If you are a small business owner, free software demos are great for evaluating possible replacements to your aging set of business software. Not all demos and vendors are created equal however, so it’s your job to filter out all the available offers based on what your current needs are. Here are a few tips on how to do it.
1. Practice Due Diligence
When a company sends you trial software, this usually follows a request for a live demonstration. This is great and all, but do your due diligence to conduct research on the company first, before you commit a block of your time. Their website usually says it all. Look for social media proof, product testimonials from real users and an active community. In addition, check their site for trust seals like Norton VeriSign or BBB. Lastly, you can check if the company behind the software is legit by doing an SEC lookup.
If a dozen companies send you trial software and requests for a live demo, it does not mean you should invite all of them. Demos can and will eat up your time. Make a list of everything of all the features you are currently in the market for. Do some research on the features and capabilities of each one and narrow down your line up of possible candidates based on what your company needs. Once you have a list of 3 – 5 potential candidates, schedule live demos for each of them.
3. Invite All Decision Makers to Attend
A live software demo is useless if you’re the only one sitting there. Make sure you have all the important users of the software present during the live demo so all of you can see the software’s capabilities and ask important questions afterwards. This will ensure that the software is thoroughly tested, not just handled by the vendor’s demo team.
4. Take Score
Always take notes! This is important because when you are attending live demo after live demo, things start to blend in and you make get confused as to which company does this or that. By taking notes, you are actively keeping a score as well. At the end of each demo, check your notes/scores and compare it with what your team or other users have written down to see if you have a clear winner.
5. Compare Products
Do comparison tests with other demo software or open source alternatives before a live demo so you have more questions to ask the vendor about the features relevant to your business. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with software you have no use for, so it pays to compare. In the software industry for example, a demo of HP Unified Functional Testing solution compared with open source alternatives such as Selenium or Watir can give you an idea of where the software to be demonstrated measures up to what is free.
6. Your Overall Process Time Should Improve
Software is all about speed and automation. If the live demo does not impress you or if it fails to make your processes faster, than its best if you move on with another vendor. Count your current steps. If it takes 12 steps to accomplish a task with your old software and only 5 steps with the demo software, then it is obviously a step in the right direction and worth a more in-depth look.
Live software demos can help paint a clear picture of what new software can do for you. Just make sure you get the most out it by asking the right questions, practicing due diligence and writing down important notes on all the features so you and your team can talk about it and make an informed decision that will benefit the whole company.