In-house or Outsource?

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With enough time, money and influence everyone would build everything their brand needed in-house. It is attractive in theory, but in practice marketers miss a wealth of value if they fail to consult with market-leading suppliers before making a decision.

In my experience both in-house and supplier solutions will be subject to compromise during each stage of the project cycle (plan, build, launch, beyond). But compromise should still lead to innovation, not dilution. The in-house route has a greater risk of dilution as often existing systems and teams will be asked to compromise core functions to facilitate the build and management of your new in-house tool.

Already pressured teams may have to downgrade other projects from the roadmap or hack tech together to facilitate this at a business cost that someone, somewhere will notice.

In some instances, working with a supplier is the compromise. Perhaps the supplier can have something in place quicker, cheaper and generating results with the minimum distraction. In this sense, you can prove the concept and build a stronger business case to bring it in-house at a later stage. A stronger business case may mean more resource and the risk of dilution is diminished.

Everyone is busy. There is a tidal wave of emails, meetings, projects etc. ready to drown your day, week and month. So let’s be honest: are you setting your project up to merely survive after launch or to thrive? Too many times we mistake a launch as the end-goal with scant regard for the on-going optimisation or lifetime value required to ensure success.

SaleCycle provides remarketing services. One target brand had an in-house solution that had been inactive for 3 weeks, missing out on nearly £100k in sales. No one at the brand had noticed until we pointed it out. This led to further consultation where it became apparent the brand did not have the capacity to effectively manage the in-house tool post launch. The brand in question is now a SaleCycle client.

But it doesn’t need to be that dramatic...broken links, empty placeholders, images failing, junk folder destination – these all impact on the performance of the solution and are harder to spot and, as a result, fix.

In order for the solution to thrive it’s vital to know what success looks like and be prepared to commit the resource and time needed to achieve and sustain it.

There's a lot to learn from building and managing your in-house solution. But I’d argue there is more to learn from a market-leading supplier whose product is tested and optimised every day by a range of clients, in a number of ways.

Imagine the nirvana that could be achieved if you collaborated openly with a proven market-leading supplier, blending the best of their tech with your requirements, systems and people. Imagine the speed at which you can achieve optimisation, not merely against an in-house standard but benchmarked against an open-industry average.

Using a market-leading supplier should mean accessing the most up-to-date, market-ready tool. Chock-full of the latest and greatest features designed and tested for guaranteed results. Can the same be said of an in-house tool?

Is the standard you strive for in your in-house solution the same as that of a paid supplier? I would argue not, and rightly so. If you pay me to provide a specialist service or product then it needs to show value above and beyond your in-house capabilities.

For me, the “in house challenge” is to spark consultation, helping to define what a client wants and what is possible. Always trying to highlight how we differ and add value so that we become part of your systems.

The supplier has done a lot of hard work for you and it’s been road-tested hundreds of times to a variety of standards, all robust, some outrageously so.

And they're willing to share their product, insight and more with you. In some cases, suppliers may be willing to bend and break their product to fit your needs. They’re willing to take on the never-ending battleground of continuous delivery and share with you every future learning.

What’s even more amazing - the cost is often much more transparent and less scary than you think!

So how do you choose?

  • Understand how much time, resource and influence you/your team(s) can commit to each stage (Plan, Build, Launch & Beyond)
  • Define success. Ensure ownership and adequate time/resource is available to achieve it
  • Consult with marketing leading suppliers regularly, even if only to benchmark the decision/live solution – what was right then may not be right now!

Jack Ford is acquisition marketing manager for SaleCycle

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