“How to talk to customer and learn if your business is a good idea when everybody is lying to you”
- The gist of The Mom Test is to get beyond compliments and to facts. Most people provide what you want to hear – spare your feelings. They’ll tell you how great your idea is. They’ll tell you to keep them in the loop for when you launch. When it comes time to launch or buy, they don’t. Instead, ask for specific examples of how they accomplish tasks today. Ask for real problems – examples. Ask how problems affect them. Ask for facts.
- “Why do you bother?” An interesting question here. It’s a question to get at the effects/ impacts folks run into. Get to the “why” and “how is that important”. “It’s important for me to know how productive my team is”, “I have to run reports daily on employee overtime”, etc. Impact sheds light on value.
- Don’t talk about the idea. When gathering feedback, it’s important to not lead the audience. Ask questions about the current situation that your product/ service (idea) may solve for. Ask for impacts. Ask how they currently solve the problem you hope to solve. How has the audience tried to solve the problem – have they found other solutions? If they haven’t, why? Maybe it’s not a big problem after all…
- Bad is good. That is, if the multiple folks in your market reiterates they have a fine solution, and they say their problem happens only so often, that’s good. If they says they don’t bother to look for a new solution, that’s good. Yes, you may want to show off your idea and try to convince them why your idea will save their lives. However, if the signs are not looking good, this is good feedback. Maybe you shouldn’t actually pursue this idea after all. Pursue another opportunity with better traction and viability.
- Have conversations. Fitzpatrick highlighted the importance of having “conversations” rather than interviews or meetings. Approaching casually enables the dialogue to flow with honesty and buy-in.
- Meetings are only productive when there is learning and/ or clear next steps. This is already highlighted in countless sales books. Even if the next step is not to move forward – again, moving on is a good thing. Get commitments and advances – time, money, or reputation (e.g. introductions).
- Democratize feedback to get alignment and provoke thought leadership. Withholding input from conversations challenges creativity, problem-solving, etc. Share feedback across leadership, teams, etc. – transparency or democratization of insights.
- Segmentation is critical to success – addressing a target audience to ensure a product/ service has a market. If there are too many different responses, take a sub-segment till you have cohesive feedback. Too many responses could mean too wide of a market which could lead to too many solutions. Then, no segment actually gets satisfied.
The book could use a professional editor. There are quite a few typos and misspellings. Normally, this stuff distracts the heck out of me losing a lot of credibility. However, the book’s points and lessons were great. Thus, I highly recommend this book.
- Risk: As a standalone tool for a single “client”, usage would be infrequent. For one client, the problem occurs every several weeks. Mitigation: The target customer is an entity that manages several clients. This enables more frequency of the problem and exponentially increasing the pain. Thus, the benefit, too, exponentially increases.
- Risk: Explicit pain could be felt with management of several spreadsheets. However, quantifying the impact of pain could be difficult. Mitigation: Benefits start with both monetary and legal exposure. As added bonus, there was a time-saving component. Stick to benefits that get closer to the wallet.
- Risk: Is this a big enough opportunity? Are there competitors/ monetized solutions today? Mitigation: My friend had a colleague who left his company to start his own – similar services for clients. Meanwhile, my friend’s clients are large institutions and just a few of the large firms in Atlanta. Additionally, macro-economic environment points to a growing trend.
- Risk: Introduction of a new solution to companies/ employees – adoption. Mitigation: the pain seems explicit and with good benefit potential. Many of my friend’s current clients are using incumbent solutions (i.e. spreadsheets). This also could enable an “import” process addressing empty-state issues.
A good early step is doing customer discovery. While doing so, ask prospects to agree to pilots of an MVP.
- Comfort can breed complacency. I was comfortable in my Sunday morning routine – comfortable in driveway routine. Add in a wrinkle such as a car in an unusual position, and I fail to realize it. Be mindful. Always.
- Technology still requires attention. I have a rearview camera and backup sensors. None of it matters if I don’t pay them attention. Backup sensors work well when the driver knows there is an object coming closer. None of it is useful without attention.
- All about damage control. Once I heard the crunching of metal, I knew what I had done. I had to go tell the girlfriend, notify insurance, and get ready to allocate time and money to remedy this. Once the damage is done, it’s all about reaction. (Luckily, my girlfriend’s reaction was of understanding and a positive laugh about it.)
The first and third lessons are the most important. The first lesson is about prevention. It’s about diligence and awareness. The third lesson is about adapting. Not everything will be controllable. Reaction is critical to get back on path, or onto a new normal.