Show, Don’t Tell: The Power of the Demo

So you’re trying to convince a prospect that your product or service is the perfect solution to all their problems, but they’re not just getting it.

Or maybe you’re trying to build company morale by explaining how much you value each and every employee, but the response is a series of eye rolls.

Why does it sometimes seem like what you’re saying and what they’re hearing just don’t seem to match up?

It’s true. Communication breaks down often in the business world. You’re talking and talking, but your true message just isn’t being heard.

So how can you make sure that you’re getting your message across?

The answer is simple: Show, don’t tell.


The Power of Demonstration

Let’s say that you’re trying to sell a product: a sharp kitchen knife.

You think to yourself, Everyone knows what makes a great knife. So you talk about the high-quality materials, the sharpness of the blade, the competitive pricing… but no one seems to care.

Instead, use the power of demonstration to show what makes your knife so great. Like this:

A product demo shows the value of your product in a way that a bunch of words just can’t. It highlights the core features and capabilities of your product, but more importantly, it demonstrates how your product will address the customer’s pain points.  Infomercials are built around this concept. Even if you generally avoid buying from QVC, you’ve got to admit that their pitches are persuasive. That’s because infomercials are nonstop demonstrations, showing you over and over all of the amazing things you can do for only $19.99. 

But what about products that aren’t quite as visual? With a bit of creativity, you can still demonstrate effectiveness. It just takes a little more thought. Here’s how Febreeze did it, for example.

Beyond Product Demos

And that’s just for starters. You can tap into the power of demonstration no matter what you’re offering — whether you’re marketing a product or a service, and whether your company is B2B, B2C, or B2G*.

Software companies tap into “show, don’t tell” by showing consumers how their app can make their lives easier. Instead of just talking about the benefits, they demonstrate the process step-by-step. 

Take Square, for instance. Square is well-known as a popular payment system used by many small businesses, but business owners may not be familiar with its many capabilities, or with how those capabilities can help them. That’s why Square made this ad, which actually displays the product interface while walking the viewer through how a business owner might use its many functions.

Think it’s impossible to “demonstrate” your service like this? Think again. You just need to sit down and pinpoint the value that you provide for your clients, and then show it in living color. 

Does your service primarily help your clients…

  • save money?
  • save time?
  • sidestep a hated task?
  • minimize frustration?
  • increase productivity?
  • improve employee satisfaction?
  • avoid damage to property?

“Show, don’t tell” that value to your current and prospective clients. When they see it, they’ll get it. 

Taking It a Step Further

You can even use the “show, don’t tell” principle to communicate with employees and other stakeholders.

Looking to hire some stellar employees? Instead of prattling on about your employee benefits, paint a picture for them of how they can take advantage of those benefits, or show them other employees who love your brand. Company culture videos, like this one from IKEA, can achieve that goal.

Want your employees to buy in to a new idea or new initiative? If you proclaim that it will “blow sales out of the water,” you’re probably thinking that they’ll jump on board. But maybe they’ll actually end up wondering how much more work the initiative will mean for them, or whether the windfall will make an impact on their paycheck. Instead, you need to show them in crystal clear ways how the initiative is going to affect them.

In essence, you need to remember that your words only carry so much weight. If you want to truly convince someone – be it your customers, your employees, or your stakeholders – think about how you can portray your message in a visual, or tangible, way.

After all, everyone knows that when it comes to business, seeing is believing.


* Don’t let those acronyms scare you. B2C = Business to Consumer; B2B = Business to Business; B2G = Business to Government