Why Your Product Demo May Be Worthless

November 24, 2009

Software Installation

For B2B vendors that are in the business of selling software, One common method of driving customers to your product is providing a time limited, demonstration version of that product.

This can be a great way to let prospects try before they buy. When done correctly and simply, It can give prospective customers a real world look at the basic features and functionality of your product.

While there is nothing wrong with providing demonstration versions of your software;

If you don’t do it right, don’t bother!

A story of the the demo that can only be used by experts.

I have been looking for a particular software tool for my organization. The market and vendors in this tools competitive space has hundreds of products, so it is not as if there is zero competition. In my research I found one vendor that had a product that looked to have the features I was looking for, and it also had a demonstration version of the product. My first thought was great!

I downloaded that demo and then looked on their web site for installation instructions. None.

I extracted the downloaded package and searched it all for installation instructions. None.

I called their sales team for instructions. None.

Let me give a little bit of background, this tool is not a stand-alone product that you double click the SETUP file and follow the bouncing ball until it tells you to click FINISH.

This software is a departmental tool that can be configured to use a few different Web Server products for the front end portions that people interact with, plus several different database products for the back end data storage. The installation and configuration of this type of software gets a little more complex as you have to get the pre-requisite components  (web server and database server) properly configured and set up first.

What happens?

I start the application installation, then get some cryptic error message that kills it dead.

Now, unlike my my previous rant about graphics and tutorials, at least software and servers are in my skill level!

So I have been able to overcome the errors and blow ups one by one to determine what is happening after the installation dies! I fix that one piece, try again, it dies again, I track down that reason, try again….

You get the idea. frustration. Hours of time wasted and I am not even at the stage where I can actually evaluate the product!

Would everybody keep doing this trial and error install? For a demo version of software? Probably not!

Who is the audience of your demo?

If the target market of your demo software is senior marketing, sales, or operations staff. Would they be able to try it on their own? Do they even have an IT team available for the hours of what I went through?

Or will this type of frustration have them just saying forget it?

The three choices; easy, difficult, and the hard way

The easy way to provide a software demo is to ensure that it is entirely self contained, no external dependencies at all. Everything your software needs is installed automatically.

A little more difficult is acknowledging the dependencies mentioned above, but at the minimum having explicit warnings and instructions on what is required, and what will be expected.

The hard way is the trial and error that I have been going through.

If you are planning your demonstration software the hard way – you probably have killed any benefit of your demo!

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Photo Credit Doug Becker via flickr

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One Response to “Why Your Product Demo May Be Worthless”


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elliot Ross, Elliot Ross. Elliot Ross said: Is the demo version of your software set up to #FAIL ? http://wp.me/paqed-11z #marketing […]


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