Here, Wendie Michie, Zoomforth CEO, reflects on 30 years of working in male-dominated industries, discusses gender inequality in the workplace and shares some of the initiatives Zoomforth has implemented, to champion and support women in tech.
Have you ever found it hard to get a job because of your gender?
Only once. I was working for a bank and wanted to apply for a role as a financial planning consultant with the same firm. It was the late 80’s. I was discouraged from applying by my boss as he thought it might be too much for a young girl like me to take on! Ignoring his advice, I studied hard for the required qualifications and then pleaded with the interviewer to give me a chance. He did, and I became the first female (and youngest member) of the financial services team.
Have you ever experienced gender inequality at work?
In general, I have been extremely fortunate to work with a wonderful array of respectful and supportive colleagues, both male and female. I do remember a couple of instances, early on, though, that make me cringe to think of now.
On one occasion, my boss asked me to run and put some more make-up on, to look ‘more appealing’ for a client tax consultation! On another, the same guy told me: ‘Wendie, you need to try and make your voice sound deeper on calls if you want to be taken seriously’. He firmly believed that a woman’s place was in the home and was less than enamoured with having me on his team! Until I quietly started bringing in a lot of new business …
Have you ever been paid less than colleagues at a similar level to you?
Not to my knowledge. As a Board member, my salaries have generally been in the public domain, along with my fellow directors, and I have never felt unfairly treated in that regard. That said, I have always looked for firms that have transparent pay policies as I think this says a lot about their integrity.
Have you ever been the gender diversity hire (or suspected that you were)?
I once found myself at a firm where I was the only female in a team of 40. When the weekly team meeting rolled around, everyone looked to me to put the kettle on. And I did. I didn’t even question it! (Don’t judge – I was very young).
Fast forward 25 years – I was approached by a well-known insurance company to sit on its board as a non-executive director. It was 2016 and followed Lord Davies’ recommendation that FTSE 350 companies should include 33% women by 2020. Entering the interview room, I was greeted by ten grey-haired, middle-class white men, all dressed in tweed. It became clear very quickly that they were just seeking to tick a box, and so I declined the role.
I sometimes wonder if that was the right decision, or whether I should have accepted, and tried to change things from within, but I chose to put my energy into companies whose values aligned with my own and I’m good with that.
Who are your female role models?
I am a big fan of Alex Polizzifor her business acumen, passion and forthright delivery. I also love the work that Mary Portas is doing to champion the cause for women, with her Work Like a Woman and Kindness Economy initiatives.
What is the gender split of Zoomforth’s senior leadership team?
Our senior team includes 4 women and 2 men so we’re 66% female. That said, we have many more men than women working at Zoomforth overall. Whilst we recruit based on competence, not gender, we are keen to encourage more women into STEM / tech-based roles at Zoomforth as we expand.
What are you doing differently at Zoomforth, to ensure gender equality?
In a recent diversity and inclusion workshop, we learned of the research that showed that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, while women apply only if they meet 100% of them. So, we looked at our recruiting processes and remuneration packages, in a bid to encourage more women to apply for roles.
1. Recruitment literature – We use our own product (a microsite platform) to showcase life at Zoomforth. This allows us to include personalized videos and photos of the team, as well as information on our company and culture. We’re careful about the language we use, so it doesn’t sound overly masculine and we make clear that we are an equal opportunities employer. See example.
2. Published pay scales – We include pay scales on our job postings, so that candidates know the rate is the same, regardless of gender.
3. No resumes / CVs – We no longer ask for CVs. Instead, we ask candidates to complete an application form that allows them to focus on what they can bring to the party, rather than what they may or may not have done before. This makes it more of a level playing field for those who maybe have no college degree or took time out to bring up kids.
4. Interview questions in advance – We send out our core interview questions in advance to allow candidates to properly prepare. These contain a balance of skill, experience and general ‘getting to know you’ questions. This sets the scene for a more relaxed and productive discussion. It also gives candidates thinking time to prepare answers to questions where they perhaps have less direct experience.
5. Flexible working hours – We are not a 9-5 company. We recognise that family comes first and so we’re very flexible about working hours, as long as the work gets done. 6. Remote working – Everyone works from home which makes it easier to fit in household chores around work commitments, when needed.
7. Wellbeing perks – We know how hard it can be to juggle a busy work and home life so we offer wellness allowances which employees can spend on anything that promotes mental or physical wellbeing. The team uses these for all kinds of things from massages and facials, to cleaners, yoga classes, fresh veg boxes, running shoes & books. We also offer mental health days each month where employees can take time out, on us, to decompress!
Finally, what advice would you give to young women, just starting out?
It’s ok to be a girl! Don’t apologise for it or try to be more masculine to fit in. When the time comes, don’t feel guilty about putting your family first. And have confidence in your abilities; you’re worth far more than you think.
2020 was the year in which the world embraced remote working (by necessity). 2021 is going to be the one in which companies begin getting comfortable with remote everything and integrating it into their medium to long term business strategies.
Riding alongside that process, it’s going to be a year full of changes for those of us in the microsite world. As lockdown restrictions ease, we’re going to see a gradual resumption of traditional business events such as in-person meetings, but ultimately online events are here to stay. And microsites are also going to play an increasingly important role in technology stacks.
Here are our top 5 predictions for this year in more depth:
More Microsites At Events
These days, we’ve all become accustomed to doing business over online messaging apps, Zoom meetups, and other such web-based environments.
For businesses, this move to the internet is a good thing. In-person events — such as trade shows — will inevitably return. But it’s becoming cheaper and easier to hold casual business interactions using just a computer and a webcam.
Microsites have an important role to play in this transformation, as they’re an ideal tool to create assets such as:
Event registration forms
Online meeting playback pages
Integrating these kinds of one-time assets into “main” websites is a tedious, time-consuming, and often illogical process. After all, an event registration page is not going to be of use after an event has been held. Instead, it makes a lot more sense to develop these assets using a much simpler and quicker microsite technology. After the event has been held, there won’t be out-dated pages cluttering up the main marketing site.
Goodbye Powerpoint. Hello microsite.
At Zoomforth, our design team helps clients around the world make the very best use out of our platform.
An increasing trend we’ve seen is companies using microsites in lieu of presentations. Previously, many companies were simply embedding presentations into microsites. These days, companies are embedding the content directly into the pages and using the microsite itself as the asset to present.
This approach actually makes it easier for multiple hands to get involved in the editing process. It’s also quick to update and changes can be pushed out to clients almost instantaneously.
Microsites Entering The Mainstream
At Zoomforth, we’re passionate about microsites and creating streamlined content experiences. While we’d like to see every company utilize what can be achieved by using microsites, a lot of organizations are still very much enamored by static documents like Powerpoint and Word. But things are quickly starting to shift.
We predict that 2021 is going to be the year in which microsites enter the mainstream and become established as a standard part of the technology stack for larger organizations. Just like websites did decades ago. Microsites are diverse assets that fulfill a very important function by allowing businesses to host web content somewhere other than on their main marketing site (with all the red tape that the latter can entail). They’re typically created using user-friendly platforms and are designed to be quick to duplicate and easy to secure.
Some of the use-cases that we’ve seen Zoomforth used for include:
Account based marketing (ABM)
Onboarding portals for new employees
Internal communications such as newsletters
We expect an uptick in use for all these purposes during this calendar year.
Everybody will be creating them
The low-code / no-code revolution is truly in train and these days one doesn’t need to know a single thing about HTML or CSS to interact with many web design platforms (including Zoomforth).
In 2021, we expect to see departments that would have typically shied away from web development processes getting involved, perhaps for the first time, in developing online resources for their organization.
Your average HR department can develop a microsite for onboarding and talent acquisition without requiring any input from the IT team.
Teams can quickly pull together microsites to present updates to senior executives.
Creating a microsite becomes as easy as typing up a Google document. It’s click and point. No coding necessary. At all.
More cross-tool integration
As microsites move further into the tech mainstream, we’re also expecting to see teams put more effort into creating integrations between microsites and other important business tools such as CRMs and applicant tracking systems (ATS) for recruitment.
Some of the use-cases we have seen to date include:
CRM lead capture forms being used in microsites
ATS properties being embedded into recruitment microsites to present other job opportunities to talent being attracted through personalized means (a key microsite use)
We expect to see this trend branch out into other areas of integration.
More and better microsites
Overall, we’re expecting companies to start placing more emphasis on content experience platforms this year and utilizing microsite in new and interesting ways. Even as in-person business slowly resumes, the positive effects of 2020’s migration to remote business and tools will continue to reverberate.
To learn more about how microsites could help your organization do business, visit www.zoomforth.com.
Microsites and content experience platforms provide a convenient new way to share information with organizations. Instead of exchanging static documents, consumers can send over microsites containing all the information they need in a more engaging format.
No code / low code content experience platforms and microsites are quickly revolutionizing the way in which teams from sales specialists through to marketers handle communication with clients.
They’re disrupting traditional communication strategies and creating new internal workflows aligned around delivering great resources.
While you might be sold on the benefits of microsites, you may have doubts about how exactly your team could make the best use out of them in specific contexts. In this blog post, we’d like to offer a run through of the top use-cases for microsites.
Remember; this isn’t an exhaustive list. Although these are five great uses, microsites can be used however you think your organization might have a use for them.
Traditionally, marketers focus their efforts on targeting population segments based on factors such as demographics. ABM flips that paradigm on its head encouraging marketers to roll out very tailored approaches to luring in specific targets. And it’s a perfect use-case for microsites!
If, like many organizations, your team is looking to devote more attention to ABM this year, then using microsites could be an ideal way to ramp up your activity in this area.
According to data from LinkedIn, 56% of marketers operate ABM programs, though practitioners differ in the sophistication of their efforts. Landing pages, like microsites, are ideal resources for ABM because they can be very easily deployed on a website or created by using a standalone landing page generator.
For those targeting high value leads, ABM is clearly a good idea. But who’s the king of ABM: microsites or landing pages?
1. Advantages of microsites for ABM
here are at least three reasons why, for many marketers, microsites might actually make more sense than landing pages for ABM.
First, no code / low code content experience platforms are designed to make it as easy as possible to roll out and duplicate resources. Even if your marketing team doesn’t contain coding resources, these tools are very easy to use.
Second, many ABM strategies call for sharing resources with targets that should not be publicly accessible. Typically, landing page creators are configured to create publicly accessible resources that are indexed by Google and other search engines.
Content experience platforms such as Zoomforth, however, can create password protected and non-indexed content that won’t fall into public hands through inadvertent access settings. If you want to attract the attention of an ABM target by sharing confidential information with them, then you’re clearly going to need some password protection.
Finally, landing pages and microsites serve different purposes. Landing pages are ideal resources for steering prospects down sales funnels by eliminating potentially distracting UX features such as navigation menus and encouraging readers to click on a call to action (CTA).
ABM resources are focused on narrow pools of prospects — they’re not targeted at a general audience. In this instance, it doesn’t make sense to limit information to simple snipits and a call to action. Instead, you want to present all relevant information. Therefore, for ABM applications, microsites are actually a more logical tool for marketers to use due to their capacity to present detailed information concisely and engagingly.
For more information about how Zoomforth can help marketers build highly effective, conversion-optimized sites for ABM, read our previous blog.
2. Bidding on projects
For a busy sales team, sending out proposals and responses to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) can be a time consuming endeavor. Therefore, most sales teams have come up with various systems for making this process more efficient.
Many sales teams, for instance, send out proposals based upon a template which can be reused from bid to bid. However, sending static resources such as PDFs and Powerpoints to those you’re looking to win business from is unlikely to bring the ‘wow’ factor. In today’s distraction-filled marketplace, attention is a scarce commodity. Users need something out of the ordinary to win that mindshare. They need a microsite!
Microsites can be rolled out very quickly by building up from a template which can be configured to comply precisely with your marketing team’s set of brand guidelines. In this way, they have a lot of the same flexibility as document templates. However, this is where the similarities end.
Can be instantly updated – If you’re sending proposals to your clients by email, then you probably know that once you click the send button there’s nothing more that can be done. It’s out the door and on the way! Given that many proposals are developed in a high pressure, fast-paced environment, this is a less than ideal situation. If you send out your proposals as microsites, however, you can avoid unfixable errors. Microsites are miniature websites. They can be updated in real time. Need to add another page to that RFP microsite? No problem! Log in and make the changes.
Always on brand – While sales teams can use things like Powerpoint templates to ensure a consistent look and feel between presentations, microsites take this to the next level. With Zoomforth, users can bake in advanced style settings into every site they build. To learn more about how to use Zoomforth to create templates, check out our resource page.
There are further ways in which using microsites can give sales organizations a competitive heads up on the competition:
Data insights – If you’re still sending your sales proposals as static documents, then you’re effectively sending you message right into a data vortex! If information whirlpools aren’t your thing, you should consider microsites as a replacement to emailed docs. Static documents don’t allow users to embed tracking analytics or other scripts that can provide invaluable insights into how users are engaging with the information presented. And measurement is the bedrock of success! Why not equip yourself with the technological means to know precisely how that information was received?
Click here to learn more about how microsites can be used by sales teams.
3. Human resources and hiring
Looking to hire top talent? These days recruitment and human resources (HR) are beginning to favor personalized approaches which are not unlike the ABM tactics used by marketers.
Traditional recruitment has relied upon HR departments maintaining a careers page on their website. HR management (HRM) plugins are commonly embedded to automatically display a list of open positions and provide clients with an easy way of applying for vacancies.
But what would your average HR department do if they wanted to roll out a personalized offer or pitch for a key potential hire?
Traditionally, the answer would be that the HR team might prepare a document or a presentation and get that over to the candidate. If that triggers your “static document alarm” then you would be right!
Like sending sales proposals as uneditable un-trackable resources, sending personalized information to key potential hires risks making poor use out of a lot of internal effort. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could determine whether the potential candidate had seen the site and what pages he or she had accessed? With microsites that vision can now be a reality.
Microsites can be password protected. Alternatively access can be restricted to an approved list of emails (or just ones). Therefore, HR teams can securely prepare job offers and compensation packages and deliver them directly to the client via a microsite. And there’s no risk that the information will fall into the wrong hands.
If you work for a large organization, or have worked at one, then there’s a good chance that your employer has asked you at some point to take an internal training program to obtain a certification or get up to speed on a key piece of knowledge needed to do your job effectively.
Learning and development (L&D) activities are a key priority for many organizations, but research by LinkedIn has shown that nearly half of L&D pros have trouble getting busy employees to take the time to engage in their programs. But what if learning could be delivered in a much easier and engaging manner?
Microsites can be easily repurposed for use as learning hubs. Micro learning experiences can be developed as microsite pages so that entire training programs can be delivered through these portals. The bite-sized nature of these information chunks makes them easier for employees to retain — which also means that trainers should face less resistance in getting employees to commit.
Compared to Powerpoint presentations and training manuals, microsites are also a new and friendly way to roll out training programs for workforces. Trainers can embed multimedia on the microsites such as video and audio content. Interactive resources like polls and forms can also be embedded. Together, these innovations can make the experience of going through continuous professional development (CPD) programs a lot more engaging and enjoyable for participants.
To learn more about how Zoomforth can help trainers roll out L&D programs, click here.
5. Intranet – V2
Another facet of life in a large enterprise that will ring a bell for many readers is the corporate intranet.
While some organizations need to use intranets for compliance and security reasons, others are exploring new ways of sharing information internally that have less restrictive access requirements.
Many internal communications teams are turning to microsites as a less formal way of creating knowledge management hubs designed to keep teams up to speed with the latest developments in the company.
Microsites can be used to host the full range of information that would have traditionally been posted on intranets. These include:
Internal employee events
Zoomforth supports both SAML and email-based authentication, among other methods. For instance, access can be restricted to users with an email address from the organization. A login code will be sent to that email and the employee can login. Meanwhile, public users will be unable to access the microsite.
Get more done with microsites
Using microsite can be a powerful way for organizations to disrupt their traditional approaches to communication information, stepping into a new age marked by more powerful and effective means of content distribution.
Regardless of what specific use-case organizations use microsites for, they allow them to:
Obtain performance analytics
Securely personalize information
Update sent resources in real time
To learn more about how microsites could help your organization do business, visit zoomforth.com
To learn more about how microsites could help your organization do business, visit www.zoomforth.com.
If you’re going to be sending out sales proposals this year, using a microsite content experience platform could allow you to elevate your pitching and land major deals.
Unlike static documents like Word files and PDFs, microsites are living breathing websites — in miniature. And they’re perfect for those that want a more exciting way to engage with prospects.
Of course, effective pitching is as much an art form as a science. But to get luck on your side, you should take a look at the following sales proposal design guidelines we’ve put together to help you deliver a beautifully designed pitch every time.
Whether you’re responding to a request for proposals (RFP) or are proactively pitching for business, follow these tips to give yourself the best chance of success:
Don’t neglect the titles
The first things your users will notice when they click into your microsite will be your title headings, both for your site and for each of the pages it contains.
When prospects find sites organically through search engines like Google, the meta title and metadescription are your first opportunity to make the right impression. So these are crucial elements to address in your sales proposal design.
Most sales proposal microsites are going to be private resources. However, if they are not, then you should make sure that the SEO titles are strong before working on the actual on-site content.
For titles, we recommend going through each heading and subheading of the microsite to make sure that each describes the section that follows it well. Ideally, you want to be constantly leading the reader into finding out more about you and your organization.
Small paragraphs are best
Remember that microsites are web properties and that they’re going to be read from a computer — whether that’s a desktop or smartphone.
UX research has confirmed that people don’t really read online — they skim — and for sales proposal design the same best practices apply! With that in mind, it’s best to write your sales proposals using short paragraphs. Keep them to three or four sentences at most.
Remember that those reading your sales proposals are likely to be serving on busy purchasing committees often lacking the time to go through every line of a digital sales proposal in detail.
To capture their attention make their job as easy as possible:
Write in short paragraphs.
Use a font that is easily readable.
Draw their attention to key elements of the proposal by highlighting key phrases
Use visually attractive elements such as pull quotes and breakout boxes
Anything that you can do to break up the proposal and make it easier to read is going to make your sales proposal more engaging, potentially improving your chances of a successful bid!
Make your microsite easy to navigate
Frequently, those using a content experience platform like Zoomforth to send out sales proposals are targeting multiple recipients at the same time. Your average purchase evaluation committee might comprise:
A finance manager (who will care about the financial nuts and bolts)
An account manager
A procurement specialist who might be familiar with your competitors and how your offer compares to theirs
These recipients are going to be interested in different parts of the microsite. So it’s your job— or your designers— to make it as easy as possible to jump to the part of the site that interests them.
Include a clear navigation bar at the top of the microsite. Make sure that it’s not too cluttered or long. We recommend making sure that it all fits into one line. You should go through this navigation to make sure that it doesn’t contain unnecessary pages.
Adjust the CSS file in your microsite control panel to control the look and feel of the navigation bar. Again, your goal here is to make sure that it’s visually attractive and provides a clear guide to the site. You don’t want to overwhelm.
Another best practice you can utilize throughout your microsite is to include lots of internal links. Those are links between different pages. Make sure to also pick the best anchor text (the words that contain the link).
Don’t overwhelm visitors
You want to make sure that navigating through the microsite is an enjoyable experience. If your recipients are going to be evaluating the contents of the site in detail, then this is particularly true.
The less mental resistance your design generates, the easier it’s going to be for people to engage them with your message. With this in mind, follow design best practice by ensuring that your website makes good use of whitespace. We’ve talked about this in our design best practices guidelines. You can check those out here.
Mix up your content
One of the great advantages of microsites compared to traditional formats for sending sales proposals is that they are live documents. You can update them at any time. That said, in practice, you’ll likely want to finish editing them carefully before you hit the publish button.
Another major plus is that they can be used to embed a lot of different content. Besides using text, don’t be afraid to push the boat out in terms of the content that you embed in your proposal.
Even if to date your sales presentations have mostly been bullet points and blocks of text, this is a chance for you to change things up — and provide readers with a more lively content experience.
In addition to text you can include:
Photography: They say that a picture speaks a thousand words. Consider adding high quality imagery throughout your sales proposal. While there are plenty of stock image libraries available online, many find that using their own photographs adds that extra sense of authenticity.
Infographics: You’ll probably want to be using statistics and figures to make the case for doing business with you in your sales proposals. The trouble with rows of numbers is that they tend to put people to sleep! Enter stage data visualization! You don’t need to subscribe to a complicated data visualization tool to present facts and figures engagingly. In fact, you just need to know how to create simple charts and graphs (like pie charts) and add them to your microsite. While your target audience is going to want to know what you can do for them, it’s important to back up your claims with data so that your prospects can see you’re more than just talk!
Audio and video: Using Zoomforth, you can embed HTML code into your microsites. This opens up the types of content that you can carry. For instance, you could embed an audio file for listening or you could embed video objects from YouTube. You can also add documents into your microsites. So if there’s a particular place where you think it would be helpful to prompt users to download a static document, then this can be achieved too. The good thing about microsites is that they allow you to blend dynamic content and static content. Choose the mix that best aligns with your sales objectives.
Don’t stuff the fold
Content marketers have repeatedly been told not to add key content below the fold. That’s the part of the site that loads when you open a web page. But there are exceptions.
For effective sales proposal design, we recommend making an effort to prioritize content in a logical order and to include the key information towards the top of the page. But you don’t need to ruin the credibility of your microsite by adding too much. After all – there’s only so much information that can fit onto a computer screen!
Keep it proposal specific
Microsites are great assets for delivering information in a package to consumers.
Nevertheless, most businesses also operate a company website. That might have a lot of information that could be of interest to your sales prospects, too. So how can you use both effectively?
Our advice, to achieve the most effective sales proposal design possible, is to keep the contents of the microsite concise. For instance, it might be helpful to include your customer history in the microsite. But you could equally just put a link to that page on your company site in the navigation menu.
Before adding content to the microsite, think about whether it already exists elsewhere. If it does, do you risk cluttering up the microsite by duplicating it? Or could you just point users to an existing (offsite) resource?
Correct branding right from the outset
Just as you’ll want to develop a template to bake in company branding to each microsite, you’ll also probably want to make sure that each microsite that rolls out your door contains some standardized sections.
Again, you should consider whether it makes more sense to include these in the microsite or to link off to the company website, LinkedIn, or some other resource.
If they belong on the website, and you’re going to need them in each proposal, then you could insert these into a template.
For example, suppose that you know that each bid of a certain type is going to carry the same set of terms and conditions or a common disclaimer. Why not add that information into the footer of a template? That can then be duplicated as required and updated the moment they change.
Get (at least) two pairs of eyes on every page
Just because you’re building your sales proposals online now doesn’t mean that only one person needs to be involved. In fact, we highly recommend building a team comprising everything from writing specialists through to graphic designers. Be clear who does what.
Whatever the makeup of your microsite building team, you’ll want to make sure that everything is reviewed by somebody else. Take a look at our QA checklist to see exactly the kind of thing you should be looking out for.
When you’re building out a sales proposal as as microsite you’ll specifically want to:
Have somebody double check all the facts and figures cited
Make sure the target client’s name is spelled correctly
Make sure that any details cited about the client, or your competitors, are accurate
How you go about this proofreading process is up to you. A checklist is never a bad system for making sure that everything gets ticked off and properly QA’d before it goes out the door.
Towards more effective sales proposals
Sending out sales proposals as microsites instead of documents can be a winning formula for success!
However, with powerful potential comes great responsibility! You should follow through these tips in order to make sure that every proposal that goes out the door has the maximum probability of winning business for your firm.
To learn more about how to use Zoomforth in your organization, click here.
Unlike traditional websites they’re great for one-off purposes and many organizations are beginning to use microsites as replacements for static documents. They have a range of use cases in areas like sales, marketing, learning and recruitment.
The microsite revolution is here to stay. The content experience platforms on which they’re often built have made it possible for content producers to roll out much more exciting assets than PDFs for important tasks where first impressions count, like pitching services or preparing personalized job offers.
The best microsites are referred to as content experiences. These are living, breathing websites — in miniature. They can be updated in real time and feature a range of embedded video and audio resources.
Microsites bridge the gap between how most of us access the internet and how many of us send resources to colleagues.
Making the case for microsites in your organization
Content experience platforms and website builders make rolling out microsites incredibly easy.
Users don’t need to know anything about web development to create or duplicate them. For many organizations, this means that microsites can replace standard documents once the right workflow is established. The rich multimedia often makes microsites far more impactful.
Nevertheless, getting from A (“Let’s send over a Word document for this client!”) to B (“Let’s prepare a microsite for them!”), isn’t always simple in large organizations where workflows may need to be carefully documented and stakeholders may number in the thousands.
Add potentially complicating factors of distributed teams and remote work and making the move forward becomes even more difficult for many companies to pull off.
Then there’s simple inertia. PDFs and Powerpoint presentations — longtime staples of the corporate world — have been around for what feels like an eternity. Most of us have been working with them for years which makes them feel reassuringly familiar.
The idea of sending out a mini website for a one off use on the other hand can seem disruptive. But disruption can be incredibly productive and lead to growth.
To make the case for microsites, find relevant examples to show your team so you can follow the old maxim of ‘show, don’t tell’, and demonstrate how engaging they can be.
Making the switch to microsites
While we recommend that those thinking of making the switchover prepare a business transformation plan to guide the transition, we recognize that moving to a microsite-only model can take time.
Just as there are many uses for microsites, there are plenty of ways to go about the process of integrating microsites into your organization.
Some will favor an “all-in” approach in which the team moves over to microsites immediately. Small, agile startups are often in the enviable position to pull off this type of change. For other teams a more gradual, hybrid approach may be more realistic.
As with any large change, a business transformation process is advisable. Some of the elements to include in the plan are:
Assigning a project owner to spearhead the transition
Breaking down the migration into manageable milestones
Ensuring team members receive training on the new way of working and the platform
How microsites relate to your existing technologies
Microsites and PDFs aren’t sworn enemies. PDFs still have their place – legal documentation, for example. Microsites shouldn’t be thought of as a replacement for your company’s main site, either. They supplement your existing capabilities.
The following resources can be used by those that are looking for “stopgap” ways to move from a document-heavy approach to one that embraces the potential of richer online content experiences.
Here’s how to think about the relationship between microsites and your main site:
The Company Website
Company websites make it easy for prospective customers to find basic information about your company including what you do, who is on your team, and how to contact you.
How are microsites different?
Many companies use microsites to send personalized information that would otherwise be sent using Word documents, PDFs, or other static documents.
Why do they do this? Because microsite platforms like Zoomforth support the creation of password-protected and deindexed sites. This means that the microsites will not be indexed by search engines like Google and can only be viewed by those with a password or who can path through a federated login (we’ll cover security again later).
Clearly, companies would generally not want to post privileged or confidential information intended only for a specific audience on the company website. These microsites aren’t intended to be found by just anyone browsing the Internet with a search engine, hence the deindexing. Information for the public at large should be shared on the main website.
Despite this, microsites sometimes include information available to the general public. Many microsites contain a mixture of both types of content. For instance, a team sending a microsite to bid on a project might include the outline of specific services for the client on one page of the microsite (private information) and the company history on another (public information).
This second type of content, which is non-confidential and suitable for public access, could just as easily be posted on a company website. In fact, posting it to a website, keeping that resource updated, and then updating the microsite templates might make a lot more sense for some companies.
Using a company website in conjunction with microsites can also be a good move for organizations wishing to employ a stopgap approach or that already have a lot of good information on their websites.
The advantages of site-based communication
There are advantages to posting any information — including general company information — online rather than including it in email attachments and other static documents that apply to both microsites and standard pages.
Users don’t need to download anything in order to access your information. They just need a web browser.
Authors are able to control the look and feel of the content. Most content management systems make it easy to preview how content will look on desktop or mobile devices.
Almost all users should be able to access the content. Not every cell phone user has a document reader installed on their phone. By contrast, virtually all of them have a browser installed on their phone.
Updating the information is as easy as editing a live document. Changes can be pushed out in real time. By contrast, once users have sent a document by email, there is generally no way to recall or update it.
Advantages of microsites over static documents
Organizations might choose to continue to use static documents — like Microsoft Word files — to communicate certain information alongside microsites.
Just like company websites, this doesn’t need to be an “all or nothing” approach. For instance, content experience platforms such as Zoomforth make it easy for authors to include documents in microsites.
The difference is that Zoomforth makes it easy to present PDFs in the most attractive manner. Additionally adding PDFs as embedded content in live websites means that users don’t have to download files in order to access your document-locked content.
Why use a microsite platform?
Let’s recap what we’ve covered for a moment.
Many organizations benefit from making the transition from static document-centric workflows over to microsites.
Additionally, both evergreen content on company websites and static documents can be used in conjunction with microsites so users needn’t feel hemmed in by an ‘all or nothing’ approach.
Hybrid models serve many users well, particularly during transition periods. For instance, static documents can be integrated into microsites as download objects.
While these are important factors to consider, content experience platforms retain some distinct advantages over older communications technologies. These advantages apply equally to large businesses and smaller ones.
Let’s review these now:
From a communications standpoint, static files offer little in the way of interactivity. Take a Word document, for instance. They’re designed to be read. There’s nothing for users to do other than scroll through the document to find the part that (may) interest them the most.
On your average website, by way of contrast, there’s a lot that users can do. Users can use the navigation menu to jump to another page. They can access newsfeeds and infographics or start playing a video. Interactive elements like these are great ways to increase visitor engagement.
When users have options presented to them, they tend to become more engaged in the information they’re consuming. Interaction is the difference between a one dimensional wall of text and something truly worthy of being called a content experience.
If you’re sending out Word documents, then you’re almost certainly in the dark about how recipients are engaging with the information you send over. Compare this to analytics tracking on a website and the differences seem stark.
You may know that the user downloaded your email attachment (if you’re using download tracking) but you have no idea how long they spent on the document, what parts of the content they engaged with, and where they stopped reading in.
The good news — for anybody familiar with website analytics — is that content experience platforms offer exactly the same kind of in-depth metrics that webmasters have been using for years. With the added advantage that microsites are typically specific to one audience.
This means that users don’t have to sift through a mountain of website data to understand exactly how a specific audience interacted with the content. Compared to sending out static documents by email, the difference, in terms of the volume of tracking information provided, is like night and day.
Even though sending information by email can seem more secure than putting it online, in some aspects, this isn’t necessarily the case.
For instance, what would happen if your email recipient were to forward your attachment to his personal email address and from there to hundreds of unauthorized contacts? The result could be a mass leaking of sensitive company information. Worse, the company wouldn’t be able to access the send log.
Multifactor authentication (MFA): users will be prompted for a second token as well as a password
SAML identification. Visitors can sign in through a single sign in portal
Email-based one time password (OTP) authentication: access can be limited to a series of approved email addresses. Alternatively, every user at a domain can be granted access. For instance, access can be granted to all emails @acme.com. This is great for large organizations that may wish to restrict access to an internal microsite to only employees of the company.
Microsite, Website or Static Document?
Microsites and content experience platforms have made it easy to share personalized information through miniature websites rather than by exchanging documents.
Content experiences are more immersive than static documents. They can be updated continuously and secured through a variety of means. They’re also trackable allowing authors far more insight into how audiences are engaging with them.
Nevertheless, many organizations seeking to use this technology for sales quoting, hiring or other use-cases would be best to favor a hybrid approach. Static documents can be embedded into microsites and evergreen content can be maintained and updated on websites and periodically updated in microsite templates.
Contact Zoomforth to learn more about how your organization can begin to make the transition.
Getting a great microsite out to the market requires a lot of effort from various stakeholders. We’ve discussed the value of building out a great microsite preparation team before. There’s one key stakeholder that it’s vital not to forget about. And that’s a quality assistance (QA) team member.
Quality assurance (QA) are those often unsung heroes who make sure that what goes out the door, to the client, reflects the best work of your organization.
In the software world, these are the bug-hunters on the team who make sure that programs work as intended before they’re released to the general public. In microsite teams, these are the team members responsible for ensuring that no internal links are broken and that the site loads as well on mobile as it does on desktop.
Checklists are an ideal way to reduce human error and to verify that procedural safeguards are followed. They’re used everyday by airline pilots and project managers to make sure critical tasks are completed properly, just like a QA checklist.
So why not give your microsite development team the tools they need to get the job done? Here’s our 21 point checklist reflecting some microsite design best practices that we’ve gleaned from years of experience working with our clients. Follow these to make sure polished, pixel-perfect microsites get out the door – every time.
Spend a few minutes going through your microsite to make sure that the images used are consistent and display well for clients.
Image resolution okay
Blurry images look incredibly amateur. Make sure that whatever imagery you’re using throughout your microsite is of a good enough resolution (between 1500 and 2500 pixels) to render well on your viewers’ screens. To do this, go through the entire microsite page by page. If images appear pixelated, download them and measure their resolution using an image editing tool. Then, find better quality images and upload them in their place.
If you’re cropping images, then make sure that you are using a consistent frame and design pattern. Ideally, you should also use the same positions. If all your images on a microsite page are left aligned and close angle then it will look strange if an image is center frame and wide angle.
Avoid Using The Wrong Imagery
Your company might have access to a stock image library to provide images for the microsite. However, ultimately everyday users are responsible for the upkeep of the website. Users should go through the website and make sure that no mistaken imagery inadvertently made it onto the pages. Verify that every image that appears on the microsite was intended to be uploaded and that there have been no accidental mistakes. If you’re trying to avoid stock imagery, then make sure that all the images you uploaded are your own.
No Branding Accidents
Just as we’ve encountered companies who have accidentally uploaded the wrong imagery to their microsites, we’ve seen instances in which companies have accidentally uploaded the wrong PDF or video to their site. Yes, it really happens! If you’re looking to avoid an unhappy accident, then go through each and every document and video on your website and make double sure that you really intended to upload them.
Consistent Font Layout
For microsites filled with text, the typography is one of the first things that catches visitors’ eyes when logging onto your site. Make sure that it doesn’t detract from the professional impression you’re trying to create.
Site to Microsite Consistency
We’ve talked before about how one of the key Zoomforth advantages is its ability to replicate sites quickly from a template which can be developed specifically to capture brand and styling guidelines. Those branding guidelines often standardize fonts to be used across all marketing material.
It’s a good idea to go through the microsite and see how it squares up with your company’s actual website. Try to ensure brand conformity by applying the same fonts across both websites.
Client Site Consistency
Sometimes, you will find yourself building microsites on behalf of clients. Marketing agencies can undertake this activity, for example. If you’ve been given the responsibility of building a site for a client, then you should make sure that the microsite you’re building conforms with the client’s website and style guides — just as you’d make sure that it conforms with your own.
If there is information in different parts of the microsite that is designed to represent the same type of information then it should be presented consistently. Go through the microsite to see any instances in which there is a mismatch in layout between pages. Keeping the same template demonstrates conformity and consistency – which appears professional and improves the customer experience.
Eliminate Text Cut-Offs
Text that cuts off between lines is bound to create a poor impression on the reader. Go through the microsite in order to identify any run-offs. Reformat the text. Enjoy a better presentation.
Many brands have extensive guidelines for how the brand should be portrayed visually. These specify everything from the official logo through to the exact shade of colors that should be used across all marketing collateral.
Cross Site Consistency For Brand Guidelines
Go through the whole microsite and make sure that the brand guidelines have been followed throughout. This will take some time. Pay careful attention to the fonts used and colors. If the logo appears, then make sure that it’s an official up to date version.
One of the advantages of microsites relative to static documents is that users should be able to constantly tweak the site and add new pages and content as requirements dictate. Before publishing the first iteration of the microsite, it’s important to make sure that it’s capable of growing with the company’s needs.
Is the design right for growth?
You’ll want to make sure that the design you’ve settled upon can be used as the site grows, if that’s going to be a requirement. In order to do this, first duplicate the microsite. Then try to add new content. See if the current design looks good with the new content — or if a rethink is needed.
Adding new team members
One thing that is reasonably predictable in many organizations is that the team will grow over time and microsite team pages will need to be updated when that happens. If your organization is going to be onboarding new team members, then you should take a moment to test if the template you have is capable of supporting that addition. On your duplicated QA site, try to add a new team member and see if the site looks okay.
Let’s say you need to add more content to the site. To do this, you might need to resize a tile in order to make room for more text. Test out how easy it is to do this on the microsite. If it’s very hard, you may wish to rethink the design you’re using.
How do web links appear?
Try adding a few hyperlinks to the page if you don’t already have some. They should change to a specific color — which can be changed in the design settings. Do these conform to brand guidelines? If they don’t, then change them.
Do anchor links work?
Anchor links are links to specific parts of a webpage designed to save users time on unnecessary scrolling. They can be used both within web pages and as part of external hyperlinks. If you’ve added them to page(s) on the microsite, then go through these and make sure that they’re working as expected.
Do forms work perfectly?
If you’ve added forms to your microsite then it’s important to make sure that they’re sending as expected. If not, then you can end up in the embarrassing situation of wasting users’ time having them fill in forms that don’t reach their destination. Make sure that the forms work and that they are rendering properly and in conformity with branding guidelines.
Do captions work?
Users should try to adjust the length of any image captions in order to make sure that they don’t adversely affect the layout of the page. If captions might need to be updated and the test fails, then it might be worth considering alternative layouts that will better accommodate these changes.
Responsive / Mobile Design
A large number of users can be expected to access the microsite from a mobile device. In fact, depending on the industry, those users could be in the majority. It’s therefore important to do a thorough QA in order to make sure that the mobile version of the website is working as intended. If you’re using Google Chrome, then you can simulate how the microsite will render on mobile by using Developer Tools.
How does the site look on mobile?
Simulate accessing the site from a mobile browser using web tools and see how things look. Does anything look misaligned? If so, take note of where and edit the design so that it performs better on mobile.
Expand Images and Bios
Try expanding some images and biographies (nested content) while accessing the site from a simulated mobile device. Again, check for any misalignment and rendering issues. If you find them, change them.
Just because you’re a massive Google Chrome fan doesn’t mean that everybody else is. To properly QA your microsite, you’ll need to test it out from a variety of browsers to mimic the way your users might be accessing it.
Open the microsite using a few common web browsers. You could try accessing it with Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera.
How does the site render? If you notice anything that doesn’t work on one platform then you may wish to change it.
You’ll also want to make sure that your microsite is accessible irrespective of what impairments your users might have. Run through the following QA list to make sure that your site can be accessed by all. (Ensuring accessibility might put you in conflict with brand guidelines. If this is the case, you might wish to raise an internal case with customer support).
Are Fonts Easily Readable?
How legible are your fonts? Is sufficient contrast used and is the font easily readable at the size it renders in? Check this throughout your microsite. If you discover that your fonts are hard to read then you will wish to change them.
Is alt text used throughout the site?
Alt text (short for alternative text) is text that renders on a web page in lieu of images. Including this both boosts SEO and helps people who can’t see images to be able to understand what’s happening on the page. Make sure that every image on the microsite has an alt tag. You should be able to find this out by hovering over the images. If there are any that don’t have this text, then you should add it.
Are the colors used accessible?
You can visit accessible-colors.com to see whether the colors you’re using in your microsite are sufficiently contrasting to be compliant with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines for contrast accessibility. Of course, there’s (usually!) no legal requirement to comply with this regulation. However, it’s a best practice and makes your microsite accessible to the widest possible audience.
Are Links Working?
Your microsite will likely both link to internal pages as well as to external URLs. It’s important to make sure that these links are all in good working order.
As the name suggests, broken links are links that lead to nowhere. Go through the microsite and click on links to see if there are any that don’t work. Double-check that the links are pointing to the right resources.
Hyperlinks can point to emails as well as websites; the former typically prompts the user to automatically begin an email in their default email program. Make sure that the email addresses listed on the contact page all contain a link so that it’s quick and easy for visitors to drop an email to one of the listed points of contact.
Header and Footer Checks
Don’t forget the header and footer! These are the parts of the website that load up first and last and can help cement the opening (and closing!) impression of your website.
Can a secondary logo be added?
You might wish to add another logo in the header. Check to make sure that you’re able to do this. If you’re not, then you’ll probably want to leave room in the footer for one to be added if you so wish.
Social media icons
Another common use of the footer space is for companies to add links to their official social media channels. If you don’t already have these added, then have you left space to add them in if required?
Space for a search function
You’ll also want to have a look to make sure that there’s room for a search functionality in the header section of a website. You might wish to add this in at a later time to give users the ability to quickly search through your site.
Easily Accessible Navigation
You need a clear site navigation in order to allow visitors to jump around pages on your site. Make sure that it’s easily accessible and easy to use.
Is the navigation going behind any logos?
You don’t want your main navigation bar to be obfuscated by any logos on the site. Check how the menu renders from the desktop. Then check it out from a simulated mobile device. Everything looking okay? You can move on to the next item on the checklist.
How do secondary navigation bars appear?
Your navigation may consist of both menus and submenus. Check out how both of these appear. Does the menu dock and undock as expected?
Design Brief Compliance
The design brief is the document that sets down your instructions for how you’d like the website to look and feel. If you’ve built the microsite on the basis of a design brief, then go over it again to make sure that you’ve checked all the boxes.
Did you get everything in?
Make sure that you’ve adhered to all instructions in the design brief. This is particularly important if you’ve designed the microsite for a client. Were all the details followed?
Create Great Microsites Every Time
We recommend going through this checklist every time you’re about to click the publish button on a new microsite. Doing so will allow your microsite team to get rigorous about QA and to stamp out any unseemly errors that might have made it to production.
Strong change management is vital for businesses to retain a competitive edge. Stagnating businesses are likely to suffer in the market relative to faster moving competition and those who fail to manage change properly may experience unpredictable results.
While ongoing change of some kind is common among businesses, intentional change within a deliberate framework is both rarer and more useful. To achieve this, a business transformation strategy is required.
Such frameworks for change – set out within a business transformation plan – give leaders the power to direct change for the better.
In this article, you will learn:
What a business transformation plan is
Why business transformation plans are necessary
What a business transformation plan should include
How your business transformation should be presented
An example of the kinds of change a business transformation plan can help with (increasing sales with microsites)
By the end of this article, you’ll know the answers to all these questions and have taken the first step towards creating a strong business transformation strategy – the foundation of positive change in your organization. Let’s get started.
What is a business transformation plan?
Business transformation plans are documents containing your business transformation strategy. They outline your plans for modifying the way an organization does business.
Typically, a business transformation plan will set out the type of change that an individual or team within an organization believes is required to enhance the company’s ability to achieve specific business objectives.
Business transformation plans sometimes go by other names depending on the kind of change they’re intended to support. A digital transformation strategy document is one example of a type of business transformation plan.
How a company decides to innovate will depend largely upon whether this is the first time a business has gone about undertaking a formal program for change management.
Businesses that have never approached change management strategically before are more likely to continue attempting to make changes on the fly. Organizations at early stages of growth are more likely to fall into this category.
On the other hand, those professionals with experience in change management are more likely to decide that a business transformation plan is necessary.
Why prepare a business transformation plan?
There are three main reasons that tend to lead a business to conclude that a business transformation plan is necessary:
Market shifts: Businesses that collate competitor intelligence (CE) maintain an awareness of their competitors’ activities. Through active monitoring, marketing departments can discover emerging trends in the industry that threaten to jeopardize the competitive advantages that the business currently enjoys. Such monitoring can inform a decision to make a change.
Opportunities for improvement: Leaders occasionally discover that one or more business processes aren’t delivering satisfactorily. For instance, a business that sends sales proposals as emailed PDFs may discover that too many of these are going unopened. As a result, the head of marketing and pursuits may decide to transform their sales strategy. We’ll come back to this idea later.
Outside input: Many businesses decide to leverage the expertise of outside consultants as they review their processes. When these consultants identify ways processes could be improved, it can spur leadership towards the creation of a business transformation plan.
What should a business transformation plan include?
Clearly defined goals
When trying to bring about any change, whether in business or in everyday life, it’s helpful to set clear and achievable goals.
One extremely effective framework businesses and individuals often draw upon to do this is the set of criteria collectively referred to as SMART goals.
You may have heard of this framework. Each letter in the acronym SMART refers to a criteria that most useful and achievable goals share:
Achievable (some prefer ‘attainable’)
Relevant (though other versions render this as ‘responsible’, meaning that the goal has a particular owner accountable for its achievement)
Why bring this up? Because good business transformation plans are intended to guide their organizations to some end result. If the intended aim is hazily defined it’s harder to agree on a strategy to achieve it because it’s unclear precisely what would constitute success.
To use one analogy, it doesn’t matter if you have the most accurate map in the world. If you’re not sure about your destination, you’ll struggle to chart the best route.
To illustrate how a plan to improve communication with potential clients could be improved with a SMART goal, let’s return to our earlier example about email opening rates.
Overall, the pursuits team wants more prospects to actually see the sales pitches they’re sending to them. Based on analytics about how many prospects are currently clicking through to view the digital sales proposal microsite, the team may be able to establish a baseline upon which to improve.
With this number in hand, the team can specify that they’d like to increase the click-through-rate (CTR) by 25% (measurable and hopefully achievable as well as relevant to their overall aim) within three months (time-bound).
Your business transformation plans need to hone in on defined targets for change. For example, the way in which your organization handles sending sales proposals.
If changes are achieved how will you know? Businesses need to offer appropriate yardsticks for assessing the outcome. For example, a 30% increase in sales relative to a previous date.
If the transformation cannot be achieved, then those involved in the process are going to struggle. A 400% increase in revenue quarter on quarter might be desirable, but if this isn’t realistic you’re setting your team up for failure – and that won’t motivate anyone.
Make sure that the transformation aligns with your company’s vision and stated business objectives. If the organization’s sales strategy no longer prioritizes in-person pitches, shouldn’t your plan focus elsewhere?
Projects need both a defined owner and a due date. A project without a deadline is likely to languish as competing priorities with firm cut-offs vie for attention.
While a business transformation plan is likely to be far broader than this in scale and ambition, this example illustrates the value of a clear goal. With this definition in hand, the pursuits team will know when they’ve failed or succeeded and have a far easier time developing a strategy.
For best results, make sure you do the same.
A breakdown of the steps to success
Business transformation plans should contain a description of the current process or workflow which the business is trying to change and the steps towards the planned end state.
Transforming established processes can be hard work. An unclear plan introduces extra work into the process, as team members struggle to interpret instructions and decide what’s required. The business transformation plan should therefore contain a clear plan for how to get from A to B.
Large projects seem less daunting when they’re broken down into small parts. The process of identifying each step required to reach the objective and any dependencies is the core work of building a business transformation plan.
While upending your sales team’s workflow overnight might seem tempting, in practice, it’s usually better to take things step by step and arouses less resistance among the team. A set of milestones along the way can make the whole process of transforming mission-critical sales workflows seem much more palatable to everybody involved.
Finally, things tend to work better when there’s a specific point-person in charge of seeing the transformation through from developing the project requirements through to implementation and evaluation.
Defined responsibilities and resources
Who’s going to be the internal champion spearheading the move towards microsite-based sales pitching, or whatever your own business transformation is intended to achieve?
Your project owner – who may or may not be a professional project manager – should have enthusiasm for the project and the authority to see it through to completion.
And who will the project owner/manager work with? What team members will they need full-time? And who else will they sometimes need to draw upon?
Non-human resources too, should be specified. It would be tragic if the microsite editing software you were planning to use turned out to be beyond your budget. Check resource availability and, where these need to be acquired, research and specify cost.
With that in mind, make clear what the overall budget will be.
A communication and training plan
Changing business processes, even in small teams, can require a surprising amount of coordination and preparation.
Project owners need to have a communications plan ready to brief those on the front lines about why this change is being undertaken and how it will be coordinated.
An inclusive approach is needed here so that everybody from the graphics designer to the copywriter understand the importance of their work and feels part of a broader effort to increase the efficiency of the sales unit and the business as a whole.
The project owner should be prepared to dedicate sufficient time to bringing team members up to speed on any new systems, such as the microsite platform from our example scenario.
This includes making sure that they know how to carry out all necessary functions, such as building and updating sites independently.
Building on this, helping stakeholders to understand at least the basics of the roles and responsibilities of their colleagues is another important step that can prevent headaches down the road.
Milestones and a due date
Good projects need a completion date by which work should be finished.
Additionally, milestones are vital for breaking down the larger business transformation into a series of more manageable steps that allow the team to stay oriented and build confidence as they progress.
Returning to our example, a microsite transition plan might consider:
The due date: This is the date by which the transformation should have been completed and all sales or pursuits team members should have been brought up to speed on what’s required to successfully pitch using microsites.
Milestones: The first milestone could be the date upon which key templates have been migrated from current systems onto the microsite provider. The second milestone could be when a dual legacy-microsite approach is begun. The final milestone could be the date when all sales proposals now need to be sent out through the microsite system.
Example: improving sales proposal work with microsites
Business transformation plans are powerful tools for pursuits teams aiming to improve how they work and boost sales. We’ve touched on this above a couple of times, but this section considers the example in more detail.
Why the example of improving sales proposals with microsites?
First, it’s what we know. Zoomforth has helped numerous businesses, large and small (but mostly large) make the switch from PDFs to microsites.
Second, moving from a sales proposal creation and delivery process that pumps out static documents to one delivering impactful and content rich digital proposal microsites requires changes that need to be planned for, making for an excellent illustration of how to develop an effective business transformation plan.
Why is a business transformation plan necessary in this case?
Companies with dedicated sales teams may spend a good part of their workweek interacting with prospects and preparing and sending static documents such as PDFs and Powerpoints for prospective clients. It’s unrealistic to think that team members will be prepared to switch over to a new way of doing things without a proper transition plan in place.
Making the changeover, however, is certainly worthwhile. Relative to static documents, Zoomforth microsites have several noteworthy advantages. These include:
You can’t change a PDF once you’ve sent it. But a microsite can be updated continually.
Microsites can provide a far more immersive context experience than could be achieved by sending with a static document. How many printed documents allow for embedded video?
Fast iteration, at scale. Microsites can be easily cloned and edited. Hence, they’re great for small teams that need to bid on a large number and variety of projects.
Easy navigation. A big PDF is read end to end, but a microsite with well designed navigation can make it easy for recipients with different roles to jump to the parts of the sales proposal that are of most of interest to them.
Notice that while these are advantages, each point involves a different kind of work. For example, the rich content such as video enabled by microsites means that the production process must be adapted to source or create video assets.
As a result, a business transformation plan is necessary to keep track of and manage these various changes.
Make change easier
Whether the transformation is being undertaken to catch-up to competition or to get ahead, a formal plan will ensure the best chance that the transformation will be a successful and long lasting one.
As we’ve seen, microsite-based sales proposals confer significant advantages relative to static documents. However, the production process can be complex — making the transition to a new workflow isn’t usually as easy as just signing up for a software service.
To make the move towards microsite-based bidding as easy as possible, develop a proper business transformation plan. Start directing change deliberately today.
Creating an effective design brief for a digital sales proposal
Nov 20 2020
12 min read
Creating a strong brief is a key part of the design process. But what is a design brief, and how can you ensure that yours is good enough for your designers to deliver the best results possible?
In this guide, we set out what you need to know to create a strong design brief. By creating the best brief you can, you’ll empower your designers to deliver their best work. And great design means a more effective sales proposal, which can mean better sales figures.
Let’s get started.
What is a design brief?
Used by marketing agencies, freelance managers, and creative teams around the world, design briefs are a set of instructions to guide the creation of visual assets.
What counts as a visual asset? The possibilities range from videos to infographics and from sales presentations to audiobook covers. In this guide, we focus on design briefs for digital sales proposals.
Specifically, we focus on digital sales proposals in the form of secure microsites – our bread and butter at Zoomforth.
Writing a strong brief ensures that you get the best possible work out of your design team.
Because designers with only vague instructions to follow are unlikely to deliver on your expectations. By contrast, clear instructions can mean designers know exactly what you’re expecting, giving them a clear route to success.
Additionally, if you’re working with freelance designers, a written design brief gives them a single place to go for all the information they need relating to your project.
This is important because half-remembered phone calls, long email chains and a collection of WhatsApp messages tend to get lost in the mix. On the other hand, a single written set of instructions makes sure that designers can easily refer to the necessary information and stay faithful to your vision.
What’s the objective of a design brief?
In addition to specifying the deliverables, a design brief should cover the following areas:
The context of work to be completed
The purpose of the specific project
Whether you’re dealing with a freelance writer or an in-house graphic designer, it’s essential that you provide the overall context of the project that they’re working on.
To illustrate, let’s consider an example most people are more familiar with. A freelance writer needs to know the key points to cover in an article. But they’ll do better work if they understand the context of the article within the campaign they’re working on.
There are two main reasons for this.
Nobody likes feeling like a cog in the wheel. Open up to your graphic design team about exactly what you’re hoping to achieve with their design work. This context can help them do the best job possible.
Knowing the purpose of the campaign can result in differences in design considerations. If the microsite is being developed as part of a bid by a professional services firm to win business from a major local bank, that has clear design implications.
In this case, designers might be encouraged to include imagery that reassures, colors and fonts that suggest permanence and dependability, and an overall aesthetic in line with traditional corporate values.
The type of prospect being pursued might have an impact on design considerations. A proposal that is being sent to a single person could be designed for easy scrollability with almost all the information conveyed over one page.
By contrast, a sales proposal being pitched to an entire committee might need to facilitate easy navigation so that different stakeholders can quickly jump to the parts that are most likely to be of interest to them.
Trying to communicate the specific objectives of your sales proposal might prove a useful clarifying exercise. Some top level questions that can be useful in getting this clear in your own head include:
What action(s) do I want the reader to take after reading this digital sales proposal?
There’s no need to go overboard. A couple of lines about what this microsite is supposed to achieve can help the design team feel like valued members in an inclusive, collaborative team while boosting your chances of a successful bid.
Who’s the target audience?
In addition to knowing what the purpose of the microsite is, designers need to know who the intended target readership is.
We’ve discussed before how microsites can be used for account based marketing (ABM) workflows and how they can be developed iteratively to reflect the needs and interests of your prospects.
The beauty of a microsite-based sales proposal is that, unlike a static document, it can be updated continuously as the target audience evolves or more data becomes available.
One of the key fields in the design brief is knowing exactly who the target readership is. While demographic information such as the likely age of the buying committee may be helpful, their professional background, experience, and industry is likely to be more useful.
For instance, you could let your design team know that the sales proposal is being sent to a senior procurement committee at a major Fortune 500 enterprise. Each team member might have 10 years’ experience in the industry. Based on this information, a more corporate design could be optimal.
But why is this helpful to designers?
Why designers want to know your audience
Based on the information you supply, the design team could look at examples of other bids that have been sent in order to understand what look and feel this kind of target audience typically expects.
If the bid is being sent in response to an RFP, there might be formal requirements and these should be integrated into the design.
Or perhaps the proposal is being sent by a design firm bidding for a web design project to an IT firm. Again, in this case, the target’s industry (IT) and the expected reader could all influence the eventual design.
A good design team will put into consideration what kind of site design and layout are popular with readers in the IT industry. In turn, this could influence factors such as:
The site’s typography
Whether to focus on a primarily visual or textual layout
The UX elements of the site
What creative assets are already available?
It might be hard to believe, but many companies working with designers forget to take advantage of the existing creative assets that they already have ready-to-go in house.
Before you have your design team reinvent the wheel, don’t forget to pass on any resources that may assist them with the project. This could be things such as:
Access to a stock image library
Pre-existing illustrations, graphs, tables, or infographics
Other internal IP
If you’re graphic design savvy then you might already know the difference between raster and vector-based graphics. If you frequently work with design teams to prepare microsite sales proposals, then you might wish to develop an extensive design library filled with every permutation of your official imagery and any graphics that a designer might require.
Consider offering designers:
Raster and vector-based versions of key company IP such as your official logo
Black, white, and color versions of the same
A headshot library of your leadership team. Or your team in general.
What USPs are being pitched?
We talked previously about the players you might need in your proposal A-team. If a writer is part of the design team, you’ll want to make sure that he or she has a comprehensive brief separate from the design team’s.
Often, where the writer’s work ends, the graphic design team’s begin. For that reason, it makes sense to keep both appraised of the textual messaging objectives for this microsite project.
Copy should be laid out in a fashion that lends itself to highlighting the points that need to be highlighted. And these points are the core selling points which the sales proposal is designed to get across to its readership.
Key design principles for presenting text include:
Make the text containing the most important information more prominent
Use bold and italics where necessary to emphasize key words and phrases
Use textual design elements like pull quotes where appropriate to draw readers’ attention to things like testimonials and user quotes
Traditionally, web writers have been taught to include the most important information within the part of the site that first loads on readers’ screens (above the fold). While this isn’t an actual law, it still makes sense to try to lay out important information towards the top of the page.
What are the brand guidelines?
Many companies have developed branding guidelines which specify exactly how their brand and company should be communicated visually. These can be quite specific in their requirements.
Branding guidelines can set out:
What the official typography of the company is
What the official versions of the company logo are
The company’s color palette. This typically specifies precisely which shades and colors can be used for any official company communication, including marketing content and microsites
The amount of white space that must surround elements such as text, logos, and other images
What imagery cannot be included, such as representations of violent acts or political material
Additionally, many companies have editorial style guides which aim to standardize the company’s official “tone of voice” for written communication.
For companies, using a style guide helps ensure that every communication emanating from the company looks and sounds about the same to ensure a consistent brand experience.
For companies that are using microsites to pitch for business in an industry, or even to pitch the same company multiple times, brand standardization is a central requirement with important benefits.
Brand standardization is associated with perceptions of professionalism among target audiences. After all, if your company obviously has a clear idea of how it would like to be portrayed, and ensures consistency, it must have a clear vision and good internal organization.
Create templates using Zoomforth
One of the Zoomforth features which customers love is the ability to set up templates for rolling our microsites.
After saving a site as a template, users can quickly roll out iterations of the one microsite which has been hard baked with brand conformity in mind. This simplifies the process of ensuring that brand guidelines are adhered to every time.
Other design brief elements
To make sure that your creative design brief is as effective as possible, provide as much information as the design team might need without overwhelming them by providing too much. A concise brief is the aim.
Some key elements which might be needed to create effective microsites for digital sales proposals include:
Due date: Teams tend to work best when there is a hard deadline for when the work needs to be completed. Make sure your designers know what date the site needs to be sent to the sales prospect by. Depending on your internal workflow, you might want to leave a day or two before to allow for internal review.
Milestones: Building a microsite can be a complex project. Teams also tend to perform better in big projects when they’re broken down into small milestones. You might want to do the same in your brief, setting out dates by which certain aspects of the site design need to be completed by.
You should also consider sharing:
Inspiring examples: Sometimes the easiest way to help a design team get a feel for your taste and what you’re trying to achieve is to point to samples of work that you saw before and liked. These could be some of your own previous microsite builds or even competitor websites.
Of course, you’ll also want to provide the designers with the navigation structure, pages, and copy that you want included on each page. You can use wireframes to give your team a visual mockup of the kind of site you want to see designed.
If you’re not familiar with this concept, then Google ‘wireframing tools’. Free tools are available for every major operating system. Don’t forget to mention any UX rules that are particularly important to you. If you need a refresher on which ones we recommend, then check out this post. If avoiding empty grid columns is a top priority for you, then make sure to get that across in the brief.
Better briefs, better digital sales proposals
The amount of information that you might need to include in a design brief might seem overwhelming, but clarifying expectations from the outset is a great way to streamline the development process and minimize the amount of time that subsequently needs to be spent on revisions.
A good design brief provides a creative vision for what kind of microsite you think is most likely to win over your sales proposal. Provide the detail required for your designers to get the job done in the best possible manner. Then, iterate and repeat.
Setting up a team to manage your content experience workflow
Nov 13 2020
14 min read
There are many reasons to roll out a content experience platform. These include pitching to sales leads, improving your onboarding process for new talent, or simply modernizing your communications by taking a step up from PDFs.
In this mini-guide, we’ll be looking at how to set up your team from an administrative standpoint for content creation success. You’re going to need the right people doing the right things. Where can they be found? What players are essential on the team? And how can they be managed, particularly now when so many teams are fully distributed?
For the answers to all these important questions and more, keep reading. You’ll have your content experience workflow production team up and running before you can say ‘microsite’!
Why you need to think about your microsite team
Regardless of your specific motives for embracing a microsite-based environment, you’ll need multiple stakeholders within your team to come together in order to make the project a success.
That applies to the ongoing production of content as much as it does to the initial roll out of the platform.
Because unlike putting together a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document, microsites are living, breathing creatures which can be updated whenever target messaging changes or content requires editing. Put simply, they can be considered live documents.
For example, what if there’s a new member of your company’s leadership team and the video introduction to their predecessor needs to be replaced on the ‘About Us’ section of your microsite? A site that’s still in use often requires ongoing work to keep up to date.
Additionally, to be as impactful as possible, content-rich microsites require input from a range of experienced professionals. These may include:
UX designersDigital marketers
Filmmakers and editors
You might have access to the particular skill sets required for your content plan within your own organization or you might need to supplement your team members with freelancers or potentially new hires, depending upon your own business needs.
Either way, some degree of team-building and project management will be required to keep your microsite creation and maintenance engine running at full steam.
Your Content Experience A-Team
Let’s take a more detailed look at the different team members that you might need in order to pull together a pixel-perfect and impactful microsite.
While there are many potential types of professionals who may be useful in preparing a site filled with different types of media, as we saw above, there are certain key roles that all but the most basic microsites will need filled.
Naturally, all these team members should be experienced and skilled in what they do. Even if you have an extremely talented team of your own, if you don’t have the every skill set you need to draw on in-house then there’s no shame in supplementing existing staff with freelance resources. We’ll cover how and when to approach freelancers later on.
But first, here’s a description of the roles that you’ll need filled for the best chance of making your microsite project a success:
Surprise, surprise! Your microsite is going to need plenty of well written content.
The good news is that content marketing is a booming industry. Some analysts project an annual growth rate of more than 18% year on year for at least the first part of the coming decade. And plenty of writers have emerged to fill this demand.
As a result, you should have an easy time finding an experienced wordsmith to make sure that your microsite’s copy dazzles prospects from the moment they load the homepage.
The not-so-good news is that not all content writers are created equal. Your microsite might require a wide variety of different types of content ranging from, of course, on-page sales copy through to more in depth sections of text that explore important areas in more detail.
This is the classic distinction between copywriters – who focus on short, punchy sales messages with clear and immediate calls to action – and content creators. The latter are skilled in writing compelling content that seeks to engage and educate, offering your audience insight into your expertise and value up front.
Some writers offer both copywriting and content writing services, but not all do both.
Many organizations retain the services of a dedicated writer on their payroll — or at least a team member who performs a lot of writing as part of their day-to-day responsibilities.
Do your marketing or communications teams have somebody that fits the bill? If so, see if they could bring their penmanship skills to the microsite-writing effort.
To summarise, writers are indispensable to your content creation project. They’ll be the ones drafting the copy that boosts customer engagement and drives conversions.
However, before assigning a staff member or hiring a freelancer, make sure that they’re clear on what your expectations are and are comfortable with writing the text as well as the end goal of the content.
While your writer might be able to give Shakespeare a run for his money, it’s unlikely that the writing will be as impactful as possible if it comes packaged in woeful design. Don’t make this rookie mistake – complement your terrific copy with beautiful and effective design for the best chance of landing clients and achieving your specific business goals.
Microsites are visual experiences for those who engage with them. And people don’t read online – they skim. The graphics that accompany the words on the page are vital, as is the overall layout.
We recommend working with a graphic designer and asking them to take a look at our best practice recommendations in order to build the best possible microsite from a design perspective.
Specifically, designers should:
Ensure that the microsite has a clear structure and is easy to navigate.
Design with user experience guidelines in mind. Starting points include following UX best practices such as designing sites with a clear visual hierarchy, formatting text for scanning rather than reading, and writing copy with your site’s typical audience in mind.
Make use of penty of whitespace to avoid giving the site a cluttered appearance
However, for best results it’s important to have your content writer and designer keep in close communication. Valuable opportunities to improve project flow and deliverables include:
Have writers and designers discuss what each page could look like together at the outset of the project. This will avoid empty spaces with no suitable copy to fill it, or an overly text-heavy page that becomes too long with the addition of other creative assets, like videos and images.
Agree a clear project plan, with responsibilities and dependencies at least outlined, with each stakeholders contribution at each stage clearly understood.
Make sure both parties have the same understanding of the aim of the project, particularly who the target audience is and why the business wants to communicate with them.
Technical Assistant (No Technical Wizards Required)
One of the many upsides of building a site on a software as a service (SaaS) content experience platform and microsite builder like Zoomforth is that so many of the technical aspects of the project are handled by the vendor.
The website is hosted on world-class infrastructure, so there’s no need to burden your own web servers. And with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing, designing the site is as easy as dragging and dropping content into templates.
As a result, you won’t need a technical wizard to make your microsite project a success. On the other hand, you still might need a technical assistant in order to get your microsite ready for launch, depending on how busy your existing team will be during the project.
Beyond populating templates with content, your tech assistant could perform various tasks to enhance your microsite, including:
In addition, depending on what you intend on adding to your microsite, you might also wish to retain the services of:
A video editor: If you’re planning on embedding videos into your microsite, you’ll need to get this content produced. Video production and editing companies abound if you don’t have the resources to get this done properly in-house. Alternatively, there are sites where you can purchase licenses for existing footage.
An SEO/digital marketing consultant: If you’re choosing to make your microsite publicly accessible (to learn about visitor access, see this resource), then you may want to give some thought to search engine optimization (SEO). After all, what’s the point of filling your site with great content if nobody’s able to find it?
An SEO professional can both help you identify which keywords you need to target to stand out from your competition (keyword research) and advise upon the best way to use these to rank higher in search engine result pages.
Building Your Team
Part of the beauty of using a microsite platform such as Zoomforth is that you don’t need a lot of resources to get the site up and running.
The platform is hosted, designing is a drag and drop process, and one graphic designer and content writer could be enough to make sure that you’re able to assemble multiple eye-catching microsites quickly and at scale to impress your visitors.
But what if you don’t have people with the right skills available to work with already?
Fortunately, today’s freelance marketplace is a vibrant one and there is an abundant supply of all of the professionals listed in this guide.
But how to find them, you might be wondering?
Here are some options:
Word of mouth: Hiring a stranger from the internet might seem like too much of a gamble for some business owners without the opportunity to meet in person. Ask your contacts for recommendations. Perhaps they have worked with just the graphic designer to make your microsite as visually attractive as theirs.
Marketplaces: Upwork.com, among others, is chock-full of freelancers. Just as if you were hiring for an in-house position, you post a job and have applicants come to you. Content writers, graphic designs, and even CSS designers can all be found on Upwork. And quickly!
Job posts: You can look for freelancers just as you would try to fill an in-house role at your company. Try posting the vacancy on a job board in order to attract freelancers.
How To Manage Them All? (Project Management Systems)
Great job! You’ve assembled your microsite-building A-team, possibly consisting of a wordsmith whizz, a graphic design genius, and a digital marketing maven.
But how best to organize their work? Especially if they’re not all sharing an office? As a fully remote team, we have some experience with this at Zoomforth.
Chances are, with the global pandemic, your company has already embraced the remote work revolution. If so, you likely have some system in place already to ensure proper coordination among team members.
If not, you’ll need to work out some way to keep everybody on track with the project. And that calls for a project management tool.
Fortunately, the global shift towards remote work and the gig economy has created a concurrent boom in the number of project management tools on the market.
Some major players include:
Asana (which has a powerful free tier)
Just to be clear: there’s no strict need to sign up for a project management tool. It simply makes it easier to manage your team’s workflow, the subject of the next section.
Workflows For Building Microsites and Defining the Process
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has put together a great resource about how to define a workflow for content production. Once you’re finished with this article, consider checking it out.
If you’re keeping track of multiple outsourced stakeholders, then defining a process will make it easy to segment the stages of your workflow and make sure that whether you’re dealing with a graphic designer or a content writer, everybody is following the same guidelines.
An important first step is to define periodic stages through which your content production process needs to flow.
For instance, for the production of written material to enrich your microsite would move through the following stages:
Text under review
For a UX and web designer working on improving the content experience the process could be amended to suit the specific needs of this type of work:
Approval of staging build
Push to production
Down the line, you might wish to add more bells and whistles to your project management tracking system.
For instance, Gantt charts make it very easy to see dependencies between players on your team (your content writer might not be able to finish his blog post until the graphic designer has all the images prepared, as he needs to write the image titles, captions, and alt text).
Kanban boards, in which tasks are dragged between columns, also work perfectly with the Agile approach to project management and development. If you’re going down this road, then consider learning more about the SCRUM framework and pencilling in periodic meetings, even if they have to be conducted over Zoom or another conferencing platform.
Management And Goal Setting
If your team is fully or partially distributed, there are also some measures you can take to help ensure that the team stays motivated, that expectations remain in alignment throughout, and that targets are met throughout the microsite building and optimization process.
Communication systems: If your content experience team is going to be remote, then you’ll want to make sure that they have secure systems in place with which to communicate with one another. A messaging platform such as Slack can be a great tool for teams that want to move away from email for internal communications and adopt a more dynamic approach.
Goal setting: It’s easy for remote teams to drift apart, particularly when freelancers are typically working on projects for several clients at a time. One way to keep everybody feeling a sense of common purpose is to encourage group goal setting. SMART goal setting provides a robust framework for setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Assemble Your Winning Team
Microsite content experiences have turned the traditional PowerPoint and PDF-heavy way of doing business on its head.
Whether you’re trying to ramp up and modernize your recruitment efforts or are in the trenches, sending in responses to RFPs on multimillion dollar tenders, microsite design calls for more than just a few words and some generic stock images.
To make the most of the potential offered by modern content experience platforms, you need to develop a team capable of working together quickly and efficiently to roll out unique and custom content at scale.
In this mini-guide, we’ve covered who the main players that you need on your team are, where to find them, and offered a high-level overview of how to get them working together effectively.
The results of delivering rich and impactful content experiences can be remarkable.
Compared to static documents, content experiences offer a highly intuitive, immersive, and personal experience. They can be updated continuously or as requirements evolve. Access can be configured on a granular basis and restricted by a simple password or by an authenticated domain. The options are manifold. The benefits are plenty. Get your A-team in place today.