As published in the March/April 2014 PILMMA Insiders' Journal. Come to the PILMMA Super Summit July 17-19 in Chicago and see my presentation on Internet Marketing.
The first impression that clients will get about you is when they visit your website on a smart phone.
This may come as a surprise to many lawyers.
If your website is responsive to their smart phone, clients will conclude that you will work well with them. If the view on that two-inch screen is mobile-friendly, they will decide that you are competent and up-to-date. If they like what they see, they will recommend you.
But most lawyer websites, when viewed on a smart phone, have type too small to read, pictures too tiny to see and links too small to press with your finger. Visitors to mobile-unfriendly sites will conclude that you are not responsive, not up-to-date and not worth referring.
A tipping point
We have passed a major tipping point in law firm marketing. According to Pew Internet Research, a majority of American adults now have smartphones. These are not the clamshell or dumb "feature phones," but smart phones that take and share pictures, use GPS to create maps and browse the web to visit websites -- including lawyer websites.
What's more, the ownership of desktop computers has been declining for five years, according to Pew. People prefer the instant-on convenience and portability of smartphones. Clients may walk away from their computers and put down their tablets. But most of them will never be out of reach of their cell phones.
Savvy lawyers are attracting new business with responsive mobile websites. They know that clients with smartphones can easily forward the information to family and friends, share the information on social media, and of course – call you instantly.
Attracting the Always-Connected Mobile Client
Pick up your smart phone and visit your own website. Do you have to enlarge the screen to see anything? Why you enlarge it, does the text scroll off the edge of the screen? This is mobile UNfriendly.
Key elements of a responsible mobile website are big buttons – one-tap images that will launch a phone call, send you an email or display a map to your office. On a mobile site, online forms should have fewer boxes to fill in. But your logo and branding should be identical.
An example of a responsive site is the Shouse law firm at www.shouselaw.com. It's a criminal defense law firm with offices in California and Nevada. On a smart phone, visitors see the logo, firm name, a menu, a tap-to-call phone number, a one-minute video and an extended description of the firm.
Tapping “menu” opens an impressive sidebar leading visitors to California and Nevada cases, the firm blog and “Contact Us.”
The firm's mobile site is not a stripped-down skeleton of the PC version. It is a full-featured website designed to engage and hold visitors. Smartphone visitors are not missing anything that people using a PC are getting.
I work in Tucson, Arizona, known as the “Silicon Desert” for its concentration of high-tech companies. LawLytics, the company that created the Shouselaw mobile site is located here and I was impressed when I met the staff. You can get a free, no-obligation, 30-day free trial by visiting www.lawlytics.com/signup.
Responsive design vs. “M.dot”
There is one technical point that lawyers should know. There are two approaches to mobile websites, and the obsolete method is the “M.dot” approach, where the web address appears as “M.YourFirm.com.” This method re-directs visitors based on whether their phone is a Blackberry, iPhone or Android device. The drawback is that custom content must be created for each platform.
The major downside is that Google does not recommend the M.dot approach. Instead Google recommends “responsive design,” where the mobile website automatically resizes for any device. This approach uses a single URL and single code base, which makes it easier for Google to index the website. Responsive design is less expensive in the long run, because it will work on all future devices and platforms.
Landing a client on the spot
Mobile websites are most useful when you or a client needs information immediately. Consumers will turn to their cell phones the moment they are stopped for a DUI, arrested for a crime, hurt in a traffic accident or fired from a job. For example, a potential client will search for whether to take a Breathalyzer test, and will retain the lawyer who has the answer online.
In another scenario, people will use their smartphones when your name is given as the best lawyer to handle a matter. Mobile visitors will look for a concise bio, a description of representative matters and a blog that demonstrates your expertise.
Mobile websites are also handy when a lawyer is out of the office at a meeting, and meets a potential client. Suppose a prospective client asks about a legal issue he wants to know about. The lawyer can grab his smartphone and navigate immediately to a publication or alert he has published online. After showing the mobile information, the lawyer can instantly send it by text or email to the other person. This speedy response will help the lawyer close the deal.
And closing the deal is what mobile marketing is all about.