The Mom Test

You must have seen the buzz around the book club in the past few weeks on LinkedIn. Let's discuss the motivation, why, what, how on building the club some other time.

Today I want to share my book notes on the book: The Mom Test. Instead of being theoretical about research methods and how to moderate studies, Rob F has given a ton of practical actionable insights around how to handle customer conversations in this book. Every product builder (product manager or designer or engineer or growth marketer or founders) must read this book. It is a fun and easy read. It is written in a conversational style and that makes this book an easy read. 213 pages. 2.5 hours tops at 250 wpm reading speed. If you don't have that kind of time now, just spend 5 mins (1000 words) to read this. I have given everything as a listicle. I love it that way so I am assuming you will also like it. Let's dig in 👇

Builders are human beings first. Awareness is hard. It is hard to ask good questions. It is even harder to constantly structure the conversations and steer them in the right directions.

On the other hand, It is super easy to ask dumb questions. If you are passionate about an idea (which all founders are), it is easy to slip into the pitch mode quickly.

The Mom Test will help you to actively get better at asking good questions and having useful customer conversations. It will help you notice your mistakes. It teaches you how to fix them. Don't shoot for perfection. Progress is good enough. Having said that don't geek out the process too much, just do it and you never know you may hit gold quicker than usual.

I would like to split this book (any book for that matter) into three parts

Mindset for customer conversations

  • You are searching for the truth. Not trying to right.
  • Extract maximum value in mimimum time.
  • It is not about you (the builder). It is about them (your customers).
  • Talk about their life. Do not talk/pitch about your idea.
  • Specifics in past is better than opinions about future.
  • Talk less. Listen more.
  • Stay on track. Conversations go astray at all times. Deflect compliments/Anchor fluff/Dig Deeper beneath ideas at all times.
  • When the conversation is casual people talk.
  • Collect facts & commitments.
  • Learn-it-all vs Build-it-all.
  • Customer Conversations are bad by default. It is your job to fix them.
  • It is your responsibility to find truth. No one is obligated to give them to you.
  • Only the market can tell if it is good idea. Everything else is opinion (and opinions are worthless).
  • People by nature will be nice to you and not puncture your ego (lies stem from here)
  • Why >> What
  • People know what their problems are. They don't know how to solve them.
  • Some problems actually don't matter.
  • Watching someone do will show problems and inefficiencies than listen to what they think the problems are.
  • They can't tell you what they'll pay but they can tell you what it is worth to them.
  • Take all things nice with a grain of salt.
  • Is the person customer or complainer? Figure it out.
  • Meh >> Wow
  • The more they give up, the more seriously you can take their words.

Skillset for customer conversations

  • Ask Good Questions. Understand their goals.
  • Anchor to motivations and constraints behind every idea/request.
  • Avoid Bad Data
  • Keep it casual (even when it is formal)
  • Start broad. Zoom in only when you find a signal.
  • Don't rediscover the desires. They will buy if you make it well.
  • Push for commitment and advancements
  • Frame the meeting with customers. Every meet either succeeds or fails (no "went well")
  • Slice your customer segments.
  • Pre, During, Post customer conversations matter
  • Take Notes

Toolset for customer conversations

Have your big and important 3 questions handy at all times.

Framing the meeting via a cold email or warm intro

Vision — half-sentence version of how you’re making the world betterFraming — where you’re at and what you’re looking forWeakness — show how you can be helpedPedestal — show that they, in particular, can provide that helpAsk — ask for help

Meeting Preps (Pre-During-Post)


If you haven’t yet, choose a focused, findable segmentWith your team, decide your big 3 learning goalsIf relevant, decide on ideal next steps and commitmentsIf conversations are the right tool, figure out who to talk toCreate a series of best guesses about what the person cares about (hypothetical is fine)If a question could be answered via desk research, do that first


Frame the conversationKeep it casualAsk good questions which pass The Mom TestDeflect compliments, anchor fluff, and dig beneath signalsTake good notesIf relevant, press for commitment and next steps


With your team, review your notes and key customer quotesIf relevant, transfer notes into permanent storageUpdate your beliefs and plansDecide on the next 3 big questions

Walk out of the meeting with

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, reputational risk, or money.

Advancement — They are moving to the next step of your real-world funnel and getting closer to a sale.

Note Taking: Signals

When you take notes in your customer conversations, use the following symbols for the signals as they pop-up during the conversations.

:) Excited

:(    Angry

:| Embarrassed

☇    Pain or problem (symbol is a lightning bolt)

⨅ Goal or job-to-be-done (symbol is a soccer/football goal)

☐ Obstacle

⤴ Workaround

^ Background or context (symbol is a distant mountain)

☑ Feature request or purchasing criteria

$ Money or budgets or purchasing process

♀ Mentioned a specific person or company

☆ Follow-up task

This should give you a fairly good idea around how to handle customer conversations and how to talk to them to build your business.

As human beings we don't like to hurt feelings of a fellow human being but that is not what we want. We want to know the truth. Our tools to know the truth are Goals and Questions. We must know how to wield them. It is delicate work but totally worthy one. From vague sense of opportunity, customer conversations can help you move into finding exactly what it is.

🥂 to customer conversations!

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