As web 2.0 technologies become an increasingly self-evident component of everyday life, organisations are confronted with a growing urgency to embrace and harness them, or risk losing touch with their clients’ changing needs. According to a recent survey, 45% of senior marketing executives consider social networks and applications a top priority. Whether motivated by a desire to lead the race in innovation, or by a fear of being left behind, all organisations that wish to engage in digital marketing activity face similar questions about appropriate technologies, branding, corporate strategic alignment, competitive edge and return on investment (ROI).
Morrison & Foerster decided to release an iPhone app, MoFo2Go, as part of its digital marketing strategy. Our experience shows how aligning digital marketing strategy with key accounts and client needs can form the cornerstone of a successful project. Further critical success factors include: determining and engaging key internal and external stakeholders to deliver a user-focused product, and developing appropriate analytics and key performance indicators to measure the ongoing success and ROI. Ultimately, the example of MoFo2Go shows how a specific digital marketing strategy can be executed successfully if the goals are clearly identified, and the objectives are consistent with corporate brand.
When a young partner approached a managing partner at Morrison & Foerster’s with the suggestion of releasing an iPhone app, the idea fell on receptive ears for a number of reasons.
Morrison & Foerster, a firm that has traditionally striven for innovation and leadership in technology, wanted to strengthen its position in the social media and digital marketing space. It was investing a considerable amount of marketing time and budget on revising and refreshing the firm’s website. At the same time, it identified an absence of a law firm presence on the burgeoning iPhone marketing platform. By becoming one of the first law firms to release an app, Morrison & Foerster was able to leapfrog into a leading position in the digital marketing space.
Alignment with key clients
Our firm has a particularly strong client base in the technology sector. In 2009 it launched MoFo Tech, a publication designed specifically to address this industry. In this context, MoFo2Go represents an extension of this marketing activity through a medium that fits well strategically with its client base. In particular, the specific choice of platform strengthens certain key account relationships.
Developments in the emerging mobile technology sector mean that companies can no longer rely solely on their websites as a means of communicating with clients. Morrison & Foerster had already configured its website to be compatible with widely used mobile devices, such as BlackBerrys, and with MoFo2Go sought to complement this by means of a further point of access for the iPhone community.
With approval from management to proceed, the next steps involved determining the project approach, designing the product, and delivering it to market.
We decided to go with a trusted consultant with whom we had successfully worked on earlier ventures. Launching the iPhone app in parallel with a website redesign allowed the firm to leverage some of the development activity undertaken in this area. Importantly, the internal IT department was engaged, and worked with the consultant to ensure security of information and compatibility with the new website’s automatic updates. By doing so, we avoided costly and time-consuming manual input to the operating life cycle of the app.
In terms of content, we focused on the needs of a mobile device user. The core functions of MoFo2Go are derived from the firm’s website and facilitate clients’ access to information and lawyers. A lawyer biography section integrates with users’ address books; a news feed provides the latest industry updates; and an office locator offers new visitors an overview of the city’s geography and points of interest. Morrison & Foerster considers the iPhone platform a rich, creative space where apps require more than diluted web content to stand out. Recognising the need to include a fun element for ‘gamers’, MoFo2Go features a maze game, MoFo Maze, with educational content and progressively challenging levels of play.
The project was led by a partner from the west coast office, who reported to a steering board of senior partners. Firm management was kept abreast of developments in functionality and consulted regularly for feedback. By engaging beta-testers from Morrison & Foerster’s domestic and international offices in product road-testing, the project secured firm-wide buy-in, while at the same time assuring content quality and raising product awareness prior to launch.
Divorce lawyers go digital
National law firm Mills & Reeve uses a range of ‘digital tools’, including a divorce app, rated by The Sunday Times as one of the world’s ‘top 500 apps’. It is free to download to iPhone and iPad. The Divorce UK app is downloaded from the firm’s microsite, divorce.co.uk, which offers video content. There, Mills & Reeve lawyers explain the answers to frequently asked questions on divorce, finance and family law.
Charts map the legal procedures clients will encounter and timing of financial settlements. Common legal terms are explained. There is also a Twitter feed (@divorce_co_uk), reminding followers of some of the basics when news items appear. For example, ‘whether married here or abroad and whatever your ethnic/cultural background, English law applies to English divorces’ was tweeted when the press were focused on ‘Islamic’ divorces. Users are then directed to topical articles on divorce, and alerted to developments in law and policy.
A blog covers topics such as: ‘The impact of divorce on your children – the long-term effects’. ‘This has become one of the most widely used websites for advice on the divorce and separation process,’ Mills & Reeve partner Roger Bamber says. The aim, Bamber adds, is for the website and accompanying app to act ‘as a vital resource for that first important step in making an informed decision before appointing a solicitor’. The family team also has its own YouTube channel, where video clips are posted.
The app was one of only four legal apps to be selected in The Sunday Times top 500 and has been downloaded 3,800 times since its launch in July 2011. ‘Given the cost per hour of legal advice, this app could save you a great deal of money if it reduces the amount of time you spend speaking to a solicitor,’ the paper explained.
We had few solid expectations about the reception of MoFo2Go and knew it would be difficult to measure ROI. However, the firm considers the project a success and is already scoping the development of version 2.0.
The business case for the project was based on improving the firm’s position and differentiating it in the field of digital marketing, and to align the firm with the technology sector – and key clients in particular. As such, we consider it a success. MoFo2Go is a leading app in the legal sector and, as an early adopter, the law firm increases its likelihood of becoming an established favourite with users and dominating the space for the short- to mid-term. Although no specific measures of cost-effectiveness were established, the project was delivered over a short time frame (about six months from initiation to launch) and at a low cost to the overall marketing budget (below six figures).
Since its launch in March 2010, MoFo2Go has been downloaded more than 4,000 times. Technical and legal press reviews have been largely favourable, and anecdotal feedback from clients has been positive. We are particularly pleased with these results because the firm has not invested heavily in publicity for the app, relying instead predominantly on word of mouth and advertising in MoFo Tech.
Digital marketing is still a fast-changing world. It is uncertain which platforms will eventually dominate the market and where firms should invest. Nevertheless, Morrison & Foerster is continuing to consolidate its position in the iPhone apps space by discussing further enhancements for inclusion in version 2.0. An important step on this journey will be the development of suitable analytical tools to measure user habits and establish metrics by which to determine ROI. Likewise, as the product evolves, a complementary strategy for acquiring new users will become necessary in keeping with the decided ROI.
David Harvey is business development director at Morrison & Foerster