Personalization Software Solutions: When to Build vs. Buy


As a marketing leader, balancing your organization’s immediate needs with long-term growth is both paramount and challenging – especially as you begin to truly scale your content marketing and personalization efforts to generate ROI for the business.

Many legacy brands, for example, are facing major changes in consumer behavior—they seek personalized online experiences from brands and those that serve up content completely tailored to their unique interests. These expectations have led brands to question how their marketing technology stack can deliver on those expectations, and deliver results. Many recognize that it will require significant advancements in technology aimed at connecting brands to shoppers in more direct ways.

Brands know they need the software to make personalization at scale a reality. So then the question becomes, do we build or do we buy? It’s a challenging question to answer because it impacts if the business should invest aggressively in a long-term initiative, such a building an enterprise personalization solution, or take the less expensive and more conservative approach by buying to address their software need.

The Mar Tech Puzzle

Enterprise marketing platforms are conceptualized to address end-to-end marketing needs. These solutions offer brands endless options of features or “puzzle pieces.” Sometimes brands are able to choose the pieces they want to assemble the solution that meets their needs. But when it comes to all the pieces of the marketing technology puzzle, from content management systems and email marketing to personalization and analytics, it’s nearly impossible to find an end-to-end platform that can complete the puzzle perfectly.

As a result, businesses are pressured to determine if they should build or buy the pieces they need. Companies facing this question today, particularly B2C brands, must also acknowledge that they are making this decision in a time of rapid disruption when it comes to consumer expectations. Once-dependable revenue models are under siege by new direct-to-consumer and subscription services, and marketing structures and distribution channels that have been consistent and stable for decades are transforming before our eyes.

To Build or Not to Build, That Is the Question

Most enterprise companies have budget, resources and technical talent in-house to build software. Sometimes they also have the subject matter expertise for the type of software they’re looking to build. In this scenario, the debate is less about “can we do it” and more a matter of “should we do it.”

Regardless of whether or not your organization has the resources to technically build the solution you’re after, it only makes sense to build if the following five criteria are true:

  1. The existing vendor solutions available can’t meet your needs now and into the future.
  2. The vendor solutions you’ve evaluated are too rigid and don’t enable the flexibility or integrations you need.
  3. Your company is very experienced at building software, especially the kind of marketing technology you need.
  4. You are assured that the company will continue to invest in the technological evolution and strategic support required to ensure the software solution stays up to date.
  5. You have a dedicated team in place to establish key metrics and track progress of the intended outcomes the software is designed to achieve.

This is a tall order for any business; many don’t have the deep expertise and the long-term resources to justify building a customized best-of-breed software solution. Therefore, for many organizations, buying makes the most sense. Buying a piece of the marketing puzzle, rather than building it, is oftentimes the best solution when:

  • The business has a limited budget, since vendor solutions are less expensive and resource-intensive than building.
  • The business lacks the time, technical expertise, strategic support and resources to complete such a build.
  • There are great solutions already available from vendors who offer the support, maintenance and technical expertise.

Buy vs. Buy: Questions to Ask

If your organization is in the position of having to determine whether you should build or buy, you’ll want to start by considering the following questions:

  1. Do existing vendor solutions meet our needs?
  2. Would this type of technology development be a core competency of our company?
  3. Would the delta between what we could build over what we would buy be considered a competitive advantage?
  4. Do we have the time, budget and technical proficiency required to build a solution?
  5. How confident are we in our ability to estimate the time, budget and risk associated with building a solution like this ourselves?
  6. Do we have long-term commitment to support, maintain and update an internally-built product to keep up with new requirements and technology shifts?
  7. Do we have internal resources with the skills and experiences required to develop and maintain a custom-built solution? If not, are we able to identify, attract, hire and retain talent in areas that we are deficient?

As companies seek new ways to engage with the digital consumer, evaluating technology options and whether or not to build or buy these solutions will become an increasingly common question with important implications to the overall health of the brand.

To learn more about the benefits of buying enterprise content individualization software over building, contact us.  


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