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Conducting a Feedback Session with Your MVP

Updated: Jul 14

As an entrepreneur, one of the most crucial steps in developing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is gathering and interpreting user feedback. This step can significantly influence the direction and viability of your product. Rob Fitzpatrick's book, "The Mom Test," provides invaluable advice on how to conduct feedback sessions that yield useful insights rather than just polite or biased affirmations. Here’s how you can apply the principles from "The Mom Test" to ensure your feedback sessions are genuinely beneficial.

Understanding "The Mom Test"

"The Mom Test" suggests that when asking for feedback, you should pose questions that even your mom can't lie about. The core idea is to ask about the user's life and choices rather than their opinions about your idea. This method ensures that you receive concrete, actionable data rather than mere compliments.

Step 1: Frame Your Questions Wisely

Avoid questions that can lead to biased or overly positive responses. Instead of asking "Do you think it’s a good idea?" try "Can you tell me about a time you encountered this problem?" This approach helps you understand the user’s actual pain points and behaviors without leading them to give answers they think you want to hear.

It is very easy as an entrepreneur or as a product manager to ask leading questions and almost nudge the users towards a particular feature or answer. I have personally done that multiple times in my role as a PM at MakeMyTrip where while trying to understand the pain points, I would nudge the users to use filters or sort etc which defeated the whole purpose. So you have to be careful around this.

Step 2: Focus on User Behavior

Observations of what people actually do are much more reliable than predictions about what they would do. During your feedback sessions, focus on gathering stories about how the users have previously tried to solve the issues your product addresses. For example, if your MVP is an app that helps people manage their finances, instead of asking if they would use your app, ask how they currently manage their finances and what tools they use. Start with their daily lives, how do they go about managing their finances, what do they think about money, savings etc.

Step 3: Dig Deeper with Follow-Up Questions

Follow-up questions help you delve deeper into the user’s experiences and thoughts. If a user mentions a workaround they currently use, probe into what they like and dislike about it. Such questions help reveal the user's true needs and the limitations of current solutions, providing clear directions for your MVP’s development.

Sometimes we just take the first answer a user says as the final truth. We need to apply the 5 whys technique to arrive at the final truth or reason.

Step 4: Validate Pain Points and Frequency

Understanding how often a problem occurs and how painful it is for your users is essential. Questions like "How often does this problem occur?" and "What have you done to solve this problem?" help quantify the necessity and urgency of finding a solution, thus validating the demand for your product.

Users typically will say a lot of things they find difficult or troublesome, we don't have to act on all. We need to understand the frequency of the issue and also the severity. A good way to ask this is “when was the last time you encountered this?”. If the user has to think hard to give the answer- you know that the problem is not severe.

Step 5: Be a Listener, Not a Talker

A common mistake during feedback sessions is talking too much about your product. "The Mom Test" emphasizes listening more than speaking. Let the users do most of the talking. The more they share about their experiences and challenges, the more insights you gain. 

Remember this is not a sales pitch where you are trying to acquire a customer. This is a session to know the user in detail, and you can know only when you let the user talk more. A thumb rule is the user should be speaking 80% of the time.

Step 6: Avoid Compliments, Seek Hard Facts

While compliments can boost morale, they often do not contribute much to product development. Focus on extracting hard facts and real usage stories from the conversation. Phrases that probe into specifics such as "Tell me more about that" or "What exactly happened when you tried that solution?" help in gathering detailed and actionable data.

If a user says “I loved using your product”, don’t just settle there, ask what exactly did you like? 

Step 7: Summarize and Verify

At the end of the session, summarize the key points you heard to confirm your understanding. This not only ensures that you have interpreted the feedback accurately but also demonstrates to the users that their input is valued and considered seriously.

A lot can be lost in translation and our ears are also likely to capture the information in a way which is what you want to hear. So summarizing and relaying it back in your own words helps in bringing both on the same page.

Step 8: Act on the Feedback

Finally, the most crucial step is to act on the feedback. Analyze the feedback to identify common themes or frequently mentioned pain points. Use this data to make informed decisions about product adjustments, development focus areas, and even feature prioritization.

By following these guidelines inspired by "The Mom Test," you ensure that your MVP feedback sessions are productive and grounded in reality, rather than being skewed by politeness or vague positivity. Remember, the goal is to build a product that solves real problems for real users, and insightful feedback is the compass that guides your entrepreneurial journey.


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