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One of the biggest challenges that marketing departments face is producing marketing tools that actually get used by the sales team.

If you are like many frustrated marketing professionals, you spin your wheels trying to create effective marketing communication materials that are left unused; or worse, you give up hours and hours fine-tuning your product's messaging to communicate key features and benefits, only to hear each salesperson giving a different pitch.

You want to create marketing tools that help sell products, not collateral that sits on a shelf. So how do you do it? How do you create a marketing tool that not only gets used but also can reinforce your marketing messaging so that everyone is speaking the same language?

A professionally produced product demo can do wonders for your marketing initiatives. It can accelerate your sales cycle and generate qualified leads. You can leverage it on multiple platforms and within various campaigns, from your site to your tradeshow booth, on marketing CDs and in email marketing efforts. And when done right, a great demo can get everyone speaking the same language.

Four Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you begin building your demo, you have to answer the following four questions:

  1. What's your demo's objective?
  2. What type of demo will best fit your needs?
  3. How do you build a demo so that it gets the maximum return on investment?
  4. Do you have the resources to build your demo in-house, or should you outsource it?

Producing an effective demo that gets used on a regular basis can be an overwhelming task—but it doesn't have to be. Once you go through the following four questions and corresponding answers, you'll be able to start your demo project with confidence and end up with a marketing tool that sells your product.

What's your demo's objective?

Just as with any project, a clearly defined objective is mandatory. Do you want to generate more leads from your Web site? Do you want an engaging, dynamic tool that pulls prospects into your sales cycle more quickly? If you are selling a software product, do you want to shorten your sales cycle? If you have a Web site, do you want to increase registrations?

Know your objective so that your product demo's content is aligned with your goal.

Your demo's objective will help you select the visuals that you want to use and the script that you will write.

For example, if you're a marketer for a retail Web site and your goal is to encourage more users to purchase products online, build a three-minute demo using actual screen shots of your site with a voiceover that tells users how to buy online as it shows them.

Put the demo on your homepage, provide links to it in emails and in online newsletters. Give the link to your demo to the customer service department so that they can email it whenever they take a call.

What type of demo best fits your needs?

In the world of product demos, there are two schools of thought: product-centric demos and conceptual demos. Which one you use depends on what you are selling. A product-centric demo focuses primarily on your product, offering up visuals of what it looks like and how it works. A conceptual demo is more animated and often leverages more graphics and marketing language.

If you have a product that does not immediately resonate with your prospects, then you will receive the most benefit from a product-centric demo. People don't buy what they can't see or don't understand.

Any complex product that does not render itself recognizable by name alone can be well served by a product-centric demo because it offers prospects the chance to see the product. For example, if you're selling a software product, showing prospects your software's top three key features in action does a lot more than giving them fading bullet points that tell them what your key features are.

A conceptual demo can be thought of as more creative than a product-centric demo, because you don't have to show the product. Conceptual demos work best when prospects have a profound understanding of what the product is.

For example, if you're selling a car, you can be more conceptual by using graphics and creative language that touches the buyer's soft spots when it comes to purchasing a vehicle. Obviously, you'll show pictures of the car, but you don't have to go into detail about how key features like the brakes or power-locks work.

How do you build a demo that it gets maximum return on investment?

ROI—the three-letter acronym that marketers live (and die) by. For your demo to receive maximum return on investment, you have to make it easily accessible and leverage it across the board. Live demos are great for prospects already deep into your sales cycle and ready for a 40-60-minute overview of your product.

But for prospects who are still in the research or evaluation stage, you need to offer a 3-6-minute automated demo that can be accessed from your Web site. Hit the highlights quickly, be clear and concise, and make it easy to find. Use technology with high user-adoption rates. Flash is great tool for automated demos. Whatever you do, don't rely on applications that have to be downloaded and don't force a prospect to use a plug-in.

The demo needs to stream instantly and deliver your message in five minutes or less. An automated demo can be used throughout your site, looped at tradeshows, linked to in an email, and placed on laptops for your sales team to use on the road.

The more ways you can deliver your demo to your prospects, the more cost-effective it becomes.

Do you have the resources to build your in-house or should you outsource it?

You have a full marketing department: copywriters, designers, flash experts. But do you have the right resources to build an effective demo that looks professional? And does your team have the time to turn the project around quickly?

A great demo is the result of blending a well-crafted script with expertly selected visuals. Outsourcing your demo to a demo-development firm may be your best bet to create a professional demo using a minimal amount of your team's time.

If you choose to outsource the demo project, select a firm that specializes in product demos. Make sure it has a defined process and pricing structure without any hidden fees. Check out the client list and view samples before you start working with the firm.

If your budget is too tight for a demo-development firm, tools are available that allow you to create your own demo. Just remember, your demo may be a prospect's first impression of your product. You want to put your best foot forward; the more professional your demo looks, the better your product looks.

* * *

A great product demo puts your product in the best light. It gives prospects an immediate understanding of what they are buying so that they come to your sales team already interested. Not only does it serve up qualified leads, it reinforces consistent messaging by getting your internal forces on the same page.

When sales, customer service, and all else who interacts with your customers, are offered a dynamic marketing tool that gives a voice to your marketing messages, everyone starts speaking the same language. Before you know it, your product demo will become your most popular marketing tool, because it will sell your product for you (and your sales team).

Continue reading "How to Create Marketing Demos That Sell Products" ... Read the full article

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Amy Gesenhues is the Director of Marketing for Autodemo LLC (, a developer of software and Web site demos. She can be reached at