Uber does it, Twitter does it, and a number of other companies do it. It's called "drinking your own champagne," and business owners in the consumer products industry are strongly encouraged to do so. Only through using the very products they're selling can entrepreneurs truly gain credibility with customers and colleagues.
Until recently, though, this advice has been limited to product manufacturers and retailers, never quite making its way into the technology space. That trend is rapidly beginning to change.
B2B entrepreneurs have already begun focusing attention on the importance of using their own products in order to manage business processes, attract customers, and drive sales. When a business owner can speak enthusiastically about how his own daily life has been transformed by the product he's selling, he immediately gains credibility. Here are a few ways tech brands are already drinking their own champagne and gaining credibility for doing so.
As a global telecommunications company, Vodafone has decades of experience in telecom sales. Perhaps because of this extensive experience, the company realizes the importance of showing how they use their products within their own organization. Vodafone directly addresses the champagne adage with their "Champagne Program." Through this program, the company works hard to ensure it uses its products exactly as customers do. This helps them identify issues and consistently make improvements.
Software development firm, Aras, takes the suggestion a step further, believing that every business should use its own product. The firm deploys its own products internally, ensuring every employee from the CEO to the interns interacts with its software on a regular basis. As the CEO wrote in an article titled Use Your Own Product or Die, "If you don't use your own product the way you want your users to, you've got problems."
Internal Case Studies
MindMeister's incentive for using its own product relates more to its need to demonstrate how well it works. The mind-mapping tool is designed to make brainstorming more effective. By using the product to power its own brainstorming sessions, MindMeister can show clients how they personally put the software to use.
Like MindMeister, Novell needs to demonstrate how its own software makes employees more efficient and productive. The company uses its file-sharing product throughout its organization. Employees can share documents with each other or just save them for easier access later. This firsthand experience allows employees to better speak about the product's benefits, allowing workers to serve as individual case studies.
For small business CRM and marketing automation provider, Hatchbuck, using their own product means perfecting a sales and marketing framework firsthand, then sharing it with their users. "We know the process works because with Hatchbuck's CRM, email marketing and marketing automation tools, we haven't made a cold call since we started up in 2012, and we've grown revenue by 2,300%," explains CEO, Don Breckenridge.
His team uses their platform for sustainable lead generation; first connecting with new small business owners, warming them up through lead nurturing, and finally sending hot prospects to the Hatchbuck sales team. "Using our own tools has been a big part of our growth," Breckenridge adds, "it's a major reason we were highlighted as one of the fastest growing startups in the US in the Mattermark Startup Traction Report."
Drinking Your Champagne
How does this translate to your business? No matter what product or service you sell, you should be selling it to your own employees first. Employers should offer employees free samples or significant discounts to encourage them to try the items they're building and selling each day.
When your employees try your products, they provide a built-in user experience team for your business. Make it easy for them to report any problems and make sure each of those problems is addressed. Hiring a professional team to offer the same type of feedback would cost your business significantly, so the discount will be well worth it.
Businesses that use their own products and services ensure they consistently see their own offerings through their customers' eyes. In addition to making it more likely they'll discover problems, it also means they'll be able to speak more knowledgeably and comfortably about the products, since they will be among the most active users.