The Mom Test

08 May 2020

Talking to and understanding customers is perhaps an underrated skill in Product Management.

Customers are often the source of requirements for a product. Most Product Managers understand that talking to customers is vital.

Here’s the stick. Talking to customers is hard.

Bad conversations can result in false positives leading to incorrect product decisions.

Engineering a product (or feature) is non-trivial. Ideally, it is effort well spent.

The Mom Test

Rob Fitzpatrick addresses these customer conversations in his book The Mom Test. It is a ~130 page handbook of good story telling and practical insight.

The book ‘games’ conversations with customers and points out where they usually go wrong.

Useful conversation roadmap

  • Ask good questions (don’t ask ‘is this a good idea?’)
  • Avoid bad data (‘I would definitely buy that!’ without commitment)
  • Keep it casual (allow customer honesty to shine)
  • Push for commitment & advancement (‘you’ll need to pay for this product’)
  • Frame the meeting (talk to industry experts, ask for help)
  • Customer segmentation (target the right user group)
  • Prep & review (prep the questions that’ll pass the mom test)
  • Take notes (take useful notes, share with the team)

Rule of thumb. you can’t tell customers what their problem is, they can’t tell you what to build.

Aim for good conversations. Mistakes will be made, but learn by having them often.