Bookstrapper’s Bookshelf: The Mom Test

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by Rob Fitzpatrick, available as Paperback and Audiobook

Rob Fitzpatrick’s core point is this: don’t ask friends and family about your product. Just don’t. They will try to protect you from both success and failure. They will tell you it’s great when it’s not, and they will tell you it won’t work when it might. So don’t ask your Mom.

But who should you ask then? Fitzpatrick suggests talking to people with a vested interest in their own success: your potential customers. That can mean people you want to sell your product to, investors you need money from, or any other party that – unlike your Mom – would suffer if your product were terrible.

Another problem is that we often ask the wrong questions. Leading questions, limited questions, questions with answers and expectations baked in. The solution? Stop talking about your ideas. Ask your potential customers about their problems. Open up, explore their reality instead of pushing your own limited perspective into their narrative.

This takes some work, as we’re usually so excited to talk about our own ideas as entrepreneurs. But it is incredibly eye-opening to ask a customer about how they solve their problems before you introduce your solution.

Fitzpatrick suggests to look for commitment and ignore compliments. Compliments indicate disinterest, even when cloaked in very flattering words. Wanting to learn more is a sign of genuine interest. Committing to another meeting, to signing up, now that is a sign of progress. The book teaches you how to recognize disinterest and move on quickly.

Focus on talking to a small group of target customers. Don’t aim too big. Go after specific groups to get meaningful data. You could ask a hundred random people, but would this really get you close to solving your problem for your niche? Be specific and intentional.

And most of all, be casual and relaxed. Make your meetings comfortable and enjoyable. No one wants to feel pressured or waste their time in an uncomfortable environment. Show genuine interest in your customer, and they will open up, giving you access to real, useful, and meaningful information.

During running FeedbackPanda, we conducted a lot of customer interviews. We made sure to be personable, to be curious, and to just let our customers talk. This lead to fascinating and enjoyable conversations. It even resulted in one of the people we interviewed to come visit us in Berlin, and we spent a wonderful afternoon just getting to know them.

Good things can come from being genuinely interested in the people you work with. The Mom Test will show you how to avoid wasting your customers’ and your own time and how to get meaningful feedback quickly.

You can find more books on bootstrapping and detailed reviews on the Bookstrapper’s Bookshelf.