The Mom Test and Customer Research

As many of us do we turn to our friends and family when we need advice and help simply because we feel confident around them and we trust that they will be honest but kind. But this is one of the biggest mistakes you can do when starting up a business. This is described in more detail in “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick.

Its called ‘The Mom Test’ because your mom loves you and won’t want to hurt your feelings when in fact they are hurting you in the worst way possible, by giving you false hope. As soon as you begin to talk about your idea to your customer they will also reflect this and give you useless compliments and empty promises. We see this is daily activities such as New Years resolutions, everyone is very optimistic about what they could do in the future, whether it’s quitting drinking, joining a gym, being more creative, working harder but when it comes to it most people don’t put in the effort or commitment.

The key to getting useless customer feedback is not to ask them about your idea but to ask them about their problems and how they have overcome them in relationship to your idea. The longer you withheld the pitch for your idea the more useful the comments you receive will be.

Most of us start out out pitches with “This is my idea, tell me what you think” but straight away you are not allowing the chance for the customer to be critical to be kind to making the product relate to their personal details because you started without any input.

This is known as the “Learn” stage. While we are still gathering data and building on our idea we are still learning so when talking to our customers we are still learning so before you confirm your idea with them, before you pitch the idea first listen to what problems they have at this moment in time with their own life.

“The way we solve our customer development bias problems is different depends which phase we are at. In the learn phase we just don’t talk about our idea, instead we talk about the customer, we talk about the problems they have.” (Rob Fitzpatrick. 2013)

I did fall victim to the mom line of thinking and I found this test very useful and enlightening. Instead I can start my pitch with asking them questions from the ‘Five Ws and 1 H’ theory (Jeremy Porter, 2010) which I learnt about while on my Journalism degree. As a journalist I would always argue that the story is not complete until you can answer these six questions and relatedly this works with customer research. So when I talk to my customers instead of complement driven questions I can ask:

  • Who was involved? Did you turn to to get help when setting up your business, who helped you along the way?
  • What has starting up with business cost you both financially and physically.
  • When did you decided to start your own business and when did you realize you may need help?
  • Why did you decide to set up your own business?
  • Where did you set up from and where do you sell to?
  • How could someone help you advance your business and how

All these questions will give me the information needed in order to grow my idea and make sure my idea is actually relevant for this person. Using their own experiences I can sell the product to them or even ask for help from them.

Bonita Kolb also discusses this in his book ‘Marketing Research; A Practical Approach’, he states that “The most common difficulty faced by organizations when starting the research process is making a fault assumption about the cause of a problem.” (Bonita Kolb, page 37). This is very true and he goes onto to give the example of Webvan, an online grocery shopping service which in itself believed it had a great and profitable business and convinced investors it did too only to declare bankruptcy in 2001 having lost $830 million. The founder even went onto say after that you should “prove the market and then grow”. (Bonita Kolb, page 37)

This may seem like simple and obvious advice but many of us do it, we come to assumptions due to our own personal experiences and build from that. We may have had that problem and have that way of thinking but does anyone else, do enough people want the product which you would want as a consumer? My idea was based on the fact that myself I found it hard to build my business to begin with using only social media and I would have liked the free help my product would want but is this the correct question to be asking people?

Critical thinking is a three step process:

  1. “To identify the pre existing assumptions held by company employees”.
  2. “To use internal research data to challenge whether these same assumptions are accurate and based on fact”
  3. “To explore new ideas about the actual source of a problem and its possible solution”- (Bonita Kolb, page 38)

Assumption one: That people who start up a business need social media help and don’t understand how to utilize their business through social media. While according to the Telegraph “The under-35 age bracket saw the steepest increase in activity. In 2006 there were 145,104 companies founded by young people. By 2013 it had jumped to 247,049… More than 55pc of young people aged 16 to 25 now want to set up their own firm. A report from Santander also estimated that 80,000 UK university students run a business, and a quarter of these plan to turn it into a career when they graduate.”  (Rebecca Burn-Callander, 2014). This age bracket are notoriously known for being tech savvy and social media experts spending their daily lives on it so is my product even going to be teaching them anything new?

Assumption two: That people are using or want to even use social media to run their businesses and sell their product. Going back to the Guardian’s report of the rise in businesses being set up I would assume this is because of social media, it has never been easy to start up a small business and start selling your product and targeting your customers. But i will need to go into a more indepth research and find out exactly WHY this is such a craze, is it a financial thing? Are there no jobs? Are people more creative and ambitious? Is social media the cause?

Assumption three: That there is no free educational service provided to young entrepreneurs in order to help them utilize social media for their business. When in fact after looking through online and on Youtube there were plenty of videos on their for all kinds of businesses and set ups and social media sites. So i need to learn from what they have provided, see what they did well and not so well and how I can improve it.

So using the information from both “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick and Bonita Kolb in ‘Marketing Research; A Practical Approach’ I can get a better understanding of my Customer Segments, Value Proposition and Key Activities.

Customer Segments:

Using the view noted in The Mom Test about finding out what the customers problem is first before assumption here I charted out what their problems are within my research:

New-Mind-Map (1).jpg


My sponsors are coming to me and will be advertising with me because they want revenue to their sites. They may want me to sell a certain product in one of our videos such as a new app which helps organise data for your business or helps keep track of followers and trends. They will also want awareness through product placement, shoutouts and marketing materials on my site.

Older Generation:

I do not want to limit my site to just the younger audience although my website may be tailored more that that generation but I still need to keep them into consideration as you can start a business at any age. The problems they face though are that many are not tech savvy at all, they may not even have social media accounts or know what Facebook is. They may not even have computers at home and will rely heavily on internet cafes or their family helping them out. I could help solve this problem by offering the beginner tutorials where the videos are tailored to slower learners or the older generation. I could also run local social media sessions where people can go to and get one to one help.


As a student I understand the crippiling pain of financial debt and the lack of time in the day to do anything!So setting up a business sounds expensive and time consuming to any student and this is their problem. I need to show them that it can be very cheap and that it doesnt have to take up a large chunk of your day to day life. Through scheduled posts it can be easy. Also my product will be free to everyone.

This also goes for my Young Entrepreneurs section. They may not have the skills or time to set up a business alone due to not taking business in school. This is a serious problem that I will have to keep thinking about as videos can be long winded and my customer wants to learn on the go so I will need to create quick and snappy videos that maybe you could just listen to aswell while you are following the instructions.

Social Media Advisers:

Finally my Social Media Advisers, this would fall under sponsorship as well thinking about it in more detail as they will be paying a fee for me to showcase them on my site. They face the problem of they need people to buy into them, they need that income support and level of trust. So through my site I can help them buy making them promotional videos which would come up as advertisement before a lesson or just on its own in a section of the site. I will be helping them  because they will be paying a sponsorship fee for this service.

Value Proposition

New-Mind-Map (2).jpg

Young Entrepreneurs and Students:

I felt would be getting the same key Values Propositions from my project. They would be able to build a career using their newly learnt skills which they can get for free, at the comfort of their own home and within their own spare time.

Older Generation:

They would get new and exciting skills which not only would allow them to start their own business but help them get that connection back to their friends and family. They would get one to one support on how to set up Facebook pages, how to post comments and messages and the basics which sometimes can be overlooked for frustrating to teach for family members.


Our sponsors suddenly get their targeted revenue to their sites and products. They get actual reviewed content which they can showcase use themselves and by us demoing it they get more awareness about their product.


Key Activities:

New-Mind-Map (4).jpg

Video Production:

My site is dedicated to provided free educational information and videos will be my main output of information. So making sure i have a catalog of videos to put up when we first launch the site is vital. For this I will need a keen crew of videographers behind me willing to work hard and understand the target audience and the product.

Target Audience:

If i do not understand my target audience I cannot move forward with my product simple as. If I do understand my target audience how can i promote my product? I don’t know where to promote it, what style, anything so I need to build a strong connection with my target audience. Find out where they like to go what they like to do and what sites they use.


This is vital to success. As discussed previously having a strong social capital is the key to success or failure. I need an eager team behind me who is willing to put in the time and effort it will take to start up a business. They must all have something to offer the project whether it is website development, social media management, event planning or even just customer satisfaction.

Social media:

I will more than likely do a lot of my promoting and customer relations on social media as my project is all about using social media to build a business so i need to prove to my customers that in fact I can do that myself. I will need a number of people to manage the sites, creating content for it and making sure we reply professionally to messages and comments.


Whether it is through online, physical hard copies or word and mouth I will need to focus a lot of time of marketing my product and services to my customers. I will need to market directly to my target audience and my sponsors.


Lastly my sponsors are going to be a serious consideration to whether this works or not. Although I am relying heavily on the generosity of others for the start up on my business people will want to be paid eventually and a business cannot survive forever on nothing. Even charities rely on donations and community pages rely on the contribution of others. I will need to keep my sponsors keen and ready to commit to the project.

I feel after looking deeper into my idea using “The Mom Test” I am ready to start developing my idea further and organizing focus group meetings to get more key information about my audience and my product.


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