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Applied Reading: Mobile Ready by Scott Bales (2014)

Mobile Ready is Scott Bales' term for the mindset, attitudes, and behaviours necessary to fully grasp the dynamics of the mobile ecosystem. It's a necessary step before becoming mobile-first. Being mobile first is essential because so many people access your business through their mobile. While most people think of retail, this also applies to professional services.

Sceptical? When Baker McKenzie launched its responsive website at the beginning of 2017, and we went mobile first on social media in Asia, our monthly viewers on LinkedIn went up by 40% and all of that extra viewing was on mobile. That 40% is huge as we were already the most followed law firm.

Why should an organisation become mobile ready, Scott?

In Scott's book, he says that about 56% of American adults own a smartphone. I'd be surprised if that wasn't higher now, and also I expect it to be higher in Asia where many people have leap-frogged to cheap smartphones.

Other points Scott makes are:

  1. Mobile presence leads to mobile purchases
  2. If your website isn't optimised for mobile, shoppers will go elsewhere, rather than find your website on a desktop
  3. A bad mobile experience can damage a company's brand. A bad mobile experience can create bad feelings about your company.

One interesting idea that Bales introduces is that this is not about creating more leads, it's about brand loyalty and repurchase. In professional services, most sales come through repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations, so these are important.

Another point that really stuck with me, as I experienced this on occasion when trying to build the digital marketing function at Baker McKenzie in Asia, was the way business leaders "build an app" and then wonder why it didn't work. The reason is that they hadn't delved into understanding the context, they hadn't appreciated that mobile-first and digital are not about "widgets and gadgets", but about behavioural freedom. Your app, your content, has to respond to and unlock that freedom for your customer. Whenever a partner wanted to turn one of their online guidebooks into an app, I would ask about the behavioral context, if people would generally use the guidebook at their desk or whether they needed to access it on the road - this was my way of guiding partners to understand that the success of their app depended on giving their client behavioural freedom in context.


What are the blocks to becoming a mobile-ready organisation?

To truly understand, appreciate, and harness the mobile ecosystem’s intrinsic value—to embrace a certain mobile ‘zen’, if you will—you have to first accept that mobile technology is not the answer to your company’s mobile challenges. Instead, human behaviors and the needs that drive them are the gears that govern how mobile experiences work.

Scott Bales


There are several myths that Scott highlights as just total rubbish. So let's list here to let go of them (the two bold ones are the most important to release):

  1. To be mobile ready, you need to have a mobile app
  2. Believing that becoming Mobile Ready is a tiring and complex process
  3. A bias toward a particular technology versus the value it offers.
  4. A lack of cross-channel engagement, which isolates mobile solutions.
  5. Too much attention on apps and not enough attention on context or content.
  6. An absence of brand affiliation.
  7. Misaligned mobile goals or objectives with overarching business priorities.
  8. Non-existent marketing plans to launch and promote the mobile solution.
  9. Inadequate team composition or chemistry based on individual mindsets.
  10. A lack of call to actions both to engage the mobile solution and stay engaged.
  11. Overly complex technologies that may lack clear utility and focus.

These are all true of digital in general. People get focused on the technology and not on people and processes.


What does Mobile-Ready look like?

What psychological norms exist in the consumers’ world that translate into their habits and preferences? (Behavior)

What is the relationship between the user/consumer, your company’s service or product, and the wider mobile ecosystem? (Context)

How does your service or product solve a problem or enrich a habit that is currently present within that context? (Utility)

When you have reached a deep understanding of these questions, then you are mobile ready.


12 principles to get Mobile Ready

  1. Get Out of The Building: You need to observe and ask your customers. Scott quote Steve Blank when he says "Facts live outside the building, only opinions live in it." Like Scott I have an obsession with manning customer service hotlines, Facebook page messaging hotlines and just getting out and asking people. There's nothing like it to challenge your assumptions about what people want and how they behave - and trust us, you have them.
  2. Don’t Do it Alone: I'm good at trend spotting, igniting ideas and improving systems. I get a bit bored after a year or two of doing the same process-based job, I also have had to find my own way to network as I am a bit introverted. I hire people on UpWork and work with friends who have different strengths to plug the gaps rather than trying to it myself and doing it badly. Scott confirms that this is true of everyone and that building a team that generates healthy creative friction is the way to really shine. This is true of digital and mobile transformation, it's true of anything you want to do well.
  3. Offer free stuff: People these days expect you to add value for free. They decide to trust that the item on the other side of the purchase will be valuable if the free items are valuable. It's about building trust. That's why free doesn't mean rubbish. There several models to upsell a free product. Freemium is where you have a free app, but need to pay to unlock better features (e.g. Evernote). Companion apps are where you have a free app and then paid stand-alone variations (e.g. Angry Birds). Offering free stuff gives people a chance to try your product, get addicted in the case of games and generally build trust and familiarity. My note: In a professional services environment, it also manages the knowledge asymmetry by educating your audience over the long term.
  4. Create experiences, not products: Successful mobile products are created from a careful study and understanding of existing behaviors, context, and experience desires within the target market. The speed, intuitiveness, and ease of a mobile app are paramount to its adoption by the target user group. At all costs, integrate the mobile user experience with any and all other channels of engagement so as to provide a seamless experience. Let the experience display the real value of the product to the target market whereby the product is the gateway into that experience. Total Immersion
  5. Ensure No Strings Are Attached: Forcing people on a treasure hunt where the value is always just around the next corner, with the final corner being pay-to-play will alienate propel and lose their trust. People no longer have patience for this. You must provide value at each step, no strings attached.
  6. Provide Personal Context: Context is understood through the examination of customer awareness and behaviors. Contextual insights are only valuable if applied to the development of products and solutions tailored to align with and solve problems or satisfy desires. Contextual opportunities and advantages are built upon three pillars: localization, social networking, and personalization. Companies must be willing to embrace the realities and responsibilities that come along with handling big data if they are to harvest and benefit from contextual insights.
  7. Don't Be Intrusive: Mobile users are increasingly wary of intrusive update and messaging practices geared to manipulate their actions. Privacy and user experience intrusions may happen regardless if a user is susceptible to phishing schemes or not because of big data collection programs such as Google’s and Apple’s geo-location collection practices. Big data collection and analysis produces a superpower that organizations can use for either good or evil. Push notifications are among the most intrusive mobile experiences and, consequently, are a top catalyst of mobile app deletions.
  8. Make things easy, but not basic: In my experience, simplicity without reduction is very hard to achieve. Scott says that creating a mobile app that delivers great value through as intuitive an experience as possible is the sweet spot companies should target. Believing in your mobile app idea too much without objective feedback and collaboration from others can blind you from the complexities and inadequacies that undermine your idea’s feasibility and value. Devote your company to developing its mobile app through a continuous improvement process that stresses smart user experience flow, ample user testing, and enhancement preparations.
  9. Avoid building online mimics:The user contexts between regular web-based solutions and mobile solutions are significantly different and therefore require different approaches to solution design. Forcing an existing web solution into the context of a mobile user experience is merely mimicking what exists already and does not fully respect the users’ behaviors and needs within the mobile context. Responsive web design can help bridge the gap between a regular web solution and a mobile solution, though it may not be enough given the functional needs of users on a mobile device. Mobile user behaviors such as mobile shopping habits and comfort levels should be taken into account separate from how similar habits and attitudes may manifest in relation to an existing regular web solution. Basic mobile solution imperatives like optimal performance speed and intuitive user experience design should never be ignored or discarded because they apply to all types of mobile solutions.
  10. Make decisions by the numbers:Mobile solutions are naturally tailored to be equipped with and benefit from analytics. A thoughtful approach to analytics can lead to the discovery of previously unknown user preferences and behavior patterns. Mobile analytics differ from regular web analytics in terms of what data points can be captured, though some similar statistics can be computed, like bounce rate. Analytics have more value when companies dig into surface-level findings so that the full picture of the customer experience is revealed. Despite the need to capture and study a variety of metrics, companies should focus their optimization efforts upon one key business metric at a time.
  11. Recognize that performance is the new sexy:Performance can spell success or failure for any mobile product, mobile app or mobile-optimized website. Performance can be improved by streamlining included media, removing unnecessary features, refactoring the code base, being judicious with mobile ads, and including social media integrations with care. Solution upgrades, particularly for mobile apps, can help ensure optimal performance by blocking corrosive software threats like malware, remaining in harmony with the underlying operating system, and staying in synch with third-party app integrations.
  12. Start simple and play the long game:More than any other attribute, the consistency of a mobile solution’s presence and derived value is the key to long-term success. The best approach to mobile readiness and fueling mobile momentum begins simple and builds over time—step by step. Follow strong signposts like ‘take advantage of context’ and ‘learn from the successful ones’ as you lead your company toward building a valuable mobile product. Imagine what success will be like before you get there, and then surround yourself with an amazing team that can help get everyone there.

So those are the 12 tenets of becoming mobile ready. The key as you may have noted is to balance the human (context, behaviours, utility) with the technology (functionality, performance). Much of this is true for all digital platforms, including the web, and mobile is its own beast. As Scott says, our mobile phones are untethering us and giving us so much freedom.


The power of design

And remember that any solution in the digital realm should begin and end with designers to ensure that the best customer experience is possible.

Scott Bales

Precisely why, here, we do Marketing By Design.


What does this mean for marketers?

As marketers, digital channels and platforms are worming their way into our everyday lives. I always smile when people say "digital marketer" because it's increasingly all just marketing.

You will at some point in your career get tasked with an app to make. You would be wise to get mobile ready, to understand your customers and their "mobile moments" so you can project manage something that works.

You should make sure that any work you do on social media, with digital images, with websites and, yes, with apps, is all mobile first. About 80% of Facebook users go through mobile and as I mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is catching up. If someone clicks on your Facebook post and it goes through to an almost-mobile friendly website (perhaps you have text overlay that works on desktop but not on mobile for example), you will lose them.

Key takeaways: Start and end with the user experience, keep it simple, don't just do the same thing on each digital platform, make sure it works before releasing it.

P.S. I read this book and drafted this article on my mobile device...


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