Let’s say you’ve been working on this great business idea for the last couple of months. You’re ready to take the next steps, but first you want to talk to someone to get confirmed just how awesome your idea is. What do you tell them? Do you ask them if they love your idea? How do you know that they’re not lying to you?
Rob Fitzpatrick, author of the critically acclaimed book The Mom Test, is an expert in the field of talking to customers. The name of the book refers to that you should never ask your mom for business advice - she’ll always tell you it’s fantastic (even if it’s not). The same goes for most people you talk to - out of fear of hurting your feelings, they’ll probably just tell you what they think you want to hear.
Last year we invited Rob to talk about what entrepreneurs can do to find out what people actually think about their products. Here’s a summary of three common mistakes that you should avoid when you talk about your business idea:
1. ASKING FOR OPINIONS
This might sound strange, but the worst thing you can do is ask for people’s opinion: “Hey, I’ve spent the last couple of months building this automatic beard braider, what do you think?”. Out of fear of hurting your feelings, most people will probably say something like: “Wow, that’s a really cool idea, you should go for it!”.
Hate to say it, but people lie.
Instead of asking what people think about your idea, turn the conversation around and ask them about their lives: “How often do you shave? Have you ever had a long beard? Why? What products do you use?”. When you move away from people’s opinions, and start learning about their behaviours, you’ll get valuable insights about the problems that you’re trying to solve. Perhaps you’ll find that the beard trend is long gone and that an automatic beard braider isn’t such a good idea after all. But at least you found out before spending thousands of kronors on product development.
2. ASSUMING THAT PEOPLE HAVE A PROBLEM
As a matter of fact, it’s never a good idea to assume things. Decisions should be based on facts. Let’s say you’ve turned your beard braider into an automatic shoelace tier (very inventive) and you want to know what people think. Then don’t ask leading questions like: “Hey, don’t you think it’s really annoying when your shoelaces go up?. Ask instead: “What do you do when your shoelaces go up? How do you solve the problem today?”.
Find out what people’s real problems are and develop your product based on those insights, not your assumptions. Talk less, listen more, and you’ll find out what people really think about your idea - even when they’re lying as to not hurt your feelings.
3. ASKING FOR COMPLIMENTS INSTEAD OF COMMITMENT
Ask people for something of value, like their time or money. “Would you like to try my product for three weeks? You’ll get it for free when we launch”. If they’re excited about your product they’ll willingly help, but if they’re not, they’ll most likely come up with some excuse. People tend to be all happy and positive at first, but ask them for commitment and you’ll immediately find out the true value of your product.
Remember, it’s not everyone else’s responsibility to give you good answers, it’s your responsibility to ask good questions so that they can’t lie to you.
Check out the full talk with Rob Fitzpatrick if you want to learn more about how you should talk to your customers to find out what they really think about your business idea.
Minc, the startup house of Malmö, help early-stage companies grow to a point where they’re ready to take on the world. Minc hosts Minc Incubator, the award-winning accelerator Fast Track Malmö, a co-working space and a pre-incubator called Startup Labs, where anyone with a scalable business idea can work for free for up to six months. Minc also has a Lounge that’s open for anyone to work and network. Since its inception in 2002, Minc has helped to nurture more than 180 startups, including international success stories such as Orbital Systems, Hövding, and Polar Rose.