What’s a data sheet? Basically it’s yesterday’s newsletter, at one time printed and mailed. Today, most organization’s newsletters are digital and a new trend is to call them data sheets.
I subscribe to and read several data sheets (see below), and have noticed that more and more B2B IT organizations are starting to use these to portray themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries.
According to a 2016 survey by The Economist Group, at least seven out of 10 executives will be more apt to do business with organizations that are perceived as thought leaders. Further, two out of three would be willingly advocate or recommend an engaging organization or brand—as long as they remember you.
And that’s why we marketers love the data sheet. Since most of us are technology-enabled, clever and on the go, we are consuming our information on planes, trains, buses and automobiles. So it’s even more important that any content you produce for your customers, prospects or partners is digestible in a convenient, fast and easy-to-read format. Oh, and that it’s highly relevant for your audience. (Translated: not sales’y).
Another equally important factor for a data sheet: brevity. It’s critical that you become an expert in conveying a short and sweet message. Most of the data sheets I read are several sentences—a paragraph at most—and have several links that lead you to read more on additional pages. Simplicity is the key to keeping your readers’ attention for at least a couple of minutes, and the data sheets I’m referring to have kept mine.
And what about thought leadership? In the same 2016 study, analysts at The Economists Group have turned this phrase on its head and suggested a different name: thought partnership. Their research showed that marketers should consider “authority, over ‘look at me shouting.’” In other words sharing experiences or expertise, industry or customer anecdotes in a data sheet will go a lot further than talking about how great your product is and why you should buy it.
If you’re currently publishing a newsletter, maybe it’s time to consider a makeover to a data sheet. How? First think about curating relevant current fast, easily digestible industry content that your readers may be interested in. And second, by not selling, but rather, informing your reader on the latest information, while keeping your brand tops in their mind. Use headlines and power-worded first paragraphs that compel the reader to click through to read more. Using these tips, you’ll also ensure you’re following mobile-friendly best practices.
An important item to remember when self-publishing as a thought partner: Be sure to include links that also take the reader to your own expert (not sales) content, like white papers or case studies. Intersperse them in between industry content. And don’t forget to make it fun to read.
Here are some of the best examples of B2B data sheets I’ve seen. Please comment if you’d like to add any to the list, I’m always excited to subscribe.
[Leadarati helps IT firms drive value and increase opportunities through social, digital and online communications.]