Marketing agencies typically use dozens of software products on a daily basis. A manager checks the CRM, uses text and photo editing tools to prepare posts, switches between social media apps for posting and setting up advertising, launches campaigns with the help of an email automation tool, extracts analytics from social media and email apps, implements data visualization, and prepares presentations and reports for clients. Meanwhile, all this is supported by task trackers, messengers, and endless spreadsheets.
Sooner or later, marketing agencies start thinking about optimizing their processes. The solution lies in proper software. You can either try adopting one of the many existing (and complex) MarTech solutions, or you can build a custom platform from scratch and tailor it to your company’s exact needs.
As there are hundreds of listicles recommending the world’s best marketing analytics software, we’ve devoted this article to a much more specific topic: custom MarTech app development.
What is a custom analytics platform and why does your marketing agency need one?
Custom marketing analytics software is built exclusively for the needs of your business. It takes into account all your internal processes, employees’ roles and responsibilities, communication and reporting standards, and so on.
Let’s take a look at some crucial advantages of custom marketing software:
- Complete coverage of work processes
With custom software, you no longer need to adjust your processes to the possibilities of the tools you use, and you no longer need to use different software tools for different tasks. Custom marketing analytics software is built taking into account all of your organization’s existing procedures and standards.
- Optimization of routine tasks
In every team, the work routine is different. But with the right approach, custom software can help you optimize manual processes that take most of your time, such as extracting information from various data sources, data visualization, and creating reports so you can dedicate more resources to meaningful tasks.
- Only the functionality you need
Some popular software products in your MarTech stack are packed with features you’ve never used. But these features are included in the price you pay. If you employ Jira to manage your projects, you’ve probably used hardly 10% of the capabilities you’ve paid for. This is true for pretty much every software product from your current MarTech stack.
Also, each additional feature increases a product’s complexity and makes it harder to use. In a custom tool, you can include only the feature set you actually need.
- Data management is fully under your control
When building your custom product, you choose where and in what format to store your data. You don’t have to share the data you gather with a service provider, so you fully control who can access it and for what purpose. Also, data visualization becomes much easier and faster.
- Integration with most services you already use
Switching to a custom solution doesn’t mean you have to start everything from scratch. Using APIs, you can integrate your new system with the marketing analytics tools you already use. For example, you can have a module based on the HubSpot CRM. Also, connecting your marketing automation software with social media apps through APIs enables you to post updates, launch ad campaigns, and retrieve analytics all in the same tab in your software.
- Easy integration and shallow learning curve
Custom software is usually built in tight cooperation with the end users — your company’s employees — to achieve the best usability. This ensures the product is intuitive and easy to learn.
However, there are also a few disadvantages of a custom marketing analytics platform that are worth mentioning:
- Higher upfront cost
When working with a SaaS solution, you pay a monthly or yearly fee and instantly get access to the whole feature set included in your plan. The cost may start at $50 a month and reach as high as a few thousand dollars per month depending on the software’s complexity, the number of accounts you have, and the integrations you use.
With custom marketing analytics software, you have to invest a few thousand dollars before you start using the first features. A full system covering all the specific needs of your agency may cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, such an investment can greatly empower your team’s productivity by cutting the number of SaaS tools your managers use for different tasks. Also, you’ll get rid of recurring subscription payments.
- Need to divert resources from your primary services
Creating a custom marketing analytics platform requires much money and many resources. Most likely, you don’t have a team of software engineers in your company, so you’ll need to spend time hiring the right people with the right competencies. Then there’s the need to manage them, create and assign tasks, and control the outcome. If you don’t have experience with product development, such an approach comes with many risks.
Another solution is to outsource product creation to a development company with a background in the MarTech industry. In this case, the outsourcing team takes over the whole software development process from idea to implementation. This means you can dedicate your resources to your core service while your marketing analytics tool is developed and gradually integrated into your corporate processes.
As you can see, the decision to develop a custom solution shouldn’t be made spontaneously. It’s a long-term commitment that requires regular investments and constant attention. However, once your tailored system is implemented into your corporate processes, you’ll notice a significant improvement in company efficiency.
If you’re already considering empowering your marketing agency with a custom analytics solution, don’t miss the next few sections. We are going to discuss four steps to build a MarTech analytics application.
4 steps to build a tailored marketing analytics platform
Building marketing analytics software is a risky undertaking and requires careful planning and preparation. Although you already know what has to be built, you might have trouble bringing the desired functionality to life. Collaboration with a reliable technical partner allows you to bring in the expertise you lack and achieve your goals.
Here, we describe four proven steps that increase your chances of success and help you build software that improves your business.
Step 1. Define your requirements and shortlist features
Start with visualizing your marketing application. Then give clear answers to these questions: _What could a custom app improve in my company’s processes in comparison to using existing SaaS analytics tools? What bottlenecks do I want to overcome with this solution? _
Prioritize the development of features that will make the most difference in the shortest time.
Feature set for a marketing analytics platform
There is no ultimate recipe for the functionality to include in a marketing software. Some companies can’t survive without a proper data visualization tool, while others may never use it. When going for a custom solution, you have to analyze your actual needs and create a list of required features. You may need some of the following:
- Heatmap to follow user activity on the website
- Event tracking functionality to capture user actions on the website (clicking on links, playing or pausing a video, scrolling, clicking on a button, etc.)
- User segmentation to create segments according to user behavior on the website
- A/B testing to experiment with various content items on the website and track results
- Page ranking to track the position of your website in search engine results
- Backlink and keyword analysis to research ways to get your website higher in search results
- Data standardization to unify data formats for data coming from different sources
- Ad management to control ad spending across Google Ads, Bing, social media channels, etc.
- Ad data analytics to aggregate data from all advertising sources
- Dashboard creation to visualize data and present results to clients
- Data export functionality for moving your data to Excel, Data Studio, or any other tool of your choice
Your app’s functionality can go far beyond these features. Carefully analyze your marketing agency’s internal processes and find inspiration in marketing analytics tools you are already using or whose functionality you like. When planning the development of your marketing software, you have a chance to build a perfect tool tailored to your processes.
Step 2. Find the team to bring your app to life and assign a product owner to ensure a proper development process
Once you’ve shortlisted your desired MarTech features, you’re ready to present your product vision to your development team. How can you find a trusted team? Follow these tips:
- Set strict criteria for your technical partner
First of all, be specific about what you’re looking for. Most likely, you want your vendor to bring proven expertise in marketing analytics software development. The location of the team matters as well, since it directly influences the cost of app development and ease of communication. Define the cooperation model suitable for your project: managed product development or dedicated developers you’ll lead yourself. The more criteria you set up front, the easier it will be for you to find the right technical partner.
- Define the desired cooperation model
Usually, you have to choose between two cooperation models: staff augmentation and managed product development.
In the case of managed services, the outsourcing team fully owns the product development process from idea to release. A project manager takes control of the development team while ensuring flawless communication. Managed product development is a smart choice for companies with no internal expertise in software development and product management.
The staff augmentation model is meant to extend your internal product development team. Reasons to involve external experts might include shortening the expected time to market, meeting the need for highly specific skills, or attempting to reduce HR expenses.
In this case, you pay for the actual development hours of professionals with particular expertise, but managing them is fully your responsibility. The team extension model fits marketing agencies with internal software development teams.
- Talk to company representatives and initiate a discovery phase
You can use Clutch, GoodFirms, or Upwork to create a shortlist of technical teams to cooperate with. But you can’t go far without contacting company representatives personally. When you do so, analyze each company’s portfolio, discuss your product requirements, and ask questions about the development process. You should be looking for a perfect match in terms of technical expertise, a MarTech background, and outstanding soft skills.
Initiating a discovery phase with the vendor you choose is a proven way to preview and test the collaboration. During the discovery phase, a team led by a business analyst (BA) should help you define bottlenecks in your existing processes and find possible solutions. Together with the BA, you can not only predict attainable improvements in your work processes but also calculate the time and cost savings after automating specific tasks. Another discovery team member is a software architect who selects the technology stack, researches the possibility of integration with third-party services, and prepares a marketing analytics software development plan.
During the discovery phase, you can evaluate a team’s communication and level of dedication. This will help you make the right decision about long-term cooperation.
- Assign a product owner
A product owner defines your product vision and is the first person your development team goes to when they have questions about your product. In an ideal world, the product owner should be a representative of your company — a go-to person for all questions about your strategy, goals, app functionality, design, etc.
However, in the real world, your company may lack someone with the needed skills and responsibilities. In this case, you can hire a product owner on the side of your development team. In most cases, part-time cooperation will be enough, so assigning an external product owner may even reduce your budget.
Step 3. Choose the tech stack with your team and dive into development
There’s no universal technology stack. The tech stack you should use varies greatly depending on the type of app you want to build, your budget, your scalability plans, required integrations, and so on. Even when you have exact specifications for your app, you still have multiple ways to build it. There’s no absolute worst or best way. You just want to find the way that best matches your specific case.
When choosing a technology stack, consult with a software architect from your development team. Their experience with projects in various domains may help you make the right choice. Here are the most common frameworks for web and mobile app development:
- Frontend app development
- Backend app development
- Mobile app development
Choosing a native approach for data analytics app development is expensive, since you have to build a completely new version of the app for each platform you want to work with. Usually, you will use Java or Kotlin to build an Android app and Swift or Objective-C for an iOS app.
However, there’s a smart solution called cross-platform app development. It allows you to build one version of your data analytics application and make it compatible with all targeted platforms. For cross-platform development, you normally have to choose between Ionic, React Native, and Flutter.
Discuss the details of your project and your growth plan with your software architect. Relying on the versatile experience of your development team, you will be able to choose the right technology stack to build your marketing software and develop it in the future.
After you’ve chosen your tech stack, you can bring your app development plan to life.
Step 4. Consider monetization opportunities
Even though you’re building an application for your own internal use, other companies may benefit from your marketing analytics software as well.
Why not turn your custom marketing analytics platform into another source of revenue?
Knowing the MarTech sphere inside out, you can build an application that matches the needs of agencies like yours. By turning your internal application into a SaaS product, you can help develop the MarTech industry and benefit financially at the same time.
The Software as a Service (SaaS) business model enables you to grant other teams access to your cloud-based application in exchange for a monthly or yearly subscription.
Along with fueling your business, a SaaS Martech tool enables you to work with other companies in your field, better understand your competitors, and discover their needs and wants. This all results in improving your data analytics application and supporting your primary business.
You can discuss the monetization possibilities for your app with your business analyst. Doing so at the discovery stage enables the engineering team to adjust the app architecture straightaway. However, in our portfolio we have a case study on how we successfully implemented multi-tenancy in an existing application. It’s never too late to start selling your technology to other companies in your industry. Just find an engineering team that’s capable of updating your app’s architecture.
The average enterprise uses 91 cloud-based marketing services. But you don’t have to wait until you have that many tools to start optimizing your MarTech stack.
Building your custom marketing analytics platform enables you to cut manual work, avoid unnecessary mistakes, automate calculations, and more. The best thing about a custom product is that it’s entirely tailored to your organization’s needs. You don’t have to adjust your internal procedures to fit new software. Instead, your marketing analytics platform will be embedded into your existing processes, no matter how specific they are.
Using official APIs, you can integrate your custom marketing software with the services you already use such as HubSpot, Amplitude, and Ahrefs.
And remember: With an app you initially build for your own internal use, you can solve problems faced by hundreds of similar marketing agencies.