3 Demo Fails to Avoid for Product Marketers

As a Product Marketer, you have a unique insight into your product. You have been with it from the start, know all of its idiosyncrasies. You’ve probably been up way too late with the team - struggling through the hard decisions about what to cut and what to keep, have your favorite features that you fought hard to keep, and are also responsible for giving the sales team what they need to sell it.

To get customers interested, Sales needs a demo experience that proves not only what your product does, but how it’s going to fit into their customers’ lives, solving problems and making everything easy. You need to arm your sales team with a simple, relatable, human story. And to do all of that, you need to avoid these common sales demo fails.

Fail #1: Your Demo Is Focused on Your Product

But wait, you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t the demo be, you know… all about the product? Isn’t that what a demo is?”

Nope! In fact, this is the number one mistake people make when giving a demo. It is understandable to want to tell a product story, showcasing innovative new features. But really, what you should tell is a customer story.

What do I mean by “customer story?” Put most simply, and to quote marketing and storytelling guru Donald Miller, you want to "clearly tell your customer what's in it for them." This shouldn’t be news for many of us — it’s a bedrock of good marketing principles. A customer needs a human connection first — needs to know how it will feel to use your product before they’ll care how it all works. A sales demo needs to do this level of storytelling, putting the product into the context of the customer experience.

Even though we know the best practice, it’s still easy to want to orient a product demo around features. The hitch, however, is that if your demo focuses on product features, your customers will have to work to understand how those features apply to their life. This is effort they probably won't expend.

Make understanding your product easy for the audience. Make them the hero of your story — a story that focuses on their own pain points and how they are solved.

I get it: you’re not building a demo for one customer, but rather all your potential customers. The good news is that you've probably already done the work to create user personas, each with their own priorities, challenges and needs. You can literally tell their story — employ your user personas to script your demo, showing how your product will materially improve each persona's life.

This is not how Canon sells cameras.

This is not how Canon sells cameras.

Fail #2: Your Demo Is Hard to Follow

Congratulations! By getting this far, you have overcome the biggest hurdle known to demo designers (and sadly, demo audiences). Here's the second biggest hurdle: your demo's story is too complicated.

As I said earlier, we like to create product demos in the form of a user’s journey, showing different features in the context of a person’s story. This is a great way to give your demo the human orientation it needs — but there’s also a danger here. If your story has too many personas or is overly complicated, your demo becomes very busy, very fast. 

You want your audience to spend brainpower understanding how your product applies to them, not trying to track along with a complicated story. They shouldn’t struggle to keep your personas straight or remember what the personas care about. Remember, the whole point of a persona-oriented demo is to clarify how the product is useful, not convolute it. 

So, a few tips. Get to the point quickly. Keep your personas to the absolute minimum required to introduce your product and its features. Keep your story simple: trim the persona's journey of extraneous steps, even if that means not showing your favorite feature. And overall, don’t make your audience work to organize lots of information. As the product marketer, that’s your job.

Don’t make your audience think too hard.

Don’t make your audience think too hard.

Fail #3: Your Demo is Too Hard to Present

A complicated setup will keep sales people from giving your demo.

A complicated setup will keep sales people from giving your demo.

You’ve got a revolutionary product.  You’ve packaged it up into an effective, human demo. You’ve made the demo story simple and easy to understand. You’ve made it available to your sales field and partner network… and no one is using it.

Don’t blame the sales team — maybe your demo is too hard to use or doesn’t answer the team’s specific needs. Part of making your demo’s message easily deliverable is just that: making the demo literally easy to use by sales staff, in every conceivable presentation setting. 

To do this, you need to anticipate your staff’s needs. Will they need to deliver the demo on one or multiple devices — say, in a meeting with a laptop and on the fly via mobile phone? Is the demo complicated enough to require extra hardware? Can presenters show the demo on a variety of screen resolutions, allowing your salespeople valuable flexibility? Will they need audio? Consult with your staff, familiarize yourself with the contingencies of their sales meetings, and make sure you deliver a demo that can keep up.

Consult with them as well about their comfort level with product demos. Like I said, most salespeople aren’t paid to be technical, and a demo that’s complicated to set up and walk through will end up staying on the shelf instead of where it should be: making a big splash. Build the demo from the ground up so that anyone can deliver your message, from the most seasoned sales engineer to the partner of the company.

Key takeaway: If your demo requires a bunch of complicated set up or reset steps, it won't be used.

For decades 3Sharp has helped brands like Microsoft and Adobe avoid all of these pitfalls, building software demos that keep the customer experience in mind, that are customizable to fit any audience, that are simple to use, and are designed for anyone on your team to use.

Here is an open secret of 3Sharp. We really don’t have salespeople. We have very experienced consultants who happen to be good at talking with customers. Give us a shout for some free consulting!