So many vendors, so many options. In a space where just two years ago we saw only a handful of players in tag management, we now have a menu of TMS vendors to choose from, all with shiny new features and innovations, promising to solve your biggest challenges. Am I surprised? No. It reminds me of the early 2000s when cell phones exploded onto the market — a hot technology is going to get heated competition in the market, and fast.
The problem? Every vendor believes their solution is better than the competition’s and all have dozens of reasons to justify those claims (self included). But ultimately it’s up to you to do your homework before making such a commitment. And don’t slack on your homework, because a tag management system (TMS) is a big commitment.
So here are a few questions to keep in mind when evaluating a TMS:
Is your TMS going to be around in another year?
Big fish eats little fish. Tag management is a booming space right now, so acquisitions are going to happen. We’ve already seen a few recently — congrats to Satellite for recently being acquired by Adobe — and I only expect to see more. But keep in mind that although merging technologies can have its benefits, it also has its drawbacks: minimal to no product innovations or enhancements, the elimination of certain features you grew to love and leverage, possible migration and re-deployment, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask your vendor about their future goals and where they see themselves in 2-5 years.
Believing the hype?
So you’ve built a case for a TMS, got budget approval, went through the vendor evaluation process and then made your big purchase! Then, you quickly found that your TMS isn’t quite what it was hyped up to be and now have to re-evaluate. It can be very disappointing and stressful, I know. Be sure to hit your TMS vendors with questions to remove the hype and ask for proof about uptime; how they will deliver your tags; the advantages, disadvantages and specific instances for using client-side and server-side (or both); and if you can really deploy tags on your own or if you will need ongoing consulting. Most importantly, find out if they solve your specific use case and challenges.
Can your TMS support future innovations?
Let’s just face the facts, some folks can’t keep up. In tag management, we’ve moved away from just managing vendors on standard HTML websites because that isn’t the only place our visitors interact with us. Data is everywhere because we are everywhere, and are constantly communicating via smartphones, tablets, laptops, kiosks, in-flight Wi-Fi, gaming consoles, and only more to come. Do you have a mobile site or application, or plans to build one in the future? Make sure your TMS can support the future of your business.
Does more features = more headache?
I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a full day to program my phone – personalization (screensavers, ringtones), apps, widgets, games, etc. – it was almost too much. I ended up having to search the web and use sites like eHow to learn how to change my display text on my home screen. Tons of features can be overwhelming if you don’t need them or can’t figure out how to use them. A TMS is not supposed to be technical, and the updates to your TMS shouldn’t make your tagging life harder. A TMS should be easy to use for any role (marketing, web analyst, IT), and additional features should only further simplify your job. If you have to do a full-day walkthrough to leverage one feature, you may be looking at the wrong technology.
Is the proof in the pudding?
References are just that, references. If you’re interviewing for a new job, are you going to list a past colleague whom you weren’t so friendly with, to give you an awesome review to get the gig? No. So don’t expect that from your TMS vendor. Chances are that if you ask for a reference and get the 1-2 clients you see quoted all over their website, then you’re going to get their happiest customer(s). Dig deeper. Most vendors claim to have more than 100 customers, so they shouldn’t have a problem providing a range to choose from. I wish someone would’ve given an honest reference about the Blackberry Storm when I decided a few years ago to buy that over the iPhone.
Can you play before you pay?
Buying a TMS is an investment of your time, resources, and your dollar. When you shop for a new smartphone, you may look at CNET for reviews and ask friends, go into the store and hold it, make test calls, snap a few photos, listen to speaker quality, browse the web, and so on. Why wouldn’t you do that for an investment as big as a TMS? Get your vendor to agree to a proof-of-concept (POC), so you can trial the solution and make sure it’s the right fit.
What’s the ROI?
Of course as a marketer for a TMS vendor I have some bias that EVERYONE will benefit from tag management, but I’m a realist that it isn’t for everyone. If you’re running one tag on your website, have no plans to add any digital marketing vendors and don’t really care about your data, then no… maybe tag management isn’t for you. But if you are running a campaign and need to make tag changes with IT keeping you on the back burner, or need to make changes during the IT mandated holiday code freeze, or if your tags are slowing down your website, or if you care about your data… then you should be giving us a call.
Tag management has become a game changer to digital marketing. Just as cell phones have become a necessity in our every day lives, tagging-gurus are now looking at TMS as the ‘holy grail’ for simplifying day-to-day tag maintenance. The challenge again, is getting through the hype of “my TMS is better than yours” and getting the real deal. Still need more convincing? See what the experts have to say from Forrester and Econsultancy.