How do businesses navigate the complex terrain of customer engagement in today’s world? The answer often lies in pivotal decisions like whether to build their own custom outreach software or to opt for a readily available off-the-shelf solution.
The build versus buy software dilemma is not a novel one. Ask any senior IT professional, and they will surely have dozens of tales of researching potential software vendors or collaborating with software engineers on a custom solution. Companies have invested in custom software solutions since the earliest days of business computing and there has been a robust industry of third-party software vendors for about as long. Especially with the growth of software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies since 1999, businesses have a plethora of options for how to meet their software needs.
This choice between building or buying software may seem deceptively simple, but it holds the potential to reshape a company’s operational efficiency, financial strategy, and competitive edge. In this article, we explore the critical decision of whether it’s best to build or buy outreach software while underscoring its significance and the factors that underpin this important choice.
Key Factors To Consider
When contemplating the decision to build or buy outreach software, the financial implications are some of the most important factors to consider.
When signing on a software vendor with a pre-built software solution, you typically might pay a small initial cost, followed by ongoing costs over time. For outreach, this is usually billed at a flat rate each month or year, or billed by number of records or messages sent. These ongoing costs can seem like a major downside of paying for your outreach solution.
On the other hand, building custom software development offers the enticing prospect of tailoring your software to your precise needs. You can have all the features you desire, exactly as you envision them. However, this flexibility comes at a price. One statistic shows that the average major software project overspends by 45% (McKinsey). And it’s not just the upfront development costs that need to be considered. Maintenance and support for these features can account for up to 20% of the original development costs (Fierce Wireless).
Ultimately, the costs to purchase software are very concrete — after all, they represent actual cash that flows from your coffers to the vendor. However, building software often has similar or greater costs when you account for the time of your development and IT teams.
Verdict for cost: It depends (but remember to account for hidden costs of the build approach).
Time To Value (TTV)
When it comes to customer engagement, speed can be the difference between success and missed opportunities. The time it takes to realize value from your outreach software is a critical factor to consider. Building a custom solution from the ground up can be a time-consuming endeavor, as development and fine-tuning demand a significant investment of time and money. For a robust software solution of moderate complexity, a business should normally expect six months to a year until launch day. And it’s worth mentioning that an estimated 52% of large IT projects go over time, over budget, or require sacrificed functionality (Form).
Conversely, buying an existing solution can often expedite the process. Software vendors design their systems for rapid implementation, allowing you to swiftly leverage the features they offer. Time to value when buying software can range from instant (in the case of true off-the-shelf solutions) to a few weeks or months for highly customized solutions. In a competitive marketplace, this agility can be a game-changer, enabling your business to respond promptly to evolving market conditions and customer needs.
Winner for time to value: Buy!
Compatibility With Existing Systems
Seamless integration with your current technology stack is a fundamental requirement for any outreach software. Building your own solution allows you complete control over the integration process, ensuring it aligns perfectly with your existing systems. However, this level of control necessitates expertise in managing the intricacies of integration, which can be a significant responsibility.
When purchasing software, you must assess whether it will be compatible with your existing systems. Some software vendors understand the importance of integration and can provide robust application programming interfaces (APIs) and support to facilitate this process. Opting for a solution that aligns seamlessly with your technology stack can help you avoid compatibility issues and expedite the implementation process but requires forethought when selecting a software vendor.
Ultimately, both options require due diligence to ensure that your chosen solution harmonizes with your existing systems.
Winner for compatibility: Build (though customized bought solutions can come close).
Now we’re getting to the exciting part of getting a new outreach platform: the features! When you get right down to it, the features are the reason you’re upgrading your software, and they have the potential to greatly improve outreach performance. So, which approach gives a solution with better features, building or buying?
Building your own software gives you the unique advantage of shaping every feature according to your precise needs. Whether it’s SMS outbound messaging, two-way messaging, auto-reply functionality, custom branded keywords, analytics, or reporting, you can tailor these features to align with your business objectives perfectly.
Buying software, in contrast, requires evaluating whether the available features meet your specific requirements or if they can be customized to suit your needs. Generally speaking, software vendors and outreach SaaS platforms cannot offer brand new features just for your business. However, some established vendors can tailor their solutions to address the demands of your business.
In this regard, the decision to build or buy hinges on the level of customization you require. We recommend carefully analyzing your wish list of features. Ask yourself, “Are our needs truly unique, or are they similar to the needs of other businesses?” A good maxim is, “build what differentiates your business and buy everything else.” This allows you to invest in the features that set you apart, while leveraging tried and true solutions for more commonplace needs.
Winner for features: Buy (for most features — but build when your situation is truly unique).
Both building and buying outreach software require that you do due diligence to comply with relevant rules and regulations. When you build software in-house, you need to have a team with in-depth knowledge of outreach rules and regulations, including the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act).
On the other hand, when buying software, you may still bear risk for messages sent on behalf of your business. While it might seem bad to take on risk when you have less control over the solution, this isn’t considering the whole picture. The risk doesn’t inherently increase as long as you select a vendor that is well-versed in compliance. The right vendor will have appropriate controls in place and will be committed to protecting your brand.
In fact, choosing a reputable vendor can be extremely helpful in compliance matters. Vendors like Drips (yes, that’s us!) often have special expertise in outreach compliance. Leveraging their knowledge right away is a valuable aspect of choosing to work with a communications platform provider rather than DIYing a solution.
Ultimately, the decision boils down to your confidence in managing risk and your preference for in-house control versus vendor support.
Winner for risk management: Buy (unless your in-house team are already compliance experts).
The decision between building and buying impacts both a business’s short-term agility and long-term sustainability.
When it comes to longevity and sustainability, building a custom solution can offer adaptability and flexibility over time, enabling you to fine-tune and evolve the software to meet your changing customer engagement needs. However, this approach also carries considerable costs and responsibility, as you’ll need to allocate resources and expertise to ensure that the software remains viable and up to date. It’s also worth keeping in mind that 52% of projects encounter scope creep, which can add risk to in-house development (PMI.org).
In contrast, purchasing outreach software solutions comes with the advantage of continuous updates, bug fixes, and ongoing support provided by the vendor. This ensures that your software remains current, secure, and robust in the face of evolving industry regulations and technological advancements. However, if your needs outgrow the solution you choose, you may need to switch in the future, which can be quite a headache.
The choice between these options is not just about balancing immediate needs with long-term goals. It’s about aligning technology decisions with a business’s overall strategy for success. With careful planning, either approach can offer a sustainable outreach solution. That said, when you work with a vendor, you can leverage their team of developers and their expertise to plan for success.
Winner for sustainability: Buy… but make sure to pick a trusted vendor.
Your choice between building or buying outreach software will significantly impact your competitive advantage. Building your own software can provide unique capabilities and features, which might give you an edge in addressing your specific customer engagement needs. In fact, 56% of organizations build applications in-house to gain a competitive advantage (Five.co). However, this route can also tie up valuable internal resources and incur technical debt, slowing down your response to market changes.
Buying software can often provide immediate access to a feature-rich solution, equipped to meet various customer engagement demands. Reputable vendors regularly update their software to align with industry trends and customer requirements, ensuring you remain competitive. In a rapidly evolving market, having a vendor that constantly innovates and supports their product can be a significant advantage.
Ultimately, we’ll repeat the advice we shared earlier: build the features that differentiate you and buy everything else. Since most features won’t be unique for most businesses, leveraging the innovation of specialized vendors is usually the winning play.
Winner for competitive advantage: Buy
To sum up, review this chart showing our verdict for each factor. Overall, our view is that it is usually smarter to buy from a quality vendor than to DIY.
Conclusion: Build Versus Buy
The decision to build or buy outreach software is not one to be made lightly. While building yourself can offer unique benefits, it’s essential to recognize that most of these benefits can also be achieved by choosing the right vendor. Thorough deliberation is critical, considering factors like cost, time to value, compatibility with existing systems, features, long-term sustainability, and competitive advantage.
Successful implementation of your chosen outreach software is key to reaping the full benefits of your decision. Whether you decide to build in-house or buy from a vendor, the key is to execute your strategy efficiently and effectively. A well-chosen path, whether building or buying, can significantly elevate your customer engagement efforts and place you ahead in a competitive marketplace.