Tagging strategy for marketing automation

Tagging Strategy For Marketing Automation

Shane Herring
Shane Herring

Course Developer at Atomic Education

Last Updated: March 20, 2021

Segmenting your marketing list is one way we can send highly relevant email content and to manage our list. One tactic for segmenting contacts is the use of tags.

Many email service providers (ESP) such as ActiveCampaign and Mailchimp have the ability to add tags to your contacts. Because of this, you don’t need more than one list.

If you start using tags without a plan, you will quickly have tags that you don’t seem to be using or no longer remember what they’re used for.

Using tags in your ESP starts with planning. In other words, you need a tagging strategy.

The structure of my tags let me know why the tag is there and what the contact may be doing.

In this article, I give you my tag strategy for marketing automation.

What are tags?

Many email marketing and marketing automation platforms let us take advantage of “tags”. Tags add layers of additional information to each contact in your list so that you can use that extra layer of information to create subsets of contacts. They can also be used to control the flow of information so we can deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.

Think of them as a digital post-it note that can be pinned to one or more contacts.

When they are used the right way, tags are an indispensable tool to help you segment your list and send highly focused marketing campaigns to get you the very best results.

They key takeaway here is that tags are a segmentation tool and segmentation leads to personalisation, and personalisation is the reason why over 80% of customers are likely to do business with a company, according to Epsilon Research.

Start with categories

The first step is to create tag categories. Some ESPs, such as Infusionsoft can create actual categories. Others, such as ActiveCampaign don’t. If you using an ESP that doesn’t have the ability to apply user prefixes. Make sure your prefix is easy to understand without having to resort to a cheat sheet.

If you want to simplify and make sure it’s understandable, use abbreviations. For example, my tagging strategy abbreviates Lead source to LS and Lead magnet to LM. They’re shorter and still understandable.

Some of the categories, along with the abbreviation, I use are:

Interest (INT) – Because of the way my business is structured, I want to know which product or service a contact is interested in. Knowing their interests let me send highly relevant emais with content related to their interest.

Member (MBR) – These tags track contacts who have purchased a plan on my membership site. They also show their membership level and their subscription status.

Status (STATUS) – These tags let me see where a contact is on their customer journey. Where in my sales funnel they sit. Because I’m tracking their customer journey, I can send highly relevant content based on their funnel position.

Lead magnet (LM) – This tag shows me which lead magnet a contact is interested in. This is also an indicator on their level of experience.

Meta (META) – Because I want to keep the number of categories to a minimum, this last category helps me track other non sales or marketing specific information. Information such as when a contact last opened an email or visited my website.

The format for my categories is the abbreviation followed by a colon as a separator. For example, LM:

You can see that the prefixes explain what the tags in that category are used for. They’re easily understandable without having to refer to a list.

Using a descriptor

After the category comes the descriptor. Within a category you can have one or more descriptors (my word for this). For example, your descriptors for the category STATUS could look like this:

You can see that within the STATUS category, I’m describing where in their customer journey my contact is. This lets me send communications relevant to their status. A prospect will receive different email content to a customer.

Using a qualifier

Some of my tags include a qualifier. Qualifiers give me more information I can use to manage contacts. For example, the tag MBR: Bronze will have a qualifier which indicates the status of a contact’s membership.

In order, the qualifiers are the bronze membership is active, a payment has failed, the membership is suspended, and the membership is cancelled.

Tracking & managing your tags

Because not all ESPs are the same, this is where the information get specific. I use ActiveCampaign, so the following information is based on that. The ESP you use may not fully support the ideas presented below.

Not all ESPs make the tracking of tag usage easy. Unless you keep your own records, you will lose track of where tags are used especially in integrated third-party tools such as Gravity Forms or Zapier.

To keep track of tag usage, my spreadsheet has additional columns.

Triggers – Used to note where a tag comes from. For example, a tag might be applied by; an ActiveCampaign automation, a Zapier process, or a plugin such as ActiveWoo.

Linked Automations – Lets me keep track of which automations use the tag. These automations might; apply or remove the tag, send emails or apply list management strategies.

Notes – A final general column to keep track of any extra information that is relevant to the tag.

Wrap up

Once you have your categories listed and the descriptors added, you basically have the tags that you use within your ActiveCampaign account. Plan with thought because as your business progresses, it can become time consuming to make changes. Especially if you haven’t documented your tag usage.

Start with only the categories and descriptors you want to use right now. New tags are easy to create so don’t plan too far in advance.

In conclusion, if you want resources to help you develop your own strategy, get my Quick start guide to tagging and my Tagging strategy worksheet. It has examples of how I use tags. Use it as it is or adapt to your own needs.

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The Guide to Marketing Automation


The Guide to Email Marketing


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The Automated Campaign Worksheet

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