Importance of startup dogfooding

Dave Rigotti
Feb 4, 2014 · 2 min read

Dogfooding” is a fairly common practice in software development. Essentially, it’s when a company uses its own product as a way to test, demonstrate the capabilities, and expose scenario or feature weaknesses. We actively use our own product and it’s certainly been positive. Before we discuss it too much, it’s important to note however, that dogfooding does not replace customer feedback through their actual use.

How it helped me

I run marketing for Bizible, which is SaaS that provides analytics for marketers doing lead generation. All of our leads go through a nurturing and sales cycle, so naturally I use our own product. Not only is this helpful for my own marketing, but it also:

  1. Allows me to create better content for marketing by testing use cases, strengths, and weaknesses of the product
  2. Stay on the lookout for bugs and issues to alert support
  3. Provide feedback to engineering as the resident use case (this does not replace talking with customers)

Not just for software

It works for products too. A famous example of this is when the Steve Jobs was using the then new iPhone a little over a month before launch. The story goes that the original iPhone was going to have a plastic screen. However, when Steve started using it and keeping it in his pocket with his keys, the screen was easily scratched. He demanded the screen be changed to glass, so spinned up a team of engineers, factory workers in China, and secured massive amounts of glass to pump out the redesigned iPhone in 6 weeks.

Things to watch out for

However, it can come with dangers as Des Traynor, COO of intercom.io, points out in a blog post. In short, their point is that if you’re eating too much dogfood, you may neglect basic areas of your product, including; 1) Product tour; 2) Outdated screenshots and/or documentation; 3) Crummy or broken onboarding communications. In conclusion, Des suggests making onboarding something you evaluate regularly by signing up for your product every week. I agree.

B2B Marketing

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