Thursday, March 10, 2011

The changing role of data sheets

Product Data Sheets should provide factual product information, stripped of the excesses or over enthusiastic claims that sales brochures and advertising use to generate interest, excitement and aspirations to want the product. Their role tends to come into play once the specifier, customer or installer is already pre-disposed to recommend, buy or install the product. But if the technical and practical information contained fails to match the expectation raised by the promotional information that led to considering the product in the first place, then they can just as easily kill the sale.

For many companies Product Data Sheets now only exist as PDFs that visitors download from the company web site. So increasingly consumers of this information may have completely by-passed the type of material that promotes the product benefits, differentiates it from competitive offers and instead cuts straight to the details. In short the downloaded PDF may become a 'stand alone' item that together with the reputation of the company is instrumental in influencing the purchase decision.

Rather than lump all the Data Sheets together in a "Download Zone' it is helpful to provide some guidance to web site visitors to narrow the options down to a short list of products that will meet their specific needs. At one time this was done by using indexed ring-back folders for the company suite of data sheets, so users could use the filing tags to get to the appropriate section. Within this would be a range of data sheets for products suitable for that application or need, arranged in some logical order - say from a simple entry level product right through a range of product options to the top of the range, total capability version.

It is also helpful to provide a consistency in layout and scope of content to make it easy for users to make comparisons and know where to look for particular pieces of data between data sheets.

Finally, remember to brand the data sheet so that once downloaded from the web site viewers still know which company is actually marketing the product and of course ensure that it includes all the necessary contact information so that the sale can actually be closed.

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