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Q: I've moved to a new town and would like to start the same kind of business that I ran in my former community. It's a sports-related business. How can I find out if people here are apt to be as good a market?
A: First, talk with people in the know on the local sports scene. Get their thoughts about and reactions to what you want to do. Then conduct a survey with people whom past experience has taught you would be likely customers for your business.
You should be able to find experts and contacts for your survey through sports leagues or clubs. You can find these groups by talking with school coaches or searching the Web. Even if there's no site covering local sports, national organizations often list local affiliates. Most national organizations have Web sites, or you can look for affiliates in the Encyclopedia of Associations, available in most libraries.
Your local newspaper may also prove useful; search its Web site for archived articles, and if you can, talk with a reporter who covers local sports. Also check out Sporting Goods Intelligence, which provides links to associations and research sources that have industry, business or financial information.
In conducting your survey, whether you do it in person or by using a written questionnaire, be sure the questions are clear and mean the same thing to everyone. If you use a written instrument, make it visually attractive, easy to read and brief. Multiple-choice and forced-choice questions (such as ranking 1 to 10 or answering with "yes" or "no") work best, but allow one open-ended question for people to comment freely. If you mail the survey, provide a stamped,self-addressed envelope. To encourage people to answer, consider offering a small gift to people who respond.