When we say software demo, what comes to mind?
Do you think of boring screen-shares? Salespeople trying to push you ever closer to purchasing? Perhaps even thinking about it is enough to make you mildly panic.
The truth is, until recently, software demos were simply a way to show off your product to interested prospects. They took the form of glorified presentations. They weren’t engaging, they didn’t scale well, and they weren’t even that effective.
But with the rise of SaaS came a new way of selling your product.
It’s called Product-Led Growth.
What is Product-Led Growth?
Originally coined by Openview, a venture capital firm, Product-Led Growth is the secret to the mammoth success of companies like Slack, Dropbox, and Hubspot.
Product-Led Growth is very self-explanatory, in that it describes a strategy in which the growth of a company is led by the product they provide.
Perhaps the best definition comes from Allan Wille, Co-Founder and CEO of Klipfolio:
“Product-Led Growth means that every team in your business influences the product. Your marketing team will ask, ‘How can our product generate a demand flywheel?’ Your sales team will ask, ‘How can we use the product to qualify our prospects for us?.’ Your customer success team asks, ‘How can we create a product that helps customers become successful beyond our dreams?.’ By having every team focused on the product, you create a culture that is built around enduring customer value.”
In practical terms, this means building an incredible product, and putting it at the heart of everything you do. The idea is that once people start using your product, they fall head over heels in love with it. That makes them use it more, and it makes their friends and colleagues use it.
Soon enough, everyone is using it, and your company grows exponentially. That’s the dream, right?
A Real-World Example
A recent example of Product-Led Growth in the UX world is a product called Figma. For years the go-to product for UX and UI designers has been Sketch. Everyone involved with UX and UI knows what Sketch is and how to use it.
Recently, however, a new tool has entered the fray. Figma offers pretty much all of the features that Sketch users have come to know and love. But they also offer a couple of extras that have led to rapid growth, and an exodus of people moving from Sketch to Figma.
The first is that they have a completely free tier of pricing. This isn’t a limited free trial, it’s an actual pricing tier. Sure there’s several limitations, but it means people can try Figma out without being concerned about wasting money.
This is especially important when it comes to knocking a major competitor off the top. Chances are people are already paying for Sketch, so they don’t want to pay for another product. That’s where Figma’s free pricing comes in use.
The other reason why Figma has grown so quickly is that they make it incredibly easy to collaborate. It works in your browser, across different operating systems, and it allows you to easily track who is working on what.
The beauty of this is that those initial users who made the switch from Sketch to Figma can now invite their colleagues into their projects. These new users can then see first-hand how much easier it is to collaborate in Figma. Then they’ll sign up, and invite their colleagues. So on, and so forth.
Figma’s product is directly responsible for their growth. That’s Product-Led Growth in a nutshell.
Why Your Traditional Software Demo Doesn’t Work
Which brings us nicely to your software demo, and why it’s no longer good enough.
The traditional software demo presents several barriers when it comes to growth, and we’re going to cover those now…
1 – It Doesn’t Scale
Assuming the ultimate end game is growth (and let’s face it, that’s everyone’s end game) then you need to put systems in place that will scale alongside you.
Traditional software demos are fairly time consuming. They usually last between 30-60 minutes. Even if your salespeople did nothing but demos all day, each of them could probably only manage seven or eight.
That can create a bottleneck as you scale up and more leads come in. It also means that your salespeople are caught up in demos when they could be doing some outbound work.
There’s really only three solutions to this problem.
Firstly, you can decrease the duration of your software demos and cram more into a single day. That would certainly enable you to demo more leads. But it also means it may decrease the quality of the demo, and you might not be able to fully show off your product.
Secondly, you can hire more salespeople. More salespeople means more time for demos. But hiring salespeople comes at a cost. That might be money that you don’t have, or that would be better spent elsewhere.
That leaves the third and final option. You can scrap your traditional software demo and replace it with Product-Led Growth. This means you don’t need to hire more salespeople, and you don’t need to make your demo worse. In fact, your demo will be more effective as a result.
Later on, we’ll cover how to create an effective software demo from inside your product.
2 – Not Every Prospect Wants A Software Demo
Some of your prospects won’t want a demo. Some people hate the idea of sitting and talking to a salesperson for 30 minutes. They want to dive in and start using your product.
A lot of people see traditional software demos as glorified sales pitches. Which, let’s face it, they kind of are. It’s really an excuse for your salesperson to get some time with the stakeholders and convince them they should buy your product.
The issue with traditional software demos is that they don’t always provide value. They offer the promise of value, sure, but until someone actually uses your product for themselves, they get no value from it.
Therein lies the solution.
The new Product-Led software demo enables your prospects to get some hands-on time with your product. If your product is as good as you think it is, then they’ll start seeing value from it right away.
The value you provide, and those Aha moments that your users experience all by themselves, can close deals far more effectively than even the best salespeople can.
We’ll explain how to instantly provide value to your users later on.
3 – Your Software Demo Causes Churn
Sometimes, your software demo doesn’t work as expected. There are two aspects to this.
Firstly, sometimes salespeople have a tendency to overpromise when it comes to giving demos. Prospects may ask about certain functionality and focus the demo on a specific topic. The salesperson may, in an attempt to close the deal, start making promises that your product can’t actually keep. It happens to the best of us.
That leads to the second issue. Your product underdelivers. It’s a great product, sure, but if it doesn’t live up to the lofty ambitions of the salesperson who presented the demo, then you’re in trouble.
Now imagine that your users have experienced that. Imagine that your software demo has overpromised and your product has underdelivered. That doesn’t feel too good, does it?
It doesn’t feel too good for your users either. In fact, it’s going to end up causing churn if you aren’t careful.
A Product-Led software demo, however, does the opposite. It can’t overpromise, because it is what it is. And because users start with lower expectations, it means your product can then surpass them and make your users fall in love with it.
So, now that we’ve explained the three biggest drawbacks to traditional software demos, it’s time to show you how adopting a Product-Led approach to software demos can make a massive difference.
Introducing: A Product-Led Software Demo
Let’s first explain what we mean by a Product-Led software demo.
Traditional demos involve your prospect speaking to a salesperson and being shown around your product. Product-Led demos, however, enable your prospects to explore your product on their own.
In other words, they can access your product free of charge and learn how it works.
This is better for many reasons, but far and away the most important reason this works is because they have the power. They can control how they use the product. Instead of seeing what success looks like, they can actually succeed for themselves.
This gives your prospects value from day one. That value is what will keep them coming back to your product, and is what will eventually convert them into paying users.
How Do I Do It?
You have a couple of different options open to you here.
One common approach is to offer a free trial. This is usually somewhere in the region of 2 weeks to a month. You can decide whether you offer all the functionality or whether it’s limited.
We would recommend opening up the whole product for them to use during their trial. This way, they can experience every bit of your product and get as much value as possible.
Another option is to have a free pricing tier. This way your prospects can sign up and grow accustomed to your product without worrying about their trial expiring.
While the lack of time constraints could lead to users putting off your product, the correct onboarding and user experience can prevent that. We’ll cover that later.
For now, you need to decide whether you’re going to offer a trial or a free pricing tier. Both have their pros and cons, and the best advice we can give is to choose whichever works for your product.
This quiz doesn’t take long and can help you make up your mind.
If it takes a while to get value from your product (like an analytics tool, for example) then you should consider either a lengthy trial, or a free tier. This ensures your prospect has enough time to get value from your product.
If there’s part of your product that works as a standalone feature, then you could consider using that as your free tier. A good example of this is Drift, who offer their basic Live Chat feature completely free. When you decide you’d also like their main offering, Chat Bots, then you have to stump up the cash.
Either way, the crucial part is that your prospects can try your product out for themselves and start getting value right away.
To overcome the scaling hurdles we discussed earlier, you can automate your demo. This enables your users to self-serve the demo, as and when they need to.
You can do this by anticipating the kind of questions and needs your users will have, and then providing adequate explanations to help them achieve what they want.
Providing in-depth help documentation is a great way of teaching your users how to use your software. Perhaps the best way is through video content, showing the user what they need to do to use your product effectively.
This self-serve demo from Omedym is a fantastic example.
It enables their users to type in a question, or select from some frequently asked questions. They can then watch a video that walks them through the product, and helps answer their question.
Omedym’s users can access this demo whenever they need it, meaning they can start using the software at their own pace.
Another amazing example is Baremetrics, and their “Open Startups“. These are Baremetrics users who have pledged to transparent financials. Prospects (or anyone interested) can take a look at these startups’ Baremetrics dashboard.
The great thing about this is that it enables prospects to explore the Baremetrics product, complete with real data. They can see how the product works, and instantly see the kind of value they can get from it.
Both of these examples emphasize the way that you can provide a self-serve demo to your users. This allows them to learn your product for themselves, and start getting value right away.
Why Onboarding Is Key To A Successful Software Demo
Call us biased if you like, but we think onboarding is crucial when it comes to a successful software demo.
Your prospect is going to sign up and dive into the deep end of your product. Chances are they won’t have seen much of the product previously. After all, the idea is that they show themselves round.
The least you can do is make it easy for them to start using your product, and the way to do that is by creating a great product experience.
That’s where onboarding comes in. You can educate your new users, encourage them to engage with your product, and convince them that they can’t live without it.
As a sidenote, this is exactly what good real estate agents do when they show people round a house. They often give you a bit of a tour so you don’t get lost, and then they give you time alone to explore.
During that self-exploration, you start to envision living in the house, you imagine where you’d put your sofa, what colour you’d paint the walls. You’ve already effectively moved in.
If the agent was in your face the whole time, it would be off-putting. Chances are you’d no longer want the house.
The same is true of your product. Your onboarding needs to give guidance, but it also needs to adapt to your user so they have the time and space for self-exploration.
That’s what contextual onboarding is all about, and it’s why it’s the most effective way of encouraging product adoption.
Rather than a simple product tour, contextual onboarding presents the right user with the right message at the right time.
Imagine that your product is a messaging app, similar to Slack. When your user logs in for the first time, they’re essentially faced with an empty product. Messaging apps, of course, rely on people sending and receiving messages.
A good first step is for your user to connect to their friends. They might do this by connecting to social media profiles, or inviting people in via email.
No matter the method, your onboarding should explain that your app is nothing without friends, and then show them how they can add their friends in.
Perhaps then they’ll want to send a message, so you should nudge them in the right direction.
Your onboarding should do two key things:
1: It should explain the benefits of using a certain feature, and;
2: It should explain how to use that feature.
Nail your onboarding and your new users will start seeing value from your product right away.
And, as we’ve already discussed, that value will keep them coming back for more, and it will ultimately convert them into paying customers.
Software Demo Conclusions
Your traditional demo or walkthroughs are holding you back. It’s hard to scale, it’s resource intensive, and it isn’t actually that good at converting prospects into customers.
Instead, embracing aspects of Product-Led Growth is the way forward.
That involves offering a way for your customers to get started with your product. This can take the form of a free trial, or even a free pricing tier.
When your user logs in to your product for the first time, you need to use contextual onboarding to sell the benefits of your product, and also show people how to use it. You need to provide value, fast.
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you’re ready to take your first steps with contextual onboarding, then please go ahead and book a demo. Trust us, it provides value!
About the Author
Joe is a UX and content writer, with several years of experience working with SaaS startups. He’s been working with SaaS startups that are focused towards product management and customer success for the past couple of years.