Free Your Mind: The Dying Microsite

Years ago, a microsite provided the opportunity for a marketer to quickly spin up new content and branding without having to adhere to the time lines it would take to implement the pages to an existing site. It empowered the marketing team while the IT department was running a mile a minute with a different set of priorities. Furthermore, it provided a solution as marketers needed to be agile and create new experiences (with the latest technology) that matched the initiatives they were investing in.

The VEGAS factor
In a game of poker, you're stuck with the hand you're dealt; you have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.  However, it's a brand new ballgame when you start the next hand. That's a really simple concept - when the cards change, so can your luck. Sure, you could go on tilt and end up losing your entire savings like Clark Griswold or you could put a dollar in and win a car.  Ah, Vegas...but I digress.
So, why am I talking about playing poker?  It’s not because the World Series of Poker is starting up, I want to get the point across that a new hand has been dealt in the realm of agile, web development yet organizations keep playing with the same, old cards. In many cases, it appears that organizations aren't even looking at the cards in their hand! You can employ that strategy at the tables but odds are you’ll end up losing the money you brought with you (I’ve been there). So why would you play that way with your organization? 
I was in a client strategy meeting a few weeks back and the client was talking about the microsites they planned to launch in the last quarter of 2014. I listened intently and for those of you that know me well, you know that I have a tendency to speak my mind when I have an opinion. There was a major flaw in this client’s strategy, and I had to speak up and expose it.  The advice I interjected with is something that I'd like to impart to all of you right now:
"No one will visit your microsite, or be able to find it when they go to your primary domain.  Stop wasting money and focus on building a consistent and optimized experience across devices for your users."
In this new world, you’ve been dealt two of a kind and you’re working on a full house. Don’t throw it all away on a microsite.  In fact, a microsite creates several challenges:
  1. You've now created a new silo in your digital channel which makes visitor identification across domain and device more difficult.
  2. You've opened yourself up to data quality issues as it pertains to measuring the ROI from your investments that send people to that microsite.
  3. You've limited the opportunity of personalization because that microsite won't exist forever and it doesn't blend with your primary domain(s).
  4. You've allowed a group to go rogue instead of having a solidified strategy aligned across all business units that gives you the necessary governance and control over the user experience.
  5. You’ve spent a ton of money to develop a band-aid; a microsite ultimately isn't going to get the job done long-term. 
Think Outside the Microsite Box
I could go on and on about why building a microsite is a bad idea but the point is that our industry is evolving every single day, and so are your customer's expectations on how you interact with them.  In today’s environment there is a plethora of technology at your disposal to create a more agile web development strategy. Content Management Systems (CMS) have come a very long way in the last few years with regards to offering you more power to create new content on the fly, but I realize that uprooting your existing CMS is not an easy task. So, why not make use of the following and think a little bit outside the box:
Tag Management (TMS)
You can use TMS to create a more flexible deployment of all your different technologies and can even use this solution to show different pieces of content based upon rules you set within the system.
Optimization Tools
The quickest way to a personalized experience is to change content on the fly based on what you know about a visitor or to simply show someone a new experience when they land on your site. These tools are great for that also can be deployed within TMS to give you the ultimate, agile power you need.
I recognize that some of you are handcuffed by a large, political organization with executives demanding that you produce results. But be aware that microsites will hinder more than help. It’s up to you to create a business case, outline the challenges a microsite could cause and explain why your customers won't benefit from the current plan. It can be difficult to suggest a more effective long-term solution but there is no easy way out, there is no short cut home.
In closing, let's have a little fun:  If you respond to me or leave a comment with all of the music and movie references in this newsletter, I will give you a free strategy session to help you work through the challenges you are facing today.
I'm looking forward to hearing from all of you!
By Bill Bruno
About the Author:

Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.

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