What's inside an effortlessly beautiful demo?

5 Steps to Better Telling Your Product's Story.

As Joan Didion once said: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” As a founder, and later as a salesperson, I’ve consistently underestimated the power of the story. During one round of fundraising, I noticed that investors were not interested in Arcade. I was not getting followup meetings.

Then, after a few meetings, I started leading with my personal story about Arcade. It was night and day — investors were paying attention. They weren’t fidgeting. They asked for more meetings. Eventually, we closed with a term sheet within a week.

The same applies to you as a creator. You always need to be telling the larger story about your product. Why you? Why your product? Why should we care?

We created Arcade to empower teams to be able to better showcase what they’re building through interactive demos. Arcade’s tagline is “show, don’t tell” — and that’s really what we’re trying to help teams do. Today’s consumers want to experience products before they use them. We focus on making it super easy to do, too.

Since launching in January 2022, we’ve empowered more than 5.5k teams to tell more engaging stories with their product. Teams use Arcade for a variety of use cases ranging from showcasing their product on their website to creating guides and tutorials.

When we built an Arcade with Creator Studio - a new suite of tools to make even more polished demos - we made a point of dogfooding our product. As part of this launch, we wanted to create an amazing Arcade to showcase across all of our channels.

But what we discovered in the process is that the hard part isn’t necessarily about the tooling; it’s about the storytelling and the planning behind it.

We experienced this firsthand and spent countless hours going back and forth on figuring out what we wanted to show. Fundamentally, you are creating a work of art. And great works of art come to be only through many versions and mistakes.

Here are five learnings about what it takes to tell a great story with your product:

🗺 Step 1: Storyboarding

You may think that “storyboarding” is a term that only screenwriters or animators use. But it can be simple!

From speaking with customers, there’s a handful of simple questions you should ask yourself before getting started:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are their key pain points or jobs-to-be-done?
  • What are the 1 or 2 “AHA” moments that you want to focus on?
  • What is the primary call to action? E.g., demo requests, feature usage, or sign-up.
Miro has a great storyboard template if you're looking for inspiration.

✂️ Step 2: Trim it down

Since its publication in 1943, The Little Prince has become the second-best-selling commercial book in history, with 140 million copies sold worldwide. It is just behind The Lord of the Rings and ahead of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

So what’s the connection between children's books and demos? 🤔

Well, the original version was 3x as long. Its author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was known to cross out entire pages leaving only one or two sentences. Trimming down the book to the most important, specific points is what made it a great story.

With demos, we talk to customers about the power of seven. From analyzing thousands of demos, we’ve seen that the highest engagement happens when there are seven or less steps. After that, engagement drops off because, not surprisingly, your audience has a limited attention span.

Keep trimming, and then trim some more.

💿 Step 3: Mix it up

When I was in a poetry class in college, the teacher confessed a secret that the best poets frequently chopped up their work and inserted random bits here and there. This seemed counterintuitive to everything I’d learned before about storytelling.

Of course, you want a flow — but if you are struggling to fit all the best parts of your demo into one demo, why would you? Separate them out by themes.

For example, we’ve seen customers like Nudge Security create “demo centers” where they showcase multiple use cases and topics versus cramming them into one.

Breaking it down also allows you to learn more about how your content is resonating. With Arcade Insights, you can experiment with your demo and understand the impact of every change.

🧃 Step 4: Think about the juice

A video that I always go back to is Martin Jonasson & Petri Purho’s “Juice it or Lose It” talk from 2012. They talk about how “In video games, juicy things are things that wobble, squirt, bounce around, or make cute noises."

For a B2B tech company, we can’t do too many squirts or cute noises, but what we can do is find our own juice.

I see these as the surprise and delight moments — moments where you can bring playfulness into your product. A recent example I loved that our team created was for our 404 page.

Another Arcade example that stood out recently was from Synthesia - an AI generator video tool.

What makes it so amazing are the small moments of polish:

  • The excellent copy with the sentence at the end
  • When you click on “Customize your video” the Arcade zooms in
  • Showing the viewer all the options for characters, making it feel like a choose you’re own adventure

Find those moments to add some juice!

🔁 Step five: Iterate!

The fatal flaw of a demo (or any content) is to “set it and forget it.”

Launching it is the first step, but as soon as you start to get feedback and insights on how people are engaging, that’s when the best demo happens. The power of an interactive demo is that it’s a live asset — meaning you can go in and update or change anything you like without having to start from scratch. So whether you’ve got a change in the UI or want to tweak copy, it can be done in a few clicks.

Hopefully these are useful for you to get started with a new demo or updating existing Arcades.

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