Best PracticesCustomer SurveysMarket Research

3 Tips to Avoid Bad Market Research Software Purchases

You don't need to get “married”Market research software comes in many forms these days: survey programming, data analysis, text analytics, and social media analysis are among the most common.

The good news for buyers is that many firms offer monthly options—helping you, the buyer, mitigate risks. There is no need to get “married”; you can just live together and part ways amicably when the mood strikes.

Still “moving in” is a big step, as it requires both training and business process adaptation. Training can be informal or formal, but always involves some time investment. And process adaptation often includes creating and implementing procedures that optimize how new software is actually used during the market research process.

Too often, companies rush to implement new software, and then realize they are not satisfied with its features or functionality.  But they are loathe to abandon it because of the training and process investments they have made to get it in place! They stay married to the “devil they know” rather than risk the aggravations of going out into the software dating pool again.

So before you take the next step with new market research software—whether it is marriage or cohabitation—consider these three steps to minimize the risk of an ugly break up.

1. Create & prioritize your feature requirements. It sounds obvious, but it is a step often skipped. Sometimes the feature requirements just seem so apparent. If I am evaluating survey software, the features are kind of a “duh”, right? Same for text analytics software features, right? Wrong. If you don’t document your feature requirements and prioritize them into categories (must have, nice to have, optional), you risk selecting a product that has “sold” you, versus you “selecting” it.

2. Start with a trial phase. A trial phase allows you to try market research software before you buy it. In some cases, it even makes sense to start with a trial and then do a “pilot.” If you want to get super precise, you can distinguish between a trial and a pilot as follows:

  • A trial is when you are testing the software, most likely in a “mock” situation (not to support a client project). A trial is usually fairly short, seven to fourteen days in most cases.
  • A pilot is when you have actually deployed the software on a limited basis, in real research, to “stress test” its viability. A pilot will typically occur after a successful trial phase, and is organized around a specified set of success criteria. For example, “We will consider the pilot a success if it meets criteria A, B and C.” Pilots are often a little longer, typically ranging from fourteen days to a month or more (or longer for more complex products).

3. Trial at least 2 products. Yes, this means more time (and aggravation) but you will find that evaluating one product at a time leads to some bias. You trial one product, get to know it, and it is easy to just accept its warts and go ahead—even if you didn’t really love it.

  • Tip: if possible, divide and conquer. Have one team member evaluate one product while another is trying a competitive option. Not only does this make trialing two products easier, it reduces the risk of bias. We tend to like that with which we become familiar, so having two “equal” software trials help ensure an objective comparison of two products.

About Free Market Research Software Trials

Many companies offer free trials. Take advantage of them. Not only is it good for your budget, it says something about the company. I am always more inclined to trust software companies that have enough confidence in their software features and ease of use to offer trials. In contrast, I am wary of companies that say it isn’t an option. Software is scalable; the incremental cost of supporting free software trials is low for market research software providers. The exception being products that can’t be used without extensive one-on-one training, and in market research, that is fairly rare these days.

If you are interested in a software product that does not promote a free trial on its website, call and ask. You may be surprised how many companies are willing to offer a seven-day trial once they know you are a legitimate researcher.  And this way you can date before marriage.


[SPSS is another popular type of market research software. Want to know more about using SPSS? Consider our LIVE 4-session Introduction to SPSS course. Now PRC approved!!]



Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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