Ideas and Validation January 26, 2021

Validate Your Business Ideas: How to get honest feedback from real customers

Pavlos Ts @Pats

Whenever someone makes a product or tries to offer a service, it is all aimed at a certain target audience, right? But why do we see all the time that there are products and services available everywhere that absolutely nobody wants to purchase? Well, people might suggest the act of talking to customers to find out what it is that they want from us but unfortunately, that doesn’t work so well.

Nobody can tell you how to do things in the right manner and absolutely nobody can let you know for sure whether your business idea is an effective one with potential for success or not. The issue lies in the fact that the conversations that businesses have with their customers are not effective at all. Why do you think it is so? Well, first of all, everyone should know that in order to find out what your customers want, it is not wise to ask them about their views regarding your ideas but rather talk to them discuss with them, their ideas about different things! It makes a complete difference!

The rules of Mom Test

In order to actually make all this happen, the conversations with the customers have to pass something known as a “mom test”! Let’s take a look at it.

The first rule of the mom test is that you have to talk to the customers about their life and their ideas in life instead of the ideas that you have and feel like you need validation for them.

The 2nd point is that nobody knows anything about the future so it is futile to discuss future ideas with the customers. What’s better is that you ask the customers and discuss with them the proper and substantial events of the past rather than talking to them about uncertain future events.

And most important of all, the 3rd point is that you listen more and talk less! This is very beneficial as you truly understand people only when you listen to them more. It makes all the difference.

Ask the right questions

They say asking your mother about a business idea that you have is a bad idea. Why? Well, it is because your mother loves you and no matter how bad a business idea might be, mothers will always support and motivate their children! On the other hand, the important point is that you shouldn’t ask any other person about your business idea either. Neither your mother nor anyone else can truly tell you how good or bad your idea is. Everyone will lie, even if it is just a bit!

So, what do you do? Well, you find out the truth by realizing that only you can figure out if the idea is good or not. You do this by asking not many but rather a few but “good” questions from people!

To define “The Mom Test”, you can consider it as a set of rules that you can use to create such questions, that when they are answered, even your own mother won’t be able to lie to you.

Examples

Let’s take a look at an example that will indicate how failing the mom test looks like!

Failing the mom test:

Here’s an example of failing the mom test in the form of a conversation.

Son: Hey, mom! I have to talk to you about a business idea that I have.

Mom: Sure, son! Tell me what it is.

Son: I want your honest opinion on it!

Mom: Of course.

Son: You like brownies right?

Mom: Yes, I love brownies!

Son: How about you had a business nearby that makes custom flavor brownies for you?

Mom: (In her mind: well, I’d like that but honestly there are way too many businesses that do that!) Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

Son: (In his mind: Please tell me that it’s a good idea! I want you to say yes and I won’t leave until you tell me it’s a great idea!) So, should I go ahead with it?

Mom: (In her mind: well, I don’t think it will work so well but I can’t say no.) Yes, you should definitely go for it!

Son: (In his mind: Now, I got the validation that I was looking for!!) Thank you! I’ll make the best out of it.

You see what the issue was in this conversation? There were lies and emotions involved. The son thought he got validation and that his idea was a good one but as it was his mom; she lied just to make her son feel better. Hence, this was not a true validation of the business idea.

Now, let’s take a look at how it is to pass the mom test!

Passing the mom test:

Here’s an example of passing the mom test in the form of a conversation.

Son: Hey, mom! How’s your new laptop treating you?

Mom: It’s very good!

Son: What do you mostly do on it? (It is a generic question and therefore the answer won’t be too valuable).

Mom: Office work and also entertainment such as watching Netflix at times.

Son: What was the last thing you did on it? (This is a right question! Getting specific about past events is important for getting concrete/real data!).

Mom: I used it to purchase tickets for that office trip of mine. (See, the answer was not the generic one and the mother used the laptop for some utility.)

Son: Did you use any app for that? (Good question to lead towards the main point!)

Mom: No, I didn’t. Are there any apps for this too?

Son: Well, yes. How did you find the rest of the apps though? (Finding out unique behavior and motivations is important.)

Mom: I saw the top apps list in the newspaper. (This indicates that for customers like your mom, using traditional newspaper marketing might be a good idea for the business!)

Son: Hey, I saw some brownies in the kitchen. Did someone give them to you? (Now, getting to the main point!)

Mom: No. You know I love brownies so I went ahead and got some. But the store doesn’t offer a custom flavor brownie which is just sad.

Son: I see. I’ll get going now. Thanks!

This is an important answer as it has highlighted the following points:

  • People don’t gift brownies.
  • Customers the age of your mom do prefer custom flavor brownie.

This basically is a conversation that passes the mom test and the person got to know that a custom flavor brownie store might work well!

Such useful conversations help people get real and concrete data for improving businesses.

In simple words, passing the mom test is simple:
Useful conversations + useful solutions: passing the mom test!

On the next issue, learn how to follow a methodology that will help you prevent your startup from failure! Find it here!

From the book "The Mom Test"

  1. 2

    You forgot to credit the source

    1. 1

      I am sorry.. Thanks for mentioning! I did in the original post but forgot to do it here!

  2. 1

    It would be great if people talking about mom test can create sample conversations about tech statup ideas:-)

    1. 1

      I guess it's the same framework, you just change the target customer and the questions. But the general idea stays the same! Maybe I could help you if you can be more specific

  3. 1

    Pavlos, interesting examples. I should defenitly read the mom test book.

    1. 2

      I think it's my favorite book so far!

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