In this episode Scott and I will be talking about product demos and how they can help sell your vision and your product to your customers.
When you’re selling your product, showing a demo is better than just talking about it. It helps your customers envision how the product will work for them and fit your needs. And you also get a lot better feedback from the customers as to how they could use a product and how it can help them.
Here are some items discussed in today's show:
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Robert: In this episode Scott and I will be talking about product demos and how they can help sell your vision and your product to your customers. This is the Stretch Goals podcast, where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as yous start and grow your business. I’m your host, Robert Dickerson.
Scott: And I’m Scott Davis.
Robert: When you’re selling your product, showing a demo is better than just talking about it. It helps your customers envision how the product will work for them and fit your needs. And you also get a lot better feedback from the customers as to how they could use a product and how it can help them. So Scott, I wanted to talk today about product demos, how we’ve used them within our businesses and how they’ve helped us sell our products. So one thing we were just talking about before the call was really focusing on the quality of the demo and how it represents the particular feedback that you want from your customer. There’s a number of different types of demos, there’s non-working demos where you just have visuals that you’re using, then there’s the MVP concept where you’ve developed something and you’re showing them, and then you have really your final product with a lot of the features you’ve already built in that you’re demoing. So let’s talk about the different stages, because I know we’ve both used each of these in growing our products.
Robert: So just to start out, talk about some ways that you’ve used visuals, because I know that was a way you started out with Critical Technologies and some of your baseball apps.
Scott: Yeah, well first and foremost I used visuals to attract my wife. I mean obviously I’m a specimen of Greek perfection. No, I mean yeah. So when it comes to selling your products, you really have to go back to one of our previous episodes which is know your customer, right? You really have to know what your target is. And sometimes you don’t know, right? If you’re at a trade show or you just kind of hooked up with a contact, you don’t necessarily know how they think or what’s important to them. So I kind of had a little bit of everything when I was out pushing apps hardcore. I don’t do that as frequently now, but when I was out selling apps I would always have a couple of things.
The first one would be some type of print material that had the designs of the app that sort of explained the features, that was more for your executive level type of customers, people who are key decision makers. They only care about like, what are the bullet points, what’s this going to cost me, what are the time lines, what does it really mean to my bottom line, then I had the next one which was, this is targeting the person who’s going to be the decision maker from like pushing the ideas forward. Like, “Hey, we’ve got this campaign we want to sell upstream to our executive managers,” this type of person is more visual. They want to see the features, they want to know what’s in the app, they want to see how beautiful the software is, so that’s more targeted towards them, it’s more visuals less bullet points. Then the third type of person is somebody who actually wants to touch the app, they want to feel it, they want to navigate through it, they want to see that it works, so I always tried to target all three.
I had your sort of takeaway pamphlets that when I was at a conference they were little tri-fold pamphlets, somebody could grab this, take this back to their people how write the paychecks, then I had the target which was those mid-level managers who are trying to push forward and make these decisions, and then I had actual live demos of apps at my table. This same strategy applied when I was cold calling versus when I was going into somebody’s office, I always took those three things with me because you’re targeting three different types of people. If you just had a tri-fold you may miss two-thirds of that potential, right? So I always have a demo, I always have some pretty screenshots and then I always have bullet points. And I separate them, because if you put them all in one you might lose people. But that’s just my strategy, that’s worked for me, what are you doing?
Robert: Well I kind of do the same thing, and I think it’s important. One thing you mentioned was there’s multiple decision makers in the process, especially if you’re going after enterprise customers.
Scott: Oh, yeah.
Robert: So you need to hit each of those people and what they’re looking for and how they can get buy-in to use your product. So the way I’ve started out is similar, so I’ll create print materials and visuals, wire frames of how the app works. I like tools like InVision app where I can take my wire frames and mock-ups and still create a webpage or an app that people can click through, and I can use that internally to validate the workflow of the app, but also to show customers so they can get a sense of the app. And you don’t have to fully develop something to do that, you could just start with the wire frames and mock-ups, but it looks really nice and really clean when you can interact with it, and it gives people a better sense of what you’re trying to build.
Then I kind of progressed from there into a basic MVP, so a working prototype that you can show. So, like you said, those are for the decision that are looking to use the app, and I think it’s really important because you want to get quality feedback, and usually the quality of the demo represents the type of feedback that you’re going to get. So if you use a really rough demo you might get some basic feedback about the workflow, whereas if you have a pixel perfect demo you’re going to get really detailed feedback as well as like, “Why is this thing over here?” You know, so people are going to give you feedback based on the quality of your demo. But I like what you said, that you’re targeting multiple decision makers in the process with these different quality of demos.
So if someone’s just starting out, say they just have an idea, what’s the best starting point for them if they don’t have a product yet? How would your recommend that they start out to really start engaging with customers around the idea that they have?
Scott: Yeah, that’s a great question, and obviously that’s questions that people have all the time, where do I start with coming up with this idea. So your first place to go is get some type of wire frame and evolve that wire frame into something a little more visual, work with a graphic designer, go out on Upwork or any of these other providers out there, and really just hash out how it should look. And keep in mind that it’s a concept, right? It doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re really trying to get some feedback on the design and how it looks, because you’re going to take this to somebody and go, “Hey look, I’m thinking about doing this software or this product,” or whatever it is, “what are you thoughts on where it’s at right now?” And really, that’s going to be your first target. Do you pivot your idea? Are you on the right track? You’ve got to make a couple tweaks. So that’s really where you need to start.
And this isn’t just software we’re talking about. This applies to any product. Maybe you’re designing purses. If you’re building purses that are bright yellow, somebody’s probably going to tell you, “You know, let’s tweak that a little bit.” But getting that feedback early is important. So some type of visual, maybe some type of wire frame, and show it to people early, get some feedback on it so you can make tweaks before you get too far down the line.
Robert: Yeah, I think the fact that your initial prototype is not set in stone, that you really want to get that feedback early, especially before you spend a lot of time developing a full product with all different features because you’ll find, like you said, that you’re going to pivot, that you’re going to find additional features that people really desire, and so you can build those in as you go and it’s kind of an iterative process as you develop your product. So it’s-
Scott: Yeah, what’s that saying of “fail early, fail often”? You want to get that out of the way so that you can perfect it. I mean, look at Walmart. They failed seven times before Walton finally succeeded. So you’d rather tweak it ahead of time before you get too far down the path. So really quick, I want to ask about a couple of the tools that you mentioned. So you specifically mentioned InVision, which is InVisionApp.com I believe?
Scott: Basically it’s been around for a while so a lot of people may be familiar with it, but basically you put in your designs, you can highlight certain areas of the screen, make them clickable so that people can click through your website or click through your mobile app. And these are just proof of concepts. They’re static images, but you’ve made them interactive. There’s another competitor that’s really popular right now called Zeplin, and you can go to Zeplin.io to check that out. It’s more targeted towards mobile but it does have web components, and both InVision app and Zeplin have both made huge strides in the last six months to a year really and making the developer experience better, and what I mean by that is they’re automating some of the UI layout pieces.
So if you look at Zeplin or InVision, you export your designs, you import them into their system, and the developer that you’re working with can see the font informations, the colors, the dimensions of various aspects, and very quickly create their designs, to the extent where even Zeplin allows you to export some of those design elements automatically, generated CSS, automatically export some of your assets. In fact InVision app just released this integration this week that allows you to do that, and a lot of designers are using Sketch these days instead of Photoshop and Illustrator, and they both integrate with Sketch. So they’re great tools, I use them all the time, but I just wanted to touch on that because I think it’s a way that you can make your developer experience better by using those tools as well.
Robert: Yeah, especially if you have a designer that’s using Sketch or Photoshop, you know I used Photoshop and the art boards and it’s really seamless to export once you’ve kind of developed your mock-ups and your wire frames. And it’s nice because you can use that both, like you were saying, for your developers to actually go from and build the product, but then you can get immediate feedback from your customers as well, and I really like that aspect that you get feedback from both sides.
Scott: Yeah. You can basically take a design from Photoshop or Sketch straight to InVision and make it clickable and send it to somebody like inside of a day. I mean you can do a full app workflow, and that’s a great way. Like if you go back to your question, like where does that fit in this timeline, so it’s a little bit beyond wire frames. Wire frames are sort of just napkin sketches, but then this is taking a design, and some people have problems understanding how a design flows, and that’s really where InVision makes it easy. If you just have these static images and you’re looking at them, some people can’t conceptualize how you move through the app. So being able to click on things and see that flow really helps sell that demo for people who don’t think that way. And that’s, again, why I always take multiple pieces to the table. I’ve got the static, I’ve got the bullet points, I’ve got the interactive, and in some cases I’ve got an actual product, so that’s why I always come armed with multiple routes because people think differently and you don’t want to lose key decision makers in the process.
Robert: Yeah, I think also, if you’re not ready to go to that point yet you can also even think about just using a PowerPoint presentation.
Robert: Putting some screenshots, just some static screenshots of what you’re trying to do. It could be really rough to start out with just to get that feedback, just to talk to initial customers.
Robert: So it just kind of depends on where you are in the design stage and the development stage as to the quality of your prototypes.
Scott: Well that and also, if you’re looking for buy-in from people to come join your team or you’re looking from buy-in from investors, a lot of times PowerPoint presentations are fine for that. It gives a general sense of where you are, and to be perfectly honest a lot of VCs and venture capitalists and investors and angel investors, they don’t have time to go through the nitty gritty, they just want to get the high level. Like just give me a presentation, I want to see what it is, I’ll make a decision on my own and that’s it.
Robert: I think another thing too is that it gives me the opportunity as kind of the architect, as the founder, to figure out how I want things to flow as well to get feedback. Even when I’m thinking about the workflow, it’s really helpful to me to see all these wire frames and interact with it and figure out if what I was thinking actually matches up to the implementation of the product.
Robert: The other thing I wanted to talk about is I’ve built a lot of products, hardware based products, physical products as well, and demos are great for that aspect as well. So what we would do is use 3D printed prototypes, something that someone could touch and feel, and it gives so much more to the discussion when they can hold something. So it doesn’t have to be software, it could be, like you were saying, physical products. If someone can hold something, it’s great.
Scott: I do agree. Being able to feel, having tangible products are always more beneficial. And that’s why I think if you’re doing a software product the ability to actually drive it yourself, website, mobile app, whatever, to actually give it to them, even though it’s not physical like you said with 3D printed real life objects, it’s still real, right? So if you give them that ability to touch it, it’s tangible and that goes a long way. And one of the things, I’ve always prided myself in researching who it is I’m pitching to ahead of time. You don’t always have that opportunity, but if you do you can really target your demo to really hit on a lot of key concepts and things that make the tick. It goes back to knowing your customer, but if you went McDonald’s and had a demo, you would want to make sure that you hit on all the things that are important to them. This ability to rapidly deliver food and the food quality and the customer experience and brand, but you don’t want to be way off. So do your research, know who you’re pitching to with this demo so that you can create this experience that really kind of sinks in with them, and it will go a lot further.
Robert: So how do you find that stuff out? I mean are you performing kind of an exploratory call before you give the demos?
Scott: Well, a lot of it goes to my dark web days as a hacker, but no. Basically what I do is, if I take the example from baseball back in the day, I already knew baseball, right? That was important to me. But each team had its own demographic that was important to them. Certain teams are all about the merchandise sale, certain teams are all about just getting people in the seats, so the way that I do that is I just go their website, look at news, look at their social media like what are they pushing? What is important to them? Go on Facebook, go on Instagram, go on Twitter, find out what it is that they’re doing that’s important to them at least right now, because even if you go in there and you pitch about right now, it’s something that they understand. If you can connect to them it makes them feel like you understand what they’re doing, and that always gives you the leg up over somebody else.
If you had a product that was just out the box, it does “x”, “y”, “z” and nothing more versus here’s a product and it only does two things but it does two things that are really in sync with what you’re doing, oh and by the way we can expand this and make this even more targeted to you, you already win versus the stock set of features because it feels more personal, right? And that’s what people are looking for. They want to know that you’re connecting with them. So the research can be found anywhere. Talk to people if you don’t have the resources online to find out more about them, ask questions, do a pre-call like you said. Sometimes you’re dealing with a contact who is presenting this idea internally up the food chain, so ask that individual questions. What can I do to target this demo? What would make this better? What are they really looking for? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The worst that can happen is you don’t get an answer.
Robert: Yeah, I’ve found what’s really beneficial is to have that introductory call and really listen to what they’re interests are, and ask exploratory questions to get that stuff out of them so that when you give your demo it’s very focused on what they’re interested in as opposed to you spending an hour going through all the stuff that they’re not. Because there might be a lot of stuff that they’re not even interested in.
Scott: Yes, but don’t be so hyper-focused that it seems like you’ve only got one or two little things nailed down. Emphasize we’ve got a whole lot more or we can do “x”, “y”, “z”, but just don’t go down that path, and then let them ask you, “Hey, so what else can this thing do?” But don’t be so hyper-focused that you sort of pigeon hole yourself and can’t get out of it. You want to let them know that you’re flexible. But yeah, I definitely agree with that.
Robert: Because you can lead the conversation into the features that you want to show with the demo. That’s a great way to do it, is where you can get them excited about something and then say, “Okay, let’s look at it in the product,” and you’ve already had that all implemented in there. So if you can kind of lead the customer down the path of your features and then show them it working, I’ve found that gets people really excited about your products.
Scott: Yeah. You’ve got a feature as a car salesman there, bro.
Robert: Yeah. It’s got new mats!
Scott: They come with the car! $45 mats come with your $45,000 car.
Robert: Yeah. I think this leads well into an article I was reading the other day from Tomasz Tunguz, and he’s a venture capitalist, writes a lot of great stuff so you should check out his blog. But he was talking about this idea of co-development during the sales process where you’re customizing the product with your customers data during the sales process, and so it really is a demo but you’re demoing something that’s personalized for that customer. And I really thought that was a great thing because that’s really something that we’re trying to do with Mapout, is when I demo Mapout to people, and Mapout is a mobile learning platform, and so I get their video content and things of interest to them, bring it into the platform, and then when I’m showing a demo I’m showing a demo of their content so they can see how it would work for them.
Scott: Right, yeah. No, that definitely hits on all the keys. You really want them, if they can see their content in your software platform it just makes more sense. I mean that’s the way to do it, and you hit a lot of different targets by doing that.
Robert: So Tomasz in his article really focused on three key points which I thought were really good so I wanted to highlight them, is that doing this co-development process you have that instant gratification, and it minimizes the time for the customer to see how they can use it. And it also helps when internal approval, because they can immediately see okay, this is how it can be used and leveraged with our data. And the third point he brought out which we’re really big on at Mapout is training, and customers are training themselves through the sales process because you’re walking them along, you’re showing them how to use the product. So I really like the points that he brought out there, so if you can think about when you’re giving your demo how you can personalize it for the customer so they can see how to use it, that just gives you a leg up when you’re showing people your products.
Scott: I’m just impressed you’re on a first name basis with this guy.
Robert: I’m not. No, he writes a lot of great stuff and a lot of it’s really pertinent to entrepreneurs and founders and start-ups.
Robert: So just to wrap up this episode, I hope we gave you some pointers on developing your demo. We talked about thinking about your customer, maybe have an exploratory call or a call as to figure out what they’re particular interests are, Scott touched on having different types of visuals, different types of materials that you could bring to trade shows, to demonstrations with customers, and that’s a great way to have these different assets that you can show people. And then using tools like InVision where you can create mock-ups from your wire frames and show people, and use that as a tool both for your development, to move your development forward towards an MVP, but also to show customers. So we’ve got a couple different episodes out now Scott, so I wanted to remind people if you enjoy this podcast we really appreciate if you give us a five star review on iTunes, it really helps us out, shoot us your feedback, stuff that you like, topics that you’re interested in us talking about in the future, we really want to grow this community and get more people involved, and we hope you’re enjoying It.
Scott: Yeah, and if you’ve got something to share with us definitely reach out, like Rob said, hit is up on Twitter, go to the website, give us a rating, but also if you’ve got something to share that you’d think would be good for the show maybe we can have you on here as a guest. So thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
Robert: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to StretchGoals.fm.
Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.
Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.