Product designers in the technology industry have an unofficial measure of usability: the Mom Standard. No one has ever written down a rigorous definition, since it normally amounts to someone saying, "We want to build something that’s so easy to use that my Mom would understand it."

Let’s pause for a moment and say a word in defense of our mothers, who apparently have become the iconic representation of the most clueless user imaginable. There are plenty of clueless users, many of whom are not moms, nor are they even female. There is nothing in the process of giving birth that increases the level of technological challenges you will face. Still, for whatever reason, people keep blurting out the Mom Standard during product design discussions.

Which brings us to a different species of the Mom Standard, in this case applied to product marketing. In doing some research on the future of CRM, I’m finding my way through this jungle of technological and business issues. Nearly everyone who has advice about what lies on the other side of the jungle–the state of CRM in 5 years–believes that the true path goes through the tropical garden of community marketing.

Here, the lush flora of community relationships–vendor to customer, customer to customer–intertwine, each nurturing the other. It’s a beautiful tableau, but how healthy is it? Ask Mom.

Mom is a no-nonsense person. She doesn’t have a time to waste, since she’s juggling fourteen new tasks in an already busy day. And she has a keen eye for value. (No, not of the clipping coupon type, you misogynists. I’m talking about knowing at a glance what’s worth the investment of time and money, and what’s not.)

Here’s how the Mom standard might work in product marketing:

  • Mom does not want to spend more than five minutes on your website. She wants to go straight to the information she needs.
  • Mom does not believe you. Again, she knows you too well. However, she does believe what other mothers have to say–and not some pseudo-Mom you hired to post on your discussion forums.
  • Mom is willing to listen to requests, but she does not have time for insistent questions. She won’t read your daily e-mails, for the same reasons that 100 requests for a pony did not produce the desired results.
  • Mom does not have time for long explanations.
  • Mom does not care about what your products and services might do. She wants to know what it will do. Since she has a keen memory, do not promise her things that you do not deliver, which go beyond taking out the trash.

I could go on, but you get the point by now. Mom is a tough customer–anything but clueless–so you have to understand marketing and sales from her point of view.