Demos are for Dinosaurs

Discover why demos may not accurately reflect the true usability of software and why free trials are a better option.

Building intuitive software is actually very difficult.

You can say it’s easy. But saying it don’t make it so. Which means that most products out there are not very intuitive, and not so easy to use. We all know this. But somehow, we’re afraid to say it. Especially if we’re in sales and marketing. Which is why everyone says, “this product is super intuitive and easy to use, blah blah blah.” 

Prospective customers, hearing these boasts from just about every vendor, are eager to find out if it’s true. Is this app really easy to use? The customer be like: “show me”. 

Enter the slick demo. Carefully crafted, well scripted, perhaps with a hint of imperfection, just to make it look “real”. It goes smoothly, it goes swiftly, it all looks pretty good.  But it has very little correlation with how the product rollout will go in real life. It does not mean the actual users will find the product intuitive and valuable. It does not mean you will get user adoption. It just means it looked good in a demo. 

I do not blame sales engineers for doing slick demos. I have walked in their shoes. I feel their pain. If a product is not actually intuitive, there’s nothing much you can do other than try to make it look as good as possible in a demo. Show the good stuff, try to avoid the bad stuff. Tell the truth but focus on your strong points.  

The problem for software vendors is this: customers are not silly. They learn from these experiences. And today there are very few buyers that have never experienced the cold shower of disappointment that often follows the warm glow of a slick demo. They also know from their consumer lives that intuitive software does exist, and the best way to discover it is via a free trial.  When a product is truly intuitive, vendors will be eager to let you try it for free, because then you will be more likely to like it and buy it. 

Does this mean that every software vendor should immediately switch to offering a free trial?

No. If your product is not intuitive, a free trial is a terrible idea. It will probably discourage people from buying your product.  But every vendor should be looking for some valuable slice of their product that can be made simple and intuitive. With that done, a free trial makes sense, and will help customers overcome their skepticism and demo fatigue.   

In my world of contract software, there are precious few vendors who openly offer free trials. I scanned the sites of a dozen leading CLM and contract analytics providers and was greeted with a wall of demoware. Almost every call to action on the home page was “request demo”. The collage below is made from actual screenshots of actual websites. 

For any company seeking better insight and data about your contract portfolio, I have good news. Catylex is now offering a free trial of our contract analytics software, so you can see for yourself how intuitive it is.  If everyone else is offering you a demo, I say “buyer beware”. People doing only demos are usually trying to hide something. 

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