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Is the SaaS Demo Dead?

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Is the SaaS Demo Dead?

Product Tours vs. Demos for SaaS: Trends for Early-Stage SaaS Companies

The traditional funnel model for B2B SaaS is to generate initial interest from a prospect and then use either marketing automation and/or outbound SDRs to further engage prospects and push them to a booked, scheduled demo with an AE. As the way businesses research and buy SaaS products changes, some experts are questioning the relevance of traditional demos. They're asking when it's best to transition from sending educational content or offering self-guided tours to requiring a live demo for prospective clients.

B2B SaaS Marketing Trends Impacting Demos

There are several trends in B2B marketing that are calling into question if and when should a SaaS company require a demo:

  • The Buyer is in Charge of the Sales Process (not you): B2B buyers are doing more and more research on their own, online before engaging with a sales rep. Younger generations in particular are loath to speak with someone from sales unless and until absolutely necessary.
  • Ungated Content: Thought leaders like Chris Walker from Refine Labs have been espousing the value of distributing content without requiring registration or an email address for years to widen distribution.
  • Pricing transparency: Buyers expect more product and pricing information to be available online vs. being forced to talk with a rep. You may lose at bats and deals by hiding everything or making pricing too confusing. This is a great way for upstart SaaS companies to compete with stronger, more established incumbents.
  • Self Service SaaS: There is a strong preference for self service SaaS vs. custom, hand held long sales processes where possible. Self service is moving more and more upmarket.

For highly considered, large scale and custom SaaS or software purchases, at some point it still will generally make sense and may be necessary to for qualification and a more nuanced needs discussion.

SaaS Product Tours: The Self-Guided Journey

Pros of SaaS Product Tours:

Scalability: Once set up, product tours can be automated, providing a consistent experience to an unlimited number of users simultaneously.

Low Friction: Users can explore at their own pace, reducing the intimidation factor.

Less Resource-Intensive: After the initial setup, product tours do not require a human to operate, saving both time and money. Prospects can also self qualify themselves out of your funnel if they are not a fit.

Wider Distribution: Not requiring a demo casts a wider net.

Cons of SaaS Product Tours:

Lack of Personalization: Even with the smartest algorithms, it's tough to match the adaptability of a human presenter.

Limited Scope: Tours usually offer a predefined path, which may not cover all the questions a potential customer might have.

Shelf Life of Video Content: Particularly for early stage SaaS that are constantly changing the UI and adding new features, videos can become outdated quickly.

Pros of SaaS Live Demos:

The Personal Touch

Highly Personalized: Live demos allow you to address specific concerns, questions, or use-cases that a potential customer might have.

Stronger Relationship Building: The direct interaction establishes trust and rapport, which can be crucial for closing deals.

Immediate Feedback: You can adapt your pitch in real-time based on the prospect's reactions or queries.

Cons of SaaS Live Demos:

Resource-Intensive: Requires skilled personnel to conduct the demo and typically can only be done for a limited number of prospects at a time.

Time-Consuming: Scheduling and preparing for live demos can be cumbersome for both parties.

So, Which Should You Choose?

Here are some questions to guide your decision:

  • How complex is your product? Simple products may not require the depth of explanation that a live demo provides.
  • What resources can you allocate? If you're short on manpower but strong on tech, automated tours might be the way to go.
  • How mature is your company? There tends to be a continuum. Very early stage SaaS technical co-founders may be using demo cals for customer discovery and development as much as for revenue.

One Solution - Build a Library of Bite Sized Videos

Building a library of short product videos can be a good stepping stone approach to build on over time. There are several advantages and things to keep in mind:

  • Easier to produce, edit, update shorter 1-3 minute videos focused on specific use cases, features, jobs to be done, or integrations. These topics tend to do well with long tail, specific SEO keywords to drive high intent traffic to your site. Keeping videos short and problem solving oriented makes the content more evergreen and easier to update if needed.
  • These videos can serve multiple purposes. For example, they can be used in targeted outbound marketing campaigns, such as a landing page featuring a short video focused on integrating with a specific software like QuickBooks. Additionally, the Customer Success team can also use these videos for their initiatives, or shared on social media to show your channels are active and increase social proof.
  • Keep “Book a Demo” as your main Call to Action on your site and in the video library section. Once a prospect goes down your product rabbit hole, they may finally reach a point where they have enough specific questions about their situation and are ready and agreeable to a personalized demo.
  • Track video engagement using a tool like Dealfront to identify Accounts that are actively engaging with your product tour videos but not taking the final step of filling out a form. You can layer on Apollo to identify contacts at those accounts that match your buying persona and automate outreach to push for demos. This can be a “Goldilocks”, hybrid inbound/outbound approach that offers up video content to prospects (inbound) but then has a light outbound, SDR touch to convert.


Choosing between product tours and live demos is a significant decision for an early-stage SaaS founder. While product tours offer scalability and efficiency, live demos provide personalization and immediate feedback. The right choice depends on various factors including your target audience, product complexity, and available resources.

By understanding the trends and weighing the pros and cons, you'll be better equipped to make the decision that can propel your SaaS startup into its next phase of growth.

If you are an early stage SaaS company looking for help building out a content strategy to support your SaaS, outsourcing an SDR team, or Apollo.io, contact for GTM help and support.

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