Should You Build or Buy a Marketing Analytics Solution?

Should your company build its own marketing analytics solution? Or is it better to buy software from a vendor? 

This is one of the most common questions in the software buying process. But it might be the wrong one to ask.

For most marketers, buying software is usually the smarter choice because of the cost savings and the ability to launch quickly, while some larger enterprises might need a custom-built platform tailored to their unique needs.  

However, the build-vs.-buy debate overlooks an important point: Software alone isn’t enough for most marketers. 

To produce reporting and insights — especially more advanced forms of analysis like attribution and marketing mix modeling — an analytics platform must be supported by team members who can: 

  • Create a strategy for collecting the necessary data to answer business questions and structuring that data to support channel- and campaign-level analysis
  • Manage integrations with source data systems, via API connectors or other processes, allowing data to be automatically collected by a platform
  • Implement tracking so data points generated across multiple marketing channels can be associated with an overarching campaign or initiative

Let’s take a closer look at each option and the potential benefits and drawbacks.

  • When you should build
  • When you should buy
  • A third option: Analytics-as-a-Service

When You Should Build Your Own Platform

Building a marketing analytics solution from scratch is an option if …

  • Your organization has all the resources required to build the solution. Does your organization employ a team of in-house developers who can build a platform? Or do you have the budget to hire an outsourced team to do the work? If you’re a large enterprise, the answer is probably yes.  
  • You need a solution that meets exact specifications for user interface, workflow, security standards or some other need. Built-from-scratch software can be designed exactly how you want it. Even the best off-the-shelf software can only be customized so much. 

Even if you have the two requirements above, building your own analytics platform might not be the best option if …

  • Time is a factor. Even under ideal conditions, developing a new solution can consume months or years. Waiting for a custom-built solution imposes an opportunity cost because you have to wait that much longer to get insights from your data.

  • Your team doesn’t have the time to support the solution. You might be able to secure developers to build your platform, but it might be more difficult to get them to add new features, make fixes and handle other ongoing tasks associated with a marketing analytics solution. Even in the largest organization, developers’ time isn’t infinite. They may not be available to help you because they’re busy with higher-priority projects. 

  • Your team doesn’t have the time or expertise to set up and manage data connections. Marketing analytics is challenging because marketers need to aggregate data from so many sources, each of which has its own way of organizing and sharing data. Setting up connections to those sources requires a deep understanding of how the integrations work. If or when the connections fail, you’ll need someone who can quickly repair them and keep the data flowing. Most marketing teams don’t have the expertise for these tasks; most development teams don’t have the bandwidth to respond immediately. 
Why You Should Buy

Compared to building a solution, buying a platform has several benefits: 

  • The total cost of ownership will usually be lower with a solution that you buy. Over the life of the software, it will almost always cost less to buy than it would to build and support a similar solution.

  • You can be up and running much faster with software — within minutes, in some cases. Most analytics software come with API-based integrations that let you pull data almost immediately from popular sources like Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Even for solutions with a longer onboarding period, you’re still receiving access to insights and reporting much faster than you would if you had built the solution.

  • Your software vendor takes responsibility for adding features and fixing bugs. You don’t have to hire a team of developers or fight to secure the time of an internal team. The vendor’s team is laser-focused on the platform and making it as useful as possible. 

But there’s still a big problem with software. Even the best-designed software still requires human expertise to use it. 

Depending on how complex the platform is, it’s possible that one team member might spend all their time simply configuring and managing the tool, leaving little to no time for analysis. Software may require you to write SQL queries or spend time manually uploading CSV files from data sources that don’t have an integration. 

And software doesn’t always support more advanced forms of analysis. To produce attribution modeling or predictive analytics, you’ll need the services of a data scientist.

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A Third Option: Analytics-as-a-Service

And this is where Analytics-as-a-Service comes in. With this approach, marketers buy a platform along with a suite of services and support. Everything you need for measuring, analyzing and optimizing marketing performance is included. 

Like software, Analytics-as-a-Service is faster and more cost-effective than building a solution, but it has other benefits, too: 

  • The marketing team can focus on its own core mission — creating, measuring and optimizing marketing strategies — because someone else is managing the solution.

  • It’s easier to produce more advanced insight because the marketing team can tap into a data scientist’s expertise on an on-demand basis, without having to hire or retain a full-time expert.

  • Analytics-as-a-Service “meets you where you are” and can scale with you as you tackle new levels of reporting and insight. Your team might only be focused on campaign-level reporting today, but in a year or two, you might be ready for budget pacing, pipeline analytics and forecasting. When that time comes, you can upgrade your level of service to accommodate those new goals. 

Analytics-as-a-Service is how we approach analytics for our clients here at Alight. All of our solutions combine ChannelMix, our marketing intelligence platform, services and support to ensure scalability and sustainability and a four-step framework for continuous improvement over the life of the solution.

What’s the Best Analytics Solution for Your Marketing Team? 

Want an expert opinion on the best approach for your team’s marketing analytics? Alight Analytics has helped brands and agencies of all sizes take their reporting and insights to the next level. Schedule a free consultation with our team!