The True Cost of Tag Management


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When I first joined the Satellite team at Search Discovery I liked this tag line so much that I included it in my email signature, and used it with clients and prospects alike.   This has spurred lots of great discussions on the merits of the “less expensive” part, and it highlights a lot of confusion this topic has generated in the digital measurement industry.

The varying cost of vendor solutions has been a topic of much debate for years now in different forms.  We have all heard the free Google Analytics vs the premium analytics solutions conversation before, and the discussions that are taking shape around the cost of the different tag management systems are following along the same paths.   All of the focus on the expense of TMS is on the initial up front cost of the solution or the tool itself, and there is little if any public discourse on the hidden costs.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin

In the military, there is a term they use to refer to the number of support personnel it takes to have an effective combat unit, the tooth-to-tail ratio. This term can also be applied to the TMS industry as well.  The tooth is the cost of the tool.  It is the part of the expense that is in the forefront of everyone’s mind when they are looking into a tag management system.  The tail is like the crazy aunt in everyone’s family that no one wants to talk about, it’s the cost of staffing, implementing  and maintaining the TMS solution long after the payment to the vendor for the solution has been paid.

The Tail

Do you have the resources on your team to support the solution you are purchasing?  Can your analyst & marketing staff write complex and effective JavaScript if the tool requires it of them?  Will you be able to find, hire, & afford the level of expertise needed to support some of the TMS solutions in the market?  Or will you be forced into renting that skill for a premium cost from one of the digital measurement consultancies?

I have been part of and led teams of consultants that have spent thousands of hours supporting other TMS vendors, and that is not an inexpensive line item.  Have you accounted for the cost of at least one FTE consultant for as long as you own a TMS solution, and considered the variability of that cost per your chosen solution?

Training & Continuing Education

I am a huge proponent of the value of offering quality training solutions to educate and train your staff on a new solution and the governance that needs to exist to not only implement but maintain a healthy tag management solution for your company. I am even more in favor of building a solution that is truly intuitive and reactive to the true needs of you business that minimizes the need for constant training.

On the previous TMS projects that I have been a part of, we had to start training from day one and do (almost) monthly refreshers to help the staff become comfortable with the TMS, ensuring real-world uptake and proper use of the solution. Why? Because one thing costs your business more than anything else: selecting a TMS tool or any tool that is so complex and cumbersome that the marketing staff and developers alike refuse to use it. Then you are paying for a solution, staffing, and consultants to gain no tangible results.   This is not a fairy tale I am weaving to scare you, but actual real world examples of massive market leading brands that are paying for solutions and not using them, today.

Better. Faster. Less Expensive.  Choose 3.

If you are in the process of evaluating tag management solutions, add a few more line items to your checklist.  Ask the vendors to provide information on the costs outlined above, but do not just take their word for it.  Reach out to their customers directly and ask your peers what they have spent in additional costs that are related to the TMS.  After you pick yourself up off the floor, add a few more lines and zeros to your budget request.

Or . . . talk to our customers about the real-world efficiencies they have truly gained, and what meaningful and innovative projects they have been working on instead of focusing on the implementation or getting the tool to work as expected. Are you ready for something to live up to the hype? Take Satellite for a spin.


About Search Discovery

Search Discovery is a digital intelligence company that empowers organizations to make better, dynamic and transformative business decisions. We're focused on delivering results for our clients through digital analytics, SEO, digital media, and technology.


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