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Getting business information from competitors

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This story appears in the September 2004 issue of Start Up.

Q: I'm interested in starting a homebased telephone-answering service. I want to research my competitors' prices and services, but I don't want to call them. What's the best way to do this research without letting them know that I'm a competitor?

A: We understand your reluctance to phone competitors yourself. Many people pretend to be prospective customers to get pricing information, but, according to the businesspeople we've interviewed, they're usually detected as would-be competitors. Some business owners tell us they don't give good information to those they suspect of being potential competitors.

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