Our survey of small to midsize companies around the country confirmed that the customer is still the best source of market research for new products and services. Surveys of would-be buyers, other forms of polling, and powwows with colleagues also ranked high as springboards for product ideas. Nearly 40% of the group spent less than $1,000 out of pocket to conduct their market research.

* * *

Top sources of market research for new products:
73% Current customers

52 Networking with colleagues, mentors, and other entrepreneurs

46 Gut instinct

43 Informal poll of potential customers

41 Information on companies in the industry

35 Trade journals

15 Focus groups

14 Seminars and courses

8 Consulting or research firms

6 Public library

4 Local universities

*Note: Numbers add up to more than 100% because of multiple responses

Source: A survey of 173 CEO's, 57% with sales of $10 million or less, by Inc. and The Executive Committee, San Diego, 1992.