The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

A delightful book for Product Managers

7 min readOct 13, 2017

{The above video links to YouTube and provides the book review as well}

Why should you read this book?

Because, we have a desire to build something that is truly valuable to our customers and to do that, we have to ensure what we are building truly makes their lives better

My learnings

Chapter 1:

The MoM Test

  • Don’t just ask your mom if your business idea is a good idea but don’t ask anybody else if your business idea is a good idea
  • Don’t mention your idea too soon (or possibly don’t ever introduce your ideas to customer). That’s when you start asking good questions.
  • Talk about their life instead of your idea
  • Ask about specifics about the PAST instead of generics and opinions about the FUTURE
  • How much would you pay for X? — Bad question! J
  • Would you buy a product which did X? — Bad question! J
  • Do you think it’s a good idea?! — Bad question! J
  • Read, ‘Rule of Thumb’
  • You aren’t allowed to tell them their problem and in return they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. Put it simply, they own the problem, you own the solution! — Brilliant statement!!

Chapter 2:

Avoiding bad data

  • 3 types of bad data — compliments, fluff (generics, hypothetical, I shall do this in the future blah blah), ideas
  • Gather facts and commitments, not compliments! — Brilliant Statement!!
  • Don’t pitch! Don’t pitch your idea during customer conversations. If you do, recognize it and correct it. Pitching an idea means that you are trying to seek an approval. Don’t pitch!
  • When a customer compliments you and says something like ‘Let me know when its ready’ or pushing commitment to a future date, know that it’s a red flag and this is possibly not going to be a paying customer or not use what you are building once its ready!
  • People always describe who they WANT to be rather than who they ARE. So beware of asking questions that lead to generic answers. Get into specifics!
  • Focus on single scalable idea rather than jumping onto every good idea that comes your way
  • Questions to dig into feature requests: Why do you want that?; what would that let you do?; How are you coping without it?; Do you think we should push back the launch to add that feature, or is it something we could add later?; How would that fit into your day?
  • Questions to dig into emotional signals: Why haven’t you been able to fix this already?

Chapter 3:

Asking important questions

  • You should be asking questions that have the potential to destroy your currently imagined business/idea! — Very important! — Else you aren’t asking the right questions and are merely seeking an approval!
  • You should be terrified of asking atleast one question!
  • Most people will have many problems, which they would be happy to give you the details of, but THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT FIXING IT, SO YOU TOO SHOULDN’T ZOOM IN TOO SOON INTO DETAILS WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE BIG PICTURE! Do they even care if I provide a solution to their problem? Does this problem even matter? That’s also why you should focus on their present or immediate past self rather than their future ideal self! J
  • Product Risk versus Market Risk — ‘when you build it, I shall buy it’ — This is mostly a product risk. Can you accomplish or build that?; Market Risk — Do they want it?; Will they pay for it?; Are there enough customers for this product or having the problem?

Chapter 4:

Keeping it casual

  • Don’t be formal! Keep it casual. Don’t try setting up a meeting, immediately jump to conversation mode and ask good questions.
  • You are missing a great opportunity to talk, when you meet a customer and say ‘I shall setup a meeting with you in future’. Instead ask your most pressing question there itself!
  • Symptoms of formality: ‘So first off, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I just had a few questions for you…; On a scale of 1 to 5, how much would you?
  • Give as little information possible about your idea, while nudging the discussion in a useful direction

Chapter 5:

Commitment and Advancement

  • Once its time to present your idea (i.e after it is confirmed that there is a market for your problem-solution, you can build it, people will pay for it), its time to reveal your solution. However…..
  • ….You will need commitments — Commitments in the form of ‘advancement’ — customer moves from one phase to another — i.e takes forward steps to eventually buy your product; time, money, reputation.
  • When customers fail to advance — you are friendzoned! J Customers won’t ever buy, but they just wanted to keep you happy!
  • Product meetings that went well; meetings that ended with a compliment — are all signs of being friendzoned!
  • Commitments can be cash, but doesn’t have to be. Think in terms of currency — What are they giving up for you?
  • A compliment costs nothing, so its worth nothing to you and carries no data. The major currencies are time, reputation risk and cash.
  • Early adopters are people who: have a problem; know they have a problem; have the budget to solve the problem; have already cobbled together their own makeshift solution

Chapter 6:

Finding conversations

  • Just have a good conversation. People love talking about their problems
  • Find a good excuse! — The café example was outstanding!
  • Don’t create a ‘needy’ vibe. You are just trying to find helpful, knowledgeable people who are excited about your idea

Chapter 7:

Choosing your customers

  • Startups don’t starve, they drown! You never have too few options, too few ideas. You have too many and you try to a little bit of everything!
  • Before you can serve everyone, you have to serve someone, by thinking who would most likely pay
  • Have a really, really narrow definition of your customer profile. For example: ‘students’ is a very broad customer profile and could give you confusing signals on what to build and you may end up not solving any of their problems.
  • Don’t have one conversation each with 20 different kinds of customers! Instead have 20 conversations with 1 kind of customer!

Chapter 8:

Running the process

  • Don’t be the learning bottleneck! — Involve others in the customer conversations!
  • ‘Customer told me so’ is an effective (bad) card to get features scoped. If that happens, know that the process is wrong!
  • If somebody forces you to scope in features by playing the ‘customer told me so’ statement, just ask these two questions: 1) If this company were to fail, why would it have happened? 2) What would have to be true for this to be a huge success?
  • Before going into any customer conversation, you absolutely need to ask this question to yourself and be prepared with the answer, else it is pointless to have any conversation. ‘What do we want to learn from these guys?’
  • Hack it! Having a process is fine but don’t get stuck with it! Sometimes all you need is to pick up the phone and have a conversation!
  • Read Cheatsheet

View and Download the Mindmap for Scrum. It covers the Entire Concepts of SCrum in one Giant mindmap. Make sure to zoom in and zoom out to make it visible

My other articles

These sites aren’t directly related to Product Management but are so thoughtful that it could perhaps widen your perspectives which I feel is required for a Product Manager

New Product Manager Tools and Resources

  1. Who do you want your customers to become? —

2) The Productivity Framework for Product Managers

3) The Professional (Scrum) Product Owner

4) One + One = Three (Lessons in Creativity)

5) Outcomes over Output — Nice way to think for Product Managers with uncertainty on what to build next




I love the profession of Product Management that helps me build meaningful relationships with teams and customers. I just can’t get enough of reading!