The B2B Product Schema for Smarter Digital Marketing
When it comes to content management, organizing a B2B product catalog is no walk in the park. Long-term marketing success depends on your website's ability to accommodate changes in strategy, explore UX improvements, and work iteratively in new directions. However, that process rarely goes as planned:
- Internal stakeholders often have competing priorities
- Business requirements change frequently, for all sorts of political and bottom-line reasons
- Key leadership is hired and fired, with new leaders given mandates for change
- Unforeseeable developments are sure to happen, but can't be anticipated
With so many unknowns to navigate, it's imperative that each product in your digital catalog remains as marketable, relatable, and actionable as possible. A carefully considered B2B product schema supports this cause, while an overly simplistic or poorly opinionated one will forever be a headache.
The framework outlined here breaks B2B products and related marketing strategies into six categories.Together these form a malleable collection of concepts that offer a strong starting point for team discussions, strategic planning, and technical organization.
A solution is a collection of your products and services designed to solve a customer problem. This is commonly a simple grouping, with additional content or functionality attached to the Solution object. Given the highly custom nature of B2B selling and the prevalence of solution-based sales strategies, it's one of the most important concepts in B2B marketing – involving long sales cycles, high-touch experiences, and multiple stakeholders.
This is a feature product, usually customizable, or a line of similar products marketed as a whole. Niche companies are often built around a single flagship product, while a mid-sized enterprise may have as many as a dozen. Often expensive, the purchasing process is still complicated, but more frequently initiated by the customer. Brand building, product evangelism, display advertising, and customer reviews are all pivotal components in flagship product marketing.
For lack of a good label, this is a default product. It may be an off-the-shelf item, a model within a product line, or other non-customizable good. Purchases are typically made by individuals (not groups) making the sales cycle shorter, or even compulsive, due to lower cost and less commitment. As non-customizable products, specifications matter more in marketing – category groups, faceted navigation, filtering, and technical relatability are key UX imperatives. By the same token, search engine optimization (SEO) offers an unparalleled opportunity at this level in its ability to cast an intricate net of discoverability.
This concept includes accessories, add-ons, or extensions – any item designed to work in conjunction with a parent product. As such, they are rarely purchased alone, but offer optionality that makes standard products more attractive. As properties go, accessories typically follow the same format as standard products but require extra context. They might be hidden from top-level product listings, presented as part of a configurable whole, or incorporated as upsell options during checkout. How these can appeal to individual desires (e.g. personal status, time-savings, convenience) is also something to consider.
Consumables include any part or product that is continuously used up during the operation of its parent product. They live alongside Support Products in the broader schema, but are differentiated by regularity and need. Like paper coffee filters, they are required for operation and consumed at a regular pace. A "set it and forget it" approach to sales is ideal (e.g. intelligent restocking, subscription service plans, fixed budget allocations), but routine check-ins by way of sales routes or email marketing automation is also common.
Support Products is a broad category that encompasses replacement parts, productized services, or subscriptions needed to maintain a product or system. Examples include extended warranties, annual calibration services, routine cleaning, or other scheduled maintenance. Customer care is the over-arching principle of this category and "peace of mind" is what customers are actually buying. Beyond the initial customer education and upselling opportunities, discoverability is key (i.e. site search, SEO) for both replacement parts and service solutions – backstopped by responsive, high-quality customer care.