So you’ve developed an idea for a product or service. Now you have to research your market to find out if you have any competition. Do you know who your potential customers are? Are you convinced they will buy your product or service? Is someone already doing what you’re doing? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What makes your product or service unique? Take the time to do this research before starting your business. Here’s how to start: Use the Internet to search the names of potential competitors. Visit their websites to learn about their products, list of clients, and how they market themselves. Search news sites, industry sites, and newsgroups to find news about your potential market. See what customers are saying about your competitors. The Internet contains a wealth of customer reviews about all manner of goods and services. Get on your competitors’ mailing lists for newsletters and other materials they offer. Talk to your industry contacts about news and developments among your competitors. Call or visit your competitors to get a sense of the kind of customer service they offer. If your products or services are similar, but they don’t deal with the public well, that may signal an opportunity. Once you’ve gained an understanding of your competitors, you’ll be able to understand your competitive advantage and whether it will be relevant to your customers. Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. Do you know how to keep your cash flowing?