Its Not Voodoo Its Tag Management

It's Not Voodoo. It's Tag Management

6 minute read
Ryan Lunka avatar

The tag management system (TMS) is a software-as-a-service application that applies tags (HTML and JavaScript snippets) to your web-based technologies. It allows marketers to configure what tags go where, instead of requiring software developers to make those changes by deploying code. Tag management is typically used to apply web analytics snippets and remarketing tags, but can technically inject any HTML or JavaScript onto a web page. If you don’t understand what a tag management system does, I suggest reading this well written overview on

Tag management is underutilized and undervalued, which means the opportunity to create a competitive advantage is huge. Many digital marketers don’t even know what a TMS does. I want you to understand how a TMS can fundamentally improve your marketing technology stack, increasing your agility and adhering to best-practice architectural principles.

Adopting tag management has three significant benefits for digital marketers, helping you perform the aforementioned voodoo:

  • Increase agility, by empowering digital marketers to control their own their destinies
  • Create a more flexible architecture, by loosely coupling your marketing technologies
  • Democratize customer data to create a more accurate, holistic customer profile

Increase Your Marketing Agility

Let’s say that your CMO asked you to figure out how to understand the number of website sales coming from which channels. You aren’t collecting the right data to answer him, so you’ll need to change the web analytics JavaScript snippets on your website. What are the steps you’ll need to make this happen?

  1. Make a change request to the web development team.
  2. Wait for the product owner to approve the change request.
  3. Politic your change towards the top of the backlog.
  4. Wait for the development team to implement and test your changes.
  5. Once in production, analyze your new traffic data to make sure it’s what you need.
  6. Doh! You need another change. Return to step 1.
  7. Answer your CMO weeks (or even months!) later.

Even if your software development team uses an Agile methodology, multiple forces prevent you from getting done what you need to get done in a timely manner. You need to know the answer yesterday, not six months from now. This arduous process simply won’t cut it anymore.

The TMS empowers the digital marketer to make changes, just like this one, without waiting for the development team or a change approval. If you understand the basics of web development, you won’t need any technical assistance. You can test and launch your tags in a matter of minutes, getting you the information you need sooner. It’s a configuration change, not a coding one! This is fundamental marketing agility, created simply by adopting a tag management system.

Loosely Couple Your Marketing Technologies

Technology architects and software developers (at least, the good ones) use the phrase “separation of concerns” to describe how to build loosely coupled, flexible and maintainable software. It means that every facet of the technology should do exactly what it’s intended to do and nothing more. For example, the code that changes a button color shouldn’t be in the same place as the code that reads from a database. The tag management system allows you to architect your marketing technology platform, using the same “separation of concerns” principle.

Without a TMS your technology integration tends to be more point-to-point. If you need to integrate web application (A) with a CRM (B), you add the code to A that talks directly to B. You have integration code in your web application that is specific to lead tracking, but the web application is supposed to only worry about rendering content. You’ve tightly coupled these technologies, because you’ve intermingled their “concerns.” If you decide to switch to a different CRM, you have to change both it and the web application. This shouldn’t pass the enterprise architecture smell test.

Learning Opportunities

Using a TMS, the change is a configuration, so you don’t have to touch technology A to replace technology B. You simply have to change the tags and rules defined in the TMS, which then does all the work. It reduces the cost and risk associated with evolving your marketing technology platform. It separates the concerns of the technologies. Thus, it improves your ability to adapt to inevitable change.

Build a Complete Customer Context

If you need to share contextual data across your marketing technologies (let’s face it, you probably do), architecting your platform becomes even more challenging. With a point-to-point architecture, you can only really share the data you anticipate needing, because you have to build that data sharing into your direct integrations. Context data from technology A must be sent directly to B, C and whatever else needs it. This makes it very difficult to build a complete, accurate customer context.

The tag management system resolves this by providing a “data layer.” This is a data abstraction that the TMS shares across all of the technologies it integrates. Each technology can add to or read from the data layer as it requires. Using the data layer, you build and leverage that customer context in real time, improving your ability to personalize your marketing message. You democratize your customer data for the technologies that need to use it.

You Should Get Started Today

I’m willing to bet that your organization is grappling with how to build a technology platform that enables you to understand and interact with your customers. Customer experience management, executed using marketing technology, is one of the defining challenges that the current generation of marketers will face. Today’s technologies (tag management systems in particular) are finally empowering digital marketers to build that customer experience platform.

It’s not hard to see how you can use these ideas to create an ROI justification for a tag management system. With free options like Adobe Dynamic Tag Manager (if you’re an Adobe customer), Google Tag Manager and some others, you can experiment with using tag management for close to nothing. Tag management is a key piece in the modern digital marketing puzzle. TMS adoption is low, but it won’t be for long. Tag management will continue to evolve, further enabling you to architect an effective marketing technology platform. It’s time to get ahead of this curve.

Title image by Fer Gregory (Shutterstock)

About the author

Ryan Lunka

Ryan is the co-founder and CEO at Blended Edge, which helps software teams deliver integrations faster, easier and more cost effectively. He’s a former head of product and COO for an integration software vendor who served digital commerce and retail merchants.

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