Auto-Demo Heaven: Software Demos That Deliver Results


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Earlier this week, Peter E. Cohan discussed the software industry’s entry into the “era of auto-demo hell” defining most automated demos as, “dry, un-engaging and difficult to relate to.”

Yikes! What’s a marketer to do with such a gloomy forecast?

Fortunately, Mr. Cohan goes on to provide a few tips on creating auto-demos that don’t feel like you’re on a ride through Dante’s Inferno. But the truth about auto-demos is that they are a crucial component to any software marketing strategy; and when created correctly, can be your most effective marketing tool.

A professionally produced auto-demo can initiate your sales cycle and qualify leads without wasting your sales team’s time on cold prospects. Auto-demos can benefit internally by reinforcing consistent messaging. Giving everyone a dynamic and engaging sales tool keeps everyone on the same page from customer service reps to the Vice President of Sales. And best of all, auto-demos can be leveraged across multiple platforms and within various campaigns—on your Web site, in email marketing efforts, at your trade show booth—delivering maximum marketing ROI.

Here’s some hands-on advice to creating an automated software demo that delivers real results and keeps you and your prospects a safe distance from auto-demo hell:

-Make it product centric. Your software demo is not the place for marketing jargon and flashy animation. Give prospects an actual view of what your software looks like and what it can do.

-Keep it short. Four to six-minutes is the sweet spot for an automated demo. Longer than six minutes and you’re boring your audience. Pick the three leading WOW factors of your software and let them differientiate your software from your competitors.

-Make sure it streams instantly. Build your automated demo with technology that has a high user adoption rate. Flash is a great tool for an auto-demo. The last thing you want to do is ask your prospect to wait for your demo to load, or worse, download a plug-in just to view it.

-Include a professional voiceover. To fully engage your prospect, you should include a voiceover to narrate what is being shown.

-Know what you’re doing. Just because you are your software’s biggest evangelist, doesn’t necessarily mean you can create a professionally produced demo. A great demo includes instructional design, demo-content expertise, and the ability to record professional voiceover that synchs perfectly with the actions being displayed.

Often times, software companies make the mistake that they can build their auto-demo with internal resources. But just because you have graphic designers, developers, and copywriters on staff doesn’t mean that you’re going to create an effective automated demo.

Outsourcing the production of your demo may be your best best. If you do choose to have it created by an outside agency or firm, make sure you go with a team that has experience. Find a demo-development agency that specializes in software demos. Check out their client list and see samples of what they have produced. Make sure they can provide an estimated completion date and have a process in place that uses a minimal amount of your time.

If done correctly and with the right people, you’re auto-demo will have your sales team swooning and your prospects calling. It will be heavenly.


  1. While this article is full of good advice that applies to many software companies, this doesn’t really help the vast number of companies that market revolutionary solutions, products to consumers, or services. Autodemo offers but one single approach to what needs to be an open, collaborative process between demo vendor and client. For instance…

    – While Autodemo recommends showing the product right away, some solutions require some storytelling about it, the value it brings to an organization. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of screens without context.

    – Companies who are revolutionizing an industry need to first frame what the solution is before the product is shown. Again, otherwise people won’t ‘get’ the underlying value.

    – Some products essentially enable a new way of thinking, and the companies don’t necessarily want to show the product at all or very little, thus blowing Autodemo’s fundamental theory out of the water.

    – Consumers are a fickle bunch with an unquenchable thirst for multimedia content. As such, they have special needs that require creative thinking, new approaches, custom assets, and innovative visual effects.

    – Services, an intangible that must be shown with photography and illustration, can benefit from the tremendous impact that demos bring. But since they don’t fit Autodemo’s core customer base – software and web site companies – such companies should consider hiring a demo vendor with experience promoting services.

    If you find this interesting, I run a free web site full of advice, tons of great samples with commentary, and links to additional resources. I encourage you to check it out as you think about the kind of demo you want. I think you’ll enjoy all the sample demos and analysis of various creative approaches at

  2. Found this post while doing some research for my company. We’ve often tried to accomplish these types of efforts in house, but I think we may be looking for a good outside agency the next time around.

  3. Great Article.
    I agree that web demos should never be more that 3 to 6 minutes. More than that and you lose them for sure.

    A couple of additional things that are important:
    Segment the demos by role (job function or problem type), this lets the visitor self-select the right demo for their needs and helps you keep the demos short.

    If you want to get found, be sure to put the demos on youtube and other sites as well as your own.

    Don’t forget to include closed captions, it helps a ton with the search engines.


  4. Auto demo would be advantageous to those who are in the field of systems development. For those who are not familiar with systems applications and benefits associated with user friendly software packages will require face to face demonstrations and possibly consultancy throughout the implementation.

  5. An effective demo has to engage its audience visually, and not only can you include your demos in streaming flash format as mentioned in this article, but demos can also be shared effectively in web channels such as YouTube, which you can further enhance with captioning, particularly if you want to include some humor or reach out to audience with audio accessibility limitations. You can also include executable files which viewers can download and burn to a CD or DVD easily for distribution. All you need is to identify your goal and deadline clearly and then work it.

  6. engage its audience visually, and not only can you include your demos in streaming flash format as mentioned in this article, but demos can also be shared effectively in web channels such as YouTube, which you can further enhance with


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