How to get meaningful feedback from customers

Tom Lüdersdorf, CEO
How to use Rob Fitzpatrick's Mom Test to ask the right questions about your product

How do you know if someone is telling you the truth?

Imagine sitting across from your mom. You’re telling her about an idea for a product you really believe in. As you explain, her eyes start to light up. 'I love it!', she says. Maybe you have a few more conversations, this time with potential users. They all love it too! You’re very excited - your idea is clearly going to change the world.

Months later, after pouring blood, sweat and tears into bringing the next big thing to life, you launch your product - but are dismayed to find that no one seems to want it. Customers who seemed interested just don’t seem willing to spend money.

The horrible truth? You were pitching a beautifully packaged solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Your mom, and those potential users who seemed so excited? They were just telling you what they thought you wanted to hear.

Sadly, mistaking politeness for genuine interest is all too common - especially in the startup world. Enthusiastic nods and compliments don't always translate to market success.

How can we navigate the sea of politeness and uncover the truth about what users really want? 'The Mom Test' by Rob Fitzpatrick offers an answer, using the analogy of a mom's unconditional support to illustrate why people often avoid giving tough feedback.

Here’s how to talk about your product idea so you get real feedback - even from your mom:

Focus on their life and problems instead of centering your solution

This approach uncovers genuine pain points that your product or service can address.

Ask open-ended questions

These will avoid lightweight yes/no answers and get the other person talking. Encourage respondents to share experiences, thoughts, and feelings in their own words.

Seek specific facts and stories

This approach will give you golden nuggets of concrete evidence. They are more reliable than hypothetical or polite feedback.

Gauge true interest through commitments

Actions speak louder than words. A commitment, such as agreeing to a trial, signifies genuine interest far better than simple enthusiasm.

Embrace negative feedback

It’s a goldmine for improvement. Ask for direct feedback about what could be better, rather than mere validation.