Survey software provider seeks growth with local office

Perseus Development Corp. has opened its first Canadian office to provide marketing and support for clients interested in survey software through Windows and PDAs, a global market that it says will skyrocket before the decade is


Perseus, whose business revolves around consulting and both traditional and online surveys, had previously served the Canadian market from its headquarters in Braintree, Mass., said Valarie Koziol, president of the new Toronto office, who expects the entire company to grow by 60 per cent this year.

Perseus SurveySolutions can handle small surveys for mom-and-pop shops as well as larger global corporations, she said. Perseus software usually is installed on client hardware but can also be hosted on the Toronto firm’s servers. In Canada, it has 250 Canadian clients, including Merck Frosst, British Columbia Securities Commission, EnCana Corp., Industry Canada, KPMG and the Bank of Montreal.

Many organizations and companies use surveys as a major part of decision-making and integrate them into customer service, employee evaluation and market research programs, Koziol explained. She said in the past, companies used external market research or consulting firms to gather data, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

The attraction of firms to doing in-house research is what’s fueling worldwide growth in the survey market that’s estimated to climb by more than 300 per cent over five years, according to figures from Perseus and the industry.

The market research industry was valued a few years ago at US$14 billion globally, said Tom Lueker, chief marketing officer of WebSurveyor Corp. of Herndon, Va. “”There was all kinds of talk — this goes back three years — saying most of that’s going to move online because the Internet’s this great communications tool.””

The competitive landscape is fairly fragmented without many dominant global players, said Koziol. Vendors that stand out, however, include SPSS Inc. of Chicago and Future Information Research Management in Oslo, Norway. “”A lot of people came into the marketplace for online surveys in the late 1990s and early 2000, so it is a fairly new software niche.””

Opening an office in Canada will help Perseus deal with the French language, which it found hard to do from the States, Koziol said. “”I think that people like to deal with people who are local, particularly if it’s a bilingual issue. I think . . . there are different little cultural things, little quirky things, and it’s nice to be able to deal with them here.””

WebSurveyor is one competitor that has not felt the need to have a physical presence in Canada because it serves clients of its Web-based software over the phone, explained Lueker.

All of WebSurveyor’s surveys can run in multiple languages at the same time, which is important to its Canadian government client and other countries with diverse populations, Lueker said. “”It doesn’t mean there’s two actual separate instruments. The results are all stored in one place . . .(and) can be presented in English or French depending on how the person sets it up.””

WebSurveyor believes Perseus’s physical entry into the Canadian market will have little bearing on the Virginia rival because their business models are sufficiently different, with one preferring Web-based surveys and the other survey software installed on computers.

The power of setting up shop in Canada cannot be overstated, argued Toronto software analyst Warren Shiau of IDC Canada. He said many American IT vendors find that a big share of the market here eludes them because of their failure to set up a Canadian division.

Shiau said these may be relatively small deals that survey vendors are signing, but it’s important in business to allow clients to contact a rep in the same country and discuss contracts and other issues.

Although Perseus said it conducts 90 per cent of its sales demos via Web conference, Shiau believes this style of business works best if the vendor has already established a client relationship.

“”When you’re trying to get someone to move from another firm…who they’ve probably been quite happy with and come over to you, I find it very hard to believe that you can do that without actually having face-to-face contact and a physical presence in Canada.””

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