Seer Interactive Innovates Customer Value And Saves Thousands On Ad Spend

Seer Interactive’s Associate Director of Engineering adopted a modern data stack, enabling their team to create dashboards that empowered impactful client recommendations and more efficient advertising dollars.

Key Takeaways

  • Moving from homegrown pipelines to open-source and finally to Fivetran, Seer saved dozens of hours a week for engineers and 720+ hours a year for account managers to focus more time on uncovering insights.
  • A modern data stack enabled the creation of their Impact Tracker dashboard, which surfaces metrics like website traffic changes and upticks in conversion volume to zero in on effective optimizations recommended from their 100+ Account Managers.
  • Thousands of advertising dollars saved by preventing overspending with the Budget Tracker dashboard that tracks the pace between both spending and budgets across Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.
  • Leadership team was uniquely prepared to act as industry thought-leaders and speak to digital trends impacts from COVID-19 despite widespread ambiguity due to easy access to aggregated data.

Data Stack

By 2022, Gartner Marketing survey respondents predict 85% of their marketing organization’s decisions will be based on marketing analytics. But in the last year, CMOs report struggling to adopt even rudimentary analytics capabilities.

While the marketing industry pushes for stronger metrics and measurement, there are very few resources on the technical implementation of a process that would enable such insights. That’s because the industry is only just beginning to learn about the modern data stack.

Seer Interactive, a digital performance marketing agency, found itself in the same position as many companies trying to attain a more advanced method of handling their marketing data. They turned to a modern data stack powered by Fivetran to enable the company and its customers to benefit from a better, faster, and more reliable way to manage their marketing data.

Today, the Seer team’s full-fledged, data-first approach helps the company carry out valuable marketing efforts from A/B testing to URL scraping, and speak to high-level seasonality impacts — all tied back to specific data points.

The Path to a Stronger Data Integration Solution

The spreadsheet headaches

Before moving to an automated consolidated data solution, the Account team at Seer handled client reporting and requests for data in a traditional way. An Account Manager would email their client, request admin access, navigate to platforms like Google Analytics, Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, and download csv export files from each. Then, they’d spend hours merging spreadsheets together and eventually, identify insights to send to their client.

Monthly reporting for clients was a huge hassle. Account Managers would set aside up to an entire working week every month to merge and transform spreadsheets, some in Excel, others in Google Docs. The goal was to identify meaningful insights to send to clients monthly, but manual spreadsheet creation, editing, and double-checking slowed the team down. Logging into platforms, downloading csv files, and merging together with Excel was time-consuming, tedious and error-prone.

In one instance, a misplaced zero in manual budget reporting led to Seer having to pay out $200,000 to a prospective client.

Despite its glaring faults, this spreadsheet method is still commonly used across industries, but is quickly becoming outdated with the marketing industry push to adopt an approach that allows for faster analysis with greater amounts of data and fewer errors, empowering true data-driven decision making.

Ethan Lyon, Associate Director of Engineering at Seer, recognized the industry shifts and felt the team’s negative sentiments to existing processes. He knew that in the age of cloud-based data warehouses, a better solution had to exist.

“I told our CEO, you have the innovation, you have the ideas — you just need access to the data.”

With the CEO’s buy-in, Seer created the Innovation team led by Christina Blake (Product Lead), Drew Meyer (Director of Product) and Ethan. The team was tasked with centralizing all their data effectively and began to explore options for data integration.

Testing the waters with open-source ETL

Open-source tools seemed like a well-known, cost-effective, and quick solution to the Seer team. After testing and running into issues, it was clear that while both the open-source route and an ETL tool may appear to have different costs associated, the time investment translated to monetary investment wasn’t worth it for a smaller team looking to make a timely impact.

As the team grew from a team of one to a team of few, building a homegrown data integration solution felt like re-inventing the wheel.

With an open-source tool, technical issues and feature requests are submitted to a community which is part of the time investment necessary to use these types of tools.

“Imagine your car needs repair; open-source is like fixing your own engine, while Fivetran is like taking your car to the shop. Fixing it yourself takes a lot more time and money — leaving you wishing you had taken your car to the shop in the first place.”

Too much time was taken away from meaningful data operations. After a year of time and investment going the open-source route only to get partial Google Ads data and have to manually intervene when issues occurred, Seer realized it was time for a better solution.

Finding growth with Fivetran

After testing out open-source ETL tools, the Seer team knew they needed to move to a fully-managed, automated data integration tool in order to scale their processes without heavy technical intervention.

That’s what led them to Fivetran: “We identified Fivetran as the company that would be able to grow with us as we continue to add on more and more clients.”

Ethan began to realize Fivetran’s value as a growth company when he first added a connector. The Seer team historically adds and removes fields across their marketing analytics sources on a regular basis. A previous vendor required them to delete and re-add a connector every time a field was updated, but Fivetran’s automated schema migration handled this process in initial connections and updates down the line.

In more contrast to his previous experience, Fivetran deprecated a field that Ethan and his team often used. Within 24 hours, Ethan put in a ticket with the support team and the field was reinstated.

Jason Stinnett, Associate Data Engineer at Seer, found the Fivetran API documentation to be helpful. It was so easy to understand that Jason was able to start making requests and modifying Fivetran pipelines within a few hours.

The depth of Fivetran’s solution and customer support extends beyond today’s capabilities: “It feels like every week there’s something new coming out with Fivetran, and is being maintained.”

Most recently, Fivetran’s new dbt ad roll up package is the latest release Ethan and his team are excited to implement.

Upleveling Their Company and Their Clients

Uncovering key marketing metrics with a few clicks

Today, an Account Manager drags and drops fields like clicks, conversions, and spend to pull a report on their client’s marketing mix. With the strides Seer has made, Account teams now save over 720+ hours a year on reporting. Fivetran’s automated schema migration, BigQuery’s user-friendly attributes, and their data platform, Supernova, powered by Looker’s embedded analytics, ensure that Ethan and his team don’t have to do clean-up and Account teams operate on a self-service basis.

The Seer team is able to build strong data flows to layer Google Ads data and enrich with other data sources. This enables their teams to ask their clients and prospects deeper questions.

Recently, the term “bank account” all of a sudden experienced high volume on PPC platforms. The Seer team synced their data and identified that the keyword was related to a newly-released song by the rapper 21 Savage. Seer’s financial-sector clients saved a potential $60,000 in advertising dollars by identifying this trend quickly. Fivetran’s data syncs from 1 minute to 1 hour puts teams like Seer in control.

Some of this cutting edge data combinations has led to the creation of a dashboard at Seer called the Impact Tracker. Seer often makes recommendations to clients ranging from changing landing pages on a website to adding more content about a trending topic. The Impact Tracker dashboard reports on Seer’s client-specific recommendations, and pulls in metrics from Google Analytics to report out on how effective Seer’s recommendations have been for their clients.

For example: A Seer client is hearing executive pushback on how much their company is spending with Seer. They ask their Seer Account team to help them justify their marketing budget. Using the Impact Tracker dashboard, the Seer Account team can not only show metrics like the percentage of uplift in website traffic, but they can tie the uplift to a Seer-recommended change.

The Impact Tracker enables the Account teams to prove their value to clients, take credit for the impact driven and has the added benefit of making Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) seamless. In turn, this enables the Seer team to make their marketing point of contact at the client look stellar in front of their executive team as well.

The Innovation team made sure to provide the Leadership team access to valuable data as well by storing all aggregated client data in one place. Seer Leadership retains access to this, which enables them to view data with a big-picture perspective. When COVID-19 began to impact all industries and consumers across the U.S. in March 2020, Seer’s Leadership team was able to find answers during an ambiguous time.

“What happened to the words that people were searching for? What happened to our client’s CPC bids? We could start doing those analyses.”

And the $200,000 mistake due to a missed zero?

The Innovation team has ensured that won’t happen again with the creation of their Budget Tracker. Account teams can easily track if their clients’ advertising spend is on pace with the designated budgets from Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising, leading to visibility and accountability for the company and its clients.

What's next in digital marketing maturity

The rest of the marketing technology industry talks about crafting marketing strategies but grapples with execution. The Seer team bridged the gap across departments and teams to create a process that weaves data integration into the fabric of their company culture.

Data requests flow through the Innovation team, who scopes out the impact of the data and builds the foundation for multi-client use. They’re constantly chasing the biggest business impact for themselves and their clients - one scalable report at a time.

From here, the Innovation team will continue to live up to its name, and use Fivetran as a springboard to get even more data to spearhead more cutting edge initiatives.

The Seer team overcame the collective marketing industry struggle to adopt a strong marketing analytics solution through a scalable and reliable modern data stack, empowering their team to unlock insights to inform more efficient campaigns and effective recommendations.

One project that Seer has tackled with Fivetran is marrying the search query data between Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising with organic ranking data from their own keyword tracking tool to automate ongoing competitive analyses that uncover new and emerging competitors and low-hanging fruit optimizations, prioritized by search terms that drive revenue.

As Seer continues to grow, they’ll continue to partner with Fivetran, as “it would take two people a year to do what we’ve done with Fivetran in 10 minutes. So is it really worth it? Yeah.”

If you want to learn how a modern data stack can enable your company to produce strong insights and save money, start your 14-day free trial today.

About Fivetran: With an ever-growing arsenal of tools available to marketing teams, it’s more important than ever to centralize all of your data in a way that’s fast, reliable, and in real time to realize and analyze the full impact of your marketing efforts.

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