Considering DIY CRM? Beware the Job Hopper

By Ric Elert

You’ve seen the Martech Landscape Supergraphic with more than 5,000 tools listed on it, and hundreds crammed into the box labeled “CRM.” You might even have thought, “This is so overwhelming, I’ll just hire someone to work with our IT team to build what we need.”


I don’t advise it.

I admit that it takes guts to try and build a CRM stack in-house. Pursuing the idea that you can DIY comes with a risk that’s often overlooked, however: Bringing technology development in-house requires you to hire, and retain, the right people. I’ve sat in meetings with CMOs who’ve tried the DIY approach only to learn this lesson the hard way.

And don’t you have a big enough challenge already, trying to find marketers with the analytics and digital skills you need to keep pace with ever-rising customer expectations and digital transformation?

It’s not just about who you hire

Hiring the right people to develop a robust CRM tool in-house isn’t easy. For starters, the people who raise their hand aren’t always the top performers. In digital media, it’s a problem that dates back to the internet bubble of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the job market was flooded with people claiming skills they didn’t have. At the time, many companies filling empty roles didn’t know a candidate’s true upside because they weren’t accurately able to evaluate the candidate’s skills.

Today, companies identify candidates who know digital, expecting them to be able to build a platform. That’s not how it works. Just because someone knows digital doesn’t mean they’re a developer or an engineer. Engineers have years of exposure to building and integrating platforms. Technology is their core skill set, and it doesn’t just make them good, it makes them great. That takes time. When you don’t hire top performers, you can easily end up with an employee who can’t build the technology at all. Unless you have someone internally who can validate or measure their work, it’s a problem that doesn’t reveal itself until you’ve invested significant time and money.

It would be easy to read this and think, “I just need to hire the right person then, right?” No, it’s not that simple.

Even if you find the right individual for the job, you may still be at a disadvantage. CRM vendors, digital media agencies, and ad tech companies have one quality few in-house solutions can offer: Best-in-class practices and advances in technology that are often conceived by working among peers. By working in a silo, an in-house engineer (and his platform) miss out on this. The shared knowledge and experience gained from team interactions not only gives vendors a head start out of the gate, it allows them to pull ahead with huge strides.

It’s also about intention

Employee intent is equally as important when considering bringing CRM technology development in-house.

Consider the long-term health of your organization. Whether you hire someone directly, or work with an outside firm, you want them to be in it for the long-haul. You want that individual, or company, to not only build the technology, but also be thinking how the platform gets stronger and more efficient over time. Avoid people—or organizations—that are focused on billing on tasks versus on performance outcomes.

Don’t overlook your own intentions as employer. Can you say that you’re invested in the employee’s career health and growth, as well? From my experience, it’s hard to do when in-house technology development is secondary to your business—and to your team’s charter as a marketing organization.


That isn’t to suggest that technology should supersede your core offerings. It shouldn’t. It’s not why you are in business. It’s meant to point out that unless you have a clear path for an employee’s upward mobility and are able to motivate them, they won’t stay. And they take their institutional knowledge about the CRM tool they developed for you with them.

CRM is all about where you’re heading

It’s undeniable that DIY solutions may ultimately work, though most only do so for a limited time. The focus of your CRM strategy and tools should always be on your ability to adapt, evolve, and stay in front of a rapidly changing marketplace. Having a solo CRM developer on your team won’t ever match the abilities of a vendor partner invested in your success to help you accomplish this.

Here are a few questions to get you started as you evaluate CRM vendors to find a partner that’s right for you:     

  • How will you help me find my customers?

  • How will you help me protect my customers’ privacy?

  • How accurately will I be able to reach my customers across their devices using your tools?


Very often, after great cost and much handwringing, you realize a homegrown platform’s shortcomings and the millions of dollars in revenue left on the table. It’s a realization that can be debilitating and leave you scrambling to engage with an outside partner. There are many good options out there. Take the time to explore them.   

About the Author

Conversant President Ric Elert is a recognized industry leader who sets the company’s vision and ensures that clients can have personalized conversations with their customers across every device, channel and media format.


Prior to joining Conversant, Ric was EVP of engineering at comScore. He oversaw the development and management of comScore’s global enterprise technology. 


Ric sits on several boards, including the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA) and FreeOsk, and is a founding member of the IAB Data Center of Excellence.