Newsela Powers Robust Marketing Analytics With Fivetran

Newsela saves over 70% on engineering costs while centralizing its data into Snowflake and building a sophisticated marketing influence model.

Key Result

With access to its raw data, the marketing operations team overcomes the limitations of in-app reporting, builds a brand index to measure brand awareness and visibility, and creates a marketing influence model to understand the impact of campaigns on the sales pipeline. By eliminating manual ETL and maintenance, Newsela estimates a cost savings of over 70%.

Data Stack

Newsela is a platform for educators that hosts relevant content from 100+ sources to help students and teachers meet their learning goals. Content is aligned to state educational standards and frameworks and covers subjects like ELA, science and social studies. To understand content performance, the business relies heavily on Salesforce and Marketo, but in-app reporting limitations were holding it back from having a holistic view of its data.

The Challenge: Limited Reporting Capabilities Within Applications

Newsela needed to join data together to generate insights, especially email data. The business uses three different email systems: Marketo for marketing emails, for sales emails, and SendGrid for product newsletters and updates. Without this data centralized, the marketing team lacked an understanding of email volume across all systems. “We need this email information available and reliable for analysis so that we can visualize it and create governance and controls,” says Joe Fusaro, Marketing Operations Manager at Newsela.

Creating a Marketing Influence Model With Centralized Salesforce Data

The marketing operations team uses campaign response data from Salesforce (visits, downloads, registrations for events, etc.) to generate a marketing influence model. The model looks at the impact of campaign responses on the sales pipeline, such as pipeline creation or acceleration. While this data is generated by Salesforce, it is only accessible via the data warehouse.

The model enables the team to understand the actual downstream impact its efforts have on the sales cycle beyond high-level numbers.“We have a lot of campaign member data: many millions of people in our database that are engaging with, and responding to, campaigns daily,” says Fusaro. “We need that to be reliable and available so that we can see which of the activities are helping to move the pipeline forward.”

Marketo Pipeline: Build vs. Buy

Newsela has 960 million events in Marketo: email engagements, email content clicks, web content clicks, webpage visits, etc. That volume of data can only be stored in the warehouse. While the business has the response data in Salesforce, it needed access to the raw data to understand content consumption patterns, such as size of a school district or buyer personas (e.g., school leaders vs. district leaders).

The team tried to build a pipeline internally for Marketo using the Marketo bulk API, but the API is extremely complicated. After months of work, the internal solution still suffered from performance issues and upkeep requirements. Newsela decided to abandon its internal solution and connect Marketo via Fivetran, having seen how easy it was to connect to Salesforce.

As Fusaro explains: “Marketo only stores certain attributes for 90 days, so I knew that the longer it took for us to launch the extraction process, the more valuable data we were losing forever. When we brought on Fivetran, the speed-to-value was huge.”

Building a Brand Index & Tracking Goals

The business hosts its quarterly goals in Google Sheets. With Fivetran bringing that data into Snowflake, the business can use Looker to visualize its marketing-qualified leads vs. the goal for the quarter. “We’re kicking up our sophistication and reporting with our data stack,” says Fusaro. “I’m rebuilding the quarterly goals model with additional dimensions we now have access to: by quarter by region, by quarter by program theme, and by quarter by product line.”

Fusaro is also working on a brand index that the business is excited about: “We’re conscious that not everything we do results in pipeline. There are things like visibility and brand awareness that we’re helping to grow.” The team has created a model that it is going to prototype into a Google Sheet, where it will pull in Google Analytics data, Google Search trend data, and social media monitoring data. Ultimately, the team will build a productionalized extraction process from Google Analytics. “We’ll be able to look at this weekly and monthly to see how our brand index is performing,” says Fusaro.

A Set-It-and-Forget-It Solution Saves Time and Reduces Costs

Newsela marketing and engineering teams have seen a lot of positive results with Fivetran:

  • Data drives decisions: “We’re able to confidently make decisions based on accurate and complete data,” says Fusaro. “We run our marketing meetings based on metrics and KPIs that are aligned with our sales team.”
  • More advanced analytics: Newsela was limited to basic reporting in Marketo, such as total delivery, click-through rate and bounce rate for emails. Now it can integrate that data with other sources and visualize it in Looker.
  • Cost savings: By bringing on Fivetran, Newsela has effortlessly added new sources and estimates a cost savings of 73% to 77%.
  • Reallocated resources: The engineer working on the Marketo API now focuses on the business’ Snowflake migration.

BI Manager Aaron Geerlings helped implement Fivetran, seeing it as a reliable solution that saves the engineering team time and enables it to focus on other projects: “When someone suggests building internally, I suggest we get the connector from Fivetran. It is truly set-it-and-forget-it and when there is an issue, the error messaging is clear and it is easy to read the logs and understand what is happening. Fivetran frees up my team to focus on data cleaning, data preparation, data modeling and data architecture. It has saved us a tremendous amount of time.”

About Fivetran: Shaped by the real-world needs of data analysts, Fivetran technology is the smartest, fastest way to replicate your applications, databases, events and files into a high-performance cloud warehouse. Fivetran connectors deploy in minutes, require zero maintenance, and automatically adjust to source changes — so your data team can stop worrying about engineering and focus on driving insights.

About Snowflake: Snowflake is the leading data warehouse built for the cloud. Its unique architecture delivers proven breakthroughs in performance, concurrency and simplicity. For the first time, multiple groups can access petabytes of data at the same time, up to 200 times faster and 10 times less expensive than solutions not built for the cloud. Snowflake is a fully managed service with a pay-as-you-go-model that works on structured and semi-structured data.

About Looker: Looker is a modern platform for data that offers data analytics and business insights to every department at scale, and easily integrates into applications to deliver data directly into the decision-making process.

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