Top Three Common Product Demo Mistakes

Over the years, I’ve mapped innumerable number of product demos for trade shows, events, webinars and more, working with sales, product management, and technical sales. I’ve also sat through a few product demos in my role evaluating and selecting marketing technologies. Here are the top three common mistakes I’ve made (and corrected!) or experienced with product demos.

One Size Fits All

Who are you talking to? I’ve been in demos when the presenter jumps straight into a standard product demo without understanding my goals and needs.

Whether a trade show or a webinar, research your prospective audience and their role in the buying process, which may impact how they perceive the demo or what they would like to hear. Each persona has different needs, for example:

  • User – this person will your product every day. Her interest is 1) how does this product help me do my job, 2) what new or existing features are there to make my job easier and 3) can you teach me tricks to be more effective in using your product. Though this person’s needs are more tactical in nature, she may have a voice in the purchase.
  • Influencer – this person may not use the product or hold the final decision, but her opinion about the product carries weight. Typically she may be an IT person looking into security protocol or a third-party consultant hired by the company to screen vendors.
  • Decision Maker – finally the person who owns ultimate purchasing power. Her role tends to be based on business outcomes. She’s interested in understanding what tangible ROI will this deliver (e.g. time savings, cost savings, bottom line ROI) and will allocating budget for your product perform better than existing technology or other line items in her budget.

Complex, Overly Designed Demos

Ever sat through an hour demo that mind-numbingly reviewed each feature available? Even the most complex concepts can be told simply.  Depending on your role (see above), the demo walks you through a story regarding the key features and benefits.

  • Script out the demo: This may resolve a significant portion of ineffective demos – develop a script that highlights the key messages and features that you’re seeking to cover for your demo. The script can be designed to provide 5-minute overviews or 20 minute “deep dives” that go a little bit deeper.
  • Live vs powerpoint demos: I’m torn on this. I understand the need to have a powerpoint as a back up in case there is no internet involved. My concern arises when the powerpoint becomes the key demo material and your sales team becomes unfamiliar with the live product. If you decide to develop a powerpoint preso, then create it to “simulate” a live demo with “clickable” areas that would take you to another slide. Resist the urge to add call out buttons, detailed text descriptions and extra information that would take away from the product demo itself.
  • Practice. Cut. Practice some more:  Sometimes a script looks great on paper but doesn’t translate well when conducting a real demo. Conduct mock demos to see what flows well, what doesn’t and where you have to cut. Be judicious to ensure the right balance of benefits, messages and product.

Boring Presenters

You’ve considered your audience. You’ve scripted, rehearsed and finalized the demo. But have you thought about how the demo will be presented by others?

I recently went to an industry conference and was drawn into the Park-n Fly-booth. They had a magician, which may seem odd at first, as a mechanism to draw people into the booth.
In fact he did his job. He was engaging – he surreptitiously glanced at our name tags and used our first names. He was entertaining – literally freaking us out with his uncanny ability to figure out what we were thinking. Yet he was able to clearly and simply communicate Park-n-Fly’s key messages to a group already attentively enraptured with him.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all demoers are going to be able to do magic tricks, but there are simple takeaways to build a foundation for your demoers: engage your audience, reference individuals in your meeting by first name, and simply and clearly communicating messages along the way.

Conclusion – Good Demos Can Make Your Company

When I was in PR,  I helped several start ups pitch, prepare and demo at a conference known as DEMO. With only 5 minutes, you had to demo your product to a room full of journalists and investors. So the next time your sales team or executive does a product demo, keep this in mind. You never know who is on the other side. Who knows? It may make or break your company.

Photo Credit: By Rob Lee via Flickr

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