Why You Don’t Want to Maintain In-House Email Creation Platforms

When it comes to an email creation platform, there’s one major question you must ask yourself: Build or buy?

Now, as you’ve read the title of this blog post, you’re probably aware that we’re about to make a strong case for buying. We are a third-party creation platform after all, so we’re a little biased. But we also understand exactly why building a program can sound so appealing! So before we dig into any big issues, let’s get a sense of the objective pros and cons of each route.

The Build Argument

Building an in-house email creation platform can be appealing for a variety of reasons. You’ll have ultimate control over design and functionality, and can utilize the expertise of the engineers that already work for your company or a hired dev shop or agency to build the platform exactly as you need it (today). However, it’s also important to keep the possible points of failure in mind as you decide.

Potential failure points:

  • Never-ending platform support needed to keep the platform live and working at the simplest level
  • Constantly being reactive to industry updates (such as different email clients changing their rendering rules), and a growing list of feature requests from your internal users/customers
  • Organizational challenges around how to structure your development resources to keep up with the nonstop asks from the wider organization

As other external programs begin to offer solutions that appeal to your users, you’ll be pressed to build more and more tools that become essential in the marketplace. Because of all the work and budget this requires, internal systems begin to pale in comparison to external options.

Long-term cost

Ultimately the true long-term cost and burden can prove to be a significant obstacle when it comes to building, maintaining, and updating internally developed software.

  • Sunk cost traps — teams are likely to follow through with an activity because of the time or money already invested, despite the fact that they continue to lose time and money in the process.
  • Internal battles often occur between Marketing and IT as costs grow and the ongoing line item in the budget for the platform’s support only increases
  • In 2012, McKinsey and the BT Centre for Major Programme Management at the University of Oxford found that about 5,400 IT projects had run over budget a total of $66 billion

The Buy Argument

ThomasNet President Mark Holst-Knudsen told a 2014 CIO Symposium at MIT, “Really, you shouldn’t build anything that’s available off the shelf because it’s not a source of competitive advantage if everybody else can avail themselves of it. The only scenario where you should build is if it’s your core technology — the core source of your competitive differentiation and competitive advantage.” This certainly still rings true and holds up in today’s tech landscape.

What to look for in a platform

When you buy software, especially hosted software (SaaS) that many internal users will actively use, it is important to conduct a thorough evaluation of both the company and the product.

  • Vendor Stability — It doesn’t matter the features that are available today if the vendor might not be in business tomorrow. To get a proper sense of their stability, look at an organization’s investors and financing history, existing customers (are they large, established companies, or SMBs that may be on less stable financial footing?), current company headcount, and their current and projected rate of growth.
  • Success and Support — What does the vendor offer in terms of helping you become successful with the software? Do they have dedicated customer success personnel? Support offered via phone and email? Onsite or virtual training? Documentation? While the hope is always that an integration happens smoothly and easily, ensure that they have plenty of onboarding support available in case of any snags along the road.
  • Current Functionality — Key features of an email creation platform include: user administration (and authentication via SSO if needed) and permissioning, audit logs, the ability for an admin to create email modules or templates on their own, ability to maintain overall brand governance, integrations into adjacent platforms like ESPs/image DAMs/workflow tools, a simple WYSIWYG end-user interface,automatic appending of analytics parameters, and review/commenting/approvals within the platform. Ask about the upcoming roadmap to hear what will soon be available within the platform and make sure all of your email needs will be covered.


When it comes to the constant build vs. buy debate, our positioning is clear: Trust the experts. Buy a third-party platform that will do everything to work for you and make your email creation process easier, so you have one less major headache to worry about. Your teams will be able to perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively, and your email marketing operation will be as seamless as ever.

About Stensul

Stensul’s email generation platform transforms how you and your team build emails: with stensul, any marketer – no matter their technical skills – can easily build on-brand, error-proof emails. Think of us as a CMS built specifically for email.

Schedule a demo with stensul to learn more about how we can immediately deliver value for your specific organization.