Nathalie Lussier (00:00):
It really comes down to the fundamentals and the basics of business, and I think that we can really connect with human beings as opposed to trying to blast our messages everywhere. I think that's been a really good reframe for us, too, is going back to our roots of connecting with people. Since we haven't been doing as much Facebook stuff, we've had more people talking about us in their blogs, or we've been able to reach out to people who do reviews. We've freed ourselves up a little bit to connect with other business owners and other people in that way.
Susan Boles (00:39):
Have you thought about leaving Facebook? Or, what would happen if you pulled your advertising and ditched the Facebook pixel? How are you getting feedback about whether or not your marketing efforts are worth it? I'm Susan Boles, and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit, and increase your operational capacity.
Susan Boles (01:02):
All this month, I've been talking about digital privacy and online security, and sharing how I researched and implemented a privacy first marketing strategy for my business. I've talked to Paul Jarvis, one of the founders of Fathom Analytics, a privacy focused alternative to Google Analytics. I spoke with Jessica Robinson, an expert in cybersecurity, about how to assess your business' online security, and how to mitigate some of the risks involved. And, last week I talked to Kim Harrington about how focusing on SEO became a big part of my marketing effort, as I moved my marketing strategy to be more focused on respect for individual data privacy. If you missed those episodes, I recommend you go give them a listen, because they include a lot of background on this whole experiment and how it came about.
Susan Boles (01:50):
This week, I wanted to talk about social media, because social media platforms are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to data privacy issues. They track us, every move we make, what we say near our phones, where we go while we have them, all of it. I've considered leaving social media platforms all together, although I haven't taken that step yet. But, social media has never been a focus of any of my marketing or outreach, because honestly, outside of Twitter I just don't like being on social media much. And, I was very skeptical about how effective social media was in getting me actual paying clients.
Susan Boles (02:27):
But when it came to my privacy focused experiment, there wasn't much for me to do other than pull the plug on social media platforms completely. I'm not very active on any platform besides Twitter, which I mostly use to build relationships with primarily peers and other business friends, not so much as a lead gathering system. I did commit to not buying ads on Facebook or Instagram, but since I hadn't been doing that before there wasn't much of a change. I also committed to not using the Facebook tracking pixel, but again, since I hadn't been using it before, there wasn't anything to remove or change there either. But, these are major marketing channels for lots of small businesses, and it's an important part of the decision making process if you're thinking about your own marketing, from a perspective of privacy.
Susan Boles (03:14):
I wanted to bring on someone who did go through this evaluation process, and implemented their own experiment. Meet Nathalie Lussier. Nathalie has been making websites since she was 12 years old, so she's been living in the online world for quite a while. She's the founder of Access Ally, which is a digital course and membership solution. And, about a year ago she took the Facebook tracking pixel off her website, and then left Instagram as a platform, both for her business and personally. Nathalie and I talked about how she made the decision to drop the pixel and to leave Instagram. We talk about what she does instead now, and we talk about how to get real, actionable data while still being respectful of people's privacy, and holding true to her desire not to support Facebook as a company.
Susan Boles (04:02):
And stick around after the interview, because I'm going to talk about the projects and ideas that I'm still working on implementing for ScaleSpark when it comes to digital privacy.
Susan Boles (04:11):
Hey Nathalie, thanks for being here today.
Nathalie Lussier (04:13):
Thanks for having me, Susan.
Susan Boles (04:15):
So you did something, I think, pretty bold for most folks, and you decided to remove the Facebook tracking pixel from all of your websites. Can you take me through the decision process that led up to that? And, how you went about actually doing it?
Nathalie Lussier (04:32):
Yes. I think all of us are aware of what's going on with social media, and in particularly Facebook, and all the data that they're collecting about us, how they use it against us. As a marketer, I always think, "Oh well, we're using it for our business and we're a good business," in my mind, we're trying to help place solve a problem. We're helping them to build a membership site, and find the right software for that. But then, after seeing all the news coming out and learning more and more about the algorithms I was like, "You know what? It doesn't feel right." I don't like it when they do it to me, when other businesses do it to me. I don't like how politically it was being used, either. I was like, "You know what? I'm contributing to this problem, so why don't I do something about it?"
Nathalie Lussier (05:20):
I know I'm just one business, and there's tons of people who use Facebook advertising and have tracking pixels on their sites. It might not make a big difference, but a drop in the water is a drop in the water. I decided okay, let's go ahead and see what I can do. I know that tracking, having and collecting data from website visitors is a big part of the Facebook data gathering that they do. Okay, let's just take off the pixel. And also, at the same time we decided to just stop advertising on Facebook, just because that's also voting with our money.
Nathalie Lussier (05:52):
It was a pretty big decision, but it also was going back to our roots. Because when I started off in business, Facebook existed but it wasn't a huge part of how we got business. We did have a lot more organic search engine, people coming in through the search engines, and that was just a very organic, natural way of growing our business. Okay, let's just go back to those roots, to content marketing and doing some of those things that worked really well for us in the past instead of relying on giving money to this massive organization that has way too much power.
Susan Boles (06:30):
When you decided to take this step, were you freaked out? For a lot of people, it could potentially have a big impact on your revenue, on the sustainability of your business, you could be cutting off a lead source. I think a lot of people, when they think about taking this step to stop advertising on Facebook, or to stop retargeting people, that is one of the fears. Did that come up for you? Or, how did that end up happening?
Nathalie Lussier (07:06):
Yeah, it's totally a valid question. One of the things that we thought about it, we were investing money into Facebook ads. What we did was we put that budget towards organic SEO. We hired an expert in SEO, we redid a bunch of stuff on our site. So in a way, it felt like we were just shifting our budget from one platform to another. Instead of investing our money on Facebook, we were investing in our property essentially, our own website. In that way, that was a big shift. We talked about it as a team, there was definitely a debate on our team as whether we should do it or not.
Nathalie Lussier (07:45):
Sometimes, we still think about it. "Oh, should we try to retarget again? Is that something we should re-explore again?" But, I just feel like if we're doing things right, which I think we are, which is get people to your website, whether that is through social media because you're posting still organic stuff, or through a search engine, or through a podcast interview, or whatever it is that people find you from. And then, get them on your email list, which is something I've always, always talked about and our 30-day list building challenge focuses on a lot. Then, you can just send them an email. I realize retargeting is reaching people in a different platform, that they may have forgotten about you, they can still unsubscribe from your emails. There's a lot of ways that email may or may not work.
Nathalie Lussier (08:28):
But again, it's something that you have a lot more control over, and I think it's just a better way of marketing, in my opinion. Especially just with all the things we know about how social media works, and how it's used against us in a lot of ways. And how it influences us, and not necessarily in a positive way. You know how people are getting a little bit more depressed, and comparing themselves to other people, all of those things are things I didn't want to contribute to.
Nathalie Lussier (08:54):
And then also, data-wise, we were spending a certain amount of money on Facebook, but we weren't seeing that many sales. I know it's hard, sometimes, to attribute. People may click on an ad, they might not buy right away. Maybe they opt-in, maybe they buy later. Because of our software, the way it's set up, it is a longer timeframe for people to sign up, it's not like they sign up as soon as they click. So for us, we saw less traffic to our website, that was an obvious thing that we could track. But, we didn't see a huge drop in sales, to be honest. That was also affirming.
Nathalie Lussier (09:30):
If we would have seen a huge drop in sales, we would have been, "Okay, yeah. Maybe we have to go back." But, it was really not a huge, huge part of our strategy, either. It was something that we were focused on and doing ongoing, but shifting that investment that we were doing on Facebook to our own content, now we've more than made up for, essentially, the loss in traffic and sales are still coming.
Nathalie Lussier (09:53):
Yeah, I think it's totally doable to do it the organic way. It's all bit slower, because it's not like you can turn on the switch, start getting traffic, and turn it off. But, once you get it going I think it's just a better longterm way of growing a business, personally.
Susan Boles (10:06):
You mentioned tracking data and trying to attribute sales, and paying attention to whether or not you had an actual drop in sales. I think for me, I am a data person, I always want to have data. The idea of removing something that, theoretically, is giving you a source of data can feel really uncomfortable, and wondering about how you get that feedback loop about whether or not what you're doing is actually benefiting your business.
Susan Boles (10:44):
Can you talk to me a little bit about how you approached tracking, and continuing to have data about whether or not what you were doing was working?
Nathalie Lussier (10:56):
Yeah, that's a great question. One of the things that we still have on our website, and I am considering whether we want to keep it or not, is we still have Google Analytics, and Google Tracking, and Google Tag Manager, and all of that. There are alternatives that are more privacy focused. I know Fathom.
Susan Boles (11:13):
The first episode of this theme, we actually talked to Paul Jarvis.
Nathalie Lussier (11:18):
Susan Boles (11:20):
He came in and talked about that one.
Nathalie Lussier (11:21):
Paul is doing great work there. There are alternatives to Google Analytics as well, and that's something that we're just starting to explore. But, we do still have data from our website.
Nathalie Lussier (11:33):
One of the things, too, that we're really exploring this year is analytical, quantitative data versus qualitative data. That's something that we're doing more with focus groups, that we're doing with user testing on our website, user testing with our software. That is when you're essentially asking people questions and then they're answering you, as opposed to just seeing how many people land on a page, how many people click somewhere, and how much time they spend, whether they bounce or not. All of that is still definitely useful and you need that quantitative data, but the qualitative data is going to give you so much more information into what's actually working on your website, what's actually getting people to say yes or no. That's something that we're investing more heavily this year on.
Nathalie Lussier (12:20):
Yeah. We'll see how that goes. I feel like that's already given us a lot to chew on, and to make updates for.
Susan Boles (12:26):
Tell me a little bit more about what resources are you using. Are you using customers, are you talking to prospective clients? How are you getting some of that more qualitative data about how people are either using the software, or using the website?
Nathalie Lussier (12:45):
Many, many places. One of the things we've started doing is, after people opt-in or purchase, we have a quick survey that asks them what led them to take that action, essentially. We have a bit more of an idea of the people who are taking action, what is it that drove them to do that. That's one quick place that we've made a change to get that qualitative data directly from people who are actually interacting with our site.
Susan Boles (13:12):
Who actually bought it, who actually did things.
Nathalie Lussier (13:15):
Exactly. And then the other thing, we're doing focus groups. So we're inviting customers and also people who did not purchase, and doing focus groups and asking them actual questions. How did you feel when you got here? Do you understand what the product is? What's difficult to use? All of these kinds of questions. What made you want to click and find out more? What else were you researching? All of that kind of questions are coming up.
Nathalie Lussier (13:42):
And then, we're also using usertesting.com, which is a little bit of a pricey way to go. There's also Wynter, W-Y-N-T-E-R.com, which we're exploring as well. There's, I think, Usability Hub, so there's a couple different ways that you can test and ask people questions. Basically, you can set up a test and have strangers who don't know your product come up and give you feedback, and just talk through what they thought when they were reading this page. Or, what they thought was confusing about the onboarding of your product, or whatever it is. For us, that's a worthwhile investment to actually get people who maybe don't know us yet, because I feel like there is some bias that comes in when they're already a customer. Or, they heard about us from a friend or whatnot. That's a big part of it.
Nathalie Lussier (14:34):
Finally, we do demo calls. That's something that we offer for free, for anyone whose curious about Access Ally, is they can come on a call with us. We show them the product, but then we also can ask them some questions while they're there. That gives us a lot of data to go on as well, and it's directly from a person. We can dig a little deeper if we see oh, they were really confused about this. Or, this really sparked their interest, so can we talk more about that on our website or whatnot.
Nathalie Lussier (15:03):
A lot of different places. And then, we're just trying to really collect all of that, to help us make better decisions as well.
Susan Boles (15:08):
Oh, I love this idea. Because I think, oftentimes, we fall into this trap that the data that we're provided is somehow useful. I think that's not always the case, when you were talking about how much website traffic you're getting. Yeah that's nice, but you also don't know what people were looking for. And, maybe they hit your website and it wasn't what they were expecting, and it really has nothing to do with your or your product. So I love this idea of looking for other sources of real, actionable data, and something as simple as a survey when people do something, asking them why they did it, is simple and I think oftentimes overlooked as a really valuable source of data.
Susan Boles (15:57):
I do the same thing. Podcasts and a lot of the marketing that I do, I'm intentionally not tracking people.
Nathalie Lussier (16:04):
Susan Boles (16:04):
Which makes it really hard to figure out how people find me. The easiest way is to say, "Hey, how did you find me?" That's on all of my forms, is how did you find out about this, how did you hear about it. Something as simple as just asking, sometimes we forget that that can be a really powerful source of data.
Nathalie Lussier (16:25):
Absolutely. Same goes for any forums that you're a part of, you can just ask people questions there. Or, there might be other places that the types of people who would be ideal for your work are, where they're already congregating. There's places off of Facebook now, where we can do some of these things.
Nathalie Lussier (16:47):
Unfortunately, we still have a Facebook group for our business, so we're not 100% off Facebook. But, that is also on our radar, for shifting that eventually, too.
Susan Boles (16:56):
Susan Boles (16:59):
Hey there, it's Susan. If you've been listening to this interview and it's making you think about some of these issues and ideas, and you wish you could talk to some other real live business owners about it, I wanted to invite you to my free monthly roundtable, Dollars and Decisions. Once a month, I get together live with a group of amazing business owners, just like you, to geek out on money, and operations, and workflow, and software, all that stuff that you hear me talk about here. The Roundtable is like a live, interactive version of the podcast, so I would love to have you join me.
Susan Boles (17:34):
To sign up for the next roundtable, head to scalespark.co/dollarsanddecisions, no spaces, no hyphens. Or, you can just click the link in the show notes. Hope to see you there.
Susan Boles (17:48):
So, along the lines with all of this happening in your business, and removing the pixel, and thinking about different ways of collecting data, you also actually deleted your personal and your business Instagram accounts. Can you tell me about that decision, what drove it, how's it feel?
Nathalie Lussier (18:08):
It feels freeing, to be honest, so that's awesome. Yeah, the decision behind that was similar to the Facebook pixel decision. It was a couple months later, afterwards. But, I think a lot of it was I hadn't really been using it a ton, similar to Facebook. I don't think our business was really benefiting from the work that we were doing, in terms of posting on Instagram. Data or not data, that one was a pretty easy decision because the way that our product is, it doesn't make sense to be just posting pretty pictures and being, "Okay, now that I've motivated you about online courses and memberships, click through and buy my software." It just didn't quite connect for the audience. I'm sure there's ways to do it well, but just the way that we operate it didn't quite make sense.
Nathalie Lussier (18:59):
But yeah, in terms of why I did it, it was especially for me, Instagram has this level of perfection, and posing, and just making everything pixel perfect. It was just such a high bar, and I have two young children, running this successful business, we have 10 team members, we have a farm now. We have a lot going on. There was just no reason to be putting my energy into it.
Nathalie Lussier (19:31):
Also, when I scroll on Instagram, I know that I don't always feel good because I'm like, "Oh, that's something I should be doing." It just really brings up my own competitive or comparison side of things, and it just zaps my energy. It was a pretty easy decision. There was definitely a part of me that was like, "Oh my God, once you do this that's it. There's no going back." Obviously, I could start another account. "Okay, this is kind of final."
Nathalie Lussier (20:01):
I just felt like it was the right decision, and I've definitely not regretted it. Oh my God, my phone no longer has this weird push pull energy around it, and that has been really great.
Susan Boles (20:14):
I love that. Talk to me a little bit about the impact you've seen on your business, since you took these steps. You talked a little bit about not seeing much of a drop in sales, but have you noticed other impacts? Financial, or operational, or just energetically.
Nathalie Lussier (20:32):
Yeah. Last year was a bit of a weird year, because obviously COVID hit.
Susan Boles (20:37):
Nathalie Lussier (20:38):
Yes, exactly. We had a spike in sales, and that was pure just organic, people looking to do online courses. Yeah, I would say sales were not affected negatively by not doing it. I don't know if things would have been different if we were still doing it, but it's fine. That would be one way to look at the data, in terms of sales.
Nathalie Lussier (21:03):
But other than yet, I would say we really freed up a lot of energy internally on the team, and time spent creating new ads, testing ads, retargeting ads, all of that. We had folders of images. "Okay, time to create new images. Time to create new copy, and update copy. Okay, let's do videos now, let's do things." I feel like we've really freed up a lot of our team's time.
Nathalie Lussier (21:31):
Like I said, what we ended up doing is using all of that energy to create better content, and to work on our website, and making sure that it has good resources for people when they do land on it. We've been able to publish, I don't remember the exact number, but probably 20 or 30 new pages on our site.
Susan Boles (21:48):
Nathalie Lussier (21:48):
That would never have happened, if we were still focusing on someone else's platform, putting things on Facebook.
Susan Boles (21:56):
And you're finding that those pieces of content are driving traffic? Were they worth the investing of your time, I guess?
Nathalie Lussier (22:06):
Yes, they are. We're just seeing those increase over time, more and more, as they've had a little bit more time to rank in the search engines. But yeah, it's thousands of people coming to our website, month over month, because of those new pages.
Susan Boles (22:24):
I love that. It's a really efficient investment of time, that can pay off exponentially the longer it exists, versus social media that is so time dependent. If somebody blinks, it's not in their feed anymore.
Nathalie Lussier (22:41):
Absolutely. I do feel like it's more of a longterm investment because it does take time to create, but once it's on your site, assuming it's evergreen content, then it will only continue to get new people every month, or every week. To me, there's no future investment. Yes, we may need to update it if it gets out of date, but it's a huge asset, I would say.
Susan Boles (23:05):
I love that. Is there anything you think we should talk about, or touch on here, that we haven't talked about yet?
Nathalie Lussier (23:12):
Yeah. I feel like if people are trying to make a decision on this kind of stuff, for me it really comes down to the fundamentals and the basics of business, and I think that we can really connect with human beings as opposed to trying to blast our messages everywhere. I think that's been a really good reframe for us, too, is going back to our roots of connecting with people. Since we haven't been doing as much Facebook stuff, we've had more people talking about us in their blogs, or we've been able to reach out to people who do reviews. We've freed ourselves up a little bit to connect with other business owners and other people in that way. And, I think that's also something that doesn't usually go top of mind when you think about okay, I'm going to take this time away from ads, and I can actually invest it in relationships, too.
Susan Boles (24:07):
Yeah, I think especially with your style business, a software business, that's not how most people think about that you "should" be marketing, because volume matters. Thinking about building relationships, I think, is a little bit unusual, but I really love that perspective. It doesn't have to be not scalable, you can still build real, genuine relationships with people at scale, in this way.
Nathalie Lussier (24:38):
Absolutely. One thing that we have is a certification program for people who want to learn our software and use it with their clients, so we've been able to find people that we think would be great as certified experts, and train them up on the software. And then, they can go out and spread the good word, essentially, on Access Ally. That has also made a huge difference. I don't think they are using ads to send people our way. I think it's just through people's networks.
Nathalie Lussier (25:09):
I think that remembering social networks, it used to be about the network. Now, it's about the data. Yeah, just going back to the network part of it, I think is a really good idea, too.
Susan Boles (25:24):
I love that. Where can our listeners find you, if they want to connect or learn more about what you do?
Nathalie Lussier (25:31):
Yeah. Accessally.com is our main website, our company website. I'm sure there will be a link in there.
Susan Boles (25:39):
Nathalie Lussier (25:39):
But also, if someone is curious about list building and focusing more on organic ways to grow an email list, we have a free 30-day list building challenge. You can just go and sign up for that at 30daylistbuildingchallenge.com. 30, 3-0. It's totally free, you get one video a day for 30 days, and it walks you through all kinds of different ways of getting people to your website and improving the opt-ins on your website to get more of the right people.
Susan Boles (26:05):
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming and geeking out with me here, on privacy focused marketing.
Nathalie Lussier (26:13):
Yes, of course, thank you. This was so much fun.
Susan Boles (26:17):
For Nathalie, the decision about dropping the pixel and leaving Instagram was one that was very closely tied to her values, and the desire to vote with her wallet and not support companies that she felt violated ethical boundaries. It also happened to have the benefit of reducing the amount of data that she provided to companies like Facebook, and that she tracked in her own business, and that had pretty much no negative impact on her business. In fact, it allowed her to focus on more effective marketing channels, like SEO.
Susan Boles (26:46):
For me, this initiative to build safety and security into the DNA of my business is really just beginning. Building a marketing system that was respectful of individual privacy, and focused on ensuring the security of any data I might handle, that was just the start. I still have a lot of work to do in this, and in other areas of my business, but the point of having core values is to give you something to consistently be working towards.
Susan Boles (27:12):
From a data privacy perspective, some of the initiatives I'm still thinking about how to implement are using a privacy focused email platform like Fast Mail or Hey, which is a new-ish privacy focused email from the Basecamp founders. I did switch to Hey for my personal email, but I haven't made the switch yet for the work email. ScaleSpark's email is still hosted on Gmail, primarily because of the integration with Google Calendar, and that Google Calendar integrates with so many other tools. I haven't found a good privacy focused email platform that has a great calendar with integrations to a scheduling platform like Calendly. This is on the list to implement eventually, but it might be awhile. And, if you happen to know of a great solution, reach out and let me know.
Susan Boles (27:57):
Another area is removing tracking from my email list. I use Convert Kit, which I really like because of the automations and the integrations to other platforms like my course platform. But, as far as I know I can't turn off tracking, so I still have data on opens, clicks, et cetera. I don't look at the data much, but it's still there, and that's still an area that needs to be tackled. But again, the technology doesn't really seem to be there yet. And also, it's not really a priority for most email marketing platforms. The industry is pushing for more tracking and personalization, not less for the most part.
Susan Boles (28:33):
I'm still trying to decide about how I feel about using social media. I haven't deleted any of my profiles, although I functionally left Facebook about two years ago, both personally and professionally. I don't post on it, I don't open it. The only platform I'm actually active on is Twitter, and I have gotten a few clients from that platform, and a few from LinkedIn. I've never gotten a client from Instagram or Facebook. So the decision about whether or not to completely leave the social media platforms versus just not being active on them, that's still up in the air.
Susan Boles (29:03):
There's still more work to do, and the digital world is changing as rapidly as ever, so there will always be more work to do. How about you, are you thinking about starting some digital privacy experiments of your own? Hit me up on Twitter at @thesusanboles, and tell me what you're doing, or what you're thinking about.
Susan Boles (29:20):
Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our executive producer is Sean McMullin, our production coordinator is Lou Blaser. This episode was edited by Marty Sefeldt, with production assistance by Kristen Runvick.