Why a Topic Microsite Needs a Point Of View

In an article we published in June we explained why we think that topic microsites will supersede white papers for B2B marketing (see here). In my last couple of posts I showed the many different elements that have been incorporated into some emerging topic microsites (here) and explained which characteristics are essential (here). One of those essential characteristics is an in-depth point of view.

In this post, I’ll go into a little more detail and explain why articles alone aren’t enough and why they need to congregate around an overarching point of view.

EurekaMost emerging microsites follow a journal model; (more technical ones often follow a library or directory model which I won’t go into here). An Accenture microsite on Sustainability Performance Management features several assorted articles on the topic. A McKinsey Quarterly microsite on Globalization features many articles on that topic, which are similarly diverse.

Most of these are perfectly good articles and reports and if these sites were simply journals, that would be fine. But they aren’t; these sites are intended to build a company’s reputation and at some level, help engage prospects in discussions about the companies’ services. The material can’t be promotional, because as soon as an informational site touts a company’s products or services its content becomes suspect. Accenture settles for including client successes and putting links to related services close to the content (which risks tainting it). McKinsey opts for staying objective and having the Quarterly on a separate domain without links to the corporate site1 (which increases the risk of people consuming the content, but turning elsewhere for help) .

However, there is a way to reconcile informative, unbiased content with lead generation; develop an overarching point of view and write articles and posts that align with it. A collection of disparate articles is interesting reading, whereas an overarching viewpoint is a call to action.

For instance, if a microsite is about “Cloud Data Centers,” the overarching point of view might be that it makes economic sense for every large company to move its data centers to the cloud. Or for every large company not to do that, but to do something else instead. (From a marketing and reputation standpoint the actual POV is less important than having one – so long as you can substantiate and defend it.) With such an overarching POV, there is an almost limitless number of case studies, articles, interviews and so on that a company can publish to broadly support it and illuminate different aspects. Not everyone will buy into the POV, but for those that do and who can’t execute alone, the company owning the POV is an obvious candidate to help. 

An example: we have published a point of view that companies should abandon white papers and move to topic microsites. If we were simply to publish surveys of what firms are doing in this field, that might be interesting reading, but there would be no call to action and there would be no reason to call us for help. Not everyone agrees with our POV (as you can read here), but many do. And of those, some call (or email) us to ask if we can talk about how we might help them.

For a B2B firm addressing complex client issues, a single POV (on a topic) is actually more valuable than many uncoordinated POVs.

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1 Almost; there is a tiny link to the corporate site at the bottom right which serves to illustrate the dilemma.

Comments

Submitted by Rob Leavitt on

Hey Tim -- Great post, and great series on microsites. I certainly agree that building a microsite around a strong POV makes sense for marketers, vs. the journal model. As we've discussed before, though, there's a great opportunity to launch a topical microsite as part of actually developing your POV on a thought leadership topic, thereby building interest and participation in the research process itself. So there's a bit of tension between these different goals. What's your thinking on when and how to launch a microsite vis a vis the process of POV development?

Submitted by Tim Parker on

Rob, I quite agree that you can use a microsite to develop the POV. If you are developing a POV (rather than have one to broadcast) we'd say launch the miocrosite right away.

The process of POV development should start with a hypothetical POV to be tested (e.g. "It makes economic sense for all large companies to move their data centers to the cloud"). As you develop the POV, it will get more granular, you'll find exceptions to the rule, and it will become more sophisticated. But that's OK; you'll generate debate and garner other's contributions. Those who disagree will force you to justify your assertions and tighten your thinking. And if you actually fundamentally change your POV during the journey - publicly, with the help of others' contributions - that's OK too. In fact it will be more interesting and credible than if you had simply unveiled a finished product.

 

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