When your players are pulling at the wrong thread how do you steer them in a good direction?

CommentAs a DM, your players will do things you never expected. They will miss a hook entirely, or make a suspect out of a background fluff NPC and obsess over them. Even in a sandbox, they will force you to improvize wildly at times. Sometimes, your prep will have been insufficient to survive contact with the PCs.
When your players are pulling at the wrong thread (or just one you didn’t prepare for), how do you reward and steer them in a good direction, or improvise a secondary hook back into the original goal?I drop little “crumbs” in the direction I want them to go. These crumbs are intended to tantalize them. The nature of these crumbs depends on the players involved and what sort of bait I think is most likely to attract them. If they don’t take the bait, oh well. I try to be patient, and what for another chance to lure them “my way.” from discussion AMA with Chris Perkins (Today at 10:30 AM PST).

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