Founded in 1998 and based in Louisville, Ky., privately-funded Autodemo has carved out -- and dominated -- an interesting niche: The 15-employee firm has helped hundreds of software companies, large and small, create compelling product demos.
The topic of demos has always been a bit of a hot button for us at SoftwareCEO. Way too many software companies take a DIY approach, because, they reason, how hard can it be to take a few screen shots?
Well, it isn't hard -- and that's the problem. In a world where print brochures and videotapes have become pretty much irrelevant, it's more vital than ever that you've got an online demo of not just what your software does, but what tangible benefits it brings to the end user.
Autodemo founder and CEO JC Stites offers a number of helpful tips:
Tip #1: Don't fall prey to information overload.
"The primary mistake people make is they try to include too much information," Stites says. "Entrepreneurs, especially, are too close to their products and don't assess what the key differentiators are. We try to focus on the 'wow' factors or unique propositions."
Tip #2: Keep it under five minutes.
"The best length [for a demo] is three to five minutes," says Stites, "but it depends on your solutions and your markets.
"The shorter it can be -- as long as it conveys information effectively -- the better. You want to get them into the sales cycle and keep them moving.
"That's where we can help. Not everybody is going to take an hour to sit through your demo. The bigger the purchase decision is, the more they're willing to invest their time -- but you will get the most attention if you focus on the most critical things."
Tip #3: If you need more time, break it up.
"We work with many companies to create multi-module demos," Stites says. "We'll provide an intro demo and menus leading to other sub-demos; the prospect can select the info that's most relevant to them."
Tip #4: Remember what a demo is supposed to do.
Your software demo is not a show-and-tell of product features -- or, at least, it should not be. This is a problem for many startups when they put the engineers in charge of creating the demo; they're like proud parents who want to show you 1,000 photos of their babies.
The people who should be in charge of your demo are the sales folks. "At a high level, the purpose of a demo is to get prospects into the sale process," says Stites. "You've got to first get them in -- and you won't be able to do that if you try to go through a laundry list of what your product can do."
Tip #5: Think about unique propositions.
Just as bad as putting engineers in charge, Stites says, is letting the marketing team build a demo without adult supervision.
"Most marketers think everything needs to be included," he says. "You want to get out there and grab them with a unique proposition and key benefits."
OK, so how do you zero in?
"It's a question we ask right up front," says Stites. "We want to know what the objectives of the demo are. We ask them to create a content outline, which could also be considered a benefit outline.
"Give us some bullet points as to what this product means to the market. All the heavy lifting comes right up front. What key benefits are you going to hang your hat on for the next year or 18 months?