In order to validate any business idea as a founder, you must get feedback from your target customers (i.e. the people you are aiming to serve with your solution).
The tricky part is how to do this when everyone you talk to is telling you what they think you want to hear instead of what you actually NEED to hear about your product idea and whether it solves a real problem. "The Mom Test" is a book written by Rob Fitzpatrick which focuses on how to approach this dilemma from the point of view of a SaaS businesses.
I decided to read this book because, it is pretty much the only book in technical sales that has been written from the perspective of someone who is not a sales expert or coming from a "business school" background. Instead, Rob is a technical founder himself and has gone through the same struggles I'm currently facing.
One of the first things that I appreciate about the book is how it starts out by pointing out that, whether you are working solo or have a co-founder, you need to realize that focusing on building product alone will get you nowhere in terms of having a profitable business. And if you actually want to some day find product market fit, you will need to get out there and talk to people.
In the introduction, Rob makes the point that talking to customers is like unearthing an arqueological discovery: You must do it in order to uncover the truth and reap the rewards of your efforts. However, if you do it carelessly, you can end up damaging the very treasure you are trying to uncover; rendering the whole exercise useless.
Following, I will outline the chapters in the book and a summary of my learnings from each:
- It's your responsibility as a founder to figure out the truth about whether your business is a good idea. However, you have to be aware that most people will lie to you about it if you ask them this question directly.
- Failing "The Mom Test": The best way to exemplify this issue is by explaining it using the scenario of an inexperienced entrepreneur who goes up to her mom and presents her idea for a cooking app she is working on and asks the mom if she would be interested in buying it. Since mom does not want to hurt her daughter's feelings she fakes interest in the app idea.
- A useful conversation: The measure of usefulness if whether it gives you concrete facts about your customers lives and worldviews.
- The rules that make up the mom test:
1) Talk about their life first, Instead of the idea. If possible question hiw are they already dealing with it and why are they doing it that way.
2) Ask about specifics in the past, instead of hypotheticals in the future.
3) Talk less and listen more.
This first chapter of the book helped me realize that really it is up to no one else but myself to get out there and start having conversations with potential customers.
This hit close to home for me because, for the longest time, I was spending all my time coding and not talking to anyone. I knew that at some point a sale would need to be made, but always thought that this was someone else's job (not mine).
In the beginning you are not trying to sell anything; you just wan to learn what the pain points are for your customers. So this takes a little bit of pressure from the thought of starting.
If your business idea is not really solving any pain points that your customers are willing to pay for... wouldn't you rather know that now than after having spent years working on it? I Would!