This article was sponsored by Tealium. Thanks for supporting the sponsors who make SitePoint possible!
In a previous article about tag management, I wrote about its advantages and gave advice on the best ways to put it to use. It seems like an obvious choice to use tag management to deploy and manage the various code snippets used by services like Google Analytics, Optimizely, Criteo and many others. Your IT department will more than appreciate the time they save on implementing code, and your marketing team will love the fact they can launch new revenue-generating campaigns without the hassle of going through tons of approval stages. It’s a win-win for both sides.
In that article I also introduced Tealium, an enterprise level specialist in tag management. As you can see in the comments from that article, the first question that popped up was, why should people pay for a service they could get for free from another vendor.
This is a question you could ask for almost any enterprise tool, since there’s almost always at least one free alternative in the same product category. I don’t mind paying for a product (even with a free alternative around), as long as the cost is justified.
What I want to see in an enterprise tag management product is vendor neutrality, robust privacy features, a strong service level agreement, an advanced feature set, and professional support. This article will cover eight essential reasons you should choose a paid or enterprise tag management product over a free alternative. Let’s take a look!
1. Robust Tag Deployment Support
For an enterprise tag management tool, widespread vendor tag support is of the utmost importance because it ensures that users can deploy their mission-critical solutions as easy as possible. This is one of the main reasons to opt for an enterprise tag management solution. In most cases, no matter how specialized the tool you wish to integrate, an enterprise product already has a current integration for it, or is flexible enough to allow for a custom-built integration.
Great vendor support in tag management means a true vendor tag “marketplace”, with hundreds of tags from every popular application available for turnkey deployment via tag templates. Enterprise solutions are the only ones that can offer such a larger array of major solutions. This is in stark contrast to free tag management solutions, which often cover just a narrow band of these tags, with some only offering support for their own products.
2. Vendor Neutrality
Vendor support is one thing, vendor neutrality is even more important. Not being limited to specific technologies or products gives an enterprise tool an enormous advantage.
Free tools are often focused on compatibility with the free vendor’s other products. If those products are all you’re using, a free tool might not be such a bad choice, providing you’re certain you won’t want to use tools from other best-of-breed providers in the future. But what if you do want to remain vendor-agnostic, and use tools from a number of different providers? Your best bet is to opt for an enterprise solution.
With an enterprise tool, you can be assured that superior integration efforts are given to all supported tools or technologies, not just the ones offered by the free vendor. This means far more flexibility for users and increased marketing agility.
This is particularly true in the tag management space, which is all about flexibility. Sure, most free tools will let you add your own custom code, but if you’re a marketer you’ll need to get developers heavily involved to deploy and test the code, costing valuable time.
Vendor neutrality should be a huge priority when choosing a tag management solution. Not having it severely reduces the ability to use the applications you want to use, and the ability to deploy them as quickly as possible.
3. Dedicated Customer Support
Support can make or break a product. Without proper customer support, a product is almost useless. With an advanced tool like tag management, it’s very convenient to be able to call on a support desk — or in some cases a dedicated account manager — to help you out with a particular issue. You’re not entirely lost without customer support, but in most cases this means wading through search results and forum threads to find a solution for your problem.
Enterprise tools take support far more seriously, offering options like account managers, one-on-one technical and product support, user conferences or ‘universities’, in-person training and online learning communities.
Now compare that to free products: how many hours have you spent trying to track down answers to your questions, relying on agency partners, or struggling on your own during an outage or critical marketing campaign launch?
4. A Service Level Agreement
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) often covers a number of things, of which uptime is the most prominent. Enterprise vendors know the value of a good SLA, making sure maximum uptime is achieved. A tight SLA shows a provider has enough confidence in its product that they can reach a nearly perfect service uptime. Free providers often don’t have any SLA in place, which means you have no recourse in case of downtime. It also doesn’t give them an incentive to aim for perfection, since it doesn’t affect their bottom line.
Another major difference between an enterprise provider and a free provider is the risk that the free provider may suddenly discontinue its product. Offering a free product doesn’t always mean the provider is losing money – in most cases the free offering is subsidized by other products, advertising or with a paid version. However, when the cost of providing a free product interferes with monetization, the free product is often terminated. Even the largest companies do this if they don’t find the product viable, or simply decide to focus on their other products.
While it is always possible that an enterprise company can go out of business, the likelihood that an enterprise solution will be terminated is very low, since the product sales represent the livelihood of the company. For example, just think of how many free Google tools and services have entered the Google Graveyard in the last few years.
5. Comprehensive Privacy Control Features
As privacy concerns rise everyday, so does the level of complexity required to keep track of various regulations, along with the practices it takes to comply with them. When running a popular site, your approach to privacy is almost as important as your content. Without robust privacy control features, and without clear policies in place for data collection, you’re risking high fines and even a shutdown. That’s not a risk that a serious business can afford to take.
With a plethora of tags used on your site, it’s easy to lose track of which company is collecting which data about your visitors. Making even small mistakes in this area puts you at potential risk with various compliance laws around the globe (after all, you’re responsible, not the vendor). A perfect example is the “cookie law” in Europe. Imagine the difficulty involved in keeping up with this law in every European country you sell your products in. In addition, you’ll also want control of what part of your visitor data is sent to third parties.
Some enterprise tag solutions offer a privacy preferences widget, to help with the opt-in/opt-out process. They can also offer data validation tools to monitor data leakage, and site scanning features to hunt for unmanaged tags on a site.
Don’t expect much from free providers here though. They’re focused on reducing liability, keeping all risks on your end and leaving you on your own if anything goes wrong.
6. Full Mobile Support
Another thing you should expect from an enterprise tag management tool is support of mobile apps and technologies. With mobile usage always on the rise there’s an increasing number of specialized marketing tools that are being used in mobile apps. Of course each of these tools has its own set of code to be implemented, and it isn’t as easy as putting a few lines of code on a web page.
Each platform, from iOS, Android, Windows to Blackberry (still popular with large enterprises), requires its own set of development libraries. Enterprise tools can cater to this via specialized SDKs, and some offer support for multiple mobile cross-platform development tools, such as Unity, PhoneGap and Titanium. Free tools offer limited mobile support or sometimes no support at all.
7. Advanced Customization and Flexibility
Free vendors don’t offer anywhere near the level of advanced customization that enterprise products provide.
Some enterprise tag management services provide different methods of customization for your data and tags – all without having to write any code. For example, Tealium’s e-commerce extension allows you to automatically send consistent order completion data to all of your key digital marketing vendors. In addition, Tealium offers extensions for split segmentation, cryptographic hashing, content modification, jQuery handling, data validation and more. These customizations will save countless hours of custom programming and debugging.
There are also important tags that require synchronous loading so as not to create a “flicker” on sites using A/B testing or personalization tools. Some free tag managers, such as Google, do not support synchronous tag loading so users are not able to leverage these important solutions.
Enterprise tag managers also support more sophisticated tag firing rules, which help to optimize your data collection and site performance by only launching the tags when they are needed, and not haphazardly on all pages of the site.
8. Data Activation
Enterprise tag management solutions can offer complementary services like real-time segmentation and digital data distribution platforms, allowing marketers to take action based on the insights of their data collection or segmentation and increase results using their existing applications.
With tag management as a starting point, these services allow marketers to define and segment their key audiences, enrich all visitor attributes with information from multiple touch points, and then move this data in real time to their other marketing systems, such as email, retargeting and CRM vendors. The data that comes from your tag management service can go on to influence your whole marketing strategy.
Data activation services like these take tag management further, providing the ability to drive action to increase results. This is in contrast to free tag management solutions, which help with managing a limited range of solutions, but don’t offer a way to put them to work in concert to deliver such services.
As long as there are free and enterprise products available within a specific segment of a market, people will ask whether the advantages enterprise products bring make them worth the cost. Given the considerations listed above, it’s safe to say that for serious, growing businesses, enterprise tag management solutions are more than justified. Ultimately, it all depends on the functionality you need, the number of solutions you are using, the risks you’re willing to take, and the level of support you desire. An enterprise solution will help you achieve your digital marketing goals that much faster.
If you’d like to read about someone else’s experience in moving from free tool to an enterprise solution, please read this article, “Google Tag Manager Graduation Day“.
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