I've completely changed the way I do customer research because of The Mom Test.

I listened to @robfitz on a new Indie Hackers podcast episode last week. Despite having heard of the book before, this was my first real exposure to its concepts.

I'm so glad I listened, because I'm now a complete Mom Test convert. The episode was full of amazing pointers, it completely shifted my perspective on how sales and customer research works. Thanks @csallen for the episode. The Indie Hackers podcast is one of my favourites, and this episode in particular was gold! 💰

After listening to the podcast, I immediately bought the book. What I particularly appreciated from the book was the amount of highly specific examples that Rob gave. From those examples, I could see how my own questions were phrased poorly, how to make them better, and why they were better.

I've been implementing what I've learnt all week, and wanted to share 2 examples of how I've changed the way I now do customer research.

Here are some before and after examples of questions.

For context, my product is a WordPress plugin for building membership sites, premium publications and paid newsletters.


Early version:

What do you look for in a membership plugin?

What I finally sent:

What software/plugins have you tried so far? And what did you evaluate them based on?

Why it's better:

People look for all sorts of things, and some of the features they state can be aspirational, and not turn out to matter as much as they say.

Instead, by asking for what they've already tried, I get a much clearer idea of what they actually prioritise.

In my case, I got their entire consideration and purchasing journey about how they've tried substack and ghost, and what they liked and didn't like about both those platforms. I never would've gotten that if I had simply asked what they look for.

I was also told, without selling, that this person is not interested in WordPress at all. This helped me, and I didn't even bother talking about my plugin.

In his book, Rob considers this a win because you don't waste anybody's time trying to pitch a plugin they're not interested in, and guilt trip them into faking interest. Which is also bad for me because that's a false positive (i.e. I might mistakenly believe their interest is real, and keep trying to sell them or working on features which aren't compelling)

QUESTION 2 (this was a different person)

Early version:

[context: this was a follow up question after asking and hearing about this person's entire newsletter publishing workflow]

Have you thought about setting up X and Y this way instead? What do you think of it?

What I finally sent:

Why did you set things up the way that you did? Have you explored streamlining this at all?

Why it's better:

To be honest, I failed later on in this conversation and ended up asking the early question. And I got a simple, "no, I hadn't. But it sounds interesting, let me check it out." Which, Rob clearly says is a false positive, aka DEATH. But funnily enough, it meant I got to A/B test my questions and it's clear that the original one was not a good question.

In contrast, the latter question got me a much more useful answer. That is, this person just used the simplest possible set up, because it's not something they care very much about.

So no, they haven't explored streamlining, since it was a non-problem for them.

They then proceeded to talk about a much bigger problem for them: their emails getting sent to the promotions folder (Which is not relevant to me), and asked if I knew how to solve that problem.

It was extremely obvious that this person simply did not care about the part of their workflow that I could help with. Which is helpful for me because that means a. this isn't a big problem to solve, or b. this person isn't my customer.

Either way, it clearly means I shouldn't waste this person's or my time by trying to share my product with them. Again, a clear win for everyone!


My early conversations haven't been going well, in that the people I've been speaking to haven't been enthusiastically seeking the solution I'm selling.

But, it's not all bad. These conversations have given me tremendous insight, and it's clear that I'm now significantly better at customer research conversations.

Armed with this new skill, I'm looking forward to talking to lots more people, and hopefully finding my ideal customer and building an awesome product for them!

I know this was a really long post, so if you made it all the way to the end, thanks! I hope I was able to help you. If you liked this post, but have yet to check out the podcast or ook, you can do so here:
the podcast episode
the Mom Test book

  1. 3

    I totally agree. Thank you for writing this article! When I was thinking about the Mom Test I kept thinking, "why didn't I figure this out myself!"

    1. 2

      I don't think this stuff is that easy to figure out. It only seems obvious on hindsight. And even then, as I talk to customers, I find myself having to amend each question several times in order to ask the right question.

      So even if it seems obvious, the execution still takes work!

      I hope you've been able to test this stuff out too. :)

      1. 2

        I certainly didn't find it easy to figure out... took me like five years and an awful lot of pain to finally realize how it was supposed to work :P

        In any case, happy to hear that it's proving fruitful. Shout if I can be helpful.

        1. 1

          Thanks @robfitz! And thanks for bringing your ideas into the world so clearly! It's already helped me lots. :D

  2. 2

    As a UX designer, I love this Lesley! I’m going to listen to the podcast and probably get the book. That’s so much for such clear examples of before and after.

    1. 1

      @vanessacolina thanks! :D Happy to discuss and nerd out!

  3. 2

    That was such a great podcast! Super helpful to bring back the focus on what people do vs. what you want them to say.

    1. 1

      @spittet totally! such an underrated realignment of the conversation. It's surprisingly tricky to do, actually!

  4. 2

    It takes an incredible amount of iteration. I did user talks late last year, did some sales. Then this year totally revamped my line of questioning and gotten some positive responses.
    I'm sure I'll iterate again.

    1. 1

      Thanks Andrew, yeah, I think I originally significantly underestimated how much iteration and pivoting I have to do.

      It's super interesting to undergo that journey now.

  5. 2

    +1 for the podcast episode. I was actually skeptical of The Mom Test because I felt its title was a bit much, but the podcast turned me around on it.

    1. 1

      @sirotkin this was exactly how I felt as well!

  6. 1

    +1! It was a great episode and I especially liked the advice of building user research into your normal life. He gave an example of building a product for professors then hanging out at the pub where they hang out. Love this way of constantly getting closer to your users.

    1. 1

      Totally! I didn't do this as a result of the podcast/book, but I ended up pivoting my product slightly to be more focused on paid newsletters and publications because it's an area I'm personally super interested in.

      The original product was more centered on membership sites. Which is kinda the same, but not quite. I tried chatting with people building membership sites and just found it harder to get personally invested.

  7. 1

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