Reader question about market research, expensive problems, and developing an LFPS (part 2)

Sent by Jonathan Stark on December 4th, 2017

Long-time reader Brent Giesler is a web application consultant who is doing some market research in hopes of uncovering an expensive problem.

He has interviewed a number of folks in a particular target market (i.e., custom home builders) and came up with two different potential “expensive problems” from his interviewees.

Today, I’m going to tackle the first one. Here it is (shared with permission):

One builder said, “I’d love some way to be able to find the contact info of land owners, before the big mega-builders do. They’re beating us to the punch in buying up all the raw land to develop.”

When I read this, I see two things:

If you’re a software developer, the idea of creating some sort of web-scraping, API consuming, machine learning, autonomous agent to go out on the internet and gather contact info for land owners probably sounds like a lot of fun.

And if you have a few years of experience, it probably also sounds hard (i.e., expensive). But here’s the thing:

The contact info suggestion is a red herring.

Ignore it.

It’s the interviewee’s self-diagnosed solution.

What Brent needs to do it drill into the actual problem:

“Big mega-builders are ’beating us to the punch’ in buying up all the raw land to develop.”

I can think of a bunch of questions to ask the builder about this statement.

For example:

Given the answers to these questions, I would probably have another dozen follow-up questions. I’m willing to bet that at the end of the conversation, “having the contact info for land owners” would be a small part, at best, of any potential solutions.

Could you get to the end of a research call like this and discover that there is no potential solution for your interviewee that you are qualified to deliver?

Sure.

But exploring the problem space in this manner is more likely to turn up a match than accepting the prospect’s self-diagnosed solution and immediately trying to imagine a way to implement it that would be profitable for both parties.

Get to know them. Try to understand their hopes, dreams, worries, and fears.

If you can get in their shoes, even a little, I promise it will increase your value to them.

Yours,

—J


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