How to plan and optimize your corporate and website structure
Many companies do not know how they are actually structured. This is especially true for large companies. And if companies don't understand their own structure, how are customers supposed to find their way around within the website structure? Corporations are constantly growing organically and new divisions are "glued" to the structure. After that, the corporate structure looks like the house of the Weasley family from Harry Potter. The "Fox Building" looks as if it were an old stable that has been expanded with additional rooms in every nook and cranny. The building is so crooked and colorfully thrown together that it looks as if it could only be held together by magic.
Similarly, many companies are entering new areas and industries, acquiring other companies or growing organically in other ways.
Severin Bischof and Thomas Rudolph from the University of St. Gallen examined the increase in organizational complexity in companies in 2019. They identified an "unclear organizational structure" as the second most important driver of complexity in companies. In many cases, employees do not understand their own company, the way different business units work together is not defined, and responsibilities are not conclusively defined.
New areas are not or only insufficiently integrated into existing structures, resulting in a confused, jumbled construction of corporate building blocks. Internally, this complexity is a problem that companies have to deal with. However, the external impact is at least as important.
Customers are the most important external group that B2B companies have to address. In addition to potential customers who have not yet completed a transaction, existing customers must also be targeted.
Therefore, the understanding of the own company structure and the solution portfolio is the basis of the Content Strategy. This orientation is then used to address the interest groups.
But how can a company that no longer understands its own structure provide customers with clear information?
First of all, it must be made clear that the following explanations naturally also apply to well-organized and well-planned companies. In this case, the implementation is much easier.
1. Clear separation of the offer based on available technologies and the knowledge of the employees
A company's offering is made up of the technologies it offers and the associated internal knowledge.
Technologies include all developed systems and ideas that are implemented in the company. This can be used, for example, to register patents and create new products. In this way, the technologies form the starting point for all products that the company creates and sells.
Knowledge comprises the entire internal know-how of the employees. It forms the basis of knowledge communication and can be disseminated in the form of white papers, blog posts or lectures. In addition, great internal competence is also demonstrated via knowledge transfer through support and customer service.
In B2B, many companies focus on communicating their products. Marketing aims to market the product and make customers aware of it. The associated services such as support, FAQ and consulting are often not used as an equivalent sales argument.
Therefore, it must be identified which services the company has to offer in the area of knowledge. These services are then separated from the technologies area and developed further.
2. Merging products and services into solutions
Companies develop products from internal technologies. Thus, a technology based on a patent can be used for numerous products and product variations.
Once the product portfolio and the associated services have been clearly defined, they must be sensibly combined to create holistic solutions. This means that products are never sold on their own, but always in combination with supporting measures. These include, for example, comprehensive advice on product identification or after-sales services such as support.
3. Differentiation of solutions according to industries, specialist areas and applications
The solutions sold by companies can be differentiated according to different categories.
Some manufacturers differentiate by industry and offer their solutions for the automotive sector, the consumer goods industry and the healthcare industry, for example.
Example: SAP offers software solutions for numerous industries. Depending on the requirements and needs of the specific industry, the scope of the software is adapted accordingly.
In other cases, differentiation is made according to specialist areas. Here, for example, a solution is offered within the automotive sector for different specialist areas of this industry. Differentiation is made here, for example, between manufacturers, suppliers and workshops.
Example: A software for fault detection of cars and other engine driven vehicles is offered for the manufacturer who wants to check his cars after completion. In addition, the software is optimized for workshops, where fault analysis is the basis of a car repair.
Differentiation by application is also possible. Thus, a project management software can be used for the application area "planning" as well as for the application "success measurement".
Example: Dassault Systémes offers solutions in the field of 3D modeling. In addition to the planning of projects, this also includes the implementation and subsequent evaluation of the success. For example, through 3D simulated crash texts.
Representation of the company structure in the content strategy and the website structure
At first glance, the structural setup of your company doesn't seem particularly relevant to customers. But what if prospective customers want to find out about you and your portfolio of services? Then you need to understand, at least in essence, how your solutions are made up.
The first point of contact for obtaining information about your offer is your website structure. In order to find your way within the company, product and website structure, the main navigation is of central importance. Therefore, it should be clear and concise. It is the basis of the content strategy on the website.
If possible, limit your website structure to the following items. They form the basis of a clear menu and should not be drowned by too many other lists in the mass.
In the following, the menu structure of the software company Dassault Systèmes will be used as an example.
The first menu item of the website structure should be about your solutions.
What solutions do you offer?
For whom do you offer these solutions?
You must decide here which of the differentiation options described above is most important to you. For example, you can name this menu item "Industries" and list all industries for which your services are suitable. This point is particularly important for the website structure, as prospects and customers will immediately feel addressed when they find their own industry in the list.
If the classification of your solutions according to industries is not sufficient for you, you can also combine several differentiations under the menu item "Solutions". In this way, you can also differentiate according to applications, for example. This menu item could be called "Application areas" and include sub-items such as (in the example of vehicle construction) "3D modeling", "Crash test simulation" and "Success measurement".
Dassault Systèmes differentiates by industry. The menu item is in second place.
The second menu item shows your experienceen.
In addition to competence, you also want to communicate trust. References and case studies in which your solutions have been used successfully are particularly well suited for this. Show them what you can do. In this way, you stimulate the imagination of your prospects and show what is possible with your products.
In the Dassault Systèmes website structure, customer testimonials are very hidden (bottom right). If you want to view references, you have to search for them very specifically. This point should definitely be improved here.
The third menu item of the website structure lists the products
If you have different products in the portfolio, they should be listed here. If the number becomes too large, the products can be divided into two navigation points.
Dassault Systèmes offers numerous products in the field of 3D modeling. These are presented clearly and concisely in the menu.
The fourth menu item contains Services and Support
The most important sub-item of the services is usually the support. Here, customers can contact us directly and ask questions.
The services also include training offers, communities and a FAQ section.
The services should be presented concisely in the menu, as they are a central component of the solutions sold. Anyone who buys one of your solutions automatically buys your customer support and additional services as well. Therefore, customers should be fully informed about all additional services.
On the Dassault Systèmes website, the "Support" menu item is very extensively elaborated.
The fifth point informs about your company
Who are you?
What is your story?
Customers want to know something about you before they buy. About your philosophy, your origin or your way of working. You can put all that in this menu item. There you can tell an authentic story about your company and go into details that have no relevance in the context of your solutions.
Other menu items like contact, blog and login
The menu items already listed should determine the navigation and be the focus. However, other items may also need to be placed concisely. These often include the contact button and, in some cases, an individual login area. Whether you style these individually or place them as additional menu items depends on the relevance of these areas.
Dassault Systèmes uses an icon for the login area. The contact button could also be displayed in this way. Overall, the company's menu is strongly reduced to the essentials.
Conclusion: Your way to a clear company and website structure
With the guideline for sorting the components of your company, you are now able to organize your communication clearly as well. You can decompartmentalize complexity and significantly improve collaboration and communication within the company.
In addition to suitable content and a well thought-out SEO Strategy clear navigation is the most important factor for a customer-oriented website.