PLM: why a good demo is so important

Jo Hughesapparel plm, enterprise solutions

PLM demo building

So you’ve got a fantastic system. Under the hood, the architecture is slick and robust. The UI looks just the driver to control the engine. The features are broad and deep. So why are you having difficulty persuading potential clients to go further with you than a first base demo?

Well perhaps it’s the demo itself. Many PLM providers underestimate the power of a good demo in selling their value proposition. PLM can be somewhat of a behemoth to comprehend, especially to those who have had limited exposure to PLM previously. An unfocused demo with poor or sparse demo data can be catastrophic in making a good first impression to the client.

PLM providers often get so absorbed in proving the breadth and scale of their functional offering is superior to the competition, that they can often overwhelm potential prospects. It’s all very well showing your prospect everything under the kitchen sink, but then you leave your audience somewhat bewildered as they try and patch together which elements of your system can address the particular product development challenges they are trying to alleviate.

Another cardinal sin in the world of demoing PLM is not showing product or processes that your prospect is familiar with. With many similarities across design, merchandising, product specification and sourcing, PLM is an appropriate solution for many different divisions. It’s no good going to see a retailer specialising in home furnishings and showing them ladies lingerie. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s no good going to see a retailer and showing them a demo system configured for manufacturers – no matter how fancy your Bill of Labour functionality is. Committing this error can be fatal in your sales pitch. You look sloppy, like they are not important enough a customer for you to make an effort. You come across like you don’t understand the nature of their business. You run the serious risk of completely loosing your audience’s attention when you show them products and processes they are not familiar with.

So what do you need to do show your system in the best possible way and win your audience over?

Well the first item on the to-do-list is to identify the product groups/divisions you will need to have a standard demo prepared for. If you know that you are going to target men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, then make sure you have standard demo that includes each of those product types. If you plan on presenting to retailers and manufacturers then make sure you have a demo tailored to each one of those business models. Have simple BOMs (bill of materials) prepared that utilise FOB costing and buying models, then also have complex BOMs prepared, showing how you can manage CMT (cut, make and trim) with perhaps variations in components across either the different sizes or colourways of a style. You want to make sure that you do not overwhelm with complexity when simplicity is all that is needed, and that you do not come across as insufficient when detail and depth is what is required.

Secondly on that to-do-list is to populate your demo with rich, realistic and consistent content. Don’t show a line list with a handful of grainy images. Make sure every item in that list has a unique, high quality image against it. Mix product drawings with photos to show products at design through to sample stage. Be consistent. If you click on a T-Shirt record then make sure every supporting piece of data in that record refers to T-Shirts, no product type being specified as “dress”, no how-to-measure images of trousers. Be realistic. Don’t have “Jane Smith” assigned as the designer, the buyer and also the main contact at the Hong Kong based supplier. Make sure that for every product type that you build a demo for, you have a full set of realistic supporting data available to associate with it, from suppliers through to materials. That T-Shirt needs a 100% cotton available in the material library and assigned to the BOM, not leather.

Just demoing straight up functionality can be an easy trap to fall into. The PLM novices in your audience need something to relate to help them understand what they seeing and how it can help them. A proven and successful approach is to demo “a day in the life of” a product. Take that T-Shirt and show how it starts off as placeholder on a Line Sheet, becomes a drawn up design, a product specification, a sample and finally an adopted product. Write a demo script that follows the business process, not the functional layout of the system, which are not always the same thing.

Last but not least is to do is your homework. If you are going to see a particular prospect, spend some time researching them and tailoring your demo. If they are a retailer, go on their website, screen capture their products and replace the product images in your demo. Ask for example product specifications. Restructure your company hierarchy to represents their divisions and departments. Use their terminology.

You can also take this research element to your demo building one step further by utilising a Preliminary Demo Questionnaire. This is a document designed to garner as much information as possible about your prospect’s requirements so that you can tailor your presentation exactly to their needs. This document should aim to understand their business structure and the product development design challenges they are facing. Of course, this requires effort from the client and with the absence of an NDA may not always be possible to obtain, but if you can get this document filled in then it is the golden goose of demo preparation.

If you would like to find out more about how Apparel Thing can help you prepare a demo to beat the competition, then click here.

Jo Hughes on sablinkedin
Jo Hughes
With a background in fashion design, Jo has worked with many international retail and apparel companies, implementing solutions to help them work more efficiently to develop products.

She has a detailed understanding of the apparel product development process and the supporting systems including PLM, PDM, CAD and 3D garment design.