A: Whether you're just starting a business or have run one for years, ongoing research is vital both to determine the market for a new product or service and to stay abreast of changes that affect your market and target audience.

Don't forget to scan the ads as well as the editorial content for new competitive products and services.

Primary research refers to studies you undertake directly, including focus groups, telephone surveys, polls of consumers at malls, surveys of current customers, Internet surveys and geographic market analyses to evaluate potential retail locations.

Located at nearly 250 colleges and universities nationwide, some schools collect nominal fees from their clients.

Any small-business owner or manager is eligible to participate.

These facilities are usually affiliated with an academic library.

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