Eating Your Own Dog Food: Make More Money, Reduce Refunds And Minimize Customer Support

In programming, there is a phrase called, "Eating Your Own Dog Food", which to my surprise almost no marketers know about it, almost no MBAs know about it, and almost no programmers know about this phrase.  It is so important, not just in programming, but in writing, in real life, in presenting and in copywriting.

Here's What "Eating Your Own Dog Food" Really Means...

It means test your stuff!

When you think of dog food, it's not very appetizing is it?  You probably would not eat it.  But what if you had to?  If you had to eat dog food, you might make it with better ingredients.  You might make it with different ingredients so that it would taste better for you.

It is the same idea with your own websites and reports. If you were the one using your software programs, if you were the one using your blog or your membership site, what would you change to make it easier for you to find your own information?

Think about Microsoft Word. When you open up Microsoft Word, what is the first thing that happens?  It automatically opens up a new blank document.  You don't have to navigate to open up something new.  By default, it guesses that you are going to write something brand new.  It saves you a little bit of time every time you open up that word processor.

What about the iPod music player? I notice that sometimes when I am listening to my iPod or iPhone and I yank out the ear-phone jack, the music player will automatically mute itself.  Back when I had a DiscMan, WalkMan, or tape recorder and I was listening to something through head-phones, and the head-phones were accidently disconnected, it would immediately switch to the speakers.

Nine times out of ten, I did not want it to broadcast out of the speakers.  That's why when they created an iPod they added this extra feature so you would not accidentally broadcast your music.

It makes it much more convenient because if you are listening to something on your iPod or iPhone and you are done listening through the head-phones, simply unplug and it mutes itself.

I use this logic all the time in the real world. For example, back when I had a day job, I created a web page that submitted a form that took a while to load.  People testing it noticed when students were waiting for this long form to load, they would click the submit button multiple times.

What I did was greyed out these submit buttons, so after they clicked it once, they could not click it again.  You might see this in sites such as PayPal.  When you click the pay button, you only want to pay once.

The best story of Eating Your Own Dog Food, which I am not sure is true, is from Michael Fortin.  Apparently, Michael released some kind of VHS video tape about copywriting.  He sold a thousand copies.  Only one person asked for a refund.  The person said that the video tape was blank.  As it turned out a mistake was made and all 1000 video tapes were blank.  Because no one had tested it, and none of the customers had even played the tape, nobody knew the tapes were blank.

How Do You "Eat Your Own Dog Food" in Your Business?

Do you have instruction manuals or software manuals?  If you keep getting the same questions asked over and over, integrate those into your manuals. I have revised my manuals for products such as "PaySensor" and "Action PopUp" hundreds of times to the point where the first page gives people the quick-start guide.

Certain phrases people still miss, even with the written instructions.  I have bolded, made them red, and increased the font just to cut down on the amount of customer support.  On my blog, I have adjusted things such as moving the search box higher in the side bar.  I've used plug-ins such as Psychic Search to figure out what people are looking for and what they aren't finding.

After I setup a membership site, I create a user-level account to see what my users see when they first join it. This is how I sometimes can catch that the category bar is missing, or that the site needs a search box, or that certain posts need to be stickied or moved to the top so people can easily find information, or even create special side bar widgets that give easy links so they can quickly navigate to different areas of the site.

Even if none of these options apply to you, read your own reports, your own articles, your own blog posts. You might notice that you are not giving a clear picture of what needs to be done.  Maybe you need to add a step by step blueprint or checklist.  If you follow along the different steps you are providing in your report, you are missing a crucial chapter.

For example, in one of my reports I talk about how to dictate a lot of articles and get them transcribed.  I noticed going back weeks later using my own report, I missed the step about getting applicants who transcribe a job to take a test.  I filled in that missing chapter.

This should be common sense.  I still have to tell it to you: Eat Your Own Dog Food! Test your stuff.

Use Your Own Sites, And See How Your Front End Appears To People Who Are Trying To Find You!

If people are searching a certain phrase in Google to find you, what are they searching for?  When people are on your sales letter and there is a video on that page, is it clear where the play button is?  If someone goes through the check-out process of your site, is it clear how they can get their download?  Do you have an email follow up sequence in place to ensure that they download your product, that they consume it, and that they actually get to the end and get the results they were looking for?  If not, you have more work to do.

You will thank me later because you will reduce refunds, spend less time on customer support, and make more sales by Eating Your Own Dog Food.

Question Time!  Do you eat your own dog food? In what way?  How are you going to do a better job of dog fooding in the future?

Comment below, right now.  It's 100% free.

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  1. Shelby says:

    Great post Robert! I’ve never heard that phrase before, but it’s such an important concept. Half the time when I buy something I ask myself whether they actually use the process themselves or are making stuff up, if everyone had to “eat their own dog food” I think we’d see a little more thought in everyone’s products.

    It’s also a nice thing to build into your own processes, if once you finish a product, website etc… you look at it with fresh buyer eyes I think you’ll see a lot things you can improve.

    Thanks again,


  2. Great post!

    I’ve been in software development and systems integration for many years and this has been one of my biggest peeves; people not testing their work or experiencing it for themselves.

    We really shouldn’t expect other people to be our unofficial beta testers and following your points in this blog is the best way to cover most of the issues you can cause when providing service to others regardless of the kind of service or product.

    Of course no one is perfect and things will slip through but if you’ve got those points well rehearsed they few that fall through will be quite minor, few and far between and easy to quickly remedy when reported. All of which leads to great service and building good solid relationships with your clients and friends.

    Thanks for getting the word out Robert!

  3. Great concept. Too few people test things out. Or test once, then figure it is working. Can’t tell you how many times I get to a site and tabs or buttons or hyperlinks don’t work. I usually just click off the site.

  4. Jesus Perez says:

    Time to eat your dog food, lol…

    “which to my surprise almost no marketers no about it, almost no MBAs no about it, and almost no programmers no about this phrase”

    should be…

    “which to my surprise almost no marketers know about it, almost no MBAs know about it, and almost no programmers know about this phrase”

  5. First off, I would like to complain about the language at the beginning of your article. Your typist writes: “which to my surprise almost no marketers no about it, almost no MBAs no about it, and almost no programmers no about this phrase”

    This should have been: “which to my surprise almost no marketers KnoW about it, almost no MBAs KnoW about it, and almost no programmers KnoW about this phrase”

    So it may be cheap to get your dictated messages typed, but there are obvious typos… Is it just me? 😉

    Back to the subject: I already follow this process, and in fact I have had many comment that the quality was too good when they had read e-books from me. I think it’s because I always include a good Table of Contents, and that I always EDIT and PROOFREAD to ensure everything is AT LEAST as good as I would have liked it to be when I am the buyer.

    Furthermore, I have a filtering system in my Thunderbird that automatically shows if a person pays twice. I refund even before they write about this, so I see that it works – without requiring anything on a customer’s part. 🙂

  6. Thomas says:

    Cool tip. And one that I have been doing, although I am not great at any of the tasks yet.
    One of the reasons that it seems to take me forever to get an article done as I always reread and rewrite some and sometimes more than just a little rewriting.

  7. Robert Plank says:

    All right Jesus and Henrik, you got me, I missed that typo.

    I glanced at most of this month’s blog posts just to double check and only found errors on one post but this one seemed to slip by.

    It just goes to show you that IMPORTANT things always get past you, that’s why it’s so important to eat your own dog food… it’s a continuous process.

  8. Robert,
    I don’t want to complain about the words because it’s the content that counts and your point is vital. Even if you dictated them and had them transcribed, it would still be your content and not only will I eat your content, I will devour it.
    The only “complaint” I have is that I don’t get notifications of updates on your plugins and so when you fix something I don’t know about it. I’ve had to buy a couple of your plugins twice to get the upgrade. I only bring that up because you referenced your manual for action otpin and I don’t remember there being much detail in the original.

    Of ALL the things you do, that is THE ONLY thing I could ever complain about. and that’s pretty darn good – there are only 2 other people I can say that about.

    I love your stuff.


  9. Dave Doolin says:

    I did this today with one of my products.

    Which I also need to specifically use more often.

    I have a few “complaints” of my own (better plugin updating hint hint hint). Nothing mission critical for me at the moment, so I’ll keep my mouth shut for now.

  10. Robert Plank says:


    I have been working on plugin updates actually. I just have to get it perfected with one of my plugins before rolling it out to the rest. Got to do it right.

  11. Just FYI – I think dictation failed you again when you said “I grade out the submit button.” That should be “I grayed-out…”

    All those little typos aside, your point is well taken.
    I’m glad you had told us ahead of time that you’re dictating it or we would think you failed your English class…LOL


  12. Robert Plank says:


    It looks like that transcriptionist got lazy at the end when typing up my audios…

    Who needs someone to check typos when you guys do it? Even when I wrote my own stuff, my fingers betrayed me all the time. Good thing this isn’t on paper.

  13. I think the most important out of all of this is not to focus on the typos, but the message that Robert is trying to get across.

    We are all human! Even Robert who is great sometimes makes mistakes. I make them too and each of us those too.

    Robert is a great coach. He is action-oriented and wants the best for everyone.

    Each post makes us learn something and he shares that with us in hopes that we get something out of it!

    I was on his webinar yesterday and love how he gives us challenge to accomplish and deadlines to get them done by.

    I plan on getting all of those challenges done on time for me and also in a way to make him proud of me.

    Robert is a motivational coach and an expert in my eyes.

    Believe in him because he walks the talk!


  14. HelenRappy says:

    This was a great concept that should be obvious, but certainly can be overlooked. The phrase is catchy and I know I will never forget it! I like the idea a lot, not eating dog food of course, but the meaning behind it. I’ll be sure to take more time to taste it before I serve it! Thank you for this helpful reminder that people are eating what we serve and it has our name written all over it!!


  15. “Good thing it’s not on paper” is right. After two or three obvious typos were reported, that I had not noticed, I was starting to feel like a dummy till I read that statement. Then I went back and saw that you had fixed the typos. Whew! Not losing it after all.

    As a publishing pro, I can tell you that there is no such thing as perfect. The longer the document, the more the certainty of errors.

    Luckily we all read so much and so fast these days that our minds automatically translate most of them unconsciously. Of course, that makes them harder to catch, especially in our own work.

    There really is no good excuse for programmers not testing their own software, but even when they do, there will always be interface inconsistencies and other issues that are invisible to them, just the way certain of our own typos tend to be invisible to writers–at least till later viewing.

  16. Great advice, Robert. I think I over edit my work sometimes. I’m trying to find a reasonable balance. As I begin to create more content and a membership site, I’ll keep your post running in the back of my mind. I know how much I want my experiences to be good ones when I respond to an offer. I want to return the experience in kind.

  17. andreea says:

    Before the amazing method to write articles in 3 minutes (!!!)… thank you, thank you, thank you… I was spending more than an hour writing/brainstorming/researching to come up with an article to post. It was excruciating and not fun at all. There were several times when I made errors mostly because spending so much time editing, writing and reading, my eyes and brain could not take it anymore. And also, once finally posted and sent, I would realize it I would have done it differently and added more things or taken some out. So now, after months of eating dog (and cat food), I am happy to have a better recipe.

  18. Allen says:

    I guess it’s a bit like being your own mistery shopper … walking around the store looking for faults, feedback and ways to improve.

    It’s funny how we don’t often notice these things (eg. the Word document opening) and take them for granted. I guess it’s important to make sure your customers understand the intricacies of what you’re doing.

    P.S. Just came off a webinar … no selling, only content but quite boring … yawn (especially at 1am) … made me realise how well you guys present your information.

  19. Britt Malka says:

    “Eating your own dog food” – I laughed when I saw that title, and I guessed what your blog post must be about, because many years ago, when I had a day job, one of my jobs was being a sub-manager in a supermarket. This supermarket was a part of a big chain, and one day, we were showed around in the head quarters. We also saw the laboratories, and a lady there showed us, where they would test and eat bites of every product the supermarket were selling, and yes, dog foot, too.

    I never forgot that, so it was really funny to learn that it’s an expression amongst programmers.

    Yes, I play my own first customer every time, too. And I keep doing that till the sales process and welcoming run smoothly.

    Then I start selling, and sooner or later unexpected errors show up.

    Lol, I guess that’s just the way it’s meant to be 🙂 We can eat or own dog foot, but that doesn’t mean we should eat every tin (or can) of it, just a bite or two.

  20. Dan Martin says:

    Great post. You should market a product about it.

    This isn’t just for internet marketers; brick and mortar stores need it too. If you get asked the same question over and over… you need a sign.

    Typos don’t bug me too much if the content is great. It does tick me off when I do it though.

    A reminder to everyone… you don’t get much response if the links don’t work.
    Thanks for the post.

  21. hmmmmm…I smell another opportunity for outsourcing here Robert LOL

    I will train someone to be my ideal customer and sample my dog food at random and scheduled intervals!

    Mtn Jim

    p.s. by the way, your dog food has been pretty good lately 🙂

  22. As a programmer, I have to say that given the choice, I prefer to start by eating the other guys dog food.

    It’s all very well using the product you created to do something AFTER you’ve created it. But you can also avoid a lot of hassle up front by doing the job before hand so that you get that understanding first.

  23. Marian says:

    I totally agree here! I have to “eat my own dog food” in order to be more effective. It surely pays off!


  24. Your point is well taken, Robert!

    I wish more online marketers would take your advice and wrap their brains around this conceptual slogan. I’ve seen some pretty schlocky stuff out there that obviously wasn’t tested before being released to the public.

    I think “Eat Your Own Dog Food” could be equated with “Take Some Pride In Your Work and Pay Attention to Details” — because your prospects and customers certainly will!

  25. Ron Barrett says:

    Have to admit, when I read the title of the post, I thought what the??? has Robert gone mad??

    As others have mentioned, great information…

    I have tested my ‘buy’ buttons since I can remember… I think the biggest mistake most people working online (or offline for that matter) make is NOT thinking like their customer. I’ve always been told test, test, test… I don’t think a whole lot of people do…

    What’s tomorrow’s subject line? ‘rolling around in your own cat litter’? yuck!

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