IStock_000002606834XSmall Have you ever heard the expression – “to eat your own dog food?” It’s a rather crude cliché to make the point that sometimes the best way to understand your customer is to experience your product the way that they do. In the automotive industry, this was often cited as the principal behind giving people company cars.  After all, if you work for GM (for example) – not only should you drive a GM car, but having one personally will help you to understand your customers, right? 

To a point, this logic works. The problem is, in the GM example, the employee who has the car didn’t have to buy it in the first place. So while a GM exec (or one from any other car company for that matter – not to pick on GM) may drive the same car as his or her customer, they have had a far different experience in getting it. They didn’t research the car online. They didn’t shop around and talk to several dealers about it. They didn’t have to trade off something else in their budget to afford the car and figure out how to finance it.  And now that they have it, they don’t have to worry about things like maintenance or even filling gas into the car.  All of that was taken care of. 

Eating your own dog food (ie – experiencing your own product) isn’t enough.  You need to experience the entire process around buying it to really understand your customers. That means you need to shop around. You need to go into a retail store to try and purchase, or buy it online and see how long it takes to arrive. What did the box it came in look like? What was the condition of it?  Did you get any follow up from anyone after you bought it.

All of these are the questions you can get answers to in the simplest of ways – by buying your own product.  I have purchased a copy of my own book from just about every vendor that sells it – just to see how the experience is. That way, I know where to send people and what they can expect if they buy it online and get it shipped to them. Doing the same for your product or service can help you spot the holes in your process and fix them before they cause you to lose sales. And f your product happens to actually be dog food, I'm sure you'd much rather buy it than eat it anyway.