Back in school, right before a big test, you might have seen your classmates glance quickly at a piece of paper in their hands and then shove it into their knapsacks. You might have done the same thing yourself: taking one last important look at the key facts or figures that would help you remember what you needed to know when it came time to answer tough questions.
You might have called these “crib sheets,” or even “cheat sheets.” In the sales and marketing world, there’s a similar thinking behind datasheets.
Technology firms have been using datasheets for a long time, and with good reason. Just like a student taking a test, making a major investment in software or hardware can involve high stakes, and significant consequences for choosing the wrong answer to a problem.
A datasheet sits somewhere in between the more basic kind of content about a product -- like a brochure that merely advertises or generates awareness through high-level copy and images -- and a dense, technical white paper or comprehensive eBook that guides buyers into making the best use of their product purchase. When they’re done right, datasheets are the best possible summary of what a product can do and provide just enough information to make a final buying decision. If you work in the technology space and datasheets aren’t already part of your arsenal, they should be.
That said, the concept of a datasheet can work in other kinds of industries besides technology. Whether you’re selling items for buyers in health care, engineering, financial services or another vertical market, a datasheet can represent a late-stage asset that can be woven into a campaign or strategy where you’re already using Marketing Cloud.
If you’ve never read a datasheet or aren’t sure what it would look like, however, this is how to begin the content creation process:
Imagine you’re the buyer. Scratch that: you’re one of several people on a buying team -- and maybe not the final decision-maker. You’ve already learned about a product that could potentially address a business pain point. You might even have met with a salesperson to get more details and pricing. Now it’s time to move the decision through the other stakeholders who need to weigh in.
The problem is, not everyone on a buying team is going to have time to do the same level of research. They might not be available to meet as a group, or at least not very often. Also, the length of the purchasing process may be such that details get forgotten, but need to be called up when a more senior-ranking member of the team asks questions.
A datasheet (or whatever you want to call it) should start with this kind of scenario in mind. If you were composing an email or memo about the purchase decision, what would you need to include?
Datasheets are often something that can be downloaded directly from a vendor’s web site, or sent directly as a PDF. That means it might never be printed out in hard-copy format.
Before you decide your datasheet is finished, however, imagine it’s not only been printed out but tacked up on a bulletin board in your customer’s cubicle. As the purchasing process goes along, one of your buying team members might get emails, calls or co-workers stopping by to check on details about the product or ask follow-up questions.
Based on how you’ve written and laid out the datasheet, how easy would it be to simply glance up at the bulletin board and scan through it to find the information they needed? If the datasheet is two pages -- and it probably shouldn’t be longer than that -- what kind of information would be on the back? When would they need to look at that side? If it’s often, maybe the details in question need to move up to page one.
The hardest part about creating a datasheet will be determining what to leave out. Here’s a rule of thumb: if the data point doesn’t help move the decision-making process along, it shouldn’t be in there. In other words, it should be data that answers a common question, suggests a better future for the customer, or both.
The best datasheets are actually much better than a crib sheet or cheat sheet. Rather than offer a short-cut of some kind, datasheets help make buyers feel like they’ve done all their homework -- which ultimately leads to a more confident purchasing decision.