I’ve been to a lot of market research conferences in my time. Regular conference attendees like me are used to those general questions you get asked over mid-morning coffee. You can almost answer them without thinking.
It’s not all about cost
However, at a recent conference someone saw the word ‘Software’ in my company name and asked me, “I’m setting up a new company, how much does market research software cost?” I managed to avoid the temptation of reeling off a price list and found myself saying “Well, it depends”. And indeed it does depend. It depends on what your goals are, what level of staff are going to be using the software, whether your needs are likely to change and what the penalty is for making a bad decision.
You will notice that I’ve not mentioned cost in that list, and that’s because I would argue that the penalty for making a bad decision could be far more costly than the cost of the software product(s) you choose to buy.
Cheap may be good enough
Let’s dig a bit deeper. Being clear about your goals is important. I have a friend who runs a small consultancy, and uses Survey Monkey free of charge for online data collection and Excel for analysis. These two products have their limitations but they do everything he needs for his work. So he has made a good decision.
Do you have static or changing needs?
For most people, considerations have to be somewhat broader. One of the important questions is whether you see software as performing a fairly static function or whether you can see the potential of a software product enabling you to win new business or offering more for your clients. If the latter is true, software with greater potential than your basic needs is a must.
What level of staff do you have/will you need?
The staff that will be using the software is also an important consideration. If the software product needs highly skilled staff, you will need to decide whether you have the right people in place to utilise it. Training costs and familiarisation with the software can sometimes exceed the cost of its licence. And, to voice one of my dislikes of some software, software should make it simple to do simple things – some products, particularly for online research, make the simplest things quite difficult and skilled to achieve.
The cost of bad decisions
The point about the cost of making a bad decision is not something you should ignore. You should always check software compatibility in case the software product you are using becomes no longer suitable for your needs. Being trapped using the wrong software product can be costly.
Of course, the actual cost of using a software product is important, but perhaps that should not be your first consideration.