Simple Build vs. Buy Decision Framework

Today’s marketing executives are in a challenging position. There are new channels popping up every day. There are new types of media formats that they are introduced to seemingly on a daily basis. There are new ways to distribute content that they get exposed to as they are planning new campaigns. The job of the modern-day marketer is hard. In order to combat those challenges many marketers turn to marketing technology in order to help them scale. One problem with that, though: There are over 5,000 tools available on the market today. Even worse, the majority of those same tools don’t provide a comprehensive view of the customer. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but the situation is made even more complicated by an often-tense relationship with the IT department. Note: IT is your friend.

At W2O, we see this situation all the time. Someone within the organization has engaged a vendor with very few business requirements, limited organizational buy-in and almost no process in order to grow adoption of said vendor. Worse yet, there may have been a solution to the problem that the organization has already built.

The number of tools that hit the market is not going to slow down any time soon so the conundrum of whether or not the organization buys a tool or builds a solution in-house isn’t going away.  Because of that, we have come up with a framework to help guide your decision-making. This simple framework is designed to objectively evaluate opportunities regardless of internal dynamics, preconceived notions or ego. The framework isn’t bulletproof (no framework is), but it is a push in the right direction to get the entire org on the same page.

In this simplified framework, there are two scales to consider:

Customization – How much custom functionality do we require? How much of the vendor’s out-of-the-box product would need to be changed?

Specialization – How specific is the functionality to a marketing channel or type of technology? How much do we need the vendor’s expertise?

With this in mind, we can plot where build and buy make sense:

Buy: If your functionality requires a high amount of specialization (that you likely do not have internally) and a low amount of customization, go ahead and purchase something as close to out-of-the-box as you can

Build: If the functionality that you need is fairly standard technology but requires a lot of customization for your specific org, you should consider building internally

Consult: This one is interesting – if you do not feel a vendor can meet your customization needs, but you also do not feel you have the internal knowledge to build the functionality, see if you can pay for consulting hours. It won’t be ideal for the vendor. However, I’ve rarely seen vendor’s turn away a paycheck.

Ignore/Hack: If you need functionality that is neither specific nor custom, evaluate if you really need that functionality at all. If you do, see if you can cheaply hack it together for a while in order to focus on more impactful initiatives.

Of course, this framework ignores other important factors like the temporal need for the functionality (how long are we going to use this?) and the internal resources (do we have anyone to work on this?) but it should help set you down the right path as you try to build better marketing campaigns, distribute content more effectively and ultimately improve return on investment.

Matt O'Rourke
Matt O'Rourke
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