Product datasheets are a checklist item in the technology industry; your buyers expect you to have them (or, at the very least, your sales team does).
But does anyone really read them? And, more importantly, how can we make them more engaging and not just a collection of dry words?
Technology buyers WILL read a datasheet if it’s written well and laid out in an easy-to-read format. The key is to understand that most buyers will initially scan the datasheet to pick up the main points. If they find it useful or interesting, they’ll then dive into the remaining content.
If your datasheet passes the all-important skimming test, it’s more likely that buyers will read it in detail. So start with clear and concise copy that quickly delivers the key points and then utilize a format that helps the reader focus on what matters to them.
Here are 10 tips to help you write a datasheet that buyers actually read.
1. Relentlessly Focus on the Essential Information
Most datasheets are short. When you account for your template layout, you probably have only a few hundred words to describe your product. Spend some serious time thinking about the three or four points your audience wants to know (there isn’t room for more, even if your product team is clamoring to include every feature in the last release.)
Examples of basic questions to answer in your datasheet include:
- How does your product help your buyer solve their problems? (Keep this to three to four points.)
- What does it do? (It’s amazing how often this is forgotten. See #2 below.)
- What makes it unique? (Remember, this should be from your buyer’s perspective. What would they find unique about it compared to competing solutions?)
- How does it work from a technical perspective? (Keep this succinct and just hit the highlights.)
The key is to keep each topic relatively concise while considering your audience and what they want to know about your solution. For example, if the datasheet is for business managers, you probably don’t need to elaborate on how the product works technically. On the other hand, that information may be critical if it’s for network engineers.
2. Include a Product Definition on the First Page.
Most technology datasheets rarely include a product definition, but it orients your reader to your product and provides context for the rest of the datasheet. Include a brief (two sentences or less) product definition at the top of the first page, including how it solves your audience’s high-level problem.
3. Summarize product benefits upfront.
Give readers reasons to continue reading by including a brief benefits list on the first page. You can utilize a bulleted list in a dedicated left- or right-hand column so it’s easy to scan. Keep the text short but compelling.
4. Compose Headlines and Sub-Heads to Summarize Your Main Points
Readers will scan these first, so make them succinct and be sure they encapsulate your main content points. A good test is to read only the headlines and sub-heads of your rough draft—do they summarize your main points? If the reader only reads them and nothing else, would they be convinced they should read the datasheet?
5. Use Bullet Points and Bold Key Phrases
Bullet points break up your text so it’s easy to read and quick to scan. Keep the text short and start each bullet point phrase with an action-oriented verb. And here’s a copywriting trick rarely used in technology datasheets: Bold key phrases of your main benefits—especially those listed in bullet points. Skimmers and scanners will read these even if they don’t read anything else.
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6. Consider Writing Headers and Sub-Heads as Questions
FAQs, or frequently-asked-question documents, are popular with technology buyers. It’s easy to see why—they’re organized in a Q&A format, making them quick to scan. You can utilize this same principle by writing your headings and sub-heads in the form of questions and answering them in the paragraph immediately following the header.
Examples of good headers formatted as questions include:
- How Does Product X Compare to Other Big Data Solutions?
- How Does Product X Work?
- Why is Product X the Best Choice for Managing My Cloud Data?
- How Do I Learn More About Product X?
7. Include a Strong Quote in a Call-Out Box
Validation of your solution by an analyst, customer, or third party is always good. Include a positive but brief quote from one of these sources—preferably early in the datasheet. Rather than inserting the quote in the datasheet’s main body of text, where it can get lost, include it in a call-out box in the margin. As your audience skims and scans the datasheet, it will be one of the elements they’ll read first.
8. Write in the Second Person
Many technology companies write their datasheets in the third person (“he,” “she”), which sounds formal and somewhat stilted. Your datasheet will be more engaging and conversational if it’s written in the second person (“you”).
This might seem like a grammatical nitpick – after all, what’s the big deal if you use “IT managers can cut cloud data costs” versus “you can reduce your cloud data costs”? The reason for doing this goes far beyond grammar.
We should always approach marketing with the idea that we want to eliminate as many mental steps for our audience as possible. Make it easy for your readers to self-identify with the problems and solutions you’re presenting by using “you” from the get-go.
9. Include Use Cases (Especially If Your Solution is Unfamiliar)
Technology companies are great at explaining how their solution does something, but they forget to add when a prospect would use it. Giving your solution context, or examples/use cases of how it can be used, is critical.
For instance, let’s say your solution finds nuggets of information from big data storage that would otherwise never be identified. Suppose you don’t give examples of how your solution can help the prospect, such as identifying data breaches before they happen or pinpointing slow web services that could negatively affect customer orders. In that case, they’ll be left scratching their heads at how you can help them.
You don’t need to go into great detail in describing the use cases (leave that for case studies or an Ebook), but you do need to give examples of where your product adds value.
10. Don’t Waste Your Call-to-Action by Saying, “Call Us” or “Visit Our Website”
The call-to-action (CTA) is one of the most critical parts of your datasheet because you’re directing readers to the next step you want them to take.
Most calls-to-action are usually something like “For more information, visit our website.”
Don’t waste your call to action in this way. Put basic company contact information elsewhere in the data sheet, such as in the footer, rather than using your valuable CTA.
Use the CTA to direct readers to another source of helpful information. Consider where they are in the sales cycle—if they would logically want information about your product’s architecture, include a link to a technical white paper on that subject. Or have a link to a customer testimonial video.
The point is don’t waste the all-important CTA—keep the conversation going by highlighting other helpful resources. For example, here’s a product datasheet that uses most of these principles.
Ready to level up your product marketing game and create datasheets that actually get read?
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