Aug 19, 2009

Make Sure The Message Matches the Medium

When it comes to Internet marketing, there's no one size fits all solution.  The effectiveness of any of the tools that I've discussed here at the Legal Marketing Blawg, such as blogs, Twitter or video depends not just on whether your current or prospective clients spend time online but  also where and how they use the Internet.

To understand the importance of how clients use the Internet to your online marketing efforts,   consider the results of an April 2009 study by the Pew Internet Project released last month.  According to the study, 56% of those polled said they have at some point used wireless means for online access - a figure that's significant enough to convince most lawyers to either start or step up marketing measures online.

But the 56% figure doesn't tell the whole story about wireless use.  Turns out that even though African American Internet use via traditional means (such as home or office computers) is much lower than for the general population, African Americans represent the most active users of the mobile internet:

48% of Africans Americans have at one time used their mobile device to access the internet for information, emailing, or instant-messaging, half again the national average of 32%.

29% of African Americans use the internet on their hand held on an average day, also about half again the national average of 19%.

Based on these use rates, you'd be justified in engaging in any type of generic online marketing activities, such as putting up a website or purchasing online ads, if you wanted to attract and serve African American clients.  But given that nearly a full third of African Americans access the web through a hand held device, your online marketing campaign would be far more effective if you invested in those tools which are most compatible with hand held devices.  For example:

-Internet access through handheld devices is usually slower than through broadband wireless and a direct connection.  So a fancy, flash-driven website that may look impressive on a large screen might be clunky and frustrating to someone trying to view it on a cell phone. 

-Blogging can be an effective Internet marketing tool.  But lengthy tomes in small font don't mix with a hand held.  To keep a hand-held based audience engaged, either opt for shorter snappier posts that can be digested in a cell-sized screen or make sure that your blog is mobile compliant.

-Many mobile users frequently access YouTube.  For that reason, video may be an effective marketing option.  Likewise, Twitter offers several different mobile-accessible applications and could also serve as an effective medium to connect with mobile-enabled clients.

Depending upon what kinds of clients you intend to target, there are a myriad of other small tweaks that can make your online marketing more effective.  As I wrote in another context, you need to imagine your audience, or in this case, your clients:

What I mean by imagine your audience is to visualize the individual readers, from those who stumble across your site online to those who dutifully read your updates daily. Where are they reading your blog - in a Starbucks? Their office? At a basement computer after the kids are in bed? Are they dressed in stiff work clothes or wearing pajamas? Using an news reader or catch all site like Alltop to catch up on posts - or do they physically visit the site to get the information?  Printing out your posts in a public library because they don't have a printer at home, or scrolling through them casually on their iphone while riding the subway to a suburban mansion?  By imagining these details, you can refine the form of your post to match your audience's circumstances - for example, enlarging the font or brightening the page if you suspect folks are reading in dimly lit areas, or including an easy print or PDF option if your audience prefers hard copy.

Most lawyers would like to believe that online marketing begins and ends with search engine optimization, that by hiring a good consultant and driving traffic to your site, you'll generate clients.  But all of the SEO in the world isn't going to make a difference if prospects leave the destination once they arrive.  It's not until you understand how your target audience is reaching you online that you can make sure that their experience is pleasant (as opposed to frustrating and confusing) once they arrive.  That way, they're guaranteed to return, or even better, to stick around long enough to decide to give you a call.