How to find out if you have a great idea when everybody lies – especially your Mum.

So, you’ve developed an idea which you think is really great. What’s your next step ? Get out of the building to find out if anybody likes it and perhaps more importantly, will anyone buy it ?

Back in the day this would have called for some sort of focus group. Potential customers would have been recruited; fed a nice lunch and then paid to express their opinions about your product. This might have taken place in a swanky agency with a one-way mirror and trained researchers engaging with your potential customers, as you sat there with your fingers crossed.

Through the rise of the Start-up we have now learnt this is probably not the best way to find out if you have a great idea on your hands. Start-ups don’t have the time or budget for these kinds of sessions and why wouldn’t you want to engage with your customers yourself, so you can learn as much as possible. The problem is, everybody lies; not because they are nasty people; in fact, the very opposite; because they are nice and don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Even your Mum will tell you your idea is great even if she thinks it is rubbish….

Let us introduce you to one of our favourite and most powerful tools; The Mom Test. (Yes, it is actually called the Mom Test but in our office Mum’s the word). This is a really useful framework for ensuring you ask better questions to understand your customer in order to shape your idea.

The Mom Test

The Mom Test book is only small and very easy to read; so even if business books are not your thing, this might be one you should consider buying. At Freestyle, it’s often one of the books we put inside the innovation boxes we give out to people at the start of workshops.

Essentially, the Mom Test is a framework for asking better questions to ensure we are getting useful data and not just compliments. The Mom Test is based on the premise of collecting real evidence, so questions like, ‘How much would you pay for this new product?’ would be considered a BAD question as its not based on evidence. Whereas, ‘How much have you paid to solve this problem in the past?’ would be considered a GOOD question.


Do you think this a good idea ?

Would you buy a product which solved this problem ?

How much would you pay for this ?


How do you currently deal with this problem ?

Talk me through the last time you had this problem ?

How much does this problem cost you ?

It can help if you think of the exercise as a conversation rather than a formal user interview, after all, everyone can hold a conversation. As a general rule, spend more time talking about your customers life instead of your idea. In fact, talk less and listen more. Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future.

Mom Test Hints & Tips

  1. WATCH: If reading books is not your thing then watch this film of Rob Fitzpatrick explaining the Mom Test. We often watch this video just before we embark on a new customer development project – it reminds us of the key points.

  2. PRACTICE: Just like any new skill you get better if you practice; and you can even practice on your Mum; as long as you ask the right questions.

  3. THREE QUESTIONS: Write down your top three Mom Test questions and keep them in your pocket. That way, you can always be learning even if you are in the pub or waiting for a train. A lot can be learnt in informal sessions when people are more relaxed and more likely to tell you the truth.

  4. READ: Buy the book or download the pdf.

So have a go at using the Mom Test. We would love to know how you get on. Or, if you fancy a chat to learn more about finding the problem worth solving for your customers, then please get in touch at

#Innovation #customerdevelopment #MomTest


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