You’ve probably heard the expression “The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes”. This describes the phenomenon whereby “professionals” in any given arena are so busy with doing work for their customers that those closest to them (including themselves)
When we started HubSpot, my co-founder and I promised ourselves we wouldn’t fall into this trap. If we were going to be cobblers, we wanted our children (and ourselves) to have shoes. So, since the early days of the company’s forming, we’ve always treated ourselves as our best and most important customer. The HubSpot software powers my personal blog, OnStartups.com , the HubSpot site and this site, SB 2.0 - Internet Marketing Blog .
Now, one could argue that it is selfish of us to focus on our own needs first (above our client’s needs), but one would be wrong. J
I would argue that by “eating our own cooking” and learning about the problem that we are attempting to solve for ourselves, we are bringing direct and measurable value to our clients. How many times have you used a product or service and wondered: “Would it really suck this bad if the executives were using their own product?”. The answer is usually, no. During my graduate school days, we had a discussion/debate around what made Google successful. Someone in the class (not me), stated that the products that are most likely to “succeed” at Google are the ones that the employees themselves use. These products get better and better because the Googlites use it themselves.
In any case, from a strategic perspective, this focus on our selves and eating our own cooking goes beyond just being able to better understand the problem and ensure we are building the right solution. It actually helps us find better clients. For HubSpot, our ideal customer is someone who cares about the problem we are trying to solve (i.e. increasing the effectiveness of small business websites from a marketing perspective), as much as we do. By building a product for ourselves, we are getting much better at figuring out this “pattern” as we talk to early prospects.
Of course the risk (which we are acutely aware of) is that we end up building something that is too specific to our own needs and not to a larger pool of customers. But, that’s always the risk, even if we were to focus on a different early-adopter customer as the “lead user” of our product.
What do you think? Are we mistaken in our approach to eating our own cooking? Or, do you agree that there is no better way to understand the customer than walk in her shoes? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
By the way, we've been busily working on a new site design for SB2 (which launched last night). Hope you like it.