In the B2B marketing world microsites have been the workhorse of “adaptive” marketing. Because of their versatility, the ease with which they can be deployed, and their targeted and focused nature, microsites are frequently used both in a marketing organization’s program mix to create original demand and to nurture leads.
We at SiriusDecisions define a microsite as a dedicated online destination that is deployed to support a specific outbound or inbound marketing initiative. Microsites tend to be separate from the organization’s primary website and often have their own domain name. More robust than single landing pages, microsites consist of a group of web pages (generally fewer than 10) that deliver targeted messages, calls-to action and response mechanisms focused around a central theme.
While the use of microsites is a well-established and beloved tactic, the truth is that most B2B demand creators use (and often over-use) them because their corporate websites are not able to create unique visitor environments through dynamic delivery of content and offers, and marketers often lack the authority and skill sets to drive rapid development projects on the main corporate site.
As B2B organizations increasingly adopt and deploy personalization and website conversion optimization (WCO) technologies and strategies we are seeing microsites used less frequently for several reasons, including:
- They are less necessary. Relatively recent developments in marketing automation platform (MAP) technologies and web content management (WCM) systems are enabling organizations to optimize their entire primary websites to effectively convert unknown visitors into qualified leads. Marketers who adopt and properly utilize these technologies now have the ability to define rules for dynamic creation of focused and content rich environments on their primary sites based on visit source, visitor behavior and profile data.
- The rise of inbound marketing. B2B marketers are increasingly using inbound techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), content syndication, and social media to drive highly targeted visitors to their websites. By their nature, these tactics cast a wider net, become increasingly effective over time and have long lasting effects that make them less palatable for driving visitors to very narrowly focused, isolated and generally transitory microsites.
- They are difficult to manage and maintain. While microsites may be relatively easy to build and deploy, overuse of them has created significant challenges for many organizations. As they accumulate they are indexed by search engines, other sites link to them and email and direct mail with links to them linger in inboxes and on desk tops. Marketers must eventually make the decision to either continue to update, track and support them, take them down, or let them sit and stagnate.
- They are unnecessarily limiting. Excessive use of microsites is increasingly a symptom of a poorly designed, outdated and inflexible primary site. Why else would one be compelled to create isolated clusters of web pages with unique domain names and little or no navigation to the primary site? Some would argue that the purpose is to create a highly focused and targeted experience to drive desired responses, but that is more effectively accomplished with relevant and compelling messages, offers and content. If your messages and content offers are well constructed your primary site navigation shouldn’t be a distraction. Also, creating an isolated and narrowly focused microsite often serves to limit potential responses.
While we are beginning to see use of microsites diminish slightly, we don’t expect them to go away any time soon. There remain a variety of valid reasons to use them, but marketers should focus on turning their primary site(s) into conversion optimized destinations so they can be more selective about when to use microsites.