Three Steps to Crushing Software Demos

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I’m hustlin’ down memory lane. Trade show memory lane.

My thoughts go back to a cavernous convention hall – somewhere, sometime ago.

Vegas.

Chicago.

New York.

Doesn’t matter. It could’ve been a convention hall in Anytown, USA.

Those exhibit halls all look the same inside. Concrete walls and floors. And those blue drapes are everywhere.

It was those blue drapes that separated presentation sections in a demo area of an exhibit hall in a convention center at a trade show. Somewhere, sometime. All the time.

Makes me tired just thinking about that checkerboard layout.

Each demo section was properly appointed with a small makeshift stage, cheap plastic folding chairs, a small screen, microphone, podium and speakers – and no acoustics. Wide open spaces. Concrete structure. More echos than the Grand Canyon.

One convention lunch hour with nothing better to do I decided to check out the fast-paced scene of the demo area. Demo Area 1 had a dozen people or so watching, you guessed it, a demo. Couldn’t tell you the company represented in that section. If memory serves the next demo area was empty. After that I might’ve stopped looking and turned around.

I do recall on another occasion in the same demo area a couple of guys tried to get their computer to work for their time in the exhibit hall spotlight. I presume the computer had the demo on it. And of course you can’t do a demo without a computer. #sarcasm

I don’t know if they ever got the laptop to work. For all I know they may still be there.

Another time in the demo area I saw yet another guy presenting. Nothing remarkable about it. Couldn’t tell you the company name. I’ll never remember it.

I think the demos were concurrent, 20 minutes each.

I know the demos were bought and paid for by exhibitors and sponsors.

I wondered why anybody in their right mind would waste their time, money and effort on presenting demos under such circumstances, but hey, companies bought it.

But I never did see impressive-size crowds back there.

Giving demos is sacred to some. Some CEOs equate the number the demos given with a number of leads generated… Nope. That’s not how it works, but there are some who will never understand that. To them, giving demos is the sales and marketing security blanket that keeps them warm when confronted with the question of measuring the outcomes of a trade show investment. More demos equals more leads. So all some want to do is give demos. That’s their idea of marketing and generating demand.

But it doesn’t mean they – or their people – are any good at actually giving software demos.

So here are three ways to get good at giving software demos. Really good. Crush ‘em, as the title indicates. Not that I want you to just do demos, but they’re part of presentation life in the software industry. So you might as well crush it.

1. Get Good at Giving Your Demo

Easy, right? The arrogant will say they have this one checked off the list. Not so fast. Getting good at your demo doesn’t mean reading off intro and outro slides, and droning on through features and functions on the screen for an hour. It means employing superior physical presentation skills. How you look and sound. Knowing how to interact with an audience. Structure. Timing. Clarity. Practice. Performance. More Practice. Technical know-how.

This is a bit of an advanced opening section because you have to put in the work to improve your presentation and public speaking game to ‘get good’ at this. BTW, the work at getting good never stops. And getting good doesn’t mean crushing it.

2. Give the Demo with No Computer

Yep, you read that right. No computer. No laptop, no tablet, no smartphone, no electronic assist. Just you and a whiteboard or a flip chart. In front of an audience. (Almost forgot that last part.) And you’ll get your multicolor markers.

Now the fun begins.

I want to see you demo your product without the software demo itself. Which means you have to tell the demo story. And do so with animation. Enthusiasm. Confidence. Description.

Help the audience see your product through what you say, how you draw it out and your physical movements. Through your storytelling. Entice them.

That means you’ll need to know the software inside and out. (As you should.)

You’ll need to describe it. Make it come alive. How it may sound.

Make the user feel what it feels like to use the product, and what can be accomplished.

In other words, demo it. As you’re supposed to do in a … software demo.

3. Bring 1 and 2 Together

Yes, we’ll return your computer. But then…

If you’re a) fluent in the demo and can effectively speak to it and b) serious about a process of practice and continual improvement in your presentation game – you’ve anted up.

Next, if you’re able to demo – without the demo – and bring your software to life without electronics, you’ve got a competitive arrow in your quiver that few possess.

But when you bring the two together, it won’t matter if you’re in a cavernous convention hall, in a meeting room, in your trade show booth or on a webinar.

You’ll be able to crush it. Anytime, anywhere.

Do that, and I do believe I’ll remember your name and your demo.

So will the rest of the audience.

Bonus Coaching Tip: The presentation and public speaking exercise I would construct to coach speakers through this process would be a day-long session in three stages that would mirror the three steps above. In a small group setting, have those who give demos present – one at a time. First, all should give the standard demo. Second, take away the electronics. Third, bring the two together. Record, contrast the differences, get and give feedback along the way and see the performance improvements on video.

Keep the individual demos to 20-30 minutes. Do the math over an eight hour day to determine the number of participants that can be accommodated.

Repeat often and keep up the practice sessions.

Have a blast.

For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing and #Presentation Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

Challenging the Status Quo of Marketing Groupthink

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

 

The average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is somewhat short. Two years, maybe three or four. It depends which study you reference. I thought I read it was getting better nowadays. But there’s a long way to go…

Even with the short tenures, CMOs still apply approaches that are:

Outdated. Passive. Common. Routine. Disconnected. Just Because.

Comfortable.

Secure.

of “Careful” Value.

I was going write of “Zero Value” – but that’s not true. There’s some value to what some are doing in marketing. But so much in marketing nowadays simply gets by. And there is value in simply getting by in:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Events and Trade Show Marketing
  • Content and Sales Enablement
  • Product Marketing
  • “Paint by Numbers” marketing leadership from CMOs.

…but simply getting by is not in my nature.

You see it everyday. Fill-in-the-blank marketing. The majority accept, and few challenge. Groupthink. Marketing Groupthink.

That’s how I view far too many approaches to marketing.

Here are five readily identifiable areas that demonstrate marketing groupthink:

1. Digital Marketing

Copy and paste each and every “Digital Marketing” job description easily found populating the ‘black hole’ career sections of corporate websites. And LinkedIn. And others. Digital Marketing has become what? Search engines, keywords, social media maintenance, websites, emails, some writing, some campaigns, some lead gen, some CRM system data upload, some reporting, etc… Your company does it. You do digital marketing the same as the next one, and the next… Why? I dunno. It’s become routine.

Want to challenge the digital status quo? Have your digital marketers put down the electronics and stand in front of the class and tell your corporate story. Or venture out with sales people to talk to customers. Don’t tell me those ideas to marketing groupthink won’t make your digital marketers better at what they do.

2. Events and Trade Show Marketing

Your marketing up to, during, and after your company’s events has become predictable. And safe. How so? Your BIG industry event is coming up. So you pepper your contact db with messages about your sponsored appearance. (So does everybody else.) You promote your event appearance and solicit on-site meetings to drive the appearance of after-show value with high-end opportunities. (So does everybody else.) A sponsored reception, party, or steak dinner may be in the offing. You have your booth. Your paint-by-numbers booth. And you may have a presentation. Or a seat on the ‘cure for insomnia’ panel discussion. Then you (hopefully) dissect your after-show contact spreadsheet to email, call, and solicit. Just like everybody else.

Am I close?

Want to challenge the status quo? Take a hard look at why your company does the events it does. Ask questions. Don’t just take another spot on the show floor and populate it with outdated collateral, spinning PPTs, a ‘cheap’ exhibit, and people who have zero personal communication game. You may also wish to prepare your company speakers before their next presentation. You may wish to turn off your mobile cameras before streaming live video without preparation. Negotiate with event vendors, save money. And leave some of your budget-busting staff at home.

Get serious – and creative – about your events strategy.

This one’s tough. But if you want to disrupt your trade show and event groupthink – you’ll break new ground.

3. Content and Sales Enablement

Content, content, content. Somedays that’s all you’ll read. But it’s the security blanket of the ill-prepared. For terrible slides for unprepared speakers. For endless, text-heavy case studies. For websites that could double as a maze in a corn field.

I’ve never said content isn’t important. But I’ve been around the block a few times in marketing. Content ends up residing on local laptops in all forms known to mankind. Or in a central repository which dates back to 2007. And once the content is retrieved, it’s deflates the person who found it because it’s the same thing Joe used for a presentation in Chicago last week. Outdated messaging and all.

And how exactly is producing all of this “content” enabling sales?

Besides the obvious groupthink approach that sales needs content to be effective?

Want to challenge the status quo? Make sure that those that produce the content can actually use their content. Have them present it as a sales person would: on the phone, on a webinar, in a boardroom, on-stage, and on-camera. It’ll make them better content producers if they experience first-hand how it’s used.

More, it’s wise to make sure that those who are using the content can demonstrate that they, too, know how to use it in multichannel scenarios. (That’s means your inside sales reps and your external business developers. Your marketers, customer service agents, and partners. And your executives.) Be sure to make sure that those who use the content, can use the content.

Because the marketing groupthink approach to content and sales enablement simply dictates creation. And dumping of content. And freelancing of usage.

Of course I’m familiar with sales enablement technology that catalogues content. Customizes content. And delivers content. But that doesn’t mean the end-user in the field can use and present the content. (And those vendors will never tell you that.)

4. Product Marketing

I’ve written about how product marketing could be on the verge of automation. About how it’s become a cookie-cutter endeavor at so many tech companies. I know it’s supposed to be this strategic, go-to-market leadership function, but it isn’t. Not anymore. Not at the companies who copy and paste their product marketing requirements just like the vendor next door.

Follow-me, again, to be sure I got this job’s requirements down: product marketing is to develop strategy, go-to-market messaging, value props, and unique differentiators, have it’s ear to the market, the trends, the competitive landscape, the alliance partners…

Product marketing is to develop content. Draw up battle cards. Unveil material to support business growth. To forecast opportunity. To interface with industry analysts. Understand the buyers. Some subject matter expertise and some public speaking and presentation work.

Toss in a product launch, event, campaign, and marcom support, some sales enablement, with financial and technical expertise, and you’ve got the product marketing picture.

And so does every other company housing one or more product marketers.

Challenging the product marketing status quo is easy. And damn sure should be required.

Last I checked, there are ~5000 MarTech vendors, spanning all imaginable industry sectors. How in the world are you going to break out in that landscape if your product marketing approach is the same as every single competitor? And for those not in the MarTech 5000 – the same question applies. What are you doing differently?

Ideas on how to do so? Sure…

Let me start by saying I’ve seen the problem. Your go-to-market problem. You’ve got good people doing good work with great technology. But where product marketing is supposed to lead, it time and again drops the ball. Change it by:

Preparing your product marketers to regularly visit, present, and interact with customers, prospects, analysts, and the media. Prepare for interactions across all formats. Remote, and in-person. On-camera, on-webinars, and in-person. You’re likely not doing this today. I know because I pay attention. It’s easy to spot. To hear. To see. To read. Get your product marketing communication game tight.

Prepare your product marketing leadership skills. I once sat in on a presentation from one BIG Tech company that was unbearable. They were so proud of a 100+ slide deck but forgot to tell the six remote presenters on a web-conference call how to organize and make sense of it amongst themselves and for the audience. Product marketing is in the leadership role, and took none.

Add creativity. Real creativity. Turn product marketing into storytellers. Stop doing the same events, the same panel discussions, the same public-facing tasks… create a brand for product marketing by doing things differently: creating your own events, podcasts, webinars, videos… separate from the field of product marketing clones. Attack your target audience outside the standard methods of outdated product marketing groupthink.

5. Marketing Leadership

Or should the section be called the “be quiet, accept the marketing groupthink, and just do your job…

It’s the biggest “paint-by-number” and “color between the lines” area of marketing groupthink.

Marketing strategy? There’s a template for that.

The marketing plan? There’s a template for that.

The marketing budget? There’s a template for that.

The approach to events? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly marketing report? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly marketing ops report? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly product marketing report? There should be a template for that.

To marketing videos? Stare into the camera, off-set right, ask softball questions, and overlay graphics.

The approach to webinars and other recorded audio material? Overdo the content, and add one ill-prepared voiceover. Record ‘good enough’ sound to give the impression of using a tin can in a cavernous concrete room.

The leadership approach applied to marketing? So common that you don’t need a template.

Here, I’m busted. You need a marketing strategy, plan, and budget. And you have to report on marketing activities. Those are the current table stakes.

But I’ve sat in those rooms with marketing leaders.

They’re the same leaders who copy and paste last year’s approach to this year’s plan.

The ones who won’t hear of true sales enablement, innovative approaches to content, sales-oriented management styles, and creative, groundbreaking marketing.

Who nod, shake their heads, and clap politely when the next expert dumps useless but feel-good information on them.

Marketing leaders who won’t deviate from standard operating procedure.

Who’ve become infamous for low average #CMO tenures.

This article is over, but I’m just getting warmed up.

I want you to exercise your marketing creativity. Your marketing passion.

And not let it be held captive by a Xeroxed job description or outdated approaches to marketing management.

There are those who accept marketing groupthink. Who want to accept marketing groupthink. No challenges to their way of business thinking allowed.

So you can either smile and go back to your cube, or you can challenge the stats quo.

Challenging means creating.

It means professional #leadership.

It means taking ownership in the business.

Seeing that talent is nurtured.

For ensuring success.

For acting on the need to bring marketing innovation – and professional disruption.

In technology and business practices.

For breaking the business mold and doing something that stands out in the crowded marketing landscape.

To strive for excellence in yourself and those around you.

 

For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

The Obliteration of B2B Tech’s Product Marketing Playbook

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Quick, somebody sell me a pen! There’s a phone number on my TV screen. It’s in a commercial – RIGHT NOW – and I need to write down the number before the 60 second spot is over. I need a pen!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the film The Wolf of Wall Street and pay attention to the diner scene about 30-40 minutes into the movie. Stick around to the end as the “pen selling” subject pops up for a second time when Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a sales seminar. DiCaprio’s character patiently uses the “sell me this pen” line and holds a pen upright as a prop. After the movie, dig up the handful of articles on this subject circulating on LinkedIn and read about the various perspectives on the subject.

As you’ve noticed, I added a little twist to the “sell me this pen” line. Nothing major, I’m still sticking with the original premise which challenges somebody to sell me a pen. Except I’ve admitted the urgent need for a pen. I need one, and want one, now. Yes, for that cheesy, ridiculous reason of writing down that telephone number on my TV. I don’t care the color of the ink. I don’t care if it’s a plastic or metal pen. Don’t care which company made it, or who their competitors are. Don’t care how big or small the pen is. Heck, I don’t care if the ink-filled instrument from inside the shell of a pen has a case. As long it works. Now. A pencil won’t do, I need ink. I don’t have a piece of paper. Just try writing a phone number on the palm of your hand in pencil.

And I’ll pay.

This article’s for those in sales, marketing, and the executive ranks from the ~ 4,900 companies listed in the latest the Martech 5000. (There are 4,891 companies represented in the graphic, with a total of 5,381 marketing solutions.) I’ve seen the graphic in my LinkedIn feed these past several days, along with a number of innocuous comments from my network about the sheer number of companies and solutions represented in the grouping. It’s truly impressive work to gather and produce that visual.

But now, for those in the Martech 5000 mix, try standing out in that crowd. Yes, the graphic is segmented. But even the individual segments are crowded. So, try standing out in your segmented crowd. And competing in it. And selling your software and services. And winning.

The new Martech 5000 graphic was released on May 10, 2017.

For those among the 5000, your current product marketing playbook became obsoletethat very same day.

Here’s why:

1. Yesterday’s Product Marketing Strategic Requirements Are Now Table Stakes

In the arena of B2B marketing technology, the product marketing function behind selling those technologies has become commoditized. Almost something that could be automated. (I wrote an article about it here.) Job description to job description, all those in search of product marketers use the same language to list the standard requirements of the position: technical aptitude, market experience, competitive knowledge, content creation, industry fluency, sales enabler, analyst whisperer, etc. Cookie-cutter product marketing career listings, all. That’s great, except who has time to spend on activities reminiscent of an academic think-tank than an active, aggressive, product marketing effort supporting a daily revenue-generating machine?

In a former product marketing life, I led a global market assessment for my business unit to support strategic marketing plans for an upcoming fiscal year. It was co-managed with an outstanding colleague in product management. Together, we dug into the business unit with our worldwide team from every possible angle, then presented our work and strategic recommendations to executive leadership. When we undertook the effort, we took a year’s worth of fiscal due diligence and made it happen in 90 days. Today, the business of product marketing in B2B technology is moving too fast, too quickly to wait a year. Or 90 days. Instead of a 12-month effort, I’m suggesting that the effort of knowing everything about the marketing technology arena – and the part your company plays in it – is a day-in and day-out ruthless business effort. Not 12 months, not 90-days, but every single day. For those first time product marketers new to a company, I’d allow three months of market and business orientation to get up and running. To fluently know everything that’s required from product marketing to checkoff that commoditized list. Then it’s time to move on to more pressing matters…

2. Launching, Getting to Market, and Differentiating

These performance areas are now squarely on the shoulders of product marketing. It must take the leadership role of setting the strategic direction for marketing, sales support and enablement, possibly the entire company. These deliverables won’t come out of marketing communication. They’re too busy designing websites, printing brochures, and making sure the corporate logo is being used properly. Digital marketing won’t do it. They’re too busy worrying about search engines, keywords, and social media. And the Corporate Marketing VP is knee-deep organizing a customer conference which looks, sounds, tastes, smells, and feels like every other industry gathering since before Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie burst onto the scene in 1979.

Time and again, yesterday’s B2B tech product marketers have notoriously limped across the go-to-market/product launch finish line. The result is that they find themselves adrift – anonymously lost in an expanding ocean of technology vendors. In the same way I can close my eyes and envision the repetitive product marketing job descriptions, and I can close my eyes and replay the countless number of product marketing-led launches and by-the-numbers offerings that bleed together and fade into the background noise of the industry landscape. It’s unfortunate. Product marketers who know they have good technology, who are well-versed in the feature/functionality of their products, who can provide a roadmap in the blink of an eye and relay stories about the delivery models at their disposal, but – when the time comes to go-to-market – the routine falls flat. The ability to crush the last mile to the market escapes them. Yesterday’s product marketers all employ the same set of activities: boring launch decks, text-heavy webpages, routine road shows, run-of-the-mill webinars, overview demos, predictable content, minimal sales enablement… It’s all driven by the outdated product marketing playbook and its strategy of May 9, 2017. That leads us to…

3. When Marketing Leads are in Stage 31a of the Pipeline, Sales Couldn’t Care Less.

I hope that section title captures the spirit of this section. Because while product marketing obsesses over which marketing lead is in which pipeline stage, and whether or not the lead is being subjected to the correct piece of product marketing-generated content, and if that content is being delivered by the mandatory piece of non-integrated CRM or marketing automation technology… By the time you try to explain all that to sales, they’ve disconnected. Long ago.

Forget that. Sales has to sell. It wants Product Marketing to get to work and do something to help. Anything, meaningful, that helps beat the competition — today.

Experienced inside sales people and external business developers have heard it all before from product marketing. Sales is grinding it out every hour of every day trying to hit their numbers and product marketing continues to preach of enablement, content, and technology from the ivory think tank. Yet after a decade of listening to the promises of all of the above, the song does remain the same. Content goes unused. Enablement sometimes can be nothing more than a stack of electronic stuff uploaded to an internal server. And while bought and paid for technology goes unintegrated, more and more and more vendors try to sell more and more software and services to an uninterested audience of skeptical buyers. Meanwhile, we see the competitive landscape growing.

Yesterday’s commoditized product marketing is in over its head. Sales knows this.

May 9th’s playbook is merely the opening chapter to May 10th’s revision.

Which means…

4. Yesterday’s Product Marketer Can’t Sell Me that Pen

Or software. Or professional services. Or managed services.

Even with an immediate need. Even with money on the table.

The creativity just isn’t there. It’s not there in mediocre presentations. It’s not there in road shows, events, and trade show booths that are long in the tooth with outdated messaging. It’s not there in illegible and outdated websites. In widespread poorly produced sales enablement content. In lackluster market launches lost in a congested world. In siloed, unused technology.

The sales grinder mentality isn’t there. When product marketing never accompanies sales to visit customers or prospects, the grinder mentality isn’t there. When product marketing is missing at the end of the quarter when contracts are due and revenue is counted, it’s not there. And when product marketing doesn’t participate in weekly sales meetings and doesn’t earn the immediate respect of the sales unit, it’s certainly not there.

The true enablers aren’t there. Content is only a modest piece of the sales enablement puzzle. Today’s overwhelming focus is on content, and the technology to delver that content. But can somebody tell me who is responsible for ensuring that the sales people who use the content are able to use the content? To communicate it effectively? To stand and deliver value props – without technology? To have and share a Point of View? To influence, motivate, and generate new business in front of a crowd? Or an executive boardroom?

The executive oversight isn’t there. I see too many corporate representatives (sales, marketing, executives) fumble their way onto the industry scene: poor stage presence at events, sleep-inducing webinars, mundane interviews, bad public speaking efforts. The other day I saw a video from a random trade show booth at a recent event. It was an interview. At least I think it was. Only I don’t think the interviewer or the person who was interviewed had ever done anything like that before. Product marketing should be on top of that before that ever happens. And so should executive management. It should be in the new playbook. Instead, the company will have to live with the filler-language filled interview with head-scratching content – forever.

I don’t remember the exhibitor’s name. I turned off the video after about 10 seconds. The participants didn’t appear as if they were happy to be there. Or really wanted to be there. Or knew what they were doing. Yet it was on-camera for all the world to see.

Why would anybody want to watch that? How was this acceptable to broadcast?

Yesterday’s product marketers could never sell me that pen. By the time they would finish showing me slides about the different colors of the pen and its various inks, and the comparison charts contrasting competing pens, they’d turn over the conversation to a salesperson enabled with case study content from 2013. Meanwhile, my TV commercial is over. Revenue lost.

Make no mistake about it, product marketing is responsible for breaking through and standing out in the sea of the Martech 5000. They, too, are also in sales whether they want to admit it or not.

The product marketer seeking to compete and win in all facets of the B2B tech game can’t be successful working off a playbook designed for a by-gone era. The new playbook must incorporate the old, while adding new game plans for true enablement, breakthrough product launches, sales toughness, revenue partnership, creative and effective personal communication, distinguished go-to-market efforts, and effective measurement.

Not only will today’s product marketers need to know how to effectively market and sell me that pen, they’ll also need to know how to cross-sell me on a blank sheet of paper. To do so, they’ll have to learn how to sit and interact with customers. And that’s not happening in the office.

The opportunity is outside, and so are those other 4,900 companies looking to put you out of business.

Get after it.

Movie Spoiler: Leonardo DiCaprio’s character doesn’t use any PowerPoint slides in The Wolf of Wall Street to help teach people how to sell that pen. At least not right away. Maybe he used some slides after the credits roll, but my guess he didn’t try to cram 100 proudly-developed, officially-sanctioned product marketing slides into a one-hour presentation.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com