Hiring the right market research “tool” for the job


I am always reluctant to talk about market research software, because it is a small part of the market research process – sometimes you do not need it at all.  This may be partly down to the “get out there and do it” brigade who suggest you write some questions and then email it to everyone you know.  Problem is that you can have the best software product around but if the questions you are asking are biased, open to the wrong sort of interpretation or directed at the wrong people, the best product will not help you.

I am also acutely aware from using the Jobs to be Done framework that this post can only be partial – I tend to hire the most appropriate tool for the job and this means often using specialist software for a specific project (e.g. conjoint analysis) alongside more generic products.

This is a list of ones I have used or would use in given circumstances:

Pen and Paper (using a dictaphone or Skype to record information)

These are still the right tools to use in some situations, I find CATI programmes can be restrictive, particularly if you are looking for intelligent insight – every so often you get an off the cuff remark that can change the direction of the project or really illustrates the point.  Using verbatim comments also give moments of clarity that can be lost is a big report.  Making sure you record such comments verbatim is important – a dictaphone is great for face to face interviews. If you are doing a call using Skype you can add a plug-in to record calls – just make sure that you tell the person first that this is your intention.

Microsoft Word and Excel

Another staple – excel is still a great tool for analysis, although every improvement such as visualisation and improvements in sorting is accompanied by a backward step.  Word may not be ideal, but it does allow you to move content around in a way that so that comments on similar themes are clustered together.  Both pieces of software are still ubiquitous meaning that, providing the information is anonymised it can be shared relatively easily.


Is a good piece of kit that takes the data clustering of word to a different level allowing you to store information and visualise how it all fits together in a way that the proponents of grounded theory would have loved.


To my mind SNAP is the most cost effective market research tool around – you do have to create some work-arounds and in questionnaire design there are better tools on the market, but overall it is highly effective.  Its strongest point is its security (ISO27001), helpline and the fact that the company was a driving force behind the 3S agreement meaning that you can move the data in and out of SPSS without too much difficulty.


I have been impressed as an outsider from the ability to design questionnaires particularly for mobile applications and it is very straightforward to programme. It is a solution I would be happy buying if there was sufficient need.


I have seen demos of Google and it can give you access to a ready-made sample of consumers and businesses that other software providers cannot. Google is currently iterating its research capabilities but it is a logical next step as an extension to its analytical capabilities.   The size and reputation of the company means that this element of their product will have to be excellent from the word go.

To most people the biggest omission is Survey Monkey – there is nothing wrong with the software and it is a highly functional piece of software.  The problem is that your market research is part of your brand and you are projecting to a client how much or little you value their feedback. It is the same reason why I use Vistaprint for printing T-Shirts but not business cards.  It may well be that Google goes a similar way.

I would also rarely use templates or questionnaires in a box – a skilled practitioner can put together a standard questionnaire in very short time, but tailor it to your needs and reports written in advance tend to lack insight so are really only worth using for monitoring of key performance indicators. Even then the number of responses should be taken into account.

There are plenty of other good software providers out there – Q, Conformit, Surveyme, Marketsight which will all do a good job.  Before using any of them, it is worth noting down what are your needs from this research project and whether it is more cost effective to purchase expertise or a software licence.

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