Data sheets: what are they for?

Having accepted that a data sheet means different things to different people, I’d like to suggest some common ground. We’d probably all agree that the data sheet sits in the product literature hierarchy between a catalogue or a range brochure, and installation and operational documentation. For most companies, its content probably depends on whether or not there’s a separate sales brochure for the product.

But as I mentioned last week, nowadays it would be a mistake to completely omit the benefits and other reasons to buy, even if there is a separate piece of literature for that purpose. The web means that prospects may stumble across literature in a different order to the one which you’d planned. It would be a shame if their first (and perhaps only) interaction with your product was reading a data sheet which didn’t get across the product’s benefits. They might miss something crucial and not take things any further, without you ever knowing.

Of course, if you have a double-sided A4 sales sheet, and a double-sided A4 data sheet, it could make sense to combine them into a single 4-page document. This can be a very neat approach. One company I know has separate printed sales documents and data sheets, but combines each set into a single PDF document available through the website. That may be worth a thought.

So, to conclude, I would say that an ideal data sheet would work in conjunction with a sales leaflet or brochure, but should not be mutually exclusive unless the two are presented as a combined document. From all the summaries of data sheet content submitted by readers, I’d like to highlight the following:

A datasheet is there to determine product suitability and refine the selection. And it should give enough details to buy the product when possible. If it meets these goals, it should have done its job.

Next: What content should a data sheet contain?

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