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The Mom Test


  • Author: [[Fitzpatrick, Rob]]


learned that there’s a big gap between textbooks and check books. — location: 52 ^ref-640

Business ideas usually have several failure points. Here it’s both the medium of an iPad app and the content of a cookbook. — location: 115 ^ref-44451

answer is golden for 3 reasons: 1. Old people don’t need another generic set of recipes. 2. The gift market may be strong . 3. Younger cooks may be a better customer segment since they don’t yet know the basics. — location: 118 ^ref-35893

The measure of usefulness of an early customer conversation is whether it gives us concrete facts about our customers’ lives and world views. — location: 128 ^ref-5854

With an idea this vague, we can’t answer any of the difficult questions like which recipes to include or how people will hear about it. Until we get specific, it always seems like a good idea. — location: 131 ^ref-58402

If you just avoid mentioning your idea, you automatically start asking better questions. Doing this is the easiest (and biggest) improvement you can make to your customer conversations. — location: 144 ^ref-31376

The Mom Test: Talk about their life instead of your idea Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future Talk less and listen more — location: 147 ^ref-34321

Rule of thumb: Customer conversations are bad by default. It’s your job to fix them. — location: 152 ^ref-18031

construction companies manage their suppliers. You might ask them to show you how they currently do it. Talk about which — location: 164 ^ref-2589

ask them to show you how they currently do it. Talk about which parts they love and hate. Ask which other tools and processes they tried before settling on this one. Are they actively searching for a replacement? If so, what’s the sticking point? If not, why not? Where are they losing money with their current tools? Is there a budget for better ones? Now, take all that information and decide for yourself whether it’s a good idea. — location: 165 ^ref-63294

Rule of thumb: Opinions are worthless. — location: 168 ^ref-12373

Rule of thumb: People know what their problems are, but they don’t know how to solve those problems. — location: 186 ^ref-53644

A question like “why do you bother” points toward their motivations. It gives you the why. — location: 191 ^ref-46047

Rule of thumb: Watching someone do a task will show you where the problems and inefficiencies really are, not where the customer thinks they are. — location: 210 ^ref-18056

It’s easy to get someone emotional about a problem if you lead them there. “Don’t you hate when your shoelaces come untied while you’re carrying groceries?” “Yeah, that’s the worst!” And then I go off and design my special never-come-untied laces without realising that if you actually cared, you would already be using a double-knot. — location: 221 ^ref-15508

Best product ideas are wherr users are already investing

Common wisdom is that you price your product in terms of value to the customer rather than cost to you. — location: 229 ^ref-38993

Rule of thumb: People stop lying when you ask them for money. — location: 232 ^ref-7268

Your future pitches will hit unseen snags unless you learn who else matters and what they care about. This knowledge of their purchasing process will eventually turn into a repeatable sales roadmap. — location: 244 ^ref-52592

It boils down to this: you aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution. — location: 262 ^ref-6601

Once you start to notice, it’s easy to get back on track by deflecting compliments, anchoring fluff, and digging beneath ideas. — location: 273 ^ref-31977

With the exception of industry experts who have built very similar businesses, opinions are worthless. You want facts and commitments, not compliments. — location: 279 ^ref-30561

Remember though: you don’t need to end up with what you wanted to hear in order to have a good conversation. You just need to get to the truth. — location: 318 ^ref-17792

If the conversation is friendly, I might ask them to talk me through their process anyway so I can try to figure out whether it’s an industry-wide non-problem or something specific to them. — location: 326 ^ref-59771

Did you notice that in the conversations above, practically every response contains a sneaky compliment? They are pervasive, constantly trying to trick us into thinking the meeting “went well”. — location: 327 ^ref-47364

Why did that person like the idea? How much money would it save him? How would it fit into his life? What else has he tried? — location: 336 ^ref-7263

Ask these question afted every successful conversation

Rule of thumb: Compliments are the fool’s gold of customer learning: shiny, distracting, and worthless. — location: 338 ^ref-27890

When someone starts talking about what they “always” or “usually” or “never” or “would” do, they are giving you generic and hypothetical fluff. Ask good questions that obey The Mom Test to anchor them back to specifics in the past. Ask when it last happened or for them to talk you through it. Ask how they solved it and what else they tried. — location: 341 ^ref-21059

The worst type of fluff-inducing question you can ask is, “Would you ever?” Of course they might. Someday. — location: 349 ^ref-1853

While using generics, people describe themselves as who they want to be, not who they actually are. You need to get specific to bring out the edge cases. — location: 375 ^ref-8100

If someone’s being flaky, put them to a decision. If they don’t care enough to try solving their problem today, they aren’t going to care about your solution tomorrow. — location: 395 ^ref-49019

You can’t help but laugh when you overhear these exchanges. “Someone should definitely make an X!” “Have you looked for an X?” “No, why?” “There are like 10 different kinds of X.” “Well, I didn't really need it anyway.” — location: 398 ^ref-269

Beware of "something for this should exist"

Long story short, that person is a complainer, not a customer. They’re stuck in the la-la-land of imagining they’re the sort of person who finds clever ways to solve the petty annoyances of their day. — location: 400 ^ref-8102

To move toward this truth, you just need to reject their generic claims, incidental complaints, and fluffy promises. Instead, anchor them on the life they already lead and the actions they’re already taking. — location: 413 ^ref-46044

Startups are about focusing and executing on a single, scalable idea rather than jumping on every good one which crosses your desk. — location: 419 ^ref-26259

They had asked for analytics. We had jumped to the conclusion that they wanted to better understand their data. But they had really just wanted a way to keep their own clients happy. If we had properly understood that, we would have built a totally different (and much simpler) set of features. — location: 450 ^ref-43401

When you hear a request, it’s your job to understand the motivations which led to it. You do that by digging around the question to find the root cause. Why do they bother doing it this way? Why do they want the feature? How are they currently coping without the feature? Dig. — location: 456 ^ref-42370

Just like feature requests, any strong emotion is worth exploring. Is someone angry? Dig. Embarrassed? Dig. Overjoyed? Dig! — location: 459 ^ref-28523

Questions to dig into feature requests: “Why do you want that?” “What would that let you do?” “How are you coping without it?” “Do you think we should push back the launch to add that feature, or is it something we could add later?” “How would that fit into your day?” — location: 464 ^ref-50930

Questions to dig into emotional signals: “Tell me more about that.” “That seems to really bug you — I bet there’s a story here.” “What makes it so awful?” “Why haven’t you been able to fix this already?” “You seem pretty excited about that — it’s a big deal?” “Why so happy?” “Go on.” — location: 467 ^ref-36135

Rule of thumb: Ideas and feature requests should be understood, but not obeyed. — location: 472 ^ref-37424

“I’m thinking of starting a business... so, do you think it will work?” “I had an awesome idea for an app — do you like it?” — location: 478 ^ref-31790

Symptoms of Fishing For Compliments: “I’m thinking of starting a business... so, do you think it will work?” “I had an awesome idea for an app — do you like it?” — location: 477 ^ref-54865

Rule of thumb: If you’ve mentioned your idea, people will try to protect your feelings. — location: 493 ^ref-26597

Rule of thumb: Anyone will say your idea is great if you’re annoying enough about — location: 507 ^ref-9896

they’re going to begin a sentence with something like “So it’s similar to…” or “I like it but…” You will be hugely tempted to interrupt and “fix” their understanding. Alternately, they’ll raise a topic you have a really good answer to. — location: 510 ^ref-60802

Both interruptions are mistakes. — location: 513 ^ref-13702

Every time you talk to someone, you should be asking at least one question which has the potential to destroy your currently imagined business. — location: 526 ^ref-5809

Rule of thumb: You should be terrified of at least one of the questions you’re asking in every conversation. — location: 534 ^ref-45246

If they’re still engaged in the conversation, it’s worth asking a couple follow-up questions to understand the nature of their apathy. — location: 556 ^ref-360

Lukewarm response

Rule of thumb: There’s more reliable information in a “meh” than a “Wow!” You can’t build a business on a lukewarm response. — location: 561 ^ref-45040

Everyone has problems they know about, but don’t actually care enough about to fix. And if you zoom in too quickly and lead them to that semi-problem, they’ll happily drown you in all the unimportant details. Zooming in too quickly on a super-specific problem before you understand the rest of the customers life can irreparably confuse your learnings. — location: 564 ^ref-18439

You: “What would you say is your biggest problem with going to the gym?” This is where the conversation goes horribly wrong. Instead of figuring out whether staying fit is actually a real problem, we’re prematurely zooming in on it. Any response we get is going to be dangerously misleading. — location: 575 ^ref-47042

The premature zoom is a real problem because it leads to data which seems like validation, but is actually worthless. In other words, it’s a big source of false positives. — location: 610 ^ref-33610

a problem is a must-solve-right-now (e.g. you’re selling a painkiller) or a nice-to-have (you’re selling a vitamin), — location: 660 ^ref-22909

“Does-this-problem-matter” questions: “How seriously do you take your blog?” “Do you make money from it?” “Have you tried making more money from it?” “How much time do you spend on it each week?” “Do you have any major aspirations for your blog?” “Which tools and services do you use for it?” “What are you already doing to improve this?” “What are the 3 big things you’re trying to fix or improve right now?” — location: 662 ^ref-23660

Rule of thumb: Start broad and don't zoom in until you’ve found a strong signal, both with your whole business and with every conversation. — location: 671 ^ref-36134

In fact, it’s such a well established would-pay-to-solve-problem that you don’t even need to talk to them to set it up. You just plug in an ad network and you’re done. — location: 708 ^ref-15408

Same deal with affiliate commissions. If you sell a company’s products, you get a cut. That’s just how it works. You don’t need to explore or validate or understand their problems. The risk resides in your ability to get lots of traffic and sell lots of products. If you can, they’ll pay you. — location: 709 ^ref-1081

Product risk — Can I build it? Can I grow it? Customer/market risk — Do they want it? Will they pay me? Are there lots of them? — location: 712 ^ref-53045

companies who want to use mobile/realtime deals to drive foot traffic to bars and clubs. — location: 719 ^ref-46451

Video games are pure product risk. What sort of question could you ask to validate your game idea? “Do you like having fun? Would you like to have even more fun?” Practically 100% of the risk is in the product and almost none is in the customer. — location: 724 ^ref-33676

What all this does mean is that if you’ve got heavy product risk (as opposed to pure market risk), then you’re not going to be able to prove as much of your business through conversations alone. The conversations give you a starting point, but you’ll have to start building product earlier and with less certainty than if you had pure market risk. — location: 731 ^ref-23770

Rule of thumb: You always need a list of your 3 big questions. — location: 747 ^ref-33606

4 Steps to the E.piphany, he solves this by recommending 3 separate meetings: the first about the customer and their problem; the second about your solution; and the third to sell a product. By splitting the meetings, you avoid the premature zoom and Pathos Problem. — location: 751 ^ref-43427

Rule of thumb: Learning about a customer and their problems works better as a quick and casual chat than a long, formal meeting. — location: 771 ^ref-47520

Rule of thumb: Give as little information as possible about your idea while still nudging the discussion in a useful direction. — location: 830 ^ref-37736

Commitment — They are showing they’re serious by giving up something they value such as time, reputation, or money. Advancement — They are moving to the next step of your real-world funnel and getting closer purchasing. — location: 848 ^ref-31802

If you are very early stage, you might ask for an introduction to his boss or tech team or the budget-holder so you can “make sure you fully understand their needs.” — location: 898 ^ref-40106

To fix it, try to convert fuzzy promises into something more concrete. The more specific it is, the more seriously you can take it. For example: who does he want to introduce you to and what does “ready” mean? And why can’t he make the intro now? This isn’t about being pushy. You don’t have manifest destiny over his rolodex. But you do need to distinguish between legitimate offers and polite gesturing. — location: 905 ^ref-14795

Steve Blank calls them earlyvangelists (early evangelists). In the enterprise software world, they are the people who: Have the problem Know they have the problem Have the budget to solve the problem Have already cobbled together their own makeshift solution — location: 962 ^ref-28993

We’ve got 2 takeaways. Firstly, when someone isn’t too emotional about what you’re doing, they are unlikely to end up being one of your crazy first customers. Keep them on the list and try to make them happy, of course, but don’t count on them to write the first check. Secondly, whenever you see the deep emotion, do your utmost to keep that person close. They are the rare, precious fan who will get you through the hard times and give you your first sale. — location: 970 ^ref-8789

Rule of thumb: In early stage sales, the real goal is learning. Revenue is a side-effect. — location: 975 ^ref-51896

“Hello, I’m doing my PhD research on the problems around X, it would be a huge help if I could ask you a couple questions for my dissertation.” — location: 1010 ^ref-6282

Framing like, “Can I interview you” or “Thanks for agreeing to this interview” both set set off alarm bells — location: 1097 ^ref-63739

“Can I get your opinion on what we’re doing?” sets expectations of neediness — location: 1099 ^ref-37436

“Do you have time for a quick coffee/lunch/chat/meeting?” which suggests you’re liable to waste their time. — location: 1100 ^ref-46408

The framing format I like has five key elements. — location: 1101 ^ref-48007

You’re an entrepreneur trying to solve horrible problem X, usher in wonderful vision Y, or fix stagnant industry Z. Don’t mention your idea. Frame expectations by mentioning what stage you’re at and, if it’s true, that you don’t have anything to sell. Show weakness and give them a chance to help by mentioning the specific problem that you’re looking for answers on. This will also clarify that you’re not a time waster. Put them on a pedestal by showing how much they, in particular, can help. Explicitly ask for help. — location: 1102 ^ref-20347

If someone else made the introduction, use them as a voice of authority: — location: 1129 ^ref-53356

Rule of thumb: Keep having conversations until you stop hearing new stuff. — location: 1185 ^ref-13023

Remind yourself that you’ll get to the whole world eventually. But you’ve got to start somewhere specific. — location: 1213 ^ref-14146

Rule of thumb: If you aren’t finding consistent problems and goals, you don’t have a specific enough customer segment. — location: 1253 ^ref-27658

Rule of thumb: Good customer segments are a who-where pair. If you don’t know where to go to find your customers, keep slicing your segment into smaller pieces until you — location: 1280 ^ref-45344

Symptoms of a learning bottleneck: “You just worry about the product. I’ll handle the customers.” “Because the customers told me so!” “I don’t have time to talk to people — I need to be coding!” — location: 1315 ^ref-48915

Rule of thumb: If you don’t know what you’re trying to learn, you shouldn’t bother having the conversation. — location: 1337 ^ref-63171

The goal of this process is twofold. First, to ensure you’re spending your time well by attacking the questions which really matter and making use of the brains of the whole founding team. Second, to spread any new learning through your team as quickly and completely as possible. There you go. Now you know everything I do about how to learn from conversations. Combine this process with The Mom Test, Keeping it Casual, and Advancement for maximum learning in minimum time. But even if it goes wrong, don’t worry so much. Eternity will forgive. — location: 1445 ^ref-62035

Getting back on track (avoiding bad data): Deflect compliments Anchor fluff Dig beneath opinions, ideas, requests, and emotions — location: 1492 ^ref-40849

Key skills: Asking good questions (Chapters 1 & 3) Avoiding bad data (Chapter 2) Keeping it casual (Chapter 4) Pushing for commitment & advancement (Chapter 5) Framing the meeting (Chapter 6) Customer segmentation (Chapter 7) Prepping & reviewing (Chapter 8) Taking notes (Chapter 8) — location: 1486 ^ref-32295

Mistakes and symptoms: Fishing for compliments. “I’m thinking of starting a business... so, do you think it will work?” “I had an awesome idea for an app — do you like it?” Exposing your ego (aka The Pathos Problem). “So here’s that top-secret project I quit my job for... what do you think?” “I can take it — be honest and tell me what you really think!” Being pitchy. “No no, I don’t think you get it...” “Yes, but it also does this!” Being too formal. “So, first off, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I just have a few questions for you and then I’ll let you get back to your day…” “On a scale of 1 to 5, how much would you say you…” “Let’s set up a meeting.” Being a learning bottleneck. “You just worry about the product. I’ll handle the customers.” “Because the customers told me so!” “I don’t have time to talk to people — I need to get back to coding!” Collecting compliments instead of facts and commitments. “We’re getting a lot of positive feedback.” “Everybody I’ve talked to loves the idea.” — location: 1494 ^ref-14858

The process before, during and after the meeting: If you haven’t yet, choose a focused, findable segment With your team, decide your big 3 learning goals If relevant, decide on ideal next steps and commitments If conversations are the right tool, figure out who to talk to Create a series of your best guesses about what the person cares about If a question could be answered via desk research, do that first Frame the conversation Keep it casual Ask good questions which pass The Mom Test Deflect compliments, anchor fluff, and dig beneath signals Take good notes If relevant, press for commitment and next steps With your team, review your notes and key customer quotes If relevant, transfer notes into permanent storage Update your beliefs and plans Decide on the next 3 big questions — location: 1503 ^ref-38182

Results of a good meeting: Facts — concrete, specific facts about what they do and why they do it (as opposed to the bad data of compliments, fluff, and opinions) Commitment — They are showing they’re serious by giving up something they value such as meaningful amounts of time, reputation risk, or money Advancement — They are moving to the next step of your real-world funnel and getting closer to a sale — location: 1512 ^ref-39653

Signs you’re just going through the motions: You’re talking more than they are They are complimenting you or your idea You told them about your idea and don’t have next steps You don’t have notes You haven’t looked through your notes with your team You got an unexpected answer and it didn’t change your idea You weren’t scared of any of the questions you asked You aren’t sure which big question you’re trying to answer You aren’t sure why you’re having the meeting — location: 1516 ^ref-12226

Writing it down — signal symbols: :)Excited :( Angry :|Embarrassed ☇ Pain or problem (symbol is a lightning bolt) ⨅ Goal or job-to-be-done (symbol is a soccer/football goal) ☐ Obstacle ⤴Workaround ^Background or context (symbol is a distant mountain) ☑ Feature request or purchasing criteria $Money or budgets or purchasing process ♀ Mentioned a specific person or company ☆ Follow-up task — location: 1521 ^ref-53646

Signs you aren’t pushing for commitment and advancement: A pipeline of zombie leads Ending product meetings with a compliment Ending product meetings with no clear next steps Meetings which “went well” They haven’t given up anything of value — location: 1527 ^ref-48153

Asking for and framing the meeting: Vision — half-sentence of how you’re making the world better Framing — where you’re at and what you’re looking for Weakness — where you’re stuck and how you can be helped Pedestal — show that they, in particular, can provide that help Ask — ask for help — location: 1530 ^ref-27577

The big prep question: “What do we want to learn from these guys?” — location: 1533 ^ref-59226