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All Things Internet™ since 1999


Don’t be cute with your demo

I run a good sized team for a good size company and we solve good size problems for our customers. One of the problems I’m current trying to solve relates to how we help our customers help themselves. Our customer service is world class (that’s not hyperbole, our NPS scores are regularly 70+) and built on the backs of real people talking to customers and walking them through whatever issue our customer has. I’ve been thinking lately that we can do better with how we organize and present product documentation to our customers. You know, how-to’s, FAQs – basic knowledge base stuff.

First off, I think there’s a real opportunity for an earnest startup to solve some big problems in this corner of the market. There are two types of solutions that I’ve found – really big, stupid and expensive enterprise packages that do everything poorly with a price tag to match and really crappy low-end solutions that don’t do much of anything well. Its really hard finding something in the middle – there is no real contender for the crown of “Knowledgebase 2.0” it seems.

Once a week or so, I set aside an hour or two to investigate solutions and explore the problem further. The issue is important enough to me so I continue to put time into my calendar to devote to it. During my most recent research session yesterday, I was quite excited when I discovered a really nice package that seemed to solve a lot of the issues I wanted to address. The website had lots of customer case studies and all sorts of good sales information that really helped me think that it might be “The One”. I was a bit annoyed that they didn’t publish a price list and I was willing to overlook that at first. The more I poked around their website, the more interested I got. 

One problem though – they don’t offer a free trial and in order to get a demo or pricing, I needed to fill out a form. I resisted as long as I could and ultimately filled in the form, hoping that they were just collecting demographic data and that I’d be automatically enrolled with a demo account.

No such luck.

Immediately I received an email from them indicating that a sales person would be in touch to set up an appointment for a teleconference & demo. I replied simply, “I prefer email.” 15 minutes later, I received another email from a different salesperson with a few options for times for a phone call. I skimmed the message, realizing that if they couldn’t acknowledge that I preferred a different means of interaction, that I probably wouldn’t have a great relationship with them in the long term. I deleted the note and went back to Google to resume my search for the perfect knowledge base management tool.

I don’t think I’m unique in this respect. The amount of time that I can devote to finding new tools and evaluating whether or not they fit our business is limited. When I come to your website, I’m coming to use your application and looking for a glimmer of hope that it can solve my problem. If it looks like there’s a fit, that’s when I want to talk more with you – that’s when I want to make the appointment for the phone call – not before. Give me your pricing up front, give me a demo up front, and if you can’t or won’t, don’t expect that I’ll be using your software anytime soon.