How Screencastify syncs data with ActiveCampaign to better personalize emails | Census
Roslyn CoutinhoJanuary 05, 2023
Roz doubles as a product marketing manager and brand marketing manager at Census. She's a designer turned product manager, driven by curiosity and a constant desire to learn. San Francisco, California, United States
This interview is part of our Select Stars series, highlighting use cases of data and ops practitioners driving more impact by activating data in their business.
Zack Blois is the VP of Strategy and Operations at Screencastify, which provides an easy and simple way to create, share, and consume asynchronous videos. In this interview, Zack shares how and why he pivoted from marketing to operations, how he began working in data, and how his team improved email marketing by syncing data with ActiveCampaign.
What is your role at Screencastify?
I joined Screencastify about two years ago as the Director of Marketing. Screencastify was growing rapidly, and part of that growth was building out the marketing function. I was the second marketing hire and helped build our team from two members to seven.
As things progressed and marketing got more established, it became clear that I could help the company in operations as I have a revenue operations background and a marketing background. I was given the chance and the honor to move over into my current role, which is VP of Strategy and Operations. My goal is to build out this function, which includes revenue, operations, data, and strategy for the go-to-market group.
Your background isn’t in data engineering, yet you clearly have data and analytics skills. How did you get here?
I always joke that I've made a career out of doing things people didn't want to do or didn't have the time to do. Often, data analytics or CRM efforts get overlooked or teams assume the issues will be worked out on their own. But I’ve been interested in this area and am willing to dive in.
I started my career as a teacher, which is a great tie to what we do here at Screencastify because so many of our awesome users are educators. Joining was a way for me to get back to my roots a little bit, which was awesome.
After teaching, I made my way into marketing through a small EdTech company. I gravitated to operational components, including how to use relational databases within revenue organizations. I was very interested in building the architecture and the automation needed to get the data needed for our customers. I was also interested in ensuring we had the right information in our reports to know what was going on in the business.
Throughout my career, I’ve gravitated back toward operations and data. I've gotten a chance to work at growing companies and more established enterprises. I’ve built out data operations for different departments and occasionally for entire companies.
How is your data team organized?
We recently built a centralized data team that reports to me. Historically, data has been owned by different departments, and we often collaborated directly to handle those needs. Now, it’s finally become centralized.
Can you describe your data stack today?
At a high level, everything revolves around a data warehouse. We use BigQuery as our primary warehousing tool, then we operate off of a hub-and-spoke model where we set up our upstream data architecture in BigQuery.
We think a lot about the “keys” between our tools. We sync BigQuery and dbt with ActiveCampaign, for example, for our user communication and engagement efforts, and we sync BigQuery with Salesforce for a lot of our aggregated data.
We also use Pendo for product engagement and we're bringing a lot of product-level data that isn't already captured by Pendo into the tool through a number of different keys. This helps us improve personalization.
Generally, we rely heavily on a central source of truth, then go directly to the endpoints that allow us to engage and help our customers in the best way possible.
What challenges have you encountered when it comes to managing data?
I’m part of a marketing operations Slack community, and a fellow member brought up how they were using Census to migrate data out of their data warehouse into their different endpoints. A light bulb went off in my head as I realized that was a challenge at Screencastify.
Basically, our data warehouse was our record of truth and we trusted it. The challenge for us was migrating that data into our tools in a way that made sense. Census was attractive to us because I could set it up on my own. Although I can get my hands dirty with some SQL, I’m certainly not a full-time data professional.
The fact that I really could build this portion of the data pipeline in literally 15 minutes was a huge selling point. And it works really well. It scales really well, and it allowed us to do some sophisticated things that literally at other companies had taken me months to work with a data team to build when you think about data pipelines in one day, essentially.
Show & Tell: Syncing Data to ActiveCampaign
We use ActiveCampaign for engaging users outside of our product (i.e. our marketing and product emails are housed and sent in the tool). One of our goals was to get product data and usage data for individual users into our ActiveCampaign destination so we could better personalize our messaging.
For example, we like to send status updates and reporting metrics to our users to let them know how many videos they’ve made within the product. The information helps us, as well, because we can start to understand where usage is high or low over given time periods, and then start to provide additional enrichment or potentially some help if we see that users aren’t engaged.
We have a free version of Screencastify, as well, and part of our strategy is to identify when users are good candidates for upgrading. Although users can get a lot of value from our free version, there are some limitations. We can start to see when a user might be running into those limitations based on their usage, and then send messages to help them understand the benefits of upgrading.
Historically, we had relied on a custom API to push data to Active Campaign to personalize and automate our emails. This custom API worked okay, but product and engineering had to maintain it. As fields were added, we would have to update the API. Census allowed us to make updates and builds quickly, ultimately pushing product usage data directly into ActiveCampaign.
What advice would you give to those with a similar use case that want to use a reverse ETL tool?
Think about your business objectives before anything else. You have to consider what’s good for your customer and what’s good for the business. Census is an incredibly flexible tool that allows you to use the tools you’re already using in the way that you want. I recommend that folks start with their business requirements that Census can help support. Once you’ve nailed down your objectives, you can start to expand and evolve from there.