinions, thoughts, and observations he’s about to share with you are solely his own.  Facts and circumstances differ from one business to the next.  So do him a favor and don’t trust any of his tactics until you can test them for yourself in your own business.  Now here’s the host of The Marketing Fast Track, Matt LaClear.

Matt LaClear: Thanks for listening to Marketing Fast Track, I’m Matt LaClear.  On this episode, we have a special guest, Darrin T. Mish, he’s a tax attorney from the Tampa area and he’s going to talk to us about his referral marketing program that he’s getting a lot of traction with.  Darrin, thanks for coming on the show.

Darrin:  Hey, Matt, thanks for having me, it’s really awesome to be here.  It’s kind of funny, you’re talking about a tax attorney and how exciting can that be? Really we’re going to be talking about referral marketing, right?

M:  Yeah, I’d love the chance to pick your brain a little bit on what you’re doing with your referral marketing system, from what I’ve noticed, you’ve got a lot of great things going with it.

D:  (laughs) I find it exciting, I love marketing and I love having the ability to turn nothing into something, does that make sense?  You come up with an idea, you go ahead and test it, you roll it out and pretty soon the phone is ringing, and then the phone ring turned into money and I really like that.

M:  Before we get into your referral marketing system, let’s talk a little more about what you do for your clients.  What does a tax attorney do that helps clients with their IRS problems?

D:  What I do is, I help tax payers or actually non-taxpayers usually.  People who owe too much money to the IRS.  Too much money to the IRS is defined by me as somebody who has a large tax liability with the IRS that they can’t afford to pay.  So a typical case in my world might be…one that comes to mind is a gentleman that owed about $400,000 to the irs, we filed something called an offer and compromise, which is where you make a deal to settle for less with the irs and we settled it for $1221.  Now when you hear that, it almost sounds sensational, like it’s not true, like there’s no way that would ever happen.  But I’m here to tell you that’s actually pretty normal in our practice and the IRS is willing to make those kinds of deals if you know how to go about it.

M:  Wow, what motivates the IRS to accept a deal like that?

D:  My folks have a tendency to have been out of the tax system for maybe 10 years, sometimes 20 sometimes 50 and they’re not filing tax returns, they’re not paying taxes, they’re not having any withholding, so the irs motivation on a lot of these cases is they just want to get the person back in the fold.  They want to get them back in the system and contribute to social security and income tax for the rest of their productive lives.  That’s really the motivation for the IRS.  It kind of sounds like I might have been trying to say that I can pull a fast one on them or something and that’s not it at all.  I just really know how the programs work with the IRS, actually sometimes better than they do and we just take advantage of those programs and help taxpayers out with what I like to call, the biggest problems in their lives.

M:  That makes total sense when you say it like that.  I never really thought of it that way.  It gets the IRS collecting money again, so they’re happy and by solving your client’s IRS problems, it gives them their life back so they both win.  What a great scenario.  How long have you been doing this?

D:  I’ve been practicing law for about 23 years and I’ve been doing the IRS problem resolution for maybe 15 or 16 years.  A long time.

M:  I didn’t know that.  You didn’t start out as a tax attorney right after you passed the bar.

D:  No, not at all. For the first two years of my career, I was actually a public defender and I don’t think there’s really a harder job in the law than that.  It really prepares you for just about anything because things go wrong on a daily basis regularly as a public defender and you just kind of have to learn how to think on your feet.  A lot of people have sometimes asked me, well you went from being a criminal defense attorney to being a tax problem resolution attorney, those things really have nothing in common.  You know, they really do, and here’s what they have in common.  When you’re a criminal defense attorney, you learn the rules and then you apply those rules to help your client against the government and what you’re fighting about is jail or prison time typically.  In my practice, I learn the rules, I apply them to my client’s situation and when we fight over money, so there’s actually a lot less pressure in my current practice then there was in the last practice because every one of my clients, so far, is going home that night.  They’re not going to the state prison and their life isn’t going to be immediately ruined.  So, in that respect, I think the job there’s a lot of crossover, and I actually think the job is a lot easier than being a criminal defense attorney.  And the clients are actually really cool, nice people who just made decisions that didn’t really pan out.

M:  Let’s talk about referral marketing.  Your referral marketing system is pretty badass.  Why don’t you tell us a little more about it?

 You know, referral marketing is just absolutely crucial to any lawyer’s sort of arsenal of marketing opportunities.  For a long time I’ve done direct mail, I’ve done some SEO, some organic SEO, things like that, but in the last year or so I’ve identified the fact that the referrals are sort of the low-hanging fruit.  If you get a referral, the retention rate on those prospects to clients is amazing, I mean it’s darn near 100%.  Those people don’t come in and give you a hard time and say, how long have you been practicing law (now that I have gray hair, it kind of helps.)  They don’t ask you a lot of qualifying questions, they just want to know, hey will you take my case?  Can you help me and how much is it going to cost?  Oftentimes you can bet a little bit better fees out of referral prospects because you have someone on the other end that’s already vouched for you.  So I’ve really turned a lot of my attention away from marketing end clients to marketing to potential referral sources and that’s where you came across me on LinkedIn.

M:  I think the first place I came across you was on Facebook and then I followed you over to LinkedIn and saw all of your activity there.  Are you doing anything else to market your business, other than referral marketing?

D:  You know, we do other things, we have a newsletter, we have an eNewsletter, we do some stuff still to market to the end clients, but I identified that it’s really not any more expensive to market to the referral source, than it is to the end user and that referral source, if done correctly, is going to send me lots of clients.  Send me 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 a year, as opposed to trying to market to the end user.  Most people aren’t like repeat tax problem people, so it’s kind of a one and done opportunity.  I might get a good fee from them and maybe I do their tax return for the rest of their lives, but that’s only an annual fee of a few hundred bucks.  But if I walk into a guy that runs across a lot of my type of people like a bankruptcy lawyer or CPA, he might send me three clients a year and then cost me very little market to him.  What I try to do, is I try to identify potential referral sources where my clients are kind of a headache. For example, bankruptcy attorney doesn’t know how to solve a tax problem, he knows how to file bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy can solve tax problems in some instances, but a lot of the time, it doesn’t get done right, or the tax problem survives the bankruptcy because the taxes aren’t old enough or something.  And then the person calls the bankruptcy attorney back and says, hey fix my problem and the bankruptcy attorney isn’t really getting paid for that, doesn’t really know how to do it and it puts him in a little bit of pain.  What I do, is I raise my hand and get kind of in their face, figuratively, and say hey I’m the guy that can relieve your pain.  All you got to do is send those clients that you kind of think aren’t really a good fit for you, because they’re not, send them over to me and I’ll take care of their problem and I’ll make you look like a rock star.  I think that’s really important to go ahead and see if you can be the pain relief to the potential referral source, if that makes sense.  Every professional that comes into contact with their clients, when they have a new problem they don’t know how to fix, you always want to be the hero, you want to be guy that has the answer and that’s what I allow them to be.  The answer’s Darrin T. Mish.  (laughs)

M:  (laughs)  Basically what you did is you just Google-proofed your business.

D:  You know, I mentioned that I used to do a lot of SEO and I did it and I was very dependent upon it and then Google in what, 2012, 2013 made some change, they twisted some knobs or dials or something and all that collapsed, it just went away and that really kind of upset me, to be honest.  I’m actually being polite, it upset me.  I was dependent upon Google to basically provide about 80% of my lead flow and it disappeared essentially overnight.  That’s when I decided, the one good thing I’m good at is developing relationships and being real and making friends.  Google can never take my friends away.  IF I make friends and they send me business, I Google-proof my business.

M:  Let me stop you right there for a moment.  You said that you’re doing well on Google, but I know for a fact that you were doing a lot better than just well.  In fact, you were ranking number one overall for the keyword “tax attorney” on Google and you did it forever.  That’s huge, Darrin.

 Yeah, I actually ranked #1 in the world for tax attorney on all three search engines for years.  Used to have an SEO company and I had outsourcers and stuff doing the work.  I was the Einstein that came up with the blueprint and that worked for years and years and years, my blueprint did, and then eventually all that stuff stopped working and that’s what got me to thinking…there’s a mentor of my mine named Dan Kennedy and he always says one is the worst number in business and I always thought that I knew that, but I never really thought about the fact that Google was my one.  So when they changed things, wow.  Everything that I was doing, I had a tax law firm, I had a bankruptcy law firm, an SEO firm, everything was predicated upon my ability to generate lots of really high qualified traffic using SEO.  Essentially for free.  It wasn’t really free, but it was super cheap.  That’s where I came up with the idea of hey, man, let’s market to referral sources because you can really cultivate those relationships and they’re going to send you a lot more business a lot faster than trying to figure out the latest algorithm change or whatever.  Let’s talk a little bit about how to get started on a referral system and what I think is the best thing to do if you don’t really know where to start.  Is that ok?

M:  Let’s get into that, I’d love to hear about what you’re doing to make your referral marketing system work so well for you like it is.

D:  Ok, so the first thing that you need to do is you need to sit down in a quiet room with a pad of paper and maybe a beer or your cocktail of choice.  Not too many, maybe one, maybe two, and just kind of brainstorm the names of every single person you know, which it might sound either really easy or extremely complicated.  But the average person probably knows, I don’t know, jeez, between 200 and a couple thousand people.  So you write down the names of these folks, and they can be people you know from any aspect of your life.  Today, with social media where you’re like Facebook friends with the high school people that you never thought you’d ever see again.  You can really make a pretty good list pretty fast. It’s as simple as, you get that list into a spreadsheet or into your CRM or whatever and that’s what we call your warm list.  Those are the people that already know you.  They like you and trust you.  I don’t think you should put your high school rival that hates your guts still because you stole his girlfriend, I don’t know if he goes on the list, maybe.  But you make your warm list up and those are the first people that you let know what you’re doing in your practice or in your business and you pretty much either write them a letter, write them a letter, write them a form email that doesn’t look like a form and you u just let them know what you do and you pretty much just blatantly, politely ask for referrals.  You’d be shocked, really, at how effective that really is.  It’s amazingly
565565656565effective and it’s pretty much free.

M:  Let’s talk about the direct mail piece you send out to your referral list once you put it together.  Almost everybody knows somebody, like you said, and we all know lots of people.  You, on the other hand, you probably knew a lot more attorneys, you look for referrals from attorneys, you probably met a lot of attorneys working in Tampa while you were down in the public defender’s office, so you obviously – and you’ve been working your tax attorney business for as long as you have, you obviously had a good rolodex to reach out to.  But tell us a little more about what your direct mail piece was like that you sent out to your referral list the first time you sent it out.  Was it a straight pitch just asking for the referral or were you a little more subtle about it?

D:  Well, there’s a couple different ways you can go about this, you can just do the straight pitch, hey, send me your referrals because it’s good for me.  But that’s probably not going to be super effective.  It might be, if your business takes away enough of their pain, that might work.  One of the things you can do is sort of offer them what we call an ethical bribe.  One of the things I do for attorneys when I write these letters is I paint the picture about how I’m going to be the guy that removes the pain that they have from these people that they really don’t know how to handle, calling them and asking them to do this work.

M:  Let me interrupt you there.  That makes total sense.  I was thinking about a pitch you don’t want to sell too much in the referral letter that you send out, especially the initial one.  But if you’re touching the pain points of the prospects of your potential referral partners, it’s not going to be considered a pitch to begin with, it’s not going to be received as a pitch.  So that just makes total sense and thanks for clearing that up.

(Commercial Break)

M:  Ok, so you said you had great results from that first mailing, you got a lot of low hanging fruit, people responding to your referral response, requests for referral.  Tell me what you did for the second mailing.  What did you do for the people who didn’t respond to the first mailing?

D:  Well, really in the science of direct mail, a one and done sort of mailing is not going to be most effective.  Usually you have to do a sequence and what does that mean?  Well, it means sending more than one letter, typically 1, 2, 3 letters or maybe even a letter every month depending on the potential upside of getting those referrals.  But you have to get in front of these people’s faces on a regular basis and one of the ways we do that historically is we use a paper newsletter.  Once I’ve identified you as a pretty good prospect for sending referrals, you’re going to end up on my paper newsletter list and you’re going to get a newsletter from me, usually once a month and it’s going to have a big headline about some case like I told you about before, settling a $400,000 case for $1200 bucks.  You know that generates a lot of business as well.  Typically with our 3,000 piece newsletter, mailing list, we’ll often generate pretty regularly, about $25,000 a month just doing that.  So there are a lot in that, it’s just absolutely astronomical.  You want to put your current and former clients, whatever business you’re in, you want to put them on a newsletter list as well.  There’s probably people listening to this right now that are thinking, a paper newsletter?  Are you serious?  Isn’t mail old-school and kind of dead?  Let’s just do it via email.  Ok, but what I’m telling you is that if you look in your mailbox right now, there’s hardly any mail in there and do you think if there’s hardly any mail in the mailbox if you send mail it might have a better chance of being opened?  Versus an email box where I get, I don’t know, 3-400 emails a day?  Literally I look at my email list, I look at subject lines and I just do control or shift and click and I erase 10, 12, 50 at a time.  Versus a newsletter list, at the very least, they’re going to see the front of the envelope and the name of my firm on a monthly basis.  That’s good enough.

M:  How does LinkedIn play into your referral marketing program?

D:  So, we had this idea that hey, I can practice in all 50 states because my subject matter of what I do in the law is federal and so I started thinking, well, instead of just marketing to the bankruptcy attorneys here in the Tampa Bay area, what if I sought out on LinkedIn bankruptcy attorneys and CPA’s all across the country, and just sort of figure out a way to point out what I do and be the escape hatch for these guys all around and see if I can get some referrals that way and it’s working amazingly well.  I think we have a paid account and we’re reaching out through what they call LinkedIn inmails, direct messages basically.  The message is pretty generic, but it doesn’t look generic.  It just says hey, Joe, I just wanted you to know that my practice is in the area of IRS tax problem resolution.  If you ever have the need in that area, or if you just want me to be a sounding board or if you have any clients that have those clients, hey, maybe you might keep me in mind.  Something like that.  Our response rate to those inmails is absolutely extraordinary.  I want to say it’s something between 30 and 50%.  At first when we started doing this, I was actually kind of afraid, I’ll be honest with you.  I thought I was going to get hate mail from 20% of the people and I thought I was going to be criticized for spamming and all this other stuff and you know it really hasn’t happened.  I think I’ve gotten 1 or 2 out of hundreds and hundreds of people that wrote just kind of like a snotty reply.  Then we just take them off the list, unfriend them, and we’re done.

M:  I’m not surprised to hear that because we’re finding the same thing in the campaigns that we run for our agencies, as well as for our clients.  We hardly ever get any negative responses back to the connection requests we send out or the referral requests that we send out.  We try to word them in a way that’s friendly and to the point, it’s not spammy, it actually is a real life interaction.  We’re just doing it in a way that’s on LinkedIn instead of sending them an email.  And we hardly ever get anybody upset with us for sending them out like that.  Where if we were to contact the same people via email sending the same messages, I bet you we would get a lot more complaints.  LinkedIn is kind of funny that way.

D:  I think that LinkedIn users are more welcoming of kind of B2B sort of pitches and messages.  The network is designed to help people do business, right?  So I think there’s that over Facebook for example, though I do a lot of referral marketing over Facebook as well.  I think the pitch is well received because it doesn’t look salesie, it’s not spammy and I’m not, like you said, I’m not trying to market to end users.  That would be illegal by the way.  Lawyers aren’t allowed to directly solicit clients.  So that’s a whole other limitation that I have on me that most other businesses wouldn’t have.  I don’t think, if you had a tax problem, if you had a tax lawyer sort of reaching out to you that that would be really very attractive, you know, because if you’re the kind of guy that has to be trolling for business like that, then you might not be very good at what you do.  I think it’s just trying to make the message look personalized and not spammy or salesie.

M:  Darrin, I really appreciate your time, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to tell us about your referral program.  I knew that you had a good one in place and that you’re getting great results with it.  I really thank you for sharing your system with our listeners.  How can listeners get in touch with you if they have an IRS problem they would like to speak to you about?

 Well, the easiest way be to just call the office, it’s at 888-GET-MISH.  That’s 888-GETMISH.  It spells out.  Or 888-438-6474.  Or you can visit our website and there’s really a lot of information on my website at  I also have a podcast it’s the IRS Problem Solver, it’s available on iTunes.  I’m a bestselling author you can just put my name in the search bar in Amazon and a whole bunch of books will come up.  So there’s a lot of ways to get in touch with me.  I’m just really passionate about helping people solve their tax problems.

M:  You mentioned before the call started that you had a free eBook for the listeners today.  Talk about that for a minute and where the listeners can grab it.

D:  Thanks, I almost forgot about that, or I actually did forget about that.  I wrote a little book, funny story real brief back story on this.  One night I woke up at about 3 o’clock in the morning and I just kind of popped up out of bed, I sat up straight and I was oh my god, in this dream I had the most amazing idea for this book. It’s called the Seven Secrets That the IRS Doesn’t Want You to Know.  And I started outlining that book there in bed on my iPad and after a couple of hours, I actually got tired of typing with my thumbs and I moved over the computer and I finished the book around 5 am.  It’s only about 30 or 40 pages. It’s really easy to read, but it goes over actually far more than seven secrets that the IRS doesn’t want you to know about, but that’s a pretty good title.  You can get that eBook for free at  You can buy it from Amazon if you’re just a glutton to pay for stuff.  It’s a…I think it’s really one of the best books I’ve ever written because it’s super easy to understand it’s written from the layperson’s perspective.  Anybody, even if they don’t have a tax problem, can really benefit from just taking a quick read of that.

M:  There you have it listeners.  Seven Secrets the IRS Doesn’t Want You to Know About.  You can grab it for free at  Thanks, Darrin, you rock for doing this interview.  Everybody, see ya next episode.

Closing Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Fast Track with Matt LaClear.  Make sure you also check out his free marketing course at  Be there, or be square, sillies.

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