Going Micro

Many companies use a broad brush when it comes to the Internet, opting to create a single, main Web site where customers can find “everything and anything” about a firm’s products and services.

With the help of microsites, other companies are using a more targeted approach, choosing instead to create multiple sites that branch off of the main site, and that focus on a specific product or service.

Microsites can be as simple as a single page dedicated to a certain product, or as complex as an interactive flash experience focusing on a service that the firm offers. Real estate agents, for example, will often develop microsites for each of the homes that they have listed for sale. A hair salon owner, on the other hand, may create one microsite focused on the shop’s environmentally friendly hair products, and another dedicated to the business’ menu of hair-related services.

Scott Spiewak, president and CEO at Fresh Impact Public Relations Group in Seattle, says his firm uses microsites to promote its best-selling authors. Using the book’s title as the dedicated URL, the company includes interactive elements (such as podcasts and blogs) on each microsite, thus enabling readers to “go directly to the authors with their questions and comments,” says Spiewak.

“Having a dedicated microsite for each of them allows for a more personal touch for authors and their readers,” Spiewak says. The microsites are promoted via the individual book covers (with pitches like “read an excerpt here”), and are established about four months before the texts hit the brick-and-mortar stores.

The results have been impressive, according to Spiewak, who says one author recently pre-sold 14,000 books via her microsite. “That landed her on the New York Times bestseller list,” he says.

Companies looking to replicate that level of success must view microsites as “offshoots” of a primary Web site, so as to leverage the latter’s established audience. “Use a core site that contains all of the usual information on what you offer, how to obtain it and how to contact the company, but then also have offshoots that target more specific topics and/or audiences,” says Ashleigh Young, director of client services at New York-based integrated marketing firm iris, which recently set up a small business-oriented microsite for Office Depot.

Presented as a forum for small business owners, the microsite encourages conversation among the company’s customers, who share information about how to survive in today’s economy. The microsite is closely linked to the main Office Depot site, where customers know they can get the usual lineup of merchandise and services.

Young says microsites serve as yet another sales channel for businesses that are looking to leverage their existing Web presence without spending an arm and a leg to do it. “Focus on developing promotional microsites that better engage your consumers, and that get them more deeply involved (via blogs, for example) with your brand,” says Young, who cautions business owners not to duplicate the content that’s already on their primary site, and to always include links to that main site from the microsites themselves.

“Encourage them to go back to the one site that’s always there, and that remains constant,” says Young, “while at the same time giving them a more targeted, interactive experience than they’d be able to get from that main Web presence.”

And try to offer as many incentives as possible, says Spiewak, whose firm has created free chapter downloads, free copies of previous books and other perks for visitors to its various microsites. “People are hit with hundreds of advertisements daily, and need a reason to come to your site and spend even just a few minutes there,” Spiewak explains. “Microsites are a great way to get them involved and interested.”

Four Ways to Use Microsites

Get into the details. Use these sites to give visitors the lowdown on a variety of products and services that your firm offers.

Target an audience. The more relevant the information to your audience, the more effective your microsite will be.

Establish yourself as a specialist. Have you written a book? Do you do public speaking engagements? Use the microsite to promote these offshoots of your primary business.

Maximize your direct mail. A microsite is a great way to extend the value of a direct mail campaign. From the site, you can also track the campaign’s performance.


Empower Your Brand with a Microsite

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