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The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you

Rob Fitzpatrick · 13 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you" by Rob Fitzpatrick.
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Amazon Summary
The Mom Test is a quick, practical guide that will save you time, money, and heartbreak. They say you shouldn't ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you. This is technically true, but it misses the point. You shouldn't ask anyone if your business is a good idea. It's a bad question and everyone will lie to you at least a little. As a matter of fact, it's not their responsibility to tell you the truth. It's your responsibility to find it and it's worth doing right. Talking to customers is one of the foundational skills of both Customer Development and Lean Startup. We all know we're supposed to do it, but nobody seems willing to admit that it's easy to screw up and hard to do right. This book is going to show you how customer conversations go wrong and how you can do better.
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All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
There are a couple of books out there.

The first one is The Mom Test[0] which has already been mentioned here. But it's more about customer interviews which you usually do before you even start doing something.

And the second one is Traction[1] written by Gabriel Weinberg founder of DuckDuckGo and Justin Mares. This book is highly relevant for a situation where you already have something and need to find your first customers. The great thing about this book is that it gives you a framework and a finite list of strategies that you can prioritise and execute one by one until you get traction.

0: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyon...

1: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Traction-Startup-Achieve-Explosive-...

May 11, 2021 · aaronax on Amazon Sidewalk
Maybe this? https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/...

You shouldn't ask your mom about the viability of an idea because she will be biased towards thinking good things about you (and your ideas). Similarly (sort of...), Hacker News will be biased towards wanting your product and not say anything bad about it.

Have you read The Mom Test? https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/... Also, Rob Fitzpatrick did a youtube series focused on remote interviewing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcWqxq2fJgY&t=1s
artembugara
I'm into The Mom Test right now. It helps to interview but my issue now is how to make this interview happen.

Thx for links

jh88
Gotcha. Have you exhausted your first and second degree LinkedIn or ex-coworker network? Most of the user interviews I've done (different domain) have stemmed from reaching out to acquaintances, including those I hadn't spoken to in several years. People are usually willing to give you 20 mins of their time.
The big takeaway from this article for me was this line:

"Create a solution to somebody else’s problem, where that problem sits at the intersection of being genuinely interesting / meaningful to you and being something that you are reasonably capable of addressing."

I also want to second his book recommendation [The Mom Test](https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/...). It's really short and will save you a lot of time building things nobody will pay for.

I've spent a ton of time as a developer trying to make money from various side projects and businesses. So most of my top "wish I'd discovered this earlier" list revolves around tech+business stuff:

* Strategy #1: Charge more. patio11 has been shouting this from the rooftops for years, but it didn't sink in until after I started Indie Hackers[0]. If you charge something like $300/customer instead of $5/customer, you can get to profitability with something like 50 phone calls rather than years of slogging. It's still hard, but it's way faster.

* Strategy #2: Brian Balfour's four fits model[1]. It's not enough to think about the product. You also need to think about the market, distribution channels, and pricing, and how each of these four things fit together. I imagine them as four wheels on a car. It's better to have 4 mediocre wheels than 3 great ones and a flat.

* Book: The Mom Test.[2] Amazing book about how to talk to customers to research your ideas without being misled, which is a step I've stumbled on before.

* Tool: Notion. I just discovered it recently. I use it for all my docs and planning.

[0] https://www.indiehackers.com - my latest business, and the one that actually worked

[1] https://brianbalfour.com/four-fits-growth-framework

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/...

jayeshgopalan
This is exactly what I was looking for. Mom's test purchased and going to read and implement the same.
bananamansion
how does one find business ideas that you can charge 300/customer? is it 300 per month or per year?
namanyayg
Any B2B idea should run 300/mo easily. Finding those businesses to sell to is the challenge.

But perhaps it's easier selling 300/mo to X businesses than selling to 5/mo to 60X consumers? You decide.

nostrademons
They also require very different strengths & skillsets in founders. B2B products are usually sold, not bought. Sales skills in the founder are paramount, as well as a personality that can take rejection well and find win-wins and value-adds for the customer.

B2C products live and die by viral growth and word-of-mouth, because margins are not usually enough to support a consultative sales process or any sort of intensive advertising. That requires a founder that's really good at reading the zeitgeist and identifying needs that customers never knew they had, and that understands human psychology on an unconscious level. Often technical skills (on the founding team) matter more for B2C markets as well, because it's more critical to stand out from the competition.

Timing also matters more with B2C. There are some time periods (now, dot-com bust, or the late 80s & early 90s) where there are basically no viable B2C ideas available. There are also time periods (early 80s, dot-com boom, 2009-2013) where they are abundant. Unfortunately you often don't realize this until hindsight reveals all the people who kept working on their B2C ideas throughout the bust.

namanyayg
Interesting analysis, but why isn't b2c viable anymore?
AlchemistCamp
> There are some time periods (now, dot-com bust, or the late 80s & early 90s) where there are basically no viable B2C ideas available.

What leads you to believe that? I know plenty of people with healthy B2C businesses started recently. Heck, my business is B2C and while niche, it's viable for me.

csallen
I'd err closer to $300/month.

How do you find ideas in this category? Simple: Just look at what people are already paying lots of money for.

Off the top of my head, consumers spend lots of money on education (courses, seminars, books, classes, workshops), events and experiences, travel and vehicles, rent and housing, clothing and accessories, food, hobbies, etc. Businesses spend lots of money on recruiting and hiring, hosting, advertising, marketing tools, analytics tools, productivity, real estate, etc.

I know tons of indie hackers building businesses that help others learn to code, for example.

thundergolfer
Off the top of your head what are some of the more successful ‘learn to code’ indiehacks?
csallen
Wes Bos, Adam Wathan, Joel Hooks of Egghead, Quincy Larson of freeCodeCamp, Jeff Meyerson of Software Engineering Daily, Ben Halpern of DEV, Jessica Chan of Coder Coder, arguably Ben Tossell of Makerpad.
rcavezza
The mom test a million times over! When people hear the name, they assume it's about usability (i.e. make something easy that your mom understands it), but it's not - its' the best book on customer development that exists. I recommend it to every startup person I meet.
Highly recommend the Mom Test which is exactly about this.

https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/...

andreasklinger
+1 for the recommendation

Easily the best book on how to do non-biased interviews

I read an amazing book on customer development: The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick - https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/...

The first few pages blew my mind. It was a great read all the way through.

davidivadavid
Having read several customer development books, I second that recommendation.

One of the main takeaways of the book is that you should always start by asking factual questions. What do you do. What software do you use to do that. When's the last time you did that. How did you feel about it. Etc.

No "What ifs", no "would yous." Don't ask how much they would pay if [you could code whatever feature by next week].

That may seem obvious, but most people go for the second type of question right away.

Hey mate, are you based in London?

Damn, and here I thought being based in SEA provides for a veil of secrecy. Never thought we'd be out in the woodworks so early.

That's a good idea to reach out to others, I use 'The Mom Test' when validating customer problems - http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Mom-Test-customers-business/dp/1...

The Mom Test book (how to talk to customers when everyone is lying to you)[1] sold roughly $5k in preorders and another $10k since launch ~4 months ago. Probably 50% of that has come from speaking gigs where the event bought a bunch of books instead of paying a speaking fee.

It's on Amazon[2] as a paperback via createspace[3] print-on-demand and as an ebook via gumroad[4]. Both platforms have been great.

It took 10 months part-time from first words on paper until the finished book was in people's hands. Editing was the most painful part and took 3 months. I did the first draft on paper, and the revising in scrivener[5], which also handles exporting to all the ebook formats.

I made illustrations for it, but left them out since the layout was taking more time than it was worth and I wanted to ship it.

Incidentally, I'm also working on a book landing page generator called heylookabook[6] . I'm building in some of the marketing best-practices that I learned from working on my own, so it's there if it's helpful!

[1] http://momtestbook.com [2] http://www.amazon.com/The-Mom-Test-customers-business/dp/149... [3] http://createspace.com [4] http://gum.co/momtest [5] http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php [6] http://heylookabook.com

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