I like microsites – good ones, that is. When a professional services or other B2B company has a lot to say on a narrow issue or to a narrow audience, and when it wants to be regarded as the go-to firm on that issue, bringing together a mass of content in one place on the web makes a great deal of sense. And of course, it’s a great deal of work.
We wrote about the rise of thought leadership microsites two years ago (“topic microsites,” as we referred to them). Since then, many professional firms and other B2Bs have launched microsites. I see them falling into three categories:
- Book microsites – Booz & Company has a good one that is built on the back of its strategy book, “The Essential Advantage.”
- Practice or service-line microsites – McKinsey & Co. has several, including this one for its sales and marketing consulting practice (the Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Forum). Deloitte does too – one on risk management, for example.
- Study microsites – Companies ranging from strategy consultancy Booz and Co. to IT services firms such as Tata Consultancy Services have built them around major research studies. Booz this week went public with a microsite that ranks 128 countries on the degree to which they empower women to contribute to their economies. TCS has two microsites: one on a cloud study it conducted in 2011 (here) and the second on a 2012 study about how large consumer companies are changing to win over consumers who use mobile devices to do their business. (Full disclosure: We helped TCS conduct both studies but we can’t take credit for the microsite design and execution. I wish we could! Our hats are off to their staff.)
So if you're building or already have a microsite(s), how do you make it valuable? A few features that deepen interest in the content of a microsite (read that "bring the horse close to the trough"):
- A nice mix of content. TCS’s two study microsites have short, lively videos that summarize the findings. McKinsey’s microsite has articles and client interviews. Another Booz microsite (on "capabilities-driven strategy") has funky interactive graphics. (Try the firm's “coherence profiler” to determine whether your company’s strategy makes sense.) Deloitte microsites have short and sweet Q&As that help cut to the core of its arguments.
- Mechanisms that let viewers weigh in on the issues. The Booz microsite on “The Third Billion” links to an article the firm published in 2010 in its strategy+business quarterly journal. As with all articles in the publication, this one allows viewers to comment. (Curiously, no one has commented yet on this article, even though it has been up for two years and has generated more than 500 “shares” – people who have recommended it through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. I imagine the PR on its new country index will start spawning viewer dialogue on the site.)
- Suggested readings of outsiders’ articles. The McKinsey Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Forum has “Must Reads” – articles from online publications that are not McKinsey’s (including one from yours truly, but please excuse the brag), with succinct descriptions about why they’re worth reading. If a microsite directs me to other good content on the topic at hand, that increases the site’s value to me. It’s tough for a microsite to become the “go-to” site on an issue if it provides only one company’s views on that issue.
- Information about the people who produced the content. “Firms” don’t create thought-leading content; people in those firms do. I think most viewers want to know who these people are – their expertise, their experiences in applying that expertise, and so on. That improves the credibility of the content. “Jane Smith has been helping European companies such as X, Y and Z to globalize their supply chains for 20 years …” Those details lend credibility to content. The McKinsey marketing and sales microsite has links to consultant bios in the practice, with contact details. Very nice.
Those are some of my favorite thought leadership microsites. What are yours, and what do you like about them?