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Inexpensive Market Research Methods

You need market research to hit the mark with prospects. But if costly surveys and focus groups aren't in your financial picture, try these creative, budget-friendly ways to get to know your target audience.

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This story appears in the August 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Would you shell out $200 for a pair of shoes without trying them on? Plunge into a steaming bath without dipping a toe in first? Of course not-but people do the business equivalent every day. Many an entrepreneur has found out too late that nobody wants to buy hand-quilted Christmas stockings at $24.99 a pop, or that moneyed customers won't trudge to the unfashionable part of downtown for luxury stationery.

The paradox: Conventional market research is expensive (corporations regularly budget tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for it), but no one needs it more than a startup entrepreneur. A couple of marketing blunders won't put a giant manufacturer out of business, but just one can sink an entrepreneur with shocking ease.

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