The Mom Test - How Do You Know What Customers Want?
When starting a business venture at the very beginning all ideas are based on several assumptions. One of the basic rules of the Lean Startup principle is that the assumptions must be tested, before entering the process of company development i.e. starting a business.
One of the most common mistakes made by entrepreneurs is not putting their ideas to the test before starting to build a company or a business. The second most common mistake is that when they test ideas, they do so with people from their immediate environment who very often do not express their true opinion because they do not want to hurt our feelings. The only thing worse than not having information for an entrepreneur is having the wrong information.
To avoid this situation, which we can freely say can be very dangerous and
lead you in the wrong direction, we introduce you to the Mother's Test, which
will give you honest answers from your interlocutors.
What is The Mom Test?
The Mom Test is a set of basic criteria for writing good questions that even your mother won't be able to deceive you with her replies. It is also a book by Rob Fitzpatrick, in which he shares tips on how to improve communication with potential clients and find out if your business idea is good from the very beginning. Before we reveal the key guidelines for conducting The Mom Test, and for a better understanding of the complete topic, watch the video below:
How to conduct The Mom Test?
Based on the previous video, you had the opportunity to see how important conversations with potential clients are. And to successfully conduct conversations with them according to the principles of Mother's Test and avoid unwanted situations, you need to keep three key things in mind:
- You must talk to your interlocutors about their lives and leave your idea aside.
- Talk about situations they have encountered in the past instead of asking for their opinion on the future.
- And crucially, talk less, listen more!
The focus should be on the life and problems that your potential client is facing as well as the current ways in which he is fighting that problem, not your idea. Here are some essential guidelines that Rob Fitzpatrick highlighted in his book.
Avoid bad information
You must be wondering, what is bad data? What the author of The Mom Test points out as bad information that you need to avoid for your good are compliments, claims, promises about the future, hypotheses, and ideas.
Many of your meetings and conversations with clients will end with compliments and positive responses to how great your idea is! However, what is it that they think? It is possible that they do not want to give you an honest answer because they do not want to hurt your feelings, or they like the idea and want to give you full support. Unfortunately, you have none of that. You need concrete feedback, not compliments.
The author of The Mom Test advises that you do not reveal your idea to
your interlocutors as vital advice for avoiding this circumstance.
If there are still compliments during the conversation, make sure that it doesn't lead you in the wrong direction and that you don't fly to the stars. Because, as we mentioned before, you have nothing from compliments, so you try to focus your conversation on the facts that you need and because of which you are having a conversation.
Staying silent on the compliment you receive is certainly not easy, but it is essential to stay grounded and not allow yourself to be distracted by what you are working on.
Claims like sometimes, always, never, promises about the future, such as I would use or will use, and hypothetically, may be generic answers based on which you can not get key information.
You may still acquire a bit more information if you go back in time with a good enough query from your interlocutor and discover when something happened when he had the opportunity to use a certain product, and so on.
Try to ask your interlocutors well-asked questions to reveal the information you want to get.
During the conversation with your interlocutors, they may get so much inspiration and start to overwhelm you with different ideas. Be careful! This does not mean that you need to accept each of the proposals with open arms. You have to be careful not to lose focus on your idea because that is the reason why you are having these conversations. Listen carefully to every piece of advice and idea your interlocutor shares with you, but that doesn't mean you have to implement it, it's a rule that Rob Fitzpatrick emphasizes.
Ask only important questions
Does it make sense to ask a question that you already know the answer to or anticipate? This is not what you need and want to achieve through talking to your potential client. It is necessary to come to new knowledge. Ask questions that are important to you and accept whatever the answer is. Maybe based on one such conversation, you realize that your idea is not the right one and that you are on the wrong path, however, such knowledge is also good. Why? Because it's never too late to find the right one!
"You should be afraid of at least one of the questions you asked your interlocutor." - Rob Fitzpatrick
Good VS Bad Questions
The way you design the questions you ask your interlocutor is very important. It is necessary to lead the interlocutor to the story and through carefully selected questions you will get the answers you need.
"You are not allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they are not allowed to tell you what to build. They are the owners of the problem. You have a solution." - Rob Fitzpatrick
To make a clear distinction between good and bad questions, we give you a few examples below.
- What problem are you currently facing?
- Tell me when was the last time that happened.
- Tell me what it looked like.
- What else have you tried?
- How much money have you spent on this problem so far?
- Is there anyone else with the same problem I could talk to?
- Do you think this is a good idea?
- What do you think about our product?
- Would you buy us a product/service?
- How much would you pay to solve the problem?
- Do you agree that our product is great?
You will notice that
none of the well-asked questions are about your idea and what you
should build but are focused on the lives, problems, and worries of your
Well-asked questions lead the interlocutor to action and are focused on the story of the past and the problems they encounter, while poorly asked questions are such that the interlocutor will probably not tell the truth when answering, so they should be avoided.
Keep the conversation relaxed
If you talk to your potential clients in a quiet place, it is more likely that your interlocutors will concentrate on your questions. However, as you will not always be in a situation to talk in conditions that suit you perfectly, the most important thing is to stay fully focused. It is essential that the atmosphere is pleasant and that your interlocutor does not feel pressure because of your meeting.
You can reveal some information about your idea during the conversation,
but be careful not to reveal too much, and then lead the conversation in
the desired direction and ask all the questions you want to be
Surely you are wondering how long the conversation should last?
During the conversation, you will quickly understand whether the problem exists and whether your idea is an adequate solution to it, as well as how to continue your conversation. Depending on that, the duration of your conversation will also vary.
Commitment and progress
Once you’ve gathered enough data about the industry itself but also about your potential clients, it’s time to make a cross-section, and from all the potential clients you’ve had a chance to talk to, find out who those are who aren’t real.
How are you going to do that?
By monitoring their commitment and progress. When you see that potential clients are committed to you, that by giving up, they show how much they value your work, your time, and your money, you will know that they are the right ones. When it comes to promotion, your potential customers will follow your work and slowly switch to customers of your product. Potential clients who support you in the form of words throughout the process, do not take any concrete steps to let you know that they are interested in what you are working on are fake.
"Customers who are still kind but never buy your product are a particularly dangerous source of mixed signals." - Rob Fitzpatrick
When conducting The Mom Test, it is very important to be well prepared. Prepare 3 key questions that you will ask your potential clients, and based on which you want to come to certain knowledge for which you are conducting interviews.
Take notes during the conversation. Write down the answers of your interlocutors, and then analyze them to determine whether the questions that were asked were good and whether they led to the desired answers or still require modification.
Keeping notes is important because you will always know where you are and what information you have available for further progress. It is also recommended that you use various symbols in your notes that represent the emotions of the interlocutor to have a clearer picture of the data you have collected during the later analysis.
We hope that this article has motivated you to start thinking in the right direction when it comes to your idea and confirming it. It is crucial to ask good questions, find out if your potential customers are the right ones, and then, based on the results obtained, determine whether your idea is the one that will solve the problems that your potential customers are facing.
If you are interested in this topic, we strongly recommend that you read the book The Mom Test, authored by Rob Fitzpatrick, which was the inspiration for the creation of this article.