What Is Tag Management & Why Should You Care?

Part Two of a multi-part series diving deep into tag management -- what it is, how it works, how to find a partner and how you can benefit.

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Over the last 15 years, marketers have seen an explosion in the number of digital marketing tools available to them, from a few dozen major email, analytics and advertising services at the beginning of the century, to as many as 2,000 marketing cloud applications today, according to Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec.com.

Sounds great for marketers, right? Yes and no.

While marketers now have nearly unlimited choice in the number of solutions they can use to engage new customers, they are also increasingly bedeviled by the management of all these sophisticated applications. More than ever, they must coordinate with their company’s software developers and IT department to get these applications up and running.

Throw in the number of fragmented customer data sources that each of these siloed applications generate, and this may not be the “Golden Age of Marketing” that some believe it to be – at least not yet.

That’s where tag management comes in.

What Is Tag Management?

Tag management is a new foundational platform that enables marketers to easily connect, manage and unify their digital marketing applications (e.g., web analytics, search engine marketing, email service provider, advertising, social technologies, etc.) without a lot of ongoing development work.

A tag, in this case, is simply another name for a piece of data-collecting code that a vast majority of digital vendors now require their customers to embed on their web pages and mobile apps.

These tags often collect visitor behavior information, but can also be used to launch product functionality such as live chat, advertising or surveys.

With tag management, marketers or developers deploy one single tag on their pages – a master tag, so to speak – and then use an intuitive web interface to add, edit or remove any additional vendor tags in a fraction of the time it would take via manual software coding.

Many tag management solutions have a “tag marketplace” that enables marketers to click on a vendor logo, add their account details and other information, decide which sites and pages to load the tag on and hit publish. The vendor solution is automatically deployed via that master tag without touching the web pages.

Tag management also works with mobile apps, where the same agility applies – install the tag management solution once and reduce the cycles needed to change analytics data points or deploy mobile solutions.

The real star of tag management, however, is something called “the data layer” — the behind-the-scenes data that drives customer interactions in web, mobile and other digital channels.

The data layer resides between the application layer, comprised of various mission-critical digital solutions, and the experience layer that users interact with. Through the creation and optimization of this data layer (via tag management), organizations can easily standardize the data definitions used by each application, which enables them to sync their applications more easily.

image courtesy of Tealium

image courtesy of Tealium

Think of the data layer as a “control plane” that allows marketers to correlate and share customer data between applications.

The data layer is greatly enhanced by complementary visitor segmentation and profile enrichment tools, such as those offered by some providers (including my employer, Tealium) that deliver real-time segmentation and additional data distribution capabilities.

This is key for creating real-time interactions. For the above reasons, the data layer is a highly strategic part of the modern digital marketing technology stack, allowing these disparate tools to work harmoniously together for the first time.

Why Should You Care About Tag Management?

Tag management offers many benefits across the organization. Below are three core scenarios and related benefits to get excited about:

*Bring Order To Chaos – With marketers using an increasingly complex array of solutions than ever before to engage customers, digital marketing has become a chaotic burden. Tag management reduces complexity for both marketing and development resources, and allows marketers to move faster and launch campaigns easier than ever before.

Tag management can also significantly increase website performance by reducing the number of tags firing on each page (tag bloat is often a main cause of site performance degradation). This, in turn, helps increase online conversions and revenue.

*Build Your Own Marketing Cloud – Some marketers believe they need to be tied to one marketing cloud vendor – such as Adobe, Salesforce.com or Oracle – for both convenience and the promise of simple data integration. But the truth is, no one cloud can be everything to everyone.

Marketers need ultimate flexibility to choose the best solutions for their unique business needs. Tag management, through that unifying data layer, enables marketers to use any solution they want, whether it’s from a marketing cloud or from a best-in-class point provider, and still have them work together.

Additionally, the same visitor profile can easily be shared across your entire marketing technology stack, leading to unified messaging across channels and devices.

*Unlock Your Marketing Potential –Tag management helps marketers and their organizations in more diverse ways than perhaps any other digital marketing solution. At a core level, tag management helps increase marketing agility, reduce costs, and boost web site performance.

At a more strategic level, it helps improve data governance and control, maximize marketing technology investments, streamline data integration processes, and drive more profitable, real-time customer interactions across all digital touch points.

Another under-rated bonus of tag management is that it helps unify internal teams by reducing technology complexity, both in managing mission-critical applications and uniting key customer data.

One of my favorite customer quotes is from a marketing executive at U.S. Auto Parts Network who once told me tag management “is the first solution both marketing and IT could agree on.”

Marketing is entering an exciting new era. Thanks to the emergence of new technologies and best practices, marketers are on the cusp of achieving what some refer to as the “Holy Grail” of marketing — the ability to deliver consistent, personalized, real-time experiences to customers across channels and devices.

Ironically, the only thing standing in their way is too much technology and data, and the inability to effectively manage it. Through tag management and a sound technology strategy, marketers can easily cross into that next marketing frontier.

For more on Tag Management, see other posts in this series: 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

L. Erik Bratt
L. Erik Bratt is a veteran technology marketing executive and vice president of corporate marketing at Ensighten, the leader in enterprise tag management and omni-channel data solutions. Previously, Erik held senior-level positions at Tealium, Microsoft, WebSideStory (now part of Adobe Systems), InboundWriter and VoxOx, a cloud communications provider. He served as a strategic consultant for Digitaria (now part of Mirum), Viralheat (now part Cision) and MarketingProfs.com, producing several best-selling reports on digital marketing and social media. Earlier in his career, Erik was a professional journalist for The San Diego Union-Tribune. He graduated from San Diego State University.

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