How to Avoid Your Prospect’s Pet Projects (and Build Products Businesses Want)

Pet problems are, by definition, problems that only matter to one or a few stakeholders. Having to deal with pet problems is a common challenge in product-validation stemming from interacting first with technologists and early adopters.

It’s not uncommon to meet with early adopters that have strong futurist or hobbyist profiles. Once you recognize the profiles, it’s best to keep listening because sometimes their needs are just slightly ahead of the market.

Working on solutions to pet problems is a dead end. The problem owners will meet with you (often), but you will never be able to turn this into revenue. You’ll most likely be doing R&D for their entertainment and personal interests, which is not building a business.

To validate that a prospect is not leading you on, you should ask questions about how they have solved the problem in the past, how they’re managing the problem right now, and what options they are considering to improve their situation.

You’re looking for signs of action:

“Have you ever brought other technology into your company?”
“Please explain to me what the process is going to look like for you to be able to get this signed off; what do we have to do to help you make it happen?”

It’s OK if your early adopters don’t have the signing authority to purchase your solution, but they have to be willing to introduce you to stakeholders with buying authority and direct you to real problems.

Understand business priorities and seek signs of action or you’ll end up working on nice-to-have solutions.

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