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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.