The Mom Test

The Mom Test‘. Its a book by Rob Fitzpatrick. I like it.

It’s very simple to read but more importantly, it teaches Product Managers how to speak to customers and find out if what they intend to develop is a good idea. Lots of examples of good and bad interviews to takeaway.

More often than not, we tell Product Managers to get out of the office and speak to customers. From what we’ve seen, many are nervous and have difficulty asking the right questions to get the results they’re after.

And rightly so… Both parties (customer & Product Manager) are slightly anxious. Both parties want to please each other. Both parties also want to appear knowledgeable. In many interview situations, customers tend to validate the idea as ‘great’ whilst the Product Manager may stop probing for fear of appearing ignorant or annoying. The results are not usable at best or false at worst.

But customer interviews are worth it if done correctly. It reduces the risk of going to market with the wrong product, service or feature.

To do it better, firstly figure out what need’s to be tested. Is it a new brand product or service idea? Is it a feature? Is it a price point? Is it the brand? This will lead you to the right research approach.

If you want to test a price point, I think there are other more effective ways to test this. No need for interviews in this situation. It’s very difficult to test price effectively during an interview situation. If it’s a brand new product or service or feature, interviews are warranted.

When conducting customer interviews, Fiztpatrick talks about the concept of ‘zooming in’. He writes that it’s important to determine when to focus on problems. It can neither be too early or too late in the conversation. If we know the problem exists in the market there is not need to re-establish if it exists. During the interview, we can therefore zoom in on the problem and explore it in detail. If we’re uncertain if the target market has a problem that the idea intends to solve, then it’s imperative that we zoom out to establish the situation.

For me the key takeaway is this… “Customers own the problem. You own the solution”. Don’t ask customers to help you develop the product or service. Instead ask them about ‘their life”. Probe about their goals, specific instances where they’ve achieved or not achieved their goals. Talk about their problems – broadly or specifically. Ask them what solutions they’ve used to solve their problems.

That is inherently more useful than asking “Do you think this product is a good idea?” or “Would you pay XX for this product?” Seriously, what can customers say…..

And finally as Rob Fiztpatrick advises … “Talk less and listen more.”