Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eat Your Own Dogfood



I was talking to a former client the other day, let's call him Jack (to protect the innocent). He called to ask my advice on how to use social media like Facebook to "take his nonprofit to the next level."

The interesting thing about Jack is that his nonprofit actually trades in the "currency" of connection, i.e. their programming is all about bringing people together so that they can get to know one another and bridge the differences between race, religion, gender and class. So, in his case, it might be smart to employ social technologies to enhance their services. The problem is neither Jack nor anyone else in the org actually uses these media.

Here's how the conversation went...

Jack: "We've got to be doing more with social media and we know it. We just need a strategy so we can get started."

Me: Are you currently using Facebook or any other social networking sites, like Linkedin?

Jack: "No."

Me: "Well then the best way to get started is to "eat your own dog food - first."

"Eating your own dog food" is a pejorative metaphor because, well - dog food isn't tasty to most mortals. But if you can look past the politics of the phrase, it offers important advice.

1) using your own products and services (and liking them) primes you to sell/share them with others
2) using your own products and services (and liking them) makes you a better evangelist
3) using your own products and services (you get the point) makes you CREDIBLE to prospective "buyers."

Please, please, please don't dish up new services for clients until you know (and like) what you're serving.

Cheers!
Jocelyn

One more thing: I'm not talking about doing an annual program audit. This is about spending the night in your shelter, attending your own webinars, answering phone calls, signing your petitions, reading your e-newsletters, making donations to your cause, etc. How else will you know how good or bad you really are? How else will you improve?


3 comments:

raincoaster.com said...

I would be worried about a client like that. I wish you luck with him; he really needs you.

Jocelyn said...

:) Joc

David Kinard, PCM said...

Jocelyn:

I spent a decade consulting to non profits and associations and found that many of them were out of touch with their own community. That's typically why I got called into the picture -- to help them reconnect and engage with their members and uncover deeper insights.

But similar to your encouragement to "eat your own dog food" I also found that cause-related organizations can become so focused on serving and working IN the business that they also need encouragement to work ON the business. This includes process improvement, systems integration, technology buildouts, and so forth.

Eating your own dog food is a good way to gain a deeper understanding of your product and services as an organization, but there is also value in understanding how well you offer what you offer. That extra step brings perspectives full circle.

-- David Kinard, PCM