The Mom Test

Your mom is lying to you.

But it’s ok. All moms are liars.

This week I read The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. The premise of the book is that when we tell our moms (and family & friends) our business ideas, they just want to be supportive.

They tell us what we want to hear. “Great idea! I would definitely buy that.”

But that’s not the feedback we need to hear before investing years into a project.

A better approach is to ask people about the problem without mentioning your solution.

Figure out how painful the problem is, how they’re solving it now, and what else they’ve tried.

By asking questions instead of pitching, we learn more about:

  • The problem we think we’re solving
  • Related problems that could be opportunities
  • Who our ideal customer is

Asking probing questions from the book, I had two conversations on Friday about a business problem I’ve been exploring in the hiring / recruiting space.

These conversations were different from every previous conversation I had about my idea.

Both people painted a clear picture of their hiring process for me.

While the major steps in hiring are the same, how people actually go about it, the details that matter to them, and their challenges vary greatly.

I also learned why my solution wouldn’t be a good fit for them.

Instead of encouragement, I got feedback. It was like finding gold.

I was working from a dataset of one – my personal experiences hiring. Now my dataset is three. And I’ve got more conversations lined up in the coming weeks.

At this point, I’m confident there’s a problem.

I’m also confident that the solution I have in mind doesn’t provide value to everyone.

Through additional conversations, I’m hoping to uncover who the ideal customer is and how to best serve them. This is a process of elimination – just like panning for gold.

Maybe in the end, everyone is eliminated. There might not be a set of customers willing to pay for the solution I have in mind.

And that’s ok.

Better to find out now than after investing years of time and effort building something that no one wants.

- Matt

PS. This week’s image created by Midjourney with the prompt, “pixar style drawing of a mom taking a test.”

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