There’s a common business phrase “eating your own dog food.” It dates from the earliest dog food commercials in television when ultimately would the dog eat the food. It doesn’t matter how good a product looks if the consumer doesn’t use it, it’s useless.
Microsoft is pretty famous for using it’s own products in house, and these leading to eventual improvements (that’s why the third version of any Microsoft product is markedly better than the first two). For Microsoft this sometimes leads to market blindness, indeed for any company this can cause market blindness. I just realized I have used a term that people might not be familar with at all.
Market blindness is the inability to see a market even though the company should. For example Microsoft in 1995 had market blindness in regards to the Internet. They saw the world through it’s existing products and product lines. Seeing the world through your existing customers eyes is a great way to retain customers and ultimately keep them happy. It might completely blind you to new market opportunities. In fact it’s almost certain to blind you. For example where is the MS response to wikis?
Market blindness often occurs when a company has an existing solution or parallel solution to a new product. For example MS Encarta has never achieved the online status of Wikipedia (even though it’s a better product). MS has been largely market blind to true user participation models on the Internet.
Market blindness can occur when a company doesn’t see an opportunity in a market. For example Cisco never really saw the opportunity in the home networking space. They left that market to Linksys whom they eventually bought. (There is some debate about whether this is a case of market blindness or fear of knifing the baby as low end equipment would be replacing their pricier commercial equipment. I have noticed that since Cisco has bought Linksys you can no longer replace the antenna on Linksys WRTG54G wireless router with high performing after market products.)
Market blindness can occur when a product is a substitution for incumbent products but doesn’t appear to be a substitution. For example a combination of wikis, online project management, and Google documents is beginning to operate for a replacement for the traditional Office suite with it’s user centric model. The network centric models are better suited to collaborative distributed models. However I am willing to bet that if you talk to the MS Office project manager – he will only mention Google as a competitor and completely miss how other networked forms of interaction/workspace might substitute for Office. In this case market blindness is being caused by a change in the model of the workspace.
While I have gone on for a bit on about market blindness when the original point of this post is about using your own products or services. Whenever you launch a business online that adds value to an existing business model you need to make sure that business model has some utility and by using your product you can find error and think of improvements. So when I wanted a digital camera for occasional usage, I spent some time researching various models. This is for recreational use but I would like to take quality photographs. After I researching I decided to get a Kodak EasyShare z710. I looked up pricing at earlymiser.com and found that the local Walmart had the unit for the median price point at earlymiser.com. Considering that I wanted the unit for the weekend, I went ahead and bought it.
So what did “eating my own dog food” tell me about my site? Well it gave me some insight to user behavior. I was looking for a good price on the unit but I wasn’t willing to wait 1 week for the very best price. Instead I merely confirmed that the price I got was a good one and I made the purchase.
So how might I apply this to Earlymiser.com. Well it could a simple feature, allowing a user to ask, “Is this a good price on product x?” The site could then calculate the median price point for all vendors and then let you know if indeed that is a good price point for a product and could let you know which vendors were higher or which vendors were lower. By using my own site and thinking about my usage, I can think about ways to improve the user experience.
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