The Product Demo Experience is Broken, It’s Time We Fix It


Author: Jonathan Friedman
Last updated: Published:

I remember the first time a product demo caused me to lose sleep – and how long it took to find peace.

I was leading the charge to build a new product line within a hyper-growth tech company. While we had a very aggressive product roadmap, we were set up as a “startup within a startup”. We had to prove our own business merits, and we had to do it quickly.

Overcoming Product Demo Challenges

With a mere sliver of a product built, we were tasked with demoing it to get market feedback and line up early paying customers. I dreaded it every time. There was so much at stake, but the product was so young and fragile. Demo anxieties filled my mind. Is it down? Has the designer changed the location of the button we talked about or not yet? Where is that piece of data I always like to show? Ugh, why is it taking so long to load up? Is it the internet, or do we have a real issue?

The product eventually matured and became much more reliable. Yet, I noticed my demo dread did not wane. It actually compounded.

As our company grew, demoing our live production product became more and more untenable. Each new customer-facing team member needed admin-level access to demo admin-level features. Additionally, team members were editing content and changing settings to meet the needs of their demos. These practices led to inconsistent demos filled with conflicting narratives, mid-demo surprises, and sensitive data often in view. We had officially lost control over our demos.

Innovating the Demo Experience

An idea sprang to mind. We’ll create a homebrew demo environment where we can retain more control without putting sensitive data at risk. Pied Piper shall become a paying customer! We’ll onboard characters from the fictional TV show Silicon Valley as fake users and design the perfect demo environment. Brilliant and simple, right? Well, not really.

This turned out to be much harder and not as great of a solution as we expected. While creating the demo environment and onboarding the new fake customer was relatively easy for R&D to accomplish, populating the new environment with data and maintaining the environment as the product was updated would not be.

Dread set in again.

The R&D team was swamped as it is. Do I now take them off of creating features customers urgently need and ask them to populate a fake account? Even if they somehow can create fake data to shove in there, the entire product is built on users creating that data. Won’t it be wonky? What happens every time we add a feature? What does our dashboard show every time a day passes? Who maintains this new script and makes sure it works all the time?

As we waited for R&D bandwidth to open up, our salespeople didn’t have much choice but to get creative again. They spent valuable time playing the part of a designer, hacking together product screenshots and user flows in design tools like PowerPoint and Invision. Great tools, but again, we lost control of our demos. And now, we were spending more time creating sub-par faux demos and less time actually selling.

I was sure others at B2B companies have faced similar challenges before. Someone probably has a clever solution – right?

I started calling everyone I knew in the industry. Almost everyone I spoke with had experienced these exact issues and were suffering through them in one way or another. Most were as embarrassed as I was by the amount of resources they threw at the problem and how much they still continued to deal with it. None had discovered a solution that just works.

It was hard to reconcile the lack of options in the market.

As a serial entrepreneur, I couldn’t let this go. The problems are too big, and the solutions too lacking. So, I reached out to Aaron Hakim (who previously co-founded Reactful with me), and we got to work researching just how we could solve these problems.

Conversations with some of the top sales organizations in the world helped surface the three core tenets of the solution we were to build:

No R&D dependency: Technical limitations and R&D bandwidth shouldn’t get in the way of delivering great demos. Sales should be able to create and deliver demos on demand with full control over what gets demoed (versions, features, datasets, etc.), by whom, and to whom. From the creation of real, interactive product demos within minutes, to managing user access and demo share links, to professional pre and post-demo experiences – all of this should be possible with zero code, technical, or design expertise.

Point-and-click personalization: The best demos are ones that are tailored to the wants and needs of the prospect. The story you tell visually through your product demo should be just as easy to craft as the story you tell verbally. In fact, your visual demo should inspire new ways to communicate your product’s value. Add the customer’s logo and names, remove unwanted features and distractions, and tailor all the data to the prospect – any customization needed to paint a realistic picture of how your prospect could use your product and achieve value should be possible.

Seamless, issue-free delivery: Demo anxiety is real, but the core reasons for it should not exist. Your demos should look and feel just like your product but be independent of backend code and server issues. It should rapidly load and be accessible online or offline on any device. It should be easily shareable with your prospects so they can personally interact with it with zero access hassle or security issues. You and your prospect’s focus should be on the demo itself, not on the delivery experience – that should just work every time.

The Future of Effective Demoing

Prospects first become intrigued by your words, but demos show them their future. We often only have one shot to align the demo with the future they are looking for. If the demo experience they are given is buggy, out of date, or irrelevant to their needs, that opportunity can be blown. I have certainly lost deals due to the issues we were having with our demos, and they still haunt me to this day.

Our mission is now to deliver great demos every time and never lose a deal again because of a poor demo experience – and help other organizations do the same.

Nobody is searching for “better demoing software”. The category doesn’t exist. Everyone thinks they are just on their own to figure all this out. That’s why now, as companies are getting their first glimpse at Demostack on our demos, they are literally wow’d.

You are not on your own with this anymore. We’re building your new demo infrastructure and experience management solution for you.

Are prospects currently complimenting you on how you run your demos? They should. The rush you feel when a demo really hits home is what we are selling. A customer receiving a tailored tour of pure product value they can gain by using your software is what we’re selling. A better demo experience every time is what we’re selling.

The best product doesn’t always win the customer, but the best demo usually does.

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