Tag Management: The ROI of Free

Ever since Google released a free version of Google Analytics, we have discussed the inherent trap of using a “free” analytics solutions — that trap being a lack of investment in the people needed to drive value from the solutions. And while many companies continue to fall into that trap, and fail to drive value from free solutions, the industry has reached a state of maturity where many other companies are in fact driving amazing value from free platforms.

Recently, there was a conversation started by Ensighten, a historical frontrunner in the tag management space, that suggested that “with a free TMS, marketers get what they pay for.”


Ensighten's View of Free TMS

Free, Basic and Enterprise: How Tag Management Has Evolved into a 3-Tiered Market by Karen Wood, Product Marketing Director, Ensighten


At 33 Sticks, we feel that this categorization of free TMS solutions shows a general lack of understanding of the tag management industry. And more than that, we feel that Ensighten is failing to recognize the massive value that 33 Sticks and other talented analytics agencies are driving for clients using solutions such as Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Adobe Dynamic Tag Management (DTM), not to mention the wealth of companies doing incredibly innovative things, with these solutions, without the use of outside agencies.


Limited Tags

All you need to do is look at the pre-built tags in Google Tag Manager to see that free solutions are anything but limited to the parent vendor’s suite of tags.

GTM Tags

In addition, both GTM and DTM allow for custom tag creation, so any number of tags can be deployed. At 33 Sticks, we have leveraged these platforms to deploy:

  • Every imaginable paid marketing conversion tag
  • Optimization and personalization platforms such as Adobe Target, Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, and Conductrics
  • DMPs like BlueKai and Adobe Audience Manager
  • Analytics solutions like KISSmetrics, Piwik, Mixpanel, Quantcast, Keen.io and many others (Not to mention Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics)

These solutions are anything but a walled garden, if anything they are greatly expanding the marketing stack that is available for digital organizations.


Lack of SLAs

“Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box ’cause he wants you to feel all warm and toasty inside…ya figure you put that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might come by and leave a quarter…the point is, how do you know the fairy isn’t a crazy glue sniffer?” ~Tommy Boy

The actual point is that guarantees and SLAs all come down to how you execute…talk is cheap. Our experience, specifically with Adobe, is that the support is at a level of what we expect of enterprise level solutions — issue resolution has been quick and professional, uptime has exceeded industry benchmarks, and access to product personnel has been unparalleled by other vendors in the industry.


Degraded Experience

To suggest that using a free TMS leads to a degraded experience is simply showing a lack of understanding of the market.

We have personally witnessed our clients experience an accelerated maturity of their digital practice by leveraging a free TMS.  Not only has the internal experience been greatly improved with the addition of a GTM or DTM, but the end user experience has been drastically improved as well as we have helped our clients, leveraging a free TMS platform, close the loop from acquisition, to experience, to remarketing and renewal.


We strongly advise our clients to have an in-depth understanding of the tag management market and the various offerings that are available. While there are many conversations to be had by your organization on which TMS platform is right for you and your unique business challenges, the major concern you need to address with a free solution, is not one of being enterprise ready, rather the critical question you need to answer is, is your organization willing to invest heavily in people to make use of the platform?

Jason Thompson
Jason is the co-founder of 33 Sticks. In addition to being an amateur chef and bass player, he can also eat large amounts of sushi. As an analytics and optimization expert, he brings over 12 years of experience, going back to being part of the original team at Omniture.