The phrase “eat your own dog food” was popularized by Microsoft in the 80's, meaning that if you believe your product is any good, you should be using it. If eating dog food has negative connotations for you, try, drinking your own champagne or devouring your own ice cream, the point is: 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.
Using is not the same as testing
1. QA of your betas 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 building something, you're so concentrated on making it work that you 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 over-use.
Let's face it, if you're going to use your own product, you will probably do so with fervor and 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, film videos. Spread the resulting stories on all your social media channels. Show your prospects that your company employees love and use what you produce. What could be a better incentive for people to try it out, other than seeing that you're using it and loving it?
Your to-do list:
- 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.