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Adam Saunders


Jan 20, 2021

Build vs. Buy: How to Know When You Should Buy Software Over Building In-House Solutions

Adam Saunders

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Making Your Own or Buying off the Shelf: What to Do?

Your enterprise wants to tap into modern software technology to grow its revenue. How will you go about it?

You’ve got two choices: either you build your own solution in-house, with all the management and upkeep that that entails, or you buy a solution from a vendor. It can be a difficult decision, with a number of benefits and drawbacks to either approach.

We’re biased, of course: we’d rather you buy Limelight Platform’s experiential marketing solutions and keep you as an ongoing, happy customer. That doesn’t mean we don’t understand why some businesses choose to roll their own solutions. If you’re going to go that route, though, you should do it with your eyes open.

After reading this brief article, you’ll be much better equipped to make the right decision for your company’s future. Let’s dive right in, using experiential marketing analytics software as an example:

The Case For Building

It comes down to 3 main items: customizability, platform-compatibility, and economies of scale.


You know what your business needs better than anyone else. Maybe it’s an established multinational relying heavily on monetizing trade secrets and intellectual property, making operations security key. Maybe it’s a decades-old business working with a number of legacy information technology systems.

Your needs may also change over time, as your business scales. Adding on new product lines and reaching out to new geographical territories create new marketing challenges.

Sometimes, what you find off-the-shelf just won’t cut it for those needs. You might get something close to what would work, but there will be something missing. Rolling your own solution could give you an answer to your present-day problems, with the customizability to adapt to new situations as your business grows.


Your organization might be running a lot of different systems, especially if it has a bring-your-own-device policy. There’s Linux on your servers, macOS on the laptops, Windows 7, 8, and 10 on the desktops, Android phones, iOS phones, you name it. Some companies still run arcane legacy systems; a few years ago, you could find MS-DOS being used for critical operations in the United States Navy!

Even if you’ve found a vendor with a solution that’s platform-compatible, capable of working on every operating system run at the office, it might not be compatible with your other software programs. Maybe the databases you’re using to collect marketing analytics information aren’t compatible with that pre-made product, requiring your team to manually feed in data into the vendor’s experiential marketing software.

That could eat up time, meaning a loss in revenue.

Economies of scale

Let’s say your company has hit corporate maturity. It’s no longer nervous about survival, as it has grown so much in scale and geographical reach that it’s a force to be reckoned with in the marketplace.

If you’re in an executive position of a corporation with tens of thousands of staff across the world, you may have the economy of scale to set your IT team to build a solution for it. With the ability to deploy it across the globe, as just one of many assets to a massive company, the time and capital cost to the company may not seem that great.

The Case Against Building

There are a lot of drawbacks to making your own marketing analytics solution, including maintenance, time and capital costs, and a lack of competitive gain.

You add on a new project to your IT team that not only needs to be maintained, but built from the ground up with thorough documentation. If key members of the team end up leaving the company, you may lose critical corporate memory, making it costly and time-consuming to make changes down the road as need be.

It’s easy to find the project taking more time and money than anticipated. Making excellent, complex proprietary software is hard. It’s not something that can be whipped up over a few hours.

With an experiential marketing platform, you need to figure out what features you need, how the user interface will work, and what systems it needs to be run on, before a single line of code can be written. Once the project is feature-complete, there may be an extended bug-fixing period to make sure that the platform won’t crash in the real world.

Then there’s the most basic drawback: how is making your own proprietary software, which you aren’t going to monetize by marketing it to the public, going to make your business more money than buying a pre-made solution?

If your company sells physical products, you may be more likely to find competitive value from refining your product, branching out into new lines, or expanding to new territories, rather than going down a software design rabbit hole. There needs to be a rationale behind all capital expenditure, and if writing your own software won’t lower your operational costs, generate more sales, or enable smoother customer service, then why bother?

Why Buying A Marketing Software Solution Is Most Likely The Best Idea

There are plenty of reasons to buy from an experienced vendor, including shorter set-up time, customizability, lowered costs, continual updates, expert security, and high uptime.

Shorter set-up time

Instead of spending months designing, building, debugging, and deploying an in-house experiential marketing platform, purchasing a solution from a vendor like Limelight can get a system up and running within 3-to-4 weeks. Why wait months to solve problems that you have today?


Yes, building your own software gives you customizability, but that doesn’t mean providers like Limelight aren’t willing to work with you to make changes to fit with your existing workflow. All you need is to have a chat with the sales team to let them know what you’d like to have done to make the product perfect for your business’s needs.

Lowered costs

A custom, in-house marketing program has to be built from scratch and then maintained. That’s a significant upfront and ongoing cost.

Limelight’s monthly licensing program costs generally considerably less than a roll-your-own option. Since vendors have multiple clients, they can spread out their need for revenue across them, reducing costs for each individual customer.

Continual updates

You don’t have to organize team meetings to brainstorm new features for Limelight’s experiential marketing solution. Our team is dedicated to enhancing our offerings with new features and functionality on a rolling basis, at no additional cost to you.

Expert security

Software and data security are very hard to design. The team at Limelight is proud to have built carefully-crafted software with strong data security as a critical feature. Don’t risk an embarrassing, costly data leak with a badly-built homebrewed system.

High uptime

It would be awful if your experiential marketing analytics software crashed in the middle of a big event, like a pop concert sponsored by your company with thousands of potential customers in attendance. Limelight’s software has over 99.9% uptime with no ongoing burden on your IT team; we do the work to keep it rock-solid and reliable.

Only you know your company’s needs. Going your own way with a custom build can get you exactly what you need, with the trade-off being a higher upfront as well as ongoing investment in building and maintaining the system. Your company’s marketing budget may also be so large that the costs of rolling your own experiential marketing system is worth it.

However, there are drawbacks. You might run into unexpected maintenance issues, with unlucky crashes and downtime leaving your marketing team stressed and your IT team scrambling to fix an unknown problem.

If the designers of the software end up leaving the company, you could lose vital corporate memory needed to maintain it. Finally, there may be no competitive gain at all to be made by going with choosing an expensive in-house system over a cheaper one made by an experienced vendor.

A system like Limelight’s can solve your experiential marketing needs at a lower cost with high uptime. New features are constantly being added without your need to make an additional capital investment. Critical issues like data security are dealt with by a team of experts to prevent embarrassing leaks of customer information, so you can sleep better at night.

Before you make a decision, do some more research, or give our team a call. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about experiential marketing.


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