Microsites are often an inexpensive and effective way to accomplish a targeted goal. Complete website overhauls can often be a lengthy and costly undertaking. When budgets and timeframes are short, the case can be made for a miniature and targeted digital presence.
What is a Microsite?
A microsite, as its name implies, is a micro version of your full website to be used in a targeted advertising campaign with a direct and easy to identify call to action. For B2B firms, the purpose of a microsite can be to create an additional flow of inbound inquiries. For B2C firms, the purpose can shift to a targeted sale of a single or a set of related products.
Microsites are often, but do not have to be, a singular page with targeted messaging. There doesn’t need to be substantive information about a company, its history or philosophy outside of supporting information that may aid in eventual user conversion (either a sale or an inquiry form). The microsite should be targeted to accomplish a singular goal with messaging that supports that goal. Navigation bars are often absent from microsites as multiple layers of pages defeat the purpose of the specific goal.
Microsites should be able to be fully replicated. Once the framework is built, multiple variants can run together for additional specific goals.
Exploring the Goal
Understanding what you want to accomplish is paramount to a successful microsite. Getting into the mind of the users you’re targeting, their habits and needs, and how your company solves their problems will form a firm foundation from which the microsite will operate. Inconsistent messaging and high bounce rates are the casualty of inappropriate planning during the build phase of the microsite.
The age old rule of “if you’re explaining, you’re losing” applies. You may not be able to fully get away from “explaining” unless your product or service is natural to your user base. For example, a landscaping company may not need to do much explaining in regards to what their service offering is. Firms with more complicated products or services may need to provide supporting information to help the user more fully understand why the product or service is important to them. But the general principle still stands: be short, be concise, and get to the point.
The Anatomy of a Microsite
As always, you should be mindful of the habits of the ordinary Internet user. Reading paragraphs are the last thing anyone does whereas headlines and bulleted list are the first. With that in mind, headlines should be crafted to hook a user into reading the more substantive and supportive paragraph text. Graphical elements are also key to helping anonymous users understand what you’re offering and why they need it. Calls to action should be highly visible and not nested within paragraph text. For example, a phone number or email address as a primary call to action that is buried inside of paragraph text and does not distinguish itself as a separate process are perhaps the weakest form of a call to action.
A comprehensive form for B2B firms requesting names, email addresses, and phone numbers that are set apart from the supporting text with its own unique headline (for example: Request a Free Quote) is more powerful and better understood by the user on the other end. Your form should be as short as possible but as long as is necessary for meaningful interaction. You want to remove hurdles from the user and asking 10 questions raises the bar for anyone wishing to inquire about your services. If a name, email address, and phone number is sufficient in getting your sales team a qualified lead, then go with that.
On the other end, a product view with pricing and a “Buy Now” button is a good route to take for those firms existing in the B2C market segment.
The entire microsite should be geared towards funneling users to your call to action starting at high level messaging and working your way to low level interaction. Starting your microsite with a conversion form won’t be an effective way to target your user because they don’t know yet why they should be giving you their personal information. You should present the solution that your user faces and how you solve that problem before going deeper. Cast a wide net and work your way down.
If You Build It…
The catch phrase from Field of Dreams was only true in a fictional tale. “If you build it, they will come” only works in Hollywood (and Iowa, apparently). The rest of us need a concerted effort to bring traffic to a digital presence. A ballpark in the middle of a cornfield won’t do anyone much good unless you’ve tapped some sort of space-time interruption where you can bring dead baseball players back from the underground. If you can do that, then you probably don’t need a microsite. You’ve got a Nobel Prize waiting for you.
The microsite should be supported by a comprehensive and targeted advertising campaign to draw users in. Targeting users on Facebook and Twitter as well as through search results are a good way to measure the effectiveness of your microsite. As always, multiple ads should be run in tandem with each other so as to measure the effectiveness of each variant. After a good sample size of data is in, kill off the least performing ad and replace it with a new one. After a second set of data is in, repeat. Do this over and over until you have a finely tuned mechanism in place for capturing users and converting them.
It is important to note that incremental changes should be made to both the campaign and the microsite but not at the same time. Changing multiple variables will lead to data that is inconclusive as to the reasons behind conversion. If you make a change to the microsite, don’t change the ads and vice versa. A/B testing each moveable piece will yield a strong and effective campaign backed by actual data.
There’s a time and a place for microsites. If a full website build is outside of business constraints, think about going mean and lean. Be sure to allocate sufficient funding to support the microsite. If all cylinders fire and cooperate with each other, you’ll be left with an ROI positive campaign that creates additional revenue without the costly undertaking of more expensive approaches.