You Have To Be Your Own Best Customer

Using your own products and services is one of the most effective ways for businesses to obtain constantly new insights.
You Have To Be Your Own Best Customer

Imagine what would you think if you found out that Time Cook uses a Galaxy S4? Or that Richard Brandson prefers flying with American Airlines? Or that the employees of the Ford dealership were you do not own a Ford? If this happens, you probably have second thoughts about getting an iPhone, or Virgin or buying a Ford. Clearly, in order to sell more we need to be ready to eat our own dog's food.

Dogfooding is an expression inspired by an advertising campaign from the 70s, where the product spokesman sends the message that he thought Alpo dog food was so good that he used it himself. After all, if your product is so fantastic, your employees must want it. dogfooding is a tool for attracting customers and engaging employees. Because it allows you to demonstrate confidence in your own products and enables your employees to test your company's products and services in a real-life scenario. Therefore, it does not only transfer the responsibility of the product/service's quality to everyone but also lets the company flush out problems that could not otherwise be found prior to full-scale rollout at launch.

Being a user of your own product or service lets you detect problems and necessities that can be converted into opportunities for the company. Also is a great marketing strategy. It shows that the company has confidence in its product or service while allowing you to send the message to the customers that "we treat you like one of us–because some of you are!". This is reflected in an improvement in sales, support, and quality control in the company as employees know both when everything is working and when is not.

Both large multinational and small family businesses that have implemented this strategy have identified its benefits. For example, in the 90s, while developing Windows NT, Microsoft popularized an idea to make everyone on the team use early builds of their own software. Nowadays, according to Paul Vick, Microsoft's tech lead for Visual Basic Development, dogfooding is part of Microsoft´s culture. Some of the main benefits he pointed out are:

  1. It proves to customers that Microsoft believes in its products.
  2. It makes Microsoft employees suffer the same bugs and design flaws that they inflict on users, thereby providing incentives to fix them.
  3. Because Microsoft is such a large company, dogfooding an enterprise-level product can flush out problems that could not otherwise be found prior to full-scale rollout at launch.
  4. It allows Microsoft developers to learn how their products actually work, which may not be exactly how developers think they work. 
Some other examples of companies that have identified similar benefits applying this strategy are dogfooding like this: 37signals a software company that develops business productivity software uses their own software to run their software business. Facebook rolls out most features to employees first, and only then to a subset of external customers. Moz, a search engine optimization business, asks each team member to set up a blog and use the company’s tools to make it rank the highest a couple of weeks later.

However, for this strategy to give the best results, you must be creative in the way you motivate employees to be users. Try performing contests regularly, weekly or biweekly, in order to foster employees to think constantly about how to improve products or services, or new business ideas. Moreover, give real prizes and recognition within the company to the winners.

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