What I Learned Eating My Own Dog Food


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 As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently hired someone I trusted to interview my own clients and book buyers about my methods, to make sure I was doing as good a job as possible. What I learned will help you understand why this is such a valuable exercise. 

But first a confession: Even though I truly believe in this method – interviewing your current customers to sell more effectively to future customers – I still experienced the exact same natural resistance to the exercise that my own clients always feel. 

As the process proceeded, there was a part of my brain that kept asking, “Why am I paying to have this done? I talk to my clients every day. I constantly interview book buyers and speech attendees. What could I possibly learn that I don’t already know?” 

I was also tempted to go ahead with new marketing initiatives before getting the results of the research, just because my team and I had what felt like great ideas, and we wanted to try them out, just like all the other fools who blow their marketing budget because they didn’t do their homework first. 

Yes, even I had those thoughts. The laugh is on me. Enjoy yourselves.

Now for the epiphany. 

Reading through what people told the interviewer – reading the thoughts of my own beloved clients and readers - I realized something about THEM. They all had one thing in common:

They are good people. And, they are good people by choice. 

Jerks choose to be jerks at a young age. I know this. But I was also reminded that good people also choose to be good people, in spite of all the pressures on them to behave in a jerky way.

In order to get ahead, jerks manipulate. Jerks lie. Jerks back stab. Good people, on the other hand, choose to be honest and hard-working as they strive to be successful. They choose to be humble; and to be kind. To everyone, and not just when it can benefit them. 

I should tell you that I already “sort of” knew this, because I don’t work with jerks. But “sort of” knowing is not the same as having data that I can be certain of, data that leads to the correct decisions about how to market the book and the method. 

Good people read my book, adopt the method, and/or come to me for coaching because they know I am not a self-serving manipulator. They hate manipulators. Before they find me, they had already painfully discovered that the majority of my “competitors” in the marketing/selling consulting field are nothing more than manipulators. Just last weekend I was watching a video by a very famous marketing expert, out pitching his latest CD bundle, who was referring to his customers as a “herd,” and showing them clumped together in a corral on his slide.

His get-filthy-rich message appeals to a other jerks, but it’s a real turn-off for the kind of person I work with. When they read what I’ve written, or talk to me, they breathe a sigh of relief. They know they have discovered a pathway to increased revenue that does not depend on manipulation. And they are glad. They are anxious to get started. 

My clients and readers are solid citizens, who have built their companies – some very small, and some much larger – sticking to their core values. They take good care of their customers and employees and partners. They play fair. They tell the truth, in all circumstances. They try to keep their companies as jerk-free as possible. They are grownup Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, striving to contribute to society and make a difference. 

The information I gather in the interviews I do for them gives them the knowledge to take the right steps with conviction and make the improvements they need to make, so their employees and customers will be happy, without having to resort to a single bit of jerkiness.

My own dog food taught me a valuable lesson. It made me realize what my clients and readers have in common, in a way that I didn’t pay much attention to before – even though I am incredibly close to them individually. 

Frankly, this is priceless information. Those of us running companies, those of us with the entrepreneurial mindset, will run like crazy when we know where we are going and why we are going there. This process did that for me. My convictions have been reinforced and I am re-energized. I know what I’m fighting for, what I want for my clients and readers (and their customers), and what we’re all trying to do.

Somehow it doesn’t seem right to call it dog food anymore.

 

Comments

Dpg Food and "mad men" references

Usually I find your blogs unbiased and pretty well documented. However, in the latest one on Eating Your Own Dog Food, you baldly state that most of your competitors are manipulators. How do you document this? What study has shown that? Are you generalizing without knowledge but from prejudice? And in another earlier blog you state that in the dasy of Mad Men companies would make promises they did not intend to keep and did not. How do you arrive at that conclusion....by watching the show? I was active in the advertising business in NYC in the sixties and can tell you that my agency did nothing of the sort and that is why I do not watch the MM show. Much of the type of behavior it depicts did exist but I can assure you it was not the practice every where so why do your assume it was and that all companies did not practice good ethics?

Not everyone

Golly, Wilder, I'm a little surprised at your reaction.
 
I, too, was in the ad business for some years, in Silicon Valley, and yes, you are right, MadMen, like so many Hollywood depictions, takes the worst of the worst and then fictionalizes it even further, to make it terrible. And yes, there are plenty of people in marketing who are ethical, caring, and professional. You definitely fall into that camp.
 
But I also often find clients who have worked with people who were not caring, at the very least; who led them astray (as in, PR agencies saying, "You've got a PR problem," or SEO companies saying, "You've got an SEO problem"). And in general I find that there is a definite denial that the people you're selling to are 1) in control of the buying process and 2) real people with real nuances and valid opinions that are definitely not the same as the opinions of the people selling to them. 
 
And I am tired of marketing experts referring to customers as if they are their "herd." Or that they can be "converted" or "persuaded," when in fact buyers are simply looking for some respect and answers to their valid questions. 
 
Perhaps I went overboard when I said "the majority of my competitors." I probably should have said, "Some of my competitors." 
 
Thanks for your comment. Always nice to hear from you.
 
kz

It takes courage to hear about yourself

A fun approach to your usual advice. This is just what most people don't dare to do... hear about their own work. That's probably why they say that they already have enough ways of knowing their customers already. It's also probably why they need a third party, from within or outside their company, to do the tough job and then report back.

Thanks for sharing

Thanks for sharing Interesting post. Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I appreciate with this and I like learning about this subject. If possible, as you gain information, please update this blog with more information. I have found it really useful.
redstonecatering

Thanks for showing what NOT to do

 Hi, Redstone Catering. Thanks for showing my readers how NOT to respond to comments in a blog, in an attempt to publicize yourself. Stiff, obviously generic comments which you are obviously posting in a highly automated fashion is the direct opposite of what commenting/participating should be. It's also an example of something I think of as fraudulent flattery. Hmmm. I feel a blog post coming on.
 
I could have deleted your comment - you really shouldn't be rewarded with any clickthroughs - but decided to leave it up as a perfect example of what not to do.
 
You have provided a valuable service to our readers today, although I don't believe that is what you intended.
 
Kristin Zhivago

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