I recently finished reading The Mom Test; a book about validating your business idea and finding the right costumers. This book has demystified a lot of the ambiguity I had about idea validation and understanding what people will pay for. It also made my realize the mistakes I was making when talking to others about my business ideas.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book.
“Do you think it’s a good idea?” Awful question! Here’s the thing: only the market can tell if your idea is good. Everything else is just opinion.
I love this quote because it succinctly summarizes everything you need to know before you even finish the book. All too often, I would ask someone if they like my idea or think it’s good. Of course they would (any idea can sound good on paper), but that doesn’t mean that they are the people who would buy it.
Some problems don’t actually matter.
THIS IS A BIG ONE! Not every problem you identify is an actual pain point. Remembering to water the plants in my bedroom might be a problem, but it’s not actually painful enough that I’m willing to pay for a solution.
It’s worth choosing customers you admire and enjoy being around.
Don’t build for something or someone you don’t like. Seems kind of obvious. How long would you stay motivated to build a SaaS for internet marketers when you don’t care about internet marketers or the problems that they face? If you put yourself through this, you will burn out sooner and be miserable. Might as well just work a regular full-time job with less stress at that point.
“Does-this-problem-matter” questions: “How seriously do you take your blog?” “Do you make money from it?” “Have you tried making more money from it?” “How much time do you spend on it each week?” “Do you have any major aspirations for your blog?” “Which tools and services do you use for it?” “What are you already doing to improve this?” “What are the 3 big things you’re trying to fix or improve right now?”
Perfect questions to understand if this is a real pain point.
If they haven’t looked for ways of solving it already, they’re not going to look for (or buy) yours.
Another favorite of mine. So often I hear people tell me, “You know what I need? An app that will tell me what to make for dinner based on the ingredients I have.” But here’s the thing, there are already websites and apps out there that do that. Therefore, this isn’t an actual problem for this person since they didn’t bother taking five seconds to Google for a solution. Likewise for people who say, “There needs to be a way to store all my gift cards in one place.” Um, hello, there are probably 20 services that do this.
Also, avoid people who want something for free. That means they will simply never pay for your product even if it did solve their problem.
You can’t help but laugh when you overhear these exchanges. “Someone should definitely make an X!” “Have you looked for an X?” “No, why?” “There are like 10 different kinds of X.” “Well, I didn’t really need it anyway.”
This echoes the point I made above.
It boils down to this: you aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution.
Don’t assume you know what the problem is. That’s like me walking into a hospital and telling them what their problem is without ever having worked in a hospital before.
Every time you talk to someone, you should be asking at least one question which has the potential to destroy your currently imagined business.
It’s better to learn that you idea is not viable early on then to burn unnecessary time and money.
Product risk — Can I build it? Can I grow it? Customer/market risk — Do they want it? Will they pay me? Are there lots of them?
Sometimes you might come across a fantastic market/customer segment with a product that would be impractical for you to build. I know that I will never be able to build a YouTube competitor even if there is a large market for such a product.
In the enterprise software world, they are the people who: Have the problem. Know they have the problem. Have the budget to solve the problem. Have already cobbled together their own makeshift solution.
This quote was centered around finding your first customers in the enterprise world.
In the consumer space, it’s the fan who wants your product to succeed so badly that they’ll front you the money as a pre-order when all you’ve got is a duct-tape prototype.
This quote was centered around finding your first costumers in the consumer space.
If you’re scratching your own itch with this business, you likely already know your customers. Great! Talk to them. Now that you’re armed with The Mom Test, they won’t be able to lie to you even though they know you.
I personally like the idea of scratching your own itch. It just makes things more fun and interesting.
The framing format I like has five key elements. You’re an entrepreneur trying to solve horrible problem X, usher in wonderful vision Y, or fix stagnant industry Z. Don’t mention your idea. Frame expectations by mentioning what stage you’re at and, if it’s true, that you don’t have anything to sell. Show weakness and give them a chance to help by mentioning the specific problem that you’re looking for answers on. This will also clarify that you’re not a time waster. Put them on a pedestal by showing how much they, in particular, can help. Explicitly ask for help. Or, in shorter form: Vision / Framing / Weakness / Pedestal / Ask
I haven’t had the opportunity to try this yet, but it seems like a solid template for guiding costumer conversations. The key to all of this though is to not sound “pitchy.” Unless you are in an absolute formal meeting where contracts are being drawn, keep the conversation casual.
Results of a good meeting: Facts — concrete, specific facts about what they do and why they do it (as opposed to the bad data of compliments, fluff, and opinions) Commitment — They are showing they’re serious by giving up something they value such as meaningful amounts of time, reputation risk, or money Advancement — They are moving to the next step of your real-world funnel and getting closer to a sale
If you ever asked yourself if the meeting went well or not, refer to this.
The Mom Test: Talk about their [customers] life instead of your idea. Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future Talk less and listen more
When discussing your potential idea with someone, don’t start with, “Well I have this idea for digital cookbooks that wil let you search by ingredient.” Instead, ask them about their life, goals and motivations. In order to understand whether your idea will solve their problem, you fully need to understand their problem. And use past experiences as a basis and not future predictions. For example, have they ever used cookbooks? How often? Have they every used an ebook?
There it is. But please do read the book. There is a lot of good information in there that will help you validate your idea and find customers.