Market research is essential in growing a business. You have to know who buys your products and why so you can target more buyers effectively. But market research is often expensive to buy or conduct on your own. Thanks to the web, there are several ways to get good info fast and cheap or even free.

1. One of the easiest and free ways to see if a product or service is highly sought after is to view Yahoo's Search Marketing or Google's AdSense programs. This is where companies buy the "Sponsored Ads" that you see when doing web searches. Create an account and enter some terms that match what you are selling. If you find lots of bids, a bid high price, or a high estimated traffic number for a particular term, you can tell that it is in demand.

2. Read market research abstracts and do searches to see if reporters wrote about it somewhere. If they did, they often include some tidbits from the actual report, not just the abstract.

3. Participate in online discussions. With a discussion group available somewhere on the net for just about every topic, there is ample opportunity to ask questions and get responses fairly quickly from people you have never met.

4. Ask a blogger. Market research firms are trying to promote their reports any way they can. Today, this includes allowing bloggers to write and comment on the reports in the same way traditional media does. Bloggers are typically more accessible and might be able to guide you in the right direction or get you what you need.