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Corporate sites not the best for post-click marketing

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In the beginning, your company created a Web site. And it was good.

But then it grew. And grew. And grew. Until it encompassed the heavens and the earth in content.

It became Encyclopedia Corporatica—a massive tome that includes press releases from five years ago. An impressive body of work but, as a marketing vehicle, it sags under its own weight.

In the lightning-paced world of online marketing, your Web site actually became less nimble. Now before you can run with a daring new idea, you have to fit it into your existing information architecture, look-and-feel and IT features set. While those constraints are necessary for a corporate site, they severely restrict more tactical Web marketing.

You can break out of those constraints by creating independent Web marketing paths—small sequences of pages that make a focused pitch—to target key product and field marketing opportunities.

Such paths are often an ideal next step for respondents to online advertising and e-mail marketing. As "landing experiences," they're more than a landing page but less than a full-scale Web site.

A Web marketing path starts with a landing page but, instead of cramming an entire pitch and offer into one screen, a good path uses that first page for segmentation. It presents respondents with two or three choices of what to click next—a branch in the path—to identify what's most relevant to them. The second page of the path then delivers on that promise.

The right balance is to have a path that's deep enough to be valuable yet small enough to digest. Paths don't replace your Web site; they preface and supplement it. Paths certainly can—and should—direct visitors to your main Web site, but after you've made your pitch, to deep-link into highly relevant content.

After all, your corporate site is chockfull of distractions, where people can wander off to read about where your CEO went to school. That exploration is wonderful at a certain point in the marketing cycle, but it saps momentum early on.

An advantage of paths is that they're easy to produce, often at a fraction of the overhead required for corporate site changes. Becaise the marginal cost of creating paths is relatively low, you aren't constrained by the one-size-fits-all approach of a big Web site. You can pair different ad campaigns with their own landing experiences, increasing "message match" between them. You can also run more tests, experimenting with more ideas.

Paths should absolutely uphold your brand. But your brand is bigger than your corporate site. Given the weight of Encyclopedia Corporatica, your brand is certainly much bigger.

Scott Brinker is president-CTO of ion interactive, Boca Raton, Fla. He can be reached at sbrinker@ioninteractive.com.

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