Book Summary: The Mom Test

Drop everything, drop whatever you’re doing now and read The Mom Test


We had been discussing product startup ideas and reached that most important question: 
How can you tell if your startup product is actually needed?


The answer: You’ve got to talk to people of course. But these conversations are rich in false positives and can send you down the wrong path.

The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick offers are framework for how to handle these customer conversations. 

The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick : How to talk to customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you

Below are the The Mom Test Rules of Thumb helping me navigate these vital conversations.

Rules of thumb

  • Customer conversations are bad by default. It’s your job to fix them. 
  • Opinions are worthless. 
  • Anything involving the future is an overly-optimistic lie. 
  • People will lie to you if it’s what they think you want to hear
  • People know what their problems, but they don’t know how to solve those problems 
  • You shooting blind until you understand their goals. 
  • Some problems don’t actually matter. 
  • Watching people do a task will show you what the problems and inefficiencies really are, not what the customer things they are. 
  • If they haven’t looked for ways for solving it already, they are not going to look for (or buy) yours. 
  • People stop lying when you ask them about money 
  • While it’s rare for someone to tell you precisely what they’ll pay, they’ll often show you what it’s worth to them. 
  • People want to help you.  Give them an excuse to do so. 
  • Compliments are the fool’s gold of customer learning: shiny, distracting and worthless. 
  • Ideas and feature requests should be understood, but not obeyed. 
  • If you’ve mentioned your idea, people will try to protect your feelings.
  • Anyone will say your idea is great if you’re annoying enough about it. 
  • The more you’re talking, the worse you’re doing. 
  • you should be terrified of at least one questions you are asking in every conversation. 
  • There’s more reliable information in a “meh” than a “Wow!” You can’t build a business on a lukewarm response. 
  • Start broad and don’t zoom in until you’ve found a strong signal, both with your whole business and with every conversation. 
  • You always need a list of your 3 big questions. 
  • Learning about your customer and their problems works better as a quick and casual chat than a long, formal meeting. 
  • If it feels like they are doing you a favour by talking to you, it’s probably too formal. 
  • Give as little information as possible about your idea while still nudging the discussion in a useful direction. 
  • “Customers” who keep being friendly but aren’t ever going to buy are a particularly dangerous source of mixed signals. 
  • If you don’t know what happens next after a product or sales meeting, the meeting was pointless. 
  • The more they’re giving up, the more serious you can take what they are saying. 
  • It’s not a real lead until you’ve given them a concrete chance to reject you. 
  • In early stage sales, the real goal is learning. Revenue is a side-effect. 
  • If it’s not a formal meeting, you don’t need to make excuse about why you’re there or even mention that you are starting a business. Just ask about their life. 
  • If it’s a topic you both care about, find an excuse to talk about it. Your idea never needs to enter the equation and you’ll both enjoy the chat. 
  • Kevin Bacon’s 7 degrees of separation applies to customer conversations. You can find anyone you need to if you ask a couple of times.  
  • Keep having conversations until you stop hearing new stuff. 
  • If you aren’t finding consistent problems and goals, you don’t have a specific enough customer segment. 
  • 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 do. 
  • If you don’t know what you are trying to learn, you shouldn’t bother having the conversation. 
  • Notes are useless if you don’t look them up. 
  • Go build your dang company already. 
  • It’s going to be okay.  

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