Book review: The Mom Test

The Mom Test is described as the author as:

How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you.

The fundamental premise is that when you talk to people about a new idea, they tell you what they think you want to hear (your mom), instead of what they are really thinking or what you need to hear. This book describes a number of techniques that help you collect useful feedback on ideas and refine your ideas into something this has value.

The Mom test consists of three rules:

  1. Talk about their life instead of your idea
  2. Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future
  3. Talk less and listen more

Of course the challenge is to figure out how to apply these rules. The goal is to concretely understand what challenges your potential customers are facing now instead of their opinions about the future.

Some quotes from the book:

  • The truth is our goal and questions are our tools. But we must learn to wield them. It’s delicate work. And well worth learning. There’s treasure below.
  • Rule of thumb: People will lie to you if they think it’s what you want to hear.
  • Rule of thumb: People know what their problems are, but they don’t know how to solve those problems.
  • Rule of thumb: People want to help you, but will rarely do so unless you give them an excuse to do so.
  • The questions to ask are about your customers’ lives: their problems, cares, constraints, and goals. You humbly and honestly gather as much information about them as you can and then take your own visionary leap to a solution.
  • 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.
  • Rule of thumb: Anyone will say your idea is great if you’re annoying enough about it.
  • Every time you talk to someone, you should be asking a question which has the potential to completely destroy your currently imagined business.
  • Rule of thumb: If you don’t know what happens next after a product or sales meeting, the meeting was pointless.
  • The major currencies are time, reputation risk, and cash.
  • Hearing a compliment can still be useful though—it’s a warning flag that the person you’re talking to is trying to get rid of you.
  • Before we can serve everyone, we have to serve someone.