Customer loyalty is one of the most important concepts in business. Customers who like doing business with you can become dependable sources of revenue as well as your most successful salespeople. (Plus, it's a pleasure to do business with people who like to do business with you.)

When it comes to promoting your company's products and services and making the important connection with customers, there are two otherwise trite sayings that are telling. One is "Drink the Kool-Aid," while the other is "Eat your dog food." Too many entrepreneurs drink too much and eat too little.

To drink the Kool-Aid means to buy into a myth and narrative. It means you become a true believer who lives in the sparkling umbra of a reality distortion field, whether someone else's or your own.

Eating your dog food has become popular among the high tech set. It translates into being an actual user of the products and services your company sells so you can better see its quality, find problems, and understand the customer.

You can guess which one is better for your business.

Everyone has had the experience of being subjected to overwhelming marketing for an underwhelming offering. I think of a service I use in my writing and consulting work that is critical, and yet which I dislike: satellite Internet service. My office is in a rural area with no access to cable or fiber connectivity, just a little too far down the road for DSL, and out of the reach of the nearest cell tower.

I'm a heavy Internet user for research, production, and delivery, and absolutely need that satellite link. In fairness, it is better than dial-up. Also in fairness, that isn't a high hurdle to clear. Satellite Internet connections are slow, finicky, and subject to bandwidth caps that are expensive and miserly.

And yet, if I look at the marketing that occasionally comes in from various satellite providers, I see how fast and convenient it is. Maybe the marketing group hasn't actually bought into the claims, but it might as well have. The create the cognitive dissonance between the glad-handing sales professional and the consumer who knows better and is tired of hearing it.

That's my example. What's yours?

In any of these cases, the more fervently businesspeople buy into their own press releases, the less they can hear the customers, which is a dangerous situation.

Instead of Kool-Aid, try a bite of dog food. Become an actual customer of your company. Use an alias if necessary to experience what service for the average person is like. Understand the strengths but recognize the weaknesses. Let yourself feel every annoyance that the people who ultimately pay your salary and build your equity experience.

Then go out and make your product and services better and repeat. The more you understand your customer's viewpoint and respond to it, the more they will find doing business with you something they want to repeat. You'll develop a stronger and better business as a result.