SMS, apps and QR codes, oh my! These may seem like strange jargon, but they will inevitably affect your marketing this year. Everybody from contractors to physicians to office workers are pecking away at their BlackBerrys, iPhones and Android smart phones.
The desktop (or laptop for matter) is no longer the main mode of e-mail. Even if wireless Internet isn’t ubiquitous (yet), cell phone data plans are. As divulged in last month’s column, as a CPA, you are your clients’ data plan: the organizer, analyzer and reporter of their financial data. Thus, you must be mobilized or lose your clients to CPAs who are!
Short Message Service (SMS) or text messages are the number one communication method between teens and thus their parents (your clients, individuals or business owners). Restaurants and other retailers are starting to use SMS for sale alerts, coupons and blasts. Remember cell phone walkie-talkies? Many contractors have replaced two-way push-to-talk with SMS.
Receiving text messages still costs your clients so it cannot replace your regular e-mail newsletter blasts. However, texts do cut through the clutter of e-mail and immediately alert your client. SMSes are extremely effective for tax and other filing deadline reminders. When you collect the mobile numbers of your clients, prospects and referral sources, explain that you will not abuse this privilege. You must gain their permission and offer them an opt-out option. SMS should be reserved for last-minute deadline reminders and other individualized communication.
iPhone android and BlackBerry apps have become a multimillion-dollar industry in and of itself. It’s probably unnecessary for you to build your own app, though it’s not terribly difficult to do so. It immediately differentiates and brands your practice. There are many services to help you build (iPhone and Android) apps like a point-and-click template website: Just Google app builder.
Simple bookkeeping apps (like ProOnGo) mobilize expense tracking, photo-scan receipts, track mileage (with GPS), track billable time, integrate with QuickBooks, and more. This is extremely helpful for businesses with workers in the field (contractors, sales, etc.) Some offer affiliate profit-sharing programs for resellers; if you’re interested, disclose.
More and more CPAs will link to their preferred apps on their websites. You can offer them through e-newsletters (or SMS) or demo apps to clients and prospects through seminars and boardrooms. By helping your clients make better use of their gadgets, they will enjoy being more organized for you. Thus, your clients cost your practice less time, while adding value to them!
- Mobile-friendly Website
QR codes are the perfectly square bar codes popping up on ads everywhere. They quickly convey information through cell phone cameras. Right now, it’s a novelty, but it does show how advertising and marketing are trying to be mobile conscious. How mobile-friendly is your website? Go to your website on your phone and try it out.
Many giant retailers and even some template websites automatically detect phones and convert to mobile versions. As smartphone browsers become more sophisticated, it need not be necessary to alter your website radically for mobile users, but you can make it more convenient to use on a tiny screen.
For example, stop using a Flash splash page that everybody tries to skip and continue especially on phones and iPads on which Flash can’t be viewed because of incompatibility. Though artistic in design, it’s an inconvenient block to the information your visitors want.
Mobile website visitors often just need your phone and address — fast. Smartphones create a quick dial link to a phone number in text format, but not within an image (header, etc.). Likewise, a map, with navigation, can be created when your address is in a standard format in text.
Similarly, put vital contact info on the top of the homepage (if not all pages), not just on the Contact Us page. Forms should be used to collect visitors’ information (preferably through a download offering), not to hide contact information. Make it easy for website visitors to reach you.
Twitter began as a social network for cell phones (text message length is 140 characters, thus the length of a tweet). LinkedIn is built for professionals. Their app is adequate now and will grow to become more useful in the coming months. Updating your status through its app is quick and easy and can automatically link to Twitter if you’d like. Many smartphones automatically populate your private phone book with public information (phone number, e-mail, and headshot) available through Facebook profiles. Soon, your LinkedIn profile will be another mobile database.
Mobile marketing is just the beginning: It will take time for it to change the way CPAs do business. Through texting, apps and simple website improvements, your practice need not be left behind. Rather, your accounting practice will be poised to attract the next generation of professionals, executives and business owners. Mobile communication isn’t just more valuable to your clients and prospects, it’s efficient (cost cutting) and effective marketing for you and your practice.
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Vikram Rajan is the founder of phoneBlogger.net, an automated marketing platform for CPAs. You can read marketing ideas through his PracticeMarketingBLOG.com.
© 2011 Vikram Rajan