Growth Insights for CEOs

Are You Eating Your Own Dog Food?

Posted by Stijn Hendrikse

How An Old Microsoft Corollary Holds New Significance For Today’s Digital Marketer

product-testingWhen I helped control Bill’s “Gates” many moons ago, as a marketing executive for Microsoft, there was an old nugget of wisdom that I believe offers new relevance for today’s digital marketer.

To ensure the quality of its products – particularly in the “go-go” days of the 1980s, when Microsoft was relatively unchallenged in the marketplace for PC software – executives and employees alike were told to “eat their own dog food.”

The point was: Use your product. Abuse it. Be the most critical customer you can be. Make sure your engineers and executives use it too. Better yet, have your investors use it.

Today, such personal experiences are even more important – particularly when people are constantly using software (or apps, on their mobile devices) to get from point A to point B. A Shopify study presents the scary fact that 67 percent of consumers abandon their online shopping carts with items in them. But this becomes downright nauseating when we learn that three top reasons for this abandonment – website navigation too complicated; website crashed; process taking too long – were likely the result of the developer not sampling his or her own filet mignon.

And testing the site, my friends, is not the same as USING it. Here are some reasons why:

1.  The QA efforts of your beta-testers doesn't equal customer experience.

When you finish your product and pass it through several rounds of quality assurance, it doesn't mean you'll know what your customer will experience. Quite often, your engineers know how to use the software and how to get around bugs, simply because they built it. Your customers, on the other hand, will stumble on things that will make your software freeze, crash their computers, and cause their hair to stand on end. If you use it yourself, the more you use it, the more often you will come across things you have overlooked.

2. "Unnatural" is a different word for a bug.

Often when a developer is building something, they’re so focused on making it work that they forget about how it might make people feel. It might perform perfectly for what you have set out to make it do, but in terms of usability, it might feel so unnatural and awkward, that it's as bad as a major bug. Again, to catch this, you will have to use it yourself and ask all your friends and distant relatives and your grandmother -- who still doesn't know how to use email -- and so forth, to do the same. After all, if you yourself are not satisfied with your product, how can you expect your customer to be?

3. Beware of overlooking things out of overuse.

Let's face it -- if you're going to use your own product, you will probably do so with fervor and live in that world 24/7. Things that you will get used to won't look as familiar to your customers. On top of it, you're not necessarily your own perfect customer. So don't completely discount focus groups and product testing with your customers in real-life scenarios. Remember, because you have built your own product, you might be blind to some things, no matter how much or how often you use it. That's why it's critical to involve everyone you can in using it every day -- executives and investors included.

4. Turn the whole experience into content.

Imagine what ripe material you're creating for your content by using your own product. Take pictures of your employees using it, or record videos. Post the resulting stories on all your social media channels. Show your prospects that your company’s employees love and use what you produce. What could be a better incentive for people to try it out?

So, here’s your “to-do” list to ensure that you are sampling the paté at your company:

  • Whatever software you make, have everyone in your company use it every day. Install your app on their phones, and ask them to provide feedback on the smallest, most trivial issues-- anything they stumble upon and question.
  • Run focus groups and test your product in real-life situations with customers.
  • Record the experience of your focus groups and share it online.


Topics: Product Strategy, Product Testing

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