Microsites: the good, the bad, and the effective

Marketers are always looking for creative ways to focus efforts, reach specific audiences, or convert web traffic to leads. Many are finding that microsites fit the bill. A microsite is a web page (or small set of pages) that’s a distinctive offshoot of an existing website – often with its own unique domain name. While such projects can inject more creativity and visibility into a marketing effort, they can also be confusing to users and pricey to develop and maintain. Let’s explore the pros and cons of microsites – and how to determine if a microsite is right for your next initiative.


The good: Microsite advantages

Microsites deviate from their parent websites by design, using images, animations, and other features to make a visual splash. Think of microsites as stylized, emotional representations of your brand or a specific facet of your brand.


Take a look at how Merck showcases its corporate responsibility with a standout microsite. This example highlights the most important benefits of a microsite:

  • Closer integration with a campaign. You’re not tied to corporate templates, so you can create a microsite that matches the marketing material for the campaign, in design and content.
  • Decreased distractions. Great campaigns usually drive traffic straight to a microsite. With the main site navigation and irrelevant elements removed, visitors can fully focus on your campaign and calls to action.


The bad: Microsite downsides

There are also convincing reasons to avoid microsites.

  • They can be confusing. Users browsing a corporate website may find themselves unexpectedly sent to a microsite. Everything looks different and they may not understand its intended purpose – or know how to get back to where they were headed.
  • They can be costly. Deciding to use a microsite means taking on added costs and complexities in design and backend maintenance – above and beyond those of the parent site.


Know that microsites can be the perfect solution if you need to:

  • Reach a target audience or market – they’re visually interesting, direct, and customizable to a specific need or group.
  • Track a short-lived campaign – they’re quicker to develop and launch, with no need for a full website.
  • Launch a new product – they take advantage of creative freedom and make a big impact.
  • Tell a story – images and animations take the stage and are better at telling a story than corporate copy.
  • Experiment – microsites are great for selective market testing.


Did we miss anything? Want to share a good or bad microsite experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Life Sciences Marketing: Mobile and Tablet Applications

In a September 2013 AYTM Market Research survey, 26.4 percent of respondents reported using health-related apps. More than two-thirds of this group believed the apps had a significant impact on their health. And consulting firm Accenture recently found that nearly one in four direct sales force interactions have been replaced with digital interactions for targeting doctors, providers, payers and patients.

Apps are already widespread in our personal lives, used for everything from entertainment and travel to shopping and sharing. The statistics show that now more than ever, mobile and tablet apps are also critical to an effective marketing strategy. Apps can increase visibility among target audiences and drive brand engagement. The right apps even let you be interactive, share rich media, provide 3D product imagery and capture lead information that integrates with your CRM.

To app or not to app?

We recommend that you think about apps like any other marketing tool. To be effective, an app must support your business strategy – and either influence target audiences or support your internal teams.

Take a look at your existing content, processes and tools to see whether mobile and tablet apps make sense. These questions can get you started:

  • Do you have existing content (such as white papers) that could be optimized and shared on e-readers and tablets?
  • What type of interactions does marketing have with sales? Can an app serve as a “bridge” between these groups?
  • How does the sales team obtain the marketing materials and support they need to be successful? Can they use a tablet for ease of use on the go?
  • Could user experience be improved if an existing marketing tool was mobile ready?
  • How do you interact with your target audiences today? Can the interaction be transformed or optimized with an app?

An app for every audience

Signal has a track record of helping clients make a splash with apps. Here are some of our ideas for life sciences audiences and the potential benefits.


  • Improved medication adherence: Apps can be an extension of your existing patient-support initiatives. They allow you to share information on the benefits of taking the medication as prescribed. Additionally, daily reminders can help safeguard against missed doses, as can automatic refill reminders.
  • Education on the go: Provide easy access to support resources, forums and online communities via mobile app.
  • Better healthcare outcomes: Get patients engaged in improving their lifestyle using mobile games that also drive “stickiness.”


  • Showcasing expertise: Give prospects interactive apps to showcase industry expertise, market differentiators and the caliber of your staff. For example, build an interactive map that pinpoints clinical trial sites across the globe or identifies where your consultants have successfully submitted regulatory applications and product registrations.
  • Highlighting thought leadership: A mobile strategy also can bolster thought leadership campaigns. Give prospects access to “mini portfolios” of content specifically designed for mobile devices such as white papers, blogs posts, recorded webinars, videos and news articles. Or optimize white papers for e-readers so they can be easily downloaded from sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
  • Education 24-7: Apps can share your user guides, training videos and provide an interactive product catalog with a selection tool to help prospects identify what they need.

Sales staff

  • Instant access: Use mobile sales apps to provide the sales team with instant access to collateral materials, up-to-date presentations and other built-in support tools. Tablets applications have been instrumental in helping several Signal clients streamline their sales process and even shrink the sales cycle.

I hope this post has been helpful as you think about adding apps to your marketing strategy. Please feel free to ask questions or share thoughts in the comments section.

New Marketing Frontier in Life Sciences: Our Upcoming Educational Blog Series

A recent AdWeek article titled “Welcome to the New Face of Big Pharma” examined how factors such as the Affordable Care Act are broadening the role of marketing to encompass “services, education, disease awareness and prevention.”

I agree with its premise that marketing will no longer simply be product centric. For pharmaceutical and medical device companies, marketing (especially for chronic diseases) will touch upon patient-support initiatives with the goal of changing patient behavior and ultimately driving positive outcomes.

For Contract Research Organizations and other service providers, marketing will drive lead generation and nurturing efforts by showcasing thought leadership and highlighting key differentiators in services such as patient recruitment and clinical trial monitoring.

New strategies and tactics will be needed to reach these aggressive marketing goals including the creation of personalized treatment communications and educational content. Successful multi-channel campaign components will include mobile applications, interactive web tools and portals as well as integrated social media efforts.

For the last few years, Signal has been successfully implementing these strategies on behalf of pharma, medical device and CRO clients. I guess our clients are the “early adopters,” which is great!

As a result, we felt compelled to share our expertise and knowledge in an upcoming content series that will communicate best practices, practical tips and what questions you need to ask to be successful.

The series, entitled Life Sciences Marketing: Insights for Positive Outcomes in 2014, is ideal for anyone in life sciences looking to add innovative new tactics to their 2014 marketing plans – tactics that provide ROI and help meet your business goals.

Topics will include:

  • Mobile and tablet applications
  • Web tools, portals and microsites
  • Leveraging data in marketing (infographics and eBooks)
  • Content marketing (lead generation and nurturing)
  • Marketing automation and analytics

Are there any subjects you’d like to see covered? If so, please email our life sciences team.

Filled with Knowledge Campaign

To help Novartis Animal Health promote the value of veterinary practices’ prescription services, Signal developed a multi-channel marketing program. The campaign features a set of consumer-facing materials to inform pet owners why they should buy prescription medications direct from their veterinarian instead of choosing retail pharmacy chains. Signal developed an internal microsite enabling the company’s sales force to order customized web-to-print materials for their veterinary accounts.