Accessing the Web via mobile devices—SmartPhones and tablets—is a growing reality. As mobile Web usage gains strength, marketers are creating unique tools to better serve this audience. Here are some of the tactics you can use to add a dose of mobility to your marketing mix.
Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
The most basic step for law firms is to ensure that your firm website—the flagship of your online presence—is readily viewable on mobile devices. First and foremost, that means avoiding use of Adobe’s Flash programming.
For many years, website developers of all stripes and sizes made extensive use of Flash for the sophisticated motion and animation effects it can create. Flash was (and is) pervasive throughout the Web. However, Flash does not work on Apple’s iPhones and iPads at all, and works only sporadically on other popular mobile platforms. As such, many mobile users simply can’t see images, video or even navigation buttons that are programmed with Flash. If you have key content or navigation on your site built with Flash, it’s time for an overhaul.
Prior to his death, one of Steve Jobs’ last high-profile business battles was his ongoing and staunch refusal to support or enable Flash on Apple’s mobile devices. This eventually resulted in Jobs personally penning a lengthy open letter detailing his position, titled “Thoughts on Flash.” This letter was circulated widely online and posted prominently on Apple’s homepage in spring 2010. (Many would say that Jobs was ultimately vindicated with the announcement in November 2011 that Adobe is ceasing development of its Flash plug-in for mobile devices, and will instead throw its support behind what had been a rival technology endorsed by Jobs: HTML5).
Make A Mobile-Specific Version of Your Website
Most modern SmartPhones and tablets include powerful Web browsers that are capable of rendering your full website in glorious detail (except for those troublesome Flash bits).
However, going with your standard website ignores the context in which mobile users are operating. There is a decent chance that if someone is accessing your website via a BlackBerry or iPhone, they are looking up a quick phone number or email address, directions to your office, or having a quick glance at one of your lawyer bios in advance of an impending meeting, as opposed to diving into a 250-page PDF white paper your firm has published, or accessing some of the myriad other content that is included on law firm websites of any significant size. Instead of making users wade through the full array of content on a regular website, many businesses are creating mobile-specific versions that load automatically when the system recognizes that the user is using a mobile device.
Think of a mobile site as the “express” version of your website, containing a subset of key information extracted from your regular site (e.g., contact information, maps and directions, lawyer bios and news), all formatted to better fit small screens via the use of large navigation buttons, larger fonts, little or no imagery, and less content per page.
With a mobile site, it is also important to provide a prominent link back to your full site for those who prefer it. After all, while many users might only want a quick phone number on the run, others may be comfortably ensconced in their easy chair, tablet in hand, with the specific purpose of giving your 250-page PDF the thorough contemplative review you imagined they would as you wrote it.
Also, some users will already be very familiar with your regular website and will know precisely how to access the content they want on that version. You want to let those users easily find what they are seeking, too.
In short, building a mobile version of your site is about giving your users options, making the most popular items readily accessible, while still providing a full range of content for those who desire it.
Make an App
One of the defining features of SmartPhones and tablets is the proliferation of available apps—software applications designed specifically for mobile devices. There have reportedly been over 18 billion app downloads from Apple’s app store, over 10 billion from the Android market, and over a billion from BlackBerry’s App World.
Enterprising law firms have also participated in this flourishing arena, with firm-specific apps that typically include things such as lawyer bios, firm video content, a firm Twitter feed and news content. Again, the underlying rationale behind developing a law firm app is usually about providing choice for the consumer in the form of delivering content in ways that some users find more appealing. It also allows your firm brand to take up some semi-permanent virtual real estate on the end-user’s smartphone to help keep you top of mind. A small icon with your firm’s logo that they will see every day remains as they scroll through their various apps.
One key issue for firms considering creation of an app, however, is the fact that the three largest mobile formats (Apple, Android and BlackBerry) each have entirely different development requirements and capabilities, meaning that if a law firm wants to cater to a broad mobile audience, it will need to fund (and maintain) three entirely separate mobile projects on an ongoing basis. This present reality limits the growth of the law firm app market to some extent, as many firms take a wait-and-see approach.
Use QR Codes In Your Marketing
A QR (short for “Quick Response”) code is a small square-shaped, pixelated-looking form of barcode that can be placed in your offline marketing materials (e.g. print advertisements, business cards, or conference and event invitations).
When a reader scans the QR code with a SmartPhone or tablet, he or she is automatically directed to an online destination you have specified, such as a relevant practice group or lawyer bio page, a vCard download for the person whose business card was scanned, or to the conference or event details or registration page on your website. QR codes are growing in popularity, as they are effective tools for bridging the gap between offline and online marketing materials.
Add Call Extensions To Your Adwords Campaign
If you run a Google adwords campaign (pay-per-click text ads that appear in Google search result pages) you can add “call extensions” to your ad—an extra line containing your office phone number as a clickable link. This enables SmartPhone users to click on the phone number and call your office directly from your ad.
Many lawyers see “making the phone ring” as the ultimate goal of their website and online marketing strategies, so the direct (and measurable) correlation between marketing spend and phone calls received via call extensions is very appealing. Best of all, there is no extra charge involved. If a SmartPhone user calls directly from your ad, you are charged for a single click, just as if a regular user had clicked through from the ad to your website.