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How to write a great product datasheet (tips and an example)

How to Write a Datasheet

Category:  Demand Generation  Product Marketing  Lead Generation  B2B Sales  Content Marketing  

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Design Your Product Datasheet for Skimming and Scanning

Product datasheets are one of those checklist items in the technology industry; your buyers expect you to have them (or, at the very least, your sales team does.) But the nagging questions are: Does anyone really read them?  And, more importantly, what can we do to make them more readable?

In my opinion, technology buyers WILL read a datasheet if it’s written and laid out well. The key is understanding the majority of buyers will first scan it to pick up the main points, and, if they deem it useful or interesting, they’ll skim the other content. If it passes the skimming and scanning test, some buyers will read the datasheet in detail. So, it’s important to write good copy that gets to the point quickly and to use a very readable layout.

Here are some tips on creating a datasheet for easy skimming and scanning:

Focus on the most essential information.  Most datasheets are short – usually only the front and back side of one page. By the time you account for your template layout, you probably have only a few hundred words to describe your product.

Spend time thinking about the 3-4 most important points your audience wants to know. Examples could be:

  • How does your product work from a technical perspective?
  • How is it different from your competitors?
  • What does your product do?
  • How does it benefit your buyer?
  • Who else is using it?

Include a product definition on the first page. I rarely see this on most high tech datasheets, and I think it’s crucial. Include a brief (2 sentences or less) product definition right at the top of the first page. It orients your reader to your product and provides context for the rest of the datasheet.

Summarize product benefits upfront. Give readers reasons why they should continue reading by including a brief benefit list on the datasheet’s first page. I often do this in a bulleted list in a dedicated left or right-hand column so it’s easy to scan. Keep the text very brief but compelling.

Compose headlines and sub-heads that iterate 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 read them and nothing else, would they get your message?

Bold key phrases. Here’s a copywriting trick that’s rarely used in technology datasheets: bold entire phrases of your main benefits. Skimmers and scanners will read these even if they don’t read anything else.

For example:

“Product X’s migration technology supports cost effective consolidation of remote offices with minimal service disruption. “

“Product Y streamlines the migration process by minimizing configuration differences.”

Use bullet points. Bullet points break up your text so it’s easy to read and quick to scan. Keep bullet text short and start each bullet point phrase with an action-oriented verb, if appropriate.

Write 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 which makes them quick to scan. You can utilize this same principle by writing your headings and sub-heads in the form of a question and answering it in the paragraph immediately following the header.

Examples of good headers formatted as questions include:

  • How does Product X compare to other client management solutions?
  • How does Product X work?
  • Why is Product X the best choice for managing virtual desktops?
  • How do I learn more about Product X?

Include a strong quote.  Validation of your product by an analyst, customer, or third-party is always a good thing. Include a positive, but brief, quote from one of these sources – preferably on the first page.

Use the call-to-action to point readers to other resources.  The standard call-to-action is usually something like “For more information about Product X, visit our website.”

Take it a step further by pointing out a specific, compelling resource that entices the reader to visit your website or blog, such as a white paper or a customer testimonial video. Include the URL, a brief description of the resource, and an icon, such as a thumbnail of the white paper’s cover page or a video icon. 

As an example, here’s a product datasheet that uses most of these principles.

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