Google Analytics + Analytics Technologies Like Snowflake
More About This Week’s Guest
Nick The founder of Das42 provides strategic direction and business support to many types of businesses and industries, applying his technical abilities, product management experience, and understanding of eCommerce and technology companies
He has held senior roles in analytics and business intelligence at four eCommerce companies, including Jet.com during hyper-growth and Etsy through their IPO. He previously worked at NERA Economic Consulting where he assisted in econometric analysis and statistical programming in antitrust litigation for Fortune 500 companies. He has over 10 years of experience designing and implementing analytical and technical solutions for businesses as an analyst, engineer, and consultant.
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Intro: Welcome to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS podcast, where Jonathan Denwood interviews the leading experts in WordPress, e-learning, and online marketing to help WordPress professionals launch their own SaaS.
Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic this week in SaaS is episode 679. My normal co-hosts have deserted me, tribe, but we have our old friend of the show returning to the WP-Tonic interview show; I have my close friend and colleague John Locke joining us. We also have a fantastic guest; we have Nick Amabile, hopefully, I haven’t butchered his surname; he’s the founder of DAS42.
We’re going to be talking about all things technology around data, Google Analytics, Snowflake, I have no idea what that is, but Nick’s going to be telling us, it sounds a bit dry, but Nick knows how to explain this in a way that’s entertaining and take it from me, tribe, it’s really, really important. John, can you quickly introduce yourself to the tribe, John?
John Locke: Yeah, I’m John from Lockedown SEO and we help manufacturing and industrial companies with search engine optimization.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. And Nick, can you give us a quick ten-second intro?
Nick Amabile: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, thanks for having me, John, and Jonathan. So, yeah, I’m Nick, I’m the CEO of DAS42; DAS42 is a boutique data and analytics consulting firm, and we help everyone from big fortune 500 companies all the way down to small startups and everyone in between make business value out of their data and analytics. So, excited to be here today to chat more about it.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great, Nick. Before we go into the real core of this interview, I’ve got a quick message from our major sponsor Castos; we’ll be back in a few moments.
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back, and by the way, Castos has a great special offer for you, the tribe, plus some of the other sponsors, plus I’ve got a long list of plugin recommendations, services, everything that you might find useful as a power user or agency owner to get all these goodies; the only thing you have to do is go over the wp-tonic/recommendations, and it’s all there for you. So, Nick can you go into some background about yourself, why you started DAS42? What was the trigger for the madness, Nick? Why did you decide to go into the crazy world of Google Analytics and data in general?
Nick Amabile: Well, yeah, sometimes I ask myself that.
Jonathan Denwood: I’ll bet you do.
Nick Amabile: What am I doing?
Jonathan Denwood: I do it every day, John will testify for that.
Nick Amabile: No. So, I’ve always kind of had an interest in quantitative things, and I went to school for economics, but sort of right before I started DAS42, I was most recently the head of business intelligence at jet.com, which is a big eCommerce company that got sold to Walmart. And prior to that, I was working in senior analytics roles at Etsy, and so, I think I was a little bit ahead of the curve on a lot of these kinds of new, big data technologies and analytics kinds of methodologies.
And actually, when I was leaving Jet, I went to go interview at a bunch of tech companies here in New York where I live, and they all wanted me to basically standardize their metrics and KPIs, set up their data platforms, and I was like, whoa, I just kind of did this a few times at other companies, and if everyone’s asking me to do this, maybe there’s something here. So, I basically just started out to do my own work and work from home and have a lifestyle business, but our second customer ended up being Amazon, and so we quickly realized we were destined for bigger and better things.
And so, that’s, yeah, that’s where we are today, we’re about 85 people, mostly based in New York and Denver, private equity-backed now, and, yeah, things, things are going well, we’re having fun.
Jonathan Denwood: So, the empires growing, Nick.
Nick Amabile: That’s right. That’s right.
Jonathan Denwood: You look very relaxed and calm.
Nick Amabile: Well, you know.
Jonathan Denwood: There we go. Over to you, John.
John Locke: So, with Snowflake, that’s a very interesting product; tell me a little bit more about that and how it helps enterprise companies with data analytics.
Nick Amabile: Yeah, it’s a good question. So, Jonathan, you mentioned you didn’t know Snowflake, you think of Snowflake as just a big database, so you’re probably familiar with MySQL and Postgres and things like that, but Snowflake is basically a cloud data warehouse as we call it. And that’s where we put all the different data sets that an enterprise has in one place, and so you could think about, you have, let’s say Google Analytics data talks about all the things that users do on your website.
You might have other operational data, if you’re an e-commerce or sort of other company, you might have supply chain data or logistics type data shipments and things like that. Of course, you’re going to have orders coming from whether you’re using Shopify or something else, it’s all coming into Snowflake, and then we can basically, join that data together in a way that helps companies get a holistic picture of their business. So, now I can see, okay, where did my visitors come from on the website? What do they do?
What do they purchase? And basically, how much money did it cost me to ship it and pack it and how much money did I make at the end of the day? So, that’s really what we do and Snowflake, it allows us to do that in a way that’s cloud-based, modern, scalable, flexible all that good stuff. So anyway, it’s just one of the kinds of tools in the tool chest, but one of the things that I think we’ve seen be successful is really focusing not on the technology, but more on the business problems and the business questions.
So, there are lots of different ways to skin the cat, Snowflake is only one technology, there are other technologies from Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud that are very similar, but it’s really about thinking through what are the key business questions that you’re trying to answer, and then that’s where we help our customers at DAS42. We help them work backward from those questions to actually implement a technical solution that’ll give them kind of what they’re looking for.
John Locke: So, to expand on that really quick, basically, an analytics product like that data warehousing as the service reveals the data that allows you to ask the questions that allows them to run a business more efficiently.
Nick Amabile: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So, all that comes together in one place, and then, for example, you might want to look at orders by category or orders by marketing channel, and so you kind of start to slice and dice all your data. And Snowflake basically allows us to do that on very large data sets, but also very small data sets too, it’s, of course, scalable, and these days with the cloud, it’s about pay for what you use, so if you only use it a little bit, you only pay a little bit, use a lot, you’re going to pay a lot. But, yeah, absolutely right it’s getting all the data in one place to create that holistic picture of your business.
Jonathan Denwood: So, Nick, the impression I’m getting, and I’m sure this is very simplistic because I’m a very simplistic man, Nick, is that Snowflake, it’s kind of putting Google Analytics on steroids, it’s kind of answering the kind of questions that Google Analytics can’t ask in the whole business. Normally, a lot of questions are produced by a big dive in Google Analytics, but there’s no way to answer them normally in a cost space that’s possible; and Snowflake, that’s the impression I was getting, am I on the right track, Nick?
Nick Amabile: Yeah, that’s right. So, Google Analytics will take a lot of the data that you have on your website, so what people are doing, what people are clicking on, marketing channels, ad campaigns, things like that. A lot of times though, you want to take that data and join it with other data sets that might be not in Google Analytics, you might have other types of customer data or product data or things like that, that might not be in there.
And so, essentially we take the data from Google Analytics as one example, we put it into Snowflake and we put a whole bunch of additional data sets in there so we can create even richer or customized type analytics. And so, to your point, a lot of times we do work with smaller companies, and Google Analytics works just fine for them because they have sort of smaller sets of data, they have fewer sets of data as well, and they can basically get what they need out of Google Analytics, but once you start to grow up to a certain size, you have lots of different data sets that you need to centralize and kind of mash together if you will.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. So, I think it’s kind of linked to our next question because I’ve noticed with some of the larger clients and clients in general, on this podcast, Nick, we have a focus on the professional WordPress user; developer, digital agency owner, power user, and also the Bootstrap SaaS community, that’s our focus. And I think we’ve all, John, myself, we’ve all been involved in projects or clients on long-term retainers, and they have big ideas and they really want to do a big dive on analytical data on Google Analytics and other products.
And they’ve failed to produce any sizeable measurable return on investment in any shape or form, have you any insights of do you agree with what I’ve just said and give some of the insights on a couple of things why that happens, basically?
Nick Amabile: Yeah, certainly, I’ve seen some statistics that, I don’t know, some vast majority of data projects end up failing because for one reason or another, and I think part of it is actually thinking about, as I mentioned before, focusing on the technology first, rather than the business questions. So, to your point, if you’re just like, Hey, we should implement this or we should implement that technology without having that context around the business questions that you’re trying to answer, then it’s very difficult to actually build a solution that’s going to make sense.
But to your point, I think there are lots of different ways to accomplish this, and thinking about how much are you going to spend, obviously, we work with very large customers that have very large budgets, but trying to figure out ways that are what I would say kind of quick and dirty, if you will, a lot of times spreadsheets work really well; everyone still uses spreadsheets today, even the big companies that we work with.
And that works really well for a lot of folks, so I think again, just focusing first and foremost on the business questions like, Hey, I want to understand my supply chain better, and I want to, I don’t know, think about whether I should use FedEx for shipping or UPS for shipping, just some basic stuff like that where you’re like, that’s the question that I want to answer. Now, you just need to figure out how to answer it.
Jonathan Denwood: So, just a quick follow-through question before we go for our break. I’m kind of basing it because we do a fair bit of work around marketing automization with clients, and notice that a lot of them have very big ideas and they’ve had multiple attempts at marketing automization, and we kind of login to an active campaign and they have marketing automizations everywhere.
They’re so complicated that we have to charge them a considerable sum of money just to work out what’s going on and there are no notes, there are no records, is that one of the key things about when you get called in and your team, is it generally that you can give some focus about which areas they should start with? And is it generally a bit similar to what I’ve outlined with marketing automization, they’ve had multiple attempts and it’s all over the place, am I on the right track?
Nick Amabile: Yeah, that’s exactly right. A lot of our customers, as you said, they have all kinds of things that they could do, and so helping, DAS42 we help our customers think through what they should do and kind of using our industry expertise to figure out how to actually then execute it and saying, Hey, we’ve seen this be successful in the past, we think this will be successful for you guys. And in this case, you think about marketing optimization, you’re kind of thinking through how much does it cost to acquire a customer and how much do I get from that customer, and so having a very clear understanding of those kinds of key metrics is very important.
And without kind of having the view of those metrics, it’s going to be difficult to really figure out what optimization really means to you and your business and your context.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great; I think we’re going to go for our break. We’ll be back, we’re going to be delving more into this fascinating world of data. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks.
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. We’ve had a bit of a dive into the world of data. If you want to get a fantastic newsletter written by me, the editorial is written by me, plus all the leading stories that we discussed during the Friday round table show, the outrageous Friday round table show. You can get that all free by signing up on the WP-Tonic website and you do that, tribe, by going to the WP-Tonic newsletter and signing up, and you get my thoughts, you get the recommendations of the panel, plus all the leading stories, if you had missed our Friday show, all sent to your inbox, what more could you ask for?
So, Nick, I would imagine the other factor is, let’s do a kind of focus around the Bootstrap, the agency, they’ve got clients, they built a relationship with them, let’s say if it’s an agency, and then you also have the startup, they have some investment and the investors are asking for more data, they want to know what’s going on in the quarterly report that got sent out to the investors. So, you have the agency and you have the Bootstrappers, it’s a bit daunting, all this, isn’t it? Where do they start? Where do they start on this windy road?
Nick Amabile: Yeah, it’s a very good question. And to your point, I agree, it is very, very daunting. I think what I would suggest, and this is what we do, whether it’s a huge fortune 500 client or a very small startup that we work with, is we pick one very important use case for the company and try to deliver on that very quickly, to deliver some value. Because I think a lot of people take a boil the ocean approach, it’s kind of all or nothing, I have all these ideas, I want to do it all, so let’s figure out how we can do it all first, and that’s kind of more the waterfall type approach almost, where you’re kind of planning it out, very sequentially and things like that.
What we’re trying to do is take more of an agile approach, identify one or two things that are really critical and core to your business, you’re not going to be able to do it all, and just make sure that you kind of knock that one out of the park. And so, for a SaaS startup, it could be something weekly or monthly active users or ARR, maybe that’s something that the investors are really asking about, so you take a very hypercritical view on that, let’s say it’s ARR and let’s go figure it out that. What are the data sources that are feeding into ARR?
How do we define it? Because that’s another thing that a lot of companies don’t think about is, if I said to you, ARR, that’s going to mean something different than maybe what I intended it to mean. So, we have to make sure that the definitions are all the same, and as you said, you want to make sure that that’s written down, we want to understand, if we go back to this report in six months, we want to make sure that we understand what it means and how we did it and how we calculated things.
So, when you think about much larger data projects, that’s where we come into things like data governance and data quality, and so there are a lot of other things that have to happen to make a data project successful. So, it’s not just, Hey, let’s implement Snowflake or Google Analytics or any other technology, think about this whole thing, but do it for one small piece first and get some momentum from there, get people excited and that’s how you build value.
Jonathan Denwood: So, I think you’re talking about getting a quick win.
Nick Amabile: That’s right. Absolutely. Hundred percent. That’s right.
Jonathan Denwood: Because, yeah, I agree that they tend, yeah, they’re okay having a broad strategy, but if you’re getting into this, you want something that’s obtainable reasonably quickly. Over to you, John.
John Locke: Right. To expand on what you were just talking about. What are some things that people would want to do to start a successful data program?
Nick Amabile: Yeah, that’s a good question. As I said before, I think it depends on kind of where you’re at in your kind of company’s journey, and kind of what your business goals are, so I’m going to give you the consulting answer, which is, it depends. But I think typically when we set up a, let’s say we have a VC funded startup that’s maybe 2 or 300 people, so you can kind of get an idea of the journey, if you’re starting out below that, probably Google Analytics free version, spreadsheets, that kind of stuff is still working for you.
I think it starts to break down more around 200, 300 person companies those kinds of systems start to break down. And if we’re coming into a company like that, we would put in place something like a data warehouse, as we talked about Snowflake before, we’d put into place, maybe a business intelligence tool, a Tableau or Looker so that folks can easily ask and answer their own questions.
It starts to get a little bit more complicated from there, but basically what I’m saying is I think if you have some basic analytics if you have your sort of Google Analytics or website analytics if you have some operational data coming from your WordPress backend, for example, you can download that data, kind of mash it up with your Google Analytics and do some stuff in spreadsheets. And that works really well, it doesn’t have to be complicated, the goal is, as we talked about just a second ago, is to get a quick win and deliver some value for your business rather than sort of building this huge data platform, which only makes sense in certain cases.
Jonathan Denwood: All right. So, where do you think Google’s, the main tool, love it or hate it is Google Analytics, it’s the big gorilla, it dominates your first introduction to web-based analytical tools. Where do you think Google’s taking it, or if they know where they’re taking Google Analytics in the next 12, 18 months, do you have any insights, any little whispers that have been put in your ear about any plans they have?
Nick Amabile: I wouldn’t be the person to predict Google and what they’re going to do, you never know, who’s to say, but I think.
Jonathan Denwood: It’s like the oracle agrees.
Nick Amabile: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. So, whatever I’m going to say is going to be taken with a great of salt here, but I think they are trying to make it, there’s, obviously, kind of the sort of what I would call the free version of Google Analytics, which is great, and they’ve really built out a lot of different, I’ve been using Google Analytics, geez, I don’t even know since 2008 or something like that, even before that. So, over that period of time, the product has come a long way, and now you’re right, Jonathan, you can do a whole ton of stuff in there now that you couldn’t before.
Assuming that you kind of have all your goals set up correctly, all your sort of metadata and things like that set up correctly, then there’s a lot you could do there, and they’ve really made it, of course, for Google, they’ve made it to integrate really well with AdWords and the other ad products that they offer, of course. But now I think seeing Google Analytics, we actually see a lot of larger companies going for the Google Analytics 360, the kind of premium version of Google Analytics, which allows you all the detailed un-sampled data coming out of Google Analytics, which is very important for larger kind of use cases.
And then data studio, which is a new Google product allows you to actually create some customized reports, I believe, in Google Analytics based on the data coming out of that. So, they’re trying to integrate it more with other products is kind of I think, the long story short of it and trying to make that data not just accessible in the Google Analytics interface, but make it accessible through other Google Cloud tools.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. Well, I’m just slurring around because we kind of in this interview, I knew it was going to happen, we’ve touched every, I’m losing track now, I apologize, Nick. Where was I going with this? Well, we’ve introduced every key, Google Analytics, artificial intelligence, all the buzzwords, that’s it. We’ve touched every buzzword in the thing, so have you any insight before we wrap up the podcast part of the show about what are some of the first steps you can do that gets some real, if you had a client come in to you and it was the type of client you wanted, what are some of the first things, based on your experience, they should be focusing on that would get them the best results?
Nick Amabile: Yeah, it’s a good question. Again, slightly depends, but I can think of a couple of different ideas, and how about that? It could be relevant to different segments.
Jonathan Denwood: I know these are generalities, but they’re based on your experience.
Nick Amabile: Absolutely. So, we talked about kind of maybe the sort of Bootstrap SaaS company, they’re looking at probably marketing customer acquisition, those are kind of the key things, so you want to understand which channels are working, which channels are not. And to be able to do that, as we just talked about, having your Google Analytics or whatever web analytics tool that you’re using, have it sort of set up in a way that’ll allow you to say, okay, somebody came from this channel, they downloaded a white paper, they came back six months later and then they signed up for the free version and then they were there for the free version for three months and then got to the paid version.
So, you want to understand that customer journey because customer acquisition for most small companies and startups are, that’s the critical thing. And understanding kind of what messages are resonating, understanding is this type of content resonating for my customers versus this type of content; so the email campaigns, understanding how those are working. So, you can kind of think of a lot of different things just off the top of my head here that that might make sense, but I think focusing first and foremost on customer acquisition, you’re not going to go wrong for almost any type of company, whether you’re B to B or B to C, that’s the lifeblood of the game here.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. I think we’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. We’re going to continue the conversation, I’m going to ask Nick about, can you give any advice to the WordPress agency owner trying to get more larger clients, about how he had to change his own mindset from the corporate world to running his own startup, his own business, what some of the things he’s learned. I’m sure it’s going to be a fascinating discussion; you can watch the whole interview plus the bonus content on the WP-Tonic YouTube channel.
Go there, watch it; we have fantastic resources on there, subscribe, support the channel and the podcast, it’s much appreciated. So, Nick, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you, your company, and what you’re up to?
Nick Amabile: Sure. Yeah, you can just check us out at D A S 42.com, das42.com, and my email is just firstname.lastname@example.org. So, certainly happy to answer any questions or follow-ups that folks have and come check us out.
Jonathan Denwood: And what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and what you are up to, John? John has a fantastic YouTube channel, he’s producing fantastic content about SEO almost, I won’t say every day, but you churn out a lot, don’t you, John?
John Locke: Yeah, I try and keep it regular. You can find me at lockedownseo.com and then on the socials and YouTube, it’s just Lockedown SEO, everywhere you go.
Jonathan Denwood: It’s great stuff.
John Locke: How do people find out about you, Jonathan?
Jonathan Denwood: Well, just join, just go to WP-Tonic, if you’re into building a membership or you want to build an internal training platform, we’re the people to help you; plus we do a number of podcasts around the WordPress technology SaaS area. Go to YouTube, look under WP-Tonic, you’ll find all the great free content that you can listen to and watch. We will be back next week for another great interview in the world of WordPress and SaaS, remember to watch the rest of the interview on our YouTube channel, we’ll see you soon folks. Bye.
Outro: Hey, thanks for listening, we really do appreciate it. Why not visit the mastermind Facebook group and also to keep up with the latest news, click wp-tonic.com/newsletter. We’ll see you next time.
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