by Rudi Shumpert, Direc­tor, Strate­gic Services – Satel­liteScreen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.07.16 AM

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.