Gerald Prolman launched OrganicBouquet.com in 2003 to sell sustainably grown flowers that are freshly picked and then gift-wrapped. But as the company grew, he needed a better way to meet the increasing demand from florists, event planners and other whole-salers. So in June, Prolman launched a microsite (www.organicbouquetwholesale.com) to make it easier for these customers to place orders.
A microsite lets you focus on a specific purpose, such as selling clearance or discounted items, selling products to businesses (vs. consumers), promoting new merchandise, or trying out a new product line. Sometimes the design and navigation of a microsite differs from its parent site. "[Unlike consumers], florists shop by variety and color, so the site is set up to help florists find what they need quickly," says Prolman, 46, who projects 2006 sales of up to $5 million for his San Rafael, California, company.
So why didn't Prolman just launch a separate section on his existing website to focus on wholesalers? Simple: to prevent consumers or future competitors from having easy access to the customized pricing available to wholesale customers. "The pricing is tailor-made for each customer based on volume," says Prolman. "Once approved as a wholesale account, they will be given access to the site."
Michael Parker, co-founder and director of marketing at Gravitate Design Studio, a web development and marketing company in Vancouver, Washington, offers the following advice for entrepreneurs thinking of launching a microsite:
- Consider the costs. Building a microsite costs essentially the same amount as setting up a traditional website--from $2,500 to $50,000 or more. Keep in mind, though, that a microsite may require additional employees. (To date, Prolman has added six.) "Maintaining another site--even a microsite--takes a lot of work," says Parker, who suggests evaluating whether the same results could be achieved using your current web infrastructure.
- Take your brand strategy into account. If you sell products with two totally different focuses or brand identities, "then you're a good candidate for a microsite," says Parker.
- Know your search strategy. Some companies create many microsites that point to the main site in an effort to rank high on search engines, says Parker. Others prefer to have a larger site with a lot of updated content. Before moving forward, check with your marketing department or the company handling your search marketing programs.