Asking right questions to customers

One of the most exciting phases of building a new startup is the customer development phase. 

Most people skip this part and just jump to the "let's build it" phase. That can be a costly mistake as a startup idea is often tangled in uncertainties and assumptions which need to be clarified. 

So all we need to dispel the assumptions is leave the building and meet with potential customers, right? It sounds simple but not easy. 

I have made tons of unintended mistakes and can safely say "talking to customers" is almost an art form. Because most people (unfortunately) tend to lie to you or sugar coat the truth without even being aware. Radical candor is not their first avenue.  

I'm dabbling with this the 2nd time around for a new startup idea and finding a particular book so refreshing and insightful. Thought I'll share it with you. It's called "The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you"

One favorite example from the book is: A kid who is trying to build a cookbook app for the iPad when conducting a customer interview with his mom can ask the same question in 2 ways:

"Would you ever buy an app which was like a cookbook for your iPad?”  


“What’s the last cookbook you did buy for yourself ?”

Learning the difference between leading questions and specific ones in itself has been a brilliant take-away already. And I'm only half way through the book yet. 

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you ever heard of the Mom Test? What books/blogs do you usually go to for customer development?