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Fewer Demos Are Better Than More

One step in the process that I use for helping associations select a new AMS is viewing software demos. One of the most common questions I get from my clients is “How many demos will we see?” And my answer is typically “Hopefully, very few!”

  1. It’s human nature to assume that seeing more demos (i.e., seeing more products and having more choices) is better than seeing fewer. But in fact, the opposite is true: fewer demos are better than more. And here’s why: The more demos you have, the more expensive it is to your association. How’s that? Pure and simple, staff time. Suppose you have five staff involved in demos. And suppose each demo is thee hours long. (First demos are typically two to three hours, follow up demos can take many hours more.) Let’s assume the fully loaded hourly cost for each employee is $75. With five employees in the room, that’s $375 per hour, or $1,125 per three hour demo. And that doesn’t count any pre- or post-demo work the staff person might do. Suddenly those “free” demos aren’t really free. And of course, if the hourly rates are higher for your employees, the cost goes up!
  2. More demos tend to be more confusing, not more clarifying. In my career I’ve probably attended more than a thousand demos. And one thing I know for certain is this: the more demos a group of staff attend, the more confused they get about which products and companies offer which functions and pricing. Even when there are only three demos to compare, staff very often confuse the three products and companies. And that’s understandable, because in those three three-hour demos, staff is being inundated with information. It’s like drinking from a fire hose; some water is going to spill, no matter your best intentions.
  3. More choices actually make it less likely to make a decision. Social science strongly suggests that when humans are given too many choices, they are less likely to make any choice at all. Limiting the number of demos means you’re more likely to make decision. (I’ve written about this before, here and here.)
  4. More demos unnecessarily extends the length of the project. Every demo added requires prep time (scheduling), the demo itself, and post-demo follow-up. Not only is that expensive (see point #1 above), but it also extends the life of the project, and probably unnecessarily, because more choices doesn’t necessarily lead to a better decision (see #3 above).

Of course, the most important aspect to this process is making sure that the three demos you see are the three best choices. The way to do that is to follow my time-tested process for selecting a new system, to ensure that you start with the very best choices before you ever get to the demo step.

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