How to Use Tags in Your CRM

Posted by | April 19, 2013 | Marketing Advice | 3 Comments

When I experienced my first Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program around 2000, I don’t remember ever seeing or using “Tags.” Instead the CRM I started with (ACT!) used Categories. Then you were able to “multi-categories” contacts. Fast forward a few years, when CRMs went cloud based, companies started something new: TAGS. The confusing part is that many CRMs have several things that are related: Tags, Categories and Type. In this post, I’ll focus on Tags, because this is a question I get asked often.

What is a Tag?

Nutshell CRM’s website does the best job of describing what a tag in a CRM program is and what it does.

Tags are a way to organize your data in ways that are more customized to your company. You can generate lists of contacts, accounts, and leads based on their tags.

A few examples of how I’ve seen tags being used for contacts: Designers, Architects, Design-Build Firm, Website, Google, Do Not Contact Again, A+ Client and so forth. 

Avoid the Bad Habit of Using Tags Too Much

It is easy to have fun tagging contacts. Yet don’t forget, the search functions in many CRM programs today are very powerful. I find it much more quick to use the search function and a keyword/phrase and find what I need. My CRM Base and Google Apps, for example, have keyword rich searches now. Therefore I’ve avoided spending too much time tagging contacts. I like the general rule for tags, “Less is Better.” So avoid too much tagging or you’ll then be hunting through tags to find what you need. I’ve seen this mistake made in a program I use called Evernote. A user will save an article, a note, a file etc. and then create a new tag. Pretty soon, a user has 100 tags with only a couple items in each tag (which is basically a category).

My Favorite Way of Using Tags Today

Keeping with my “less is better approach,” here are a few recommendations:

  1. Create a short list of tags for your company to use and stick to this plan. Don’t keep making up new tags, or it will get out of hand. I did this last week for a client using Pipeline Deals. They got into the bad habit of having lots of tags that they did not need. Each person in the company had their idea of what they called a tag! We created a Google Document and shared it with their team of the Master Tags and Secondary Tags. Now everyone is on the same page and are not allowed to add to the list!
  2. Use tags for very specific purposes: This might include a mailing campaign or email list. If you want to send a mailer to your commercial clients, have a tag called “Commercial Clients.” If you want to send an email blast to your residential clients only, create a tag called “Residential Clients.” If you don’t want to keep things even more simple, I have a few clients who have a general tag “Commercial” and “Residential.” Why? Because they don’t want to separate out leads and customers. They want everyone to be included in a mailing or email. It is up to you. 
  3. Small or Temporary Projects: A manager of his sales team can use tags and assign them to an office or salesperson to follow up. So he can have a tag called, “Monday Follow Up List.” He can have a person click on that tag each monday morning and know which contacts to follow up on that day. When he or she is finished calling, he simply removes the tag from that contact. You get the idea.

Tagging, if used correctly, can be a very helpful tool to manage your organization.

Do You Find Tags Helpful or a Royal Pain? Let me know in the comments below how you use, avoid or plan on using tags moving forward.

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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  • Peter says:

    This was my idea of using tags too. Overusing tags is the worst, I agree. However, with your experience, perhaps you might be more specific and mention real examples of tags you use. Do you use tagging to separate people from different stages of sales funnel? Do you separate people based on the ones who only get personal emails vs people to whom you send email blasts? Thanks!

  • David Chism says:

    Good questions on tagging! I need to update this blog from 2013!

    I just hired a salesperson who will be focusing on using TAGS more when she uses the CRM. She will be using it for all sorts of things. Tags are still both short term and long term. So we’ll have a few that will be temporary and ones that will remain. If someone prefers email over a phone call, she will use a specific tag for that “contact by email” “contact best by phone” — she can and will use tags such as:

    “best time to contact: AM”
    “best time to contact: PM”
    “type of lead – owner of business”
    “type of lead – gatekeeper”
    “No Gatekeeper”
    “Send Thank you gift”
    “Ask for Referrals”

    Really it depends on how and why you are using Tags. You can email me to chat more if you have specific questions.

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