Last night, MnSearch, a non-profit organization dedicated to the progression of search marketing in Minnesota, hosted another great event in Minneapolis. This month’s event, ‘Tagging and Tracking Custom Events and the Customer Journey’ provided helpful insights on navigating the customer path. There were two awesome speakers that shared their knowledge – and jokes – with the group.

Variables Are the Building Blocks

First up, the humorous Josh Lauer, Marketing & SEO Analyst from Leadpages in Minneapolis, presented Tag Management Will Set You Free. Josh’s message was all about empowering search marketing professionals to implement custom event tracking without the help of developers. With readily available and well documented tools like the gold standard Google Tag Manager, truly anyone can edit the code on a website through a very user friendly dashboard. While we love our developers, let’s free up some of their time and tackle tracking on our own.

Josh states that variables are the building blocks. Breaking down the components of the customer journey allows marketers to build a greater picture of what users are looking for, how they got there, and what you can do to enhance the experience. Utilizing a tag management system allows you to easily track almost anything on a website. You can track email links, phone calls, forms, 3rd party pixels, downloads (pdf, doc, etc.), and even specify what part of a website’s navigation was clicked, all without the necessity of a web developer.

If you’re unsure whether you set up your GTM tracking properly, there are tools like Google Tag Assistant and Tag Manager Assistant that can help you identify any possible issues. Both are free tools, and both will help you work out bugs before deploying your updated tags onto your production (live) site.

While following the process provided on a tag management platform is generally easy, Josh provides this dose of caution, “a common mistake is to forget the closing script tag, which results in showing code on the footer of the page.” Nobody wants to see seemingly illegible text on a website, so be sure to add those pesky closing script tags.

The Measurement Problem

Next up, Alex Andrews, Sr. Analyst & Solution Architect on the Measurement and Activation group at Ovative/group, presented Connecting the Dots – Analytics & the Customer Journey. Alex’s message was about the holy grail of marketing – understanding the value added from each touch point in the customer’s journey. The biggest reminder of the night, the customer journey is not one straight line. You can say that again. The customer journey is not one straight line. In today’s world of email blasts, mobile banner ads, desktop display ads, and all the many ways customers interact with your brand, it’s tough to sort out attribution and give credit to the proper marketing channel.

Perhaps the most useful (and complicated) bit of the night, Alex walked us through a real-life example of how he tied offline conversions to the various online touch-points to give a more holistic understanding of how the user interacted with the brand. He showed us how we could manipulate the data to be shared between platforms like Google Analytics, CRMs, Facebook Insights, etc. Although the concept of how this data sharing works is simple to understand, the actual implementation of such granular tracking and attribution can become much more complicated – which is why professionals like Alex and Gemini AMS exist to help brands implement these practices.

One thing to note, however, is that each of the marketing platforms above exist to serve a very defined purpose in understanding your marketing tactics in its respective channel. Using these platforms as stand-alone tools allows for optimization in that channel, while the complicated connection of these tools give the holistic picture that all marketers wish to understand.

Lastly, a holistic data approach will ensure you covered all of your marketing bases. Taking targeted and pragmatic steps to incrementally improve your visibility is the first step; don’t just rely on your toolset to be doing this for you. And make sure to align the right goal to the right channel. This part seems simple, but is often overlooked. Remember: the customer journey doesn’t end after the first conversion. Understanding downstream events is just as important as understanding the touch-points in the path that got them there.

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