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A good product is nothing without a customer who wants to buy it.

This story appears in the June 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Last year, 32,025 new domestic products were introduced-more than twice the amount in 1991, according to research from Market Intelligence Service. The sheer volume of new products coming out creates problems for inventors; retailers and customers can only buy so much. But this obstacle is not insurmountable, as evidenced by the many inventors who succeed all the time.

The secret to raising your odds of success is to carefully research your market ahead of time to determine whether potential customers are really interested in spending their hard-earned dollars on your product. The right strategy requires three key steps, each of which can be done inexpensively: 1) find out about similar products that already exist on the market; 2) ask users whether they see the same problems you do with current products available; and 3) get real-life input from actual users willing to try out prototypes or models of your product. Neglect any one of these steps, and you're looking at a challenging road ahead.

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