Are interactive product tours the product-led growth for everyone else?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher September 1, 2022
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The best way to know if an application can support your requirements is to try it. But not every software company can provide a free trial of their application. Maybe the environment setup requires some upfront involvement by the company, or the company doesn’t have internal processes to support, track, and encourage the shift to a paying customer.

It’s also true that not every customer wants a free trial. Trying out a new application requires time and effort, which some customers don’t have. Yet they must understand if a product or application is right for their company.

Enter the interactive product tour or product demo.

A product tour is essentially a walk-through of a product designed to show key features and functionality. It can be long or short, depending on the reason for the tour. It can also, with the right technology, be customized to a particular customer or segment of customers or personas.

According to the Demandbase 2022 Go-to-Market Benchmark Survey, product tours and interactive demos are the top two methods to support self-service buyers. Free trials came in fifth after online calculators and demo videos. Clearly, customers are looking for ways to better understand products without talking to someone or getting into the actual product itself, and brands recognize that.

Product tours as a marketing play

With much research happening before Sales is brought into the conversation, Marketing needs to get the product in front of potential customers.

Product tours provide that ability. By creating a series of product tours around key functionality and placing them on the website and in email nurtures, Marketing can start to develop high-potential leads.

Some brands may gate their product tours, but there are advantages and disadvantages to that. If you gate every tour from the start, there is the potential you’ll annoy prospective customers who are simply in the research phase and don’t want to provide their information. One possibility is only to gate deeper dives and leave the high-level tours ungated. This hybrid approach can help determine who is interested and ready to learn more through a sales conversation.

Other brands may leave their product tours completely ungated, which can work as well, especially if they can include a call-to-action within the tour that allows the viewer to decide for themselves when they are ready to talk to Sales.

You can also create different product tours that show different aspects of the product for different personas (e.g., through email nurtures) or parts of a buying group in an ABM play.

Product tours to support Sales

The marketing play for product tours is essential, but the opportunity for Sales is equally important. Interactive tours can help salespeople tell product stories for complex applications. For example, when a salesperson knows what a prospective customer wants to learn more about, they can create a customized tour that takes them through that aspect of the product.

But the tour doesn’t have to be a one-off for each customer. One of the biggest benefits of product tours is the ability to scale demo automation. Product marketing can create a series of tours with talking points and share them with Sales; in some cases, a salesperson might want to build the tour themself. Either way, there is no need to do custom demos for every prospective customer, worrying that the demo will break (as often tends to be the case).

When Sales interacts with a prospective customer, they can offer the tour as a self-service option or as a leave-behind after a meeting. Which do you think would perform better? A PDF data sheet or product tour?

Having a set of product tours ready to go can also speed up onboarding new SDRs (sales development reps) and AEs (account executives). Not only does the SDR have immediate access to content to help them learn the critical aspects of the product, but they can more quickly start engaging knowledgeably with prospective customers through the tours.

Product tours for tech adoption

Creating product tours for customer onboarding is probably the most well-known use of product tours. Most of the time, it comes in the form of in-app help tours or short demo videos via email or a community site.

But modern technology enables customer success teams to create better tours inside and outside the application to help increase adoption and retention.

For those that do offer free trials or freemium versions of their product, product tours also play a role in adoption and activation. It’s not uncommon for people to sign up for a free trial and never use it. A nurture campaign that includes product tours of key features can help improve usage. The same goes for the freemium versions - product tours can help show customers more advanced features they can get in a paid version and encourage them to upgrade.

And finally, product tours software can support employee training. As you bring new employees into your company, you need them to learn applications quickly. This is a primary use case of Cloudshare:

Training is another primary use case Kevin Shauger, Director of Solution Engineering, showed in a platform demo. With CloudShare, you can set up both self-paced or instructor-led training and get full analytics on who is taking the training and how they are proceeding. For example, Shauger showed me how an instructor could access a student’s environment and help them through a problem. The instructor can also share that problem and resolution with the entire class so everyone can see how to resolve it.

My take

PLG for everyone else

Not every company can follow a true product-led growth (PLG) strategy with free trials or freemium versions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t adopt a PLG mindset. Product tours and interactive demos are a great way to do PLG without true PLG.

Whether it’s marketing, sales, or customer success, product tours show prospective and existing customers how to best use your product and why it’s the right product. And keep in mind, you don’t want to get into a situation where each department creates its own tours. Instead, build and share them in a central location, so everyone has access to the same content to share, ensuring consistency across the company.

I’m diving into the technology options for building product tours next, including vendors such as Demoboost, Reprise, Walnut, and StoryScale. If there’s another one I’m missing, pass it along in the comments.

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