The Mom Test — how to talk to customers and validate your idea

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The three rules of The Mom Test

  1. Talk about the customer’s life. Don’t talk about your idea.
  2. Talk about specifics and past experiences. Don’t talk about generics or hypotheticals in the future.
  3. Talk less. Listen more.

Things to focus on while talking to customers

  1. Customer needs and goals

Things to avoid while talking to customers

  1. Talking about your idea — When you start talking about your idea, you either enter into a “pitch” mode or begin seeking approval. This derails the conversation from the original goal of understanding the customer.
  2. Compliments —Praise about your idea or the product you are building. It gives you the impression that “you are doing great”, when it actually amounts to nothing.
  3. Fluff — Avoid discussing generics or hypothetical future scenarios. For example: would you buy this? Do you think this is a good idea? How often would you use this etc. If there is something in the future, of course the other person wouldn’t mind doing it.
  4. Interrupting them when they are speaking — You might be tempted to correct them midway or question an assumption they are making. However, this might cause you to miss out an important insight which you had not even thought of. Further, it appears rude and could turn the other person off.
  5. Obsessing over small unimportant details before getting the big picture right.
  6. Wasting time on getting generic information which was obvious or could have been accessed through a simple google search.

Identifying the right customer segment

  • If you go too broad, you will keep on getting different customer problems from different segments. Deciding what to build, what to ignore would become a challenge as everything would be important in this case.
  • You should keep slicing until you have a specific enough segment you can talk to and know where they are physically. Basically, finding a ‘who-where’ pair.
  • Finalizing a ‘who-where’ pair will help you come up with a clear strategy on how to reach out to our potential customers and begin conversations with them.

Getting potential customers to talk to

  1. Cold emailing and conversations — Attend conferences around the relevant topic, hang out around potential places where your customers might frequent.
  2. Getting potential customers to you — Organize meetups, begin teaching about it, blog about your industry etc.
  3. Use your network to get warm introductions — Get people to make introductions for you. Cash in on the favors done in the past.

On Meetings

  • Cash — Customer is willing to pay for the solution immediately or as soon as the first version is ready.
  • Time commitment — They are willing to spend a non-trivial amount of time understanding more about your product. For example, an hour long session on how it will fit into their workflow.
  • Reputation — This is especially useful for B2B products. For example, they might agree to 1) Introduce you to decision markers in their organization 2) Connect you with their peers 3) Write a testimonial 4) Work together

On Taking Notes

  • Write exact customer quotes — Tag them with symbols to describe the emotions customers experience while describing problems and solutions. (for example, anger, frustration, excitement etc)
  • Use the feature icon to highlight feature requests, star icon to indicate follow-up tasks, person icon if there are additional people you need to talk to.




Currently PM@Airmeet — building a kick-ass product for conducting remote events and conferences.

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Vikram Goyal

Vikram Goyal

Currently PM@Airmeet — building a kick-ass product for conducting remote events and conferences.

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