Prove your humanity: 3   +   7   =  

Is my business idea good? The 5 rules.

As you now know, I am taking an important bet on a vision that I am passionate about. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves, dive into coding and get everything started. But before I do so, I need to be crystal clear about which problem I am addressing and how I want to solve it. In my opinion, the only way to achieve that is by talking to customers.
Here’s my take on how to get out there, talk to potential customers and come back with a bag full of insights that will help me set up the right solutions for real problems. My 5 rules are based on “The Mom Test” written by  Rob Fitzpatrick. The book explains how to learn from customer conversations the right way and how to get your idea reality-checked.

1. Get out of the building.

Having the perfect solution to a problem that does not exist is very frustrating. I need to make sure people love what I do and will use it once it’s ready. At this stage, I don’t have any particular buyer persona in mind so I can literally just go out and talk to strangers. What I will do.

The following rules are very central in order to get useful insights from these conversations.

2. Everyone is lying.

If I ask the wrong questions like “Do you like my business idea”, nobody will answer with a cold “No” because people don’t want to hurt me. At this stage, I shouldn’t really care about pitching my idea or having potential signups. I just want to better understand the real problem I try to solve. Therefore, it is important that we focus on the customers and on their lives, they will not have an incentive to lie and will just give me some very valuable information.

If I avoid speaking about my idea, I build the ground for a useful conversation.

“You aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution.” The Mom Test

3. Focus on event based discussion

By asking about specific events in the past, I get detailed information on things that really happened. I focus on the current situation of my market and how people currently solve their issue. At the very center of every action, there is “Job to be done” and I need to understand which job it is that I try to get hired for.

When someone explains me what he/she did yesterday, there is no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation, we are speaking about facts.

Here are some examples I could ask for my project:

  • When was the last time you …?
  • How did you evaluate your options?
  • What were the research you did before … ?
  • On which criteria did you base your decision?
  • How will you do it next time?

4. Avoid bad data

According to “The Mom Test”, there are 3 types of bad data:

  • Fluff (Hypothetical bla bla)
  • Compliments
  • Ideas

There is a simple rule to avoid bad data: no pitch. I repeat myself but this point is pretty central, nobody will ever tell someone that his/her baby is ugly. Compliments should generally be ignored.

Instead of approval and compliments, I have to seek for some sort of commitment. (see last rule)

5. Seek for commitment – now you can pitch

Finally, after I gathered all most important information about the market and my customer life, it is time to reveal the idea. This generates bad data at first, but the key insights are now already known.

At this stage, it is time to know if my idea solves a real issue for this particular person. According to the Mom Test book, there are different ways how someone can commit to move to confirm his/her interest in your idea:

  • Take a reputational risk for my idea (share, invite friends, ..)
  • Invest more time for the idea (schedule a new interview to review the product, ..)
  • Invest money (pre-order or making a deposit)

In my case, I will make people believe that my project has a yearly subscription fee of 10$ and ask them to signup. Rejections reasons will most probably be the basis conditions I need to meet in order to make my product attractive.

Conclusion

These are the 5 rules to understand if my idea solves a real problem or not. The most important is to talk with customers and understand their lives and issues. By asking the right questions, I understand how I can help and have an impact, I make sure that I don’t waste time building a solution to a problem that does not exist.

For more details on how to talk to customers and learn if your idea is good, most of the above-mentioned insights are from the book “The Mom Test” that I highly recommend.

Now it’s time to put this in practice and go talk to customers. Signup to my newsletter to get the results of my interviews. I will also share more of my experience and key findings very soon.