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Eat Your Own Dogfood

One of the disgusting but useful phrases in the programming and developer community is “Eat your own dogfood”.

I am sure there are people out there who really do have to eat their own dogfood in a literal sense, but the meaning behind the phrase in our context is that you have to experience your product, content or service from an end-user perspective. If you do not have that understanding and empathy then you will inevitably not meet your full potential, or potentially create a bad experience.

Do you eat your own dogfood?

Answer honestly. Do you really understand what it is like to be your customer, to read your content, to be a member of your community, to be on the receiving end of your communications?

Most companies behave as if they know their customer. They believe they treat customers as they would like to be treated.

But then you get a sales call from them at 8pm from someone blindly reading a script. Even though you are on the do-not-call list.

I hate the telephone when I am expecting the call, I seriously loathe it when it is unsolicited. Business partners want me to sign off on follow up telephone calls quite often. They say telephone can have a great conversion rate, but I can never bring myself to go with it because I hate it when it is done to me.

Words Versus Behaviour

It can be quite telling when people do one thing but talk about something quite different.

Treat customers, readers, your community as they want to be treated. I would say “as you would like to be treated”, but we are weird freaks who read blogs, your customers might not be.

I’m not saying I am perfect, far from it. Right here on this blog there are some glaring issues that I need to address in a “do as I say, not as I do” way. My point is that the more we align our behaviour with our values, the more our choices in business match our preferences as a customer, the more we will build good experiences and better brands.

Scott Stratten has written a great book (not an affiliate link by the way, but I did get a free copy just for being awesome) about this topic. He talks about building relationships versus old skool interruption marketing. It’s kind of Seth Godin meets social media, meets satire. I am sure you will be hearing a lot about his book as his buzz machine picks up steam, but do check it out if you are into that kind of thing.

Bottom Line: Eat Your Dogfood. It’s good for you.

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  1. Eww – I’ve never heard this phrase before. πŸ™‚ It is disgusting but agree, more people should eat their own dogfood. Then they’d understand the more common phrase, “that looks like a dog’s breakfast.”

    Ok, enough of the dog + food analogies for today.

  2. Hey Chris,

    I couldn’t agree more. I think the art of telling people what they want to here and then behaving in the opposite manner has become normal, which is a shame.

    I think much of the reason why people have turned to blogs is the hope of finding authentic opinions in a sea of semi-credible marketing.

  3. Love this post Chris! So much insight. I am a newbie, blogging, but not as consistently as I would like. Hope to have products eventually. Right now I need to focus and follow through:)You have given me a lot to think about, thanks so much.

  4. Hi Chris!

    Love the comment ‘eat your own dog food’! At my seminars I encourage people to ‘stand in their own queues’, but I prefer your phrase!

    It is crucial though that we do take time out to see what our customers are seeing, hearing and experiencing when they visit us, ring us, explore our website. Most of us are so busy we don’t make time to do it. Simply ringing up your own business, listening to your own answerphone message, or standing in your own reception can highlight things you don’t see because we’re so busy.

    I once went on the website of a local PR company who wanted some marketing advice. Their strap line was ‘keeping you in the news and up to date’. On their website’s ‘latest news’ section about them, the ‘latest’ story was over 8 months old!

    Anyway, thanks fro reminding me – off to eat a bit of my own dog food!


    • Everyone should be their own mystery shopper. There was a TV program where CEOs had to become low level employees, it would be interesting if more of them had to do that.

  5. This is an interesting concept. I haven’t heard the phrase “eat your own dog food” until now.

    I’m a writer, so I mainly write web content or blog. When I do, I always try to provide information I think my readers will find useful. Whenever I have a question or recently discovered something new that other readers might enjoy in my specific niche, I put it up on my blog.

    I never aim to write content just to get it out of the way. Each post I write is intended to provide meaning.

    On a side note, I used to sometimes eat dog food when I was young and didn’t know any better. Sigh, the strange things people do as children. I also sometimes ate plain flour – right out the bag! Boy did I get into trouble. But, I digress…

    This post brings up memories. πŸ™‚

  6. The thing about eating your own dog food (or ‘putting on the user hat’, as I call it when I don’t want to gross myself out) is that a lot of the less-tasty dog food results from following conventional wisdom instead of our gut.

    I dig sales, but I never make cold calls. I don’t want to make a sale that results from someone feeling uncomfortable, rushed or obliged. But conventional sales wisdom tells me I should push through those icky feelings and chase the results with no concern for the customer’s perspective. In this (common) approach, a positive customer experience is only considered to be valuable for its effect on the bottom line. But when you eat your own dog food, you need to eat the whole bowl — not just that tasty-looking sauce on top. (Apologies to anyone who was eating while reading this.)

  7. Hi Chris love the content, am a little scared at the analagy πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Chris, glad to read about eating my own dog. It is I prone since 1970….

    I would love that Microsoft take for First Principle!

  9. Awesome Chris. I am a chiropractor and chronic pain specialist. I value loving people, giving them as much of me as I can, and telling them the truth. I’ve practiced treating people even when they couldn’t afford me, trusting them to pay my fees the next time I saw them, and hugging patients when I felt a genuine connection. I feel that the brand I’m creating is genuine reflection of the values I live my life by. Thank you for pointing this out to me.

  10. “Discusting?”

  11. Love the phrase and will be introducing this to our thinking when we talk about the product experience (beats a number of others we use at the moment!)

    Great post πŸ™‚

    • It’s always good to have someone on the team who is advocating on behalf of the end users. Trouble starts when everyone is thinking about what the company works without taking customers into account πŸ™‚

  12. Hey Chris:
    Have you ever tricked someone and gave them dogfood on a cracker? LOL Really thanks for an informative post.

  13. Great post Chris.

    But let’s delve into the human animal a bit further, shall we? Sometimes we “say” we want to be treated one way and then, when the tribe moves in another direction, even if we don’t like the vehicle, we move with the tribe…even if they’re stampeding toward PetSmart. Hhhmm.

    Personally, I LUV using surveys. This way my niche TELLS me what I want to know and my time is spent producing content that someone actually wants. And I always remember to say thank you with a great take-away gift. That’s something telemarketers NEVER do. πŸ™‚

  14. I often challenge the CEO’s I coach to eat their own dog food…actually experience what it is like to be served by their company. This exercise often exposes disconnect between the owners vision and what is actually occurring.
    I share advice for start ups , entrepreneurs on my blog and I often have to check myself before I post…is this what I do?
    Great post
    Mark Allen Roberts

    • There is often a “Cobbler’s Children Syndrome” where consultants, designers and developers are concerned which is understandable, but should always strive to be a good example in our behaviour more than our words, as far as is possible πŸ™‚

  15. I always try to think about my reader when I’m writing a new post for my blog. Are they going to enjoy this? How is it even relevant for them? These questions slowly fade as I write my post and I usually forget about how my reader views the information I post. Thank you for reminding me that this is something I need to focus more on! I thought this phrase was really funny, and I hope it forces me to remember to think about my reader’s wants when I’m writing. Thanks again!

  16. I have never heard that phrase before, but I will never forget it now. Thanks for the reminder to pretend to be a customer now and again. I just went through my website and found out shockingly that some of my contact forms weren’t working. Thanks so much!!!