As digital marketers, we rely on a whole bunch of tools to do our jobs.
Email platforms, which may or may not be the same as our marketing automation platforms. Website content management systems. Analytics and reporting tools. Social media management SaaS products. SEO plugins and tracking software. Landing page builders. A/B and multivariate testing tools.
The list goes on.
Companies that build these tools make money hand over fist because digital marketers often feel like they need them.
We can’t send emails without ESPs. We need website tracking and reporting tools. We wouldn’t even know where to begin with following our keyword rankings without Moz – Google a hundred keyword terms a day and see where our website is listed?
Nobody I know has time for that.
The thing is, we need those services but we don’t necessarily need off-the-shelf tools. We could build them ourselves.
It might not make sense to do everything yourself but in some cases, the investment in building something custom for your company, marketing department, and industry can be well worth it.
Not every case, obviously. The advantages of custom tools have to outweigh the disadvantages of cost, time, and necessary resources.
So what are those advantages?
If you or a coworker is a social media manager currently ranting and raving about Facebook’s recent changes to brand content that makes it harder and more expensive to reach your audience there, you understand the value of owning your platforms.
When you build your own tool, it doesn’t change unless you want it to. It holds nothing back. It keeps nothing from you. It does everything you want it to do, every time. If you find yourself wishing it could do more, you can customize it so that it does.
Tailored to Your Business
Custom tools don’t have a bunch of features you’re never going to use. There’s little to no bloat – they perform the tasks you expect and nothing less.
This can make them far simpler to understand, learn, teach, and use than any third-party software tool you can buy, regardless of how customizable that third-party solution claims it is.
When a third-party tool fails, you’re left in the dark. Your only option is to contact their customer service and that’s almost never a positive experience.
If your business is harmed or loses revenue because of a third-party tool’s failures, you’re not likely to be reimbursed. You still pay, even when it doesn’t work.
With a custom tool, while there still may be downtime, you have the access you need to fix it yourself. You’ll know why it went down, which goes a long way toward feeling secure.
Building your own tools can set you apart from competitors and give you an edge they could never hope to have. Custom software tools can make your business run faster, cheaper, and leaner than your competitors, and those advantages are often all a company needs to increase its market share.
Many of the tools that marketers now buy for their companies started out as custom tools for the companies that built them.
Moz, for example, was originally an SEO consulting firm that decided to go all-in on building SEO tools when they realized there was a huge demand in the industry.
Companies like Moz now resell their tools and earn huge profits – in some cases, the tools overtake all other parts of the business until it no longer makes sense to do anything but focus on selling them instead.
When you build something that works as well or better than what’s currently out there, you can be confident that other companies like yours will want the same thing, and you can set your price.
Custom software is expensive – I know. Bear with me here.
While building a custom tool might require a large initial investment, it’s often free to use forever.
How much does your company spend on marketing tools every month? How long before you’d begin to see cost savings if you invested all that money into developing custom tools instead?
The math can work out, particularly when you consider some of the previous points about the efficiency and resale value of many custom tools.
Now, you might be sold on the idea of building your own tool but you’re thinking you don’t have the time, money, or resources. It can be daunting to consider building a custom tool from the ground up, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
In some cases, it might be necessary to go fully-custom, but not always. A lot of modern custom software projects are built with the aid of open source technologies, accelerating development and often decreasing costs.
Of course, those open source platforms need to be maintained and updated, bringing their own challenges and considerations, but the pros can outweigh the cons.
Given the value of building custom tools, it may seem surprising that so many companies continue to use third-parties, but really, that’s just a matter of convenience.
It’s easier to sign up for Moz, Google Analytics, MailChimp, etc. than it is to build your own.
In a lot of cases, it may still make sense to use those tools – they have their place. But don’t forget that you could build a tool to do everything they do and yours might actually do it even better – at least for you and your business.