Ask any marketing executive about their company’s website, and you’re likely to get an answer like, “It’s nice, but…” and then a rant about inflexibility, lack of creativity and no real focus on marketing.
And they are not alone. It’s common for marketing teams to have a great idea for promoting a specific product or service, but it just doesn’t fit in with the company’s main website. Instead of getting frustrated, though, a better idea would be to look into microsites.
In the simplest terms, a microsite is a customized, branded website with a specific purpose and function. While your all-inclusive corporate website may be designed to cover all of the bases and answer every question that someone might have about your business, the microsite (also sometimes called a “sitelet”) isn’t designed to be all things to all people. Instead, it’s designed as part of a marketing campaign for a particular product or service, allowing for a level of branding and specificity that would be out of place or get lost on the company’s main website.
There are plenty of good examples of microsites to look at. One that’s especially popular is OfficeMax’s holiday-themed ElfYourself.com. Visitors can add photos of themselves and their families to the site, which then turns them into dancing elves. The finished video can then be emailed to friends and family and posted on social media, usually to everyone’s great enjoyment. The site itself has absolutely nothing to do with OfficeMax or office products, but the thousands of people who decide to “elf themselves” during the holiday season effectively become brand ambassadors for the company, as the OfficeMax logo and a link to the site appears on every ecard. The “Elf Yourself” microsite, then, is a good example of a microsite marketing strategy.
Of course, not all microsites are as whimsical. Many businesses use microsites as a form of promotion for a specific type of product or service. If you offer something that could stand on its own, and is useful and interesting aside from the rest of your company, it may lend itself to an effective microsite campaign.
When to Use a Microsite
Microsites aren’t for everyone. If you need to promote your product or service within the larger context of your business, or if you feel that you cannot effectively promote something without telling your entire brand story, then a microsite probably isn’t for you.
If that’s not the case, then you need to think strategically about your plans for a microsite and ask some important questions. Consider the list below; if you can answer “yes” to two or more questions from this list, a microsite could be a good fit for your business.
- Have you already defined a marketing strategy, and would it be better executed on its own?
- Are you having trouble meeting a particular sales or marketing goal on your main website?
- Can the subject matter of your intended microsite stand on its own?
- Is your main website dynamic and interesting enough to support a viral marketing campaign?
- Do you have the time and resources necessary to develop an effective microsite?
- Could the aggressive SEO strategy you’re planning to use potentially cause problems or damage the reputation of your main website?
- Are you an affiliate marketer looking to target a number of niches?
Again, if you can answer “yes” to two or more questions, a microsite could be a good fit for you. Remember, it takes time and money to develop an effective microsite, so be sure that your plan fits into your overall marketing goals.
What Microsites Can Do For You
A well-executed microsite can benefit your business in a number of ways, including:
- New ways to find your site. Microsites give people another way to find your business online.
- The ability to experiment. Want to experiment with a marketing message or technique that is bold, unique and outside of your normal approach? Microsites allow you to be more daring and try tactics that would be out of place on your main website.
- Creating a specific message. A microsite allows for ultra-specific branding of a product or service, including logos, taglines and a domain name. This type of branding, even in the short term, on a main website would create brand confusion.
- Unleashes the power of marketing. Corporate websites are often designed by committee, with multiple departments all clamoring to get their messages onto the main site. With a microsite, marketing can build an entire site around their ideas for a product or service without trying to dilute the message around everything else that’s happening on the main site.
- More conversions. The specificity of microsites means that visitors don’t have to spend time searching your main site to find what they need — it’s all right there. When they find it quickly and easily, they are more likely to respond, creating more conversions.
- Reputation management. When your business has several non-redundant websites, they will usually show up in search results together. If that’s the case, these multiple sites will show up earlier in search results, pushing any negative or derogatory results further down the page and out of sight. You do not want to create a dozen microsites just for this purpose, especially if they are not unique and valuable, but keep in mind that microsites could play a role in an overall communication and reputation management strategy.
- SEO value. Multiple sites means more likelihood of showing up in search. Again, the idea is to be specific, focused and relevant.
- Greater chance of going viral. Think about the sites and campaigns that have gone viral: They are usually edgy, unique and very focused. You don’t usually find corporate websites going viral. When done well, your microsite could help your business go viral, especially since they are usually much easier to share.
With all of the benefits of microsites, there are some drawbacks. Microsites cost money to create and promote; you can’t just create a microsite and hope that people find it. Make sure there is enough money in the marketing budget to create a site that’s useful and link-worthy.
Microsites offer the flexibility that allows you to try new things and take a little bit of risk with your marketing. Compared to a full corporate website, they are relatively easy to create and launch, and the benefits can be well worth the time. If you have a product or service that could use a little marketing boost, and some creative ideas for promoting it, it might be time to think “small.”
Need help mapping out your content strategy?
The ultimate goal of your marketing campaign is to drive more leads to your brand. Without a properly centralized strategy tying everything to your campaign objectives and business goals, you risk losing potential customers during the buying process due to a lack of focus and a disjointed narrative. Digital Current can help you map out a strategy that wins customers and gives you the results you crave.