Even with all of the WordPress consolidation happening, there’s still plenty of opportunity ahead for the industry.
There’s lots of potential users, customers, and room for investment (note: we just saw the acquisition of Yoast happen by Newfold, formally EIG. If I had to guess, somewhere between a $30-50M deal.)
If you though the plugin space is crowded or even more specifically the membership & LMS veritcal, then I have a surprise for you today. Nathalie Lussier, founder of AccessAlly a LMS plugin for WordPress joins us to talk about her venture in building her business.
From selling online courses and building community to building and selling software — this is a fantastic lesson for all of us. Her and her team are really proving that in the a crowded market, you stand apart from the crowd by knowing who your perfect customer is and building them the perfect product.
[00:00:00] This episode is brought to you by paid memberships pro well, actually it’s their other product. Site-wide sales at site-wide sales.com. It’s a complete black Friday cyber Monday and flash sales tool for WooCommerce or paid memberships pro. Before, you know it, the deal day holidays will be fast upon us. And you want to prepare your WooCommerce or paid memberships pro website.
[00:00:20] With the site-wide sales plugin, use it to make custom sale banners, targeted landing pages or apply discounts automatically in the cart. Use it to track the performance of all of these promotional features using the reporting feature, which will paint the picture of your black Friday and holiday shopping sales. I use it to help make your woo commerce or paid memberships pro store more money.
[00:00:43] Get the first 30 days for free. And then it’s an easy $49 a year. Check out site-wide sales.com. That’s site-wide sales.com to make more money. This holiday sale season.
[00:00:56] Matt: Even with all of the WordPress consolidation happening, there’s still plenty of opportunity ahead for them. There’s lots of potential users, customers, and room for investments notes. We just saw the acquisition of Yoast happened by new fold, formerly EIG. If I had to guess a deal somewhere between a 30 and $50 million acquisition, if you thought the plugin space is crowded or even more specifically, the membership and LMS vertical is crowded.
[00:01:22] Then I have a surprise for you today, Natalie Lucier founder of access, ally and LMS plugin for WordPress joins us to talk about her venture in building her. From selling online courses and building community to building and selling software. This is a fantastic lesson for all of us. Her and her team are really proving that in the crowded space, you stand apart from the crowd by knowing who your perfect customer is and building them the perfect product you’re listening to the Maryport a podcast for the resilient digital business builders.
[00:01:51] Subscribe to the newsletter maryport.com/subscribe and follow the podcast on. Spotify, wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts better yet. Please share this episode, please do, because I just read that the best way to grow a podcast is word of mouth and sharing. So please share this episode with others.
[00:02:09] We’d love more listeners around here. Okay. Let’s get into today’s episode.
[00:02:13] It almost feels like a SAS software as a service. Tell us about that, that moment when you realize I’m teaching people, I might as well build the software too.
[00:02:22] Nathalie: Yeah, absolutely. So I was in the like marketing and tech space and doing videos on like, how to build a popup and how to do things on your WordPress site and how to market your courses and all of that stuff. And I was teaching. In courses and also on YouTube and people who were, signing up to our free challenge.
[00:02:42] We had a challenge called the 30 day list building challenge to help people build an email list and they were signing up. And it was, becoming pretty popular. So we had a lot of people logging in at the same time. And at the time. I thought we were getting attacked by hackers or something.
[00:02:56] Cause we have so many logins and the way that our plugin that we were using at the time it kept pinging our CRM and every single time somebody went to any page on that site. So, we were having nightmares basically. I would wake up every morning and have to call my host to have them. Unlock us, essentially, we put my website back up and then all the people who were signing up were upset with us because, they signed up and they couldn’t get what they were asking for or what we had promised.
[00:03:21] So essentially my husband and I were like, okay, let’s just quickly whip up a plugin to replace what we have right now, just to stop this problem. And so that’s literally in one weekend we wrote the first beta beta version of access ally. And it was just to solve our own problem. Yeah. But then after that, we kind of realized like, Hey, okay, this gives us a lot of, interesting options.
[00:03:40] And we started adding on and kind of building other things that we thought would be very useful for the people going through our courses and content. And that was kind of the start of what you see today.
[00:03:51] Matt: So you ha I, I didn’t write this down in our peer review, but what was the timeline you had popup ally first and then.
[00:03:58] Then we created access ally, correct?
[00:04:00] Nathalie: Yes. So we built SSLI first just to solve this problem. And we knew that someday we might release something like this, but it just felt like too big of an undertaking to do a whole like online membership or LMS or anything like that. So we ended up building popup ally next and releasing that first because we knew we could do a free version.
[00:04:19] We could see how that went. Then we could do a paid version and see how that was. Being responded to and how we could handle support and all of that. And then we realized, okay, yes, we can actually do this. We have the chops. And so let’s go all in on SSLI and kind of build
[00:04:33] Matt: that. And I’ll, I’ll paint sort of the the, the picture at least of the way that I see it in my head is pop-up plugin a very, very broad market, big market.
[00:04:44] Chances are anyone who might be selling courses or digital content is going to be attracted to a pop-up to use on their site to capture the visitor’s attention. And, oh, by the way, we also. Have this LMS plug-in fair statement.
[00:04:58] Nathalie: Yeah, it totally started off that way. It’s a much broader, pop-ups are much broader.
[00:05:02] And then, yeah, like you said, people who are using them to build an email list and audience, they probably will want to sell something online. So, so that pretty much leads to access ally.
[00:05:12] Matt: Yeah. I want to start with something that I won’t say it’s a curve ball, but a little bit on the hot seat, but something that I totally enjoy what you’re doing with access ally is the pricing.
[00:05:22] And I think I know a lot of Plugins in the space a lot of, well, let me ask you this question. Before I dive into that, do you refer to it as a plugin or software? Like how do you feel about the product itself? I don’t want to just say plug in if you feel like you’re greater than that.
[00:05:40] This episode is brought to you by paid memberships pro well, actually it’s their other product. Site-wide sales at site-wide sales.com. It’s a complete black Friday cyber Monday and flash sales tool for WooCommerce or paid memberships pro. Before, you know it, the deal day holidays will be fast upon us. And you want to prepare your WooCommerce or paid memberships pro website.
[00:06:01] With the site-wide sales plugin, use it to make custom sale banners, targeted landing pages or apply discounts automatically in the cart. Use it to track the performance of all of these promotional features using the reporting feature, which will paint the picture of your black Friday and holiday shopping sales. I use it to help make your woo commerce or paid memberships pro store more money.
[00:06:24] Get the first 30 days for free. And then it’s an easy $49 a year. Check out site-wide sales.com. That’s site-wide sales.com to make more money. This holiday sale season.
[00:06:37] Nathalie: Yeah. So it is technically a plugin, right?
[00:06:39] So people download it and install it. But we do see it as software, as a service, just because we are constantly developing and people have so many feature requests and things that we’re constantly updating. So, and then we also offer a lot of support. So that’s the service side as well. So I do feel like it’s a little bit more than just like here, download this plugin and good luck.
[00:06:57] It is like a real partnership. And I think that’s why the price, in my opinion reflects that when people will come to the website and people also do think so. I mistake that it’s a platform and that it’s totally hosted. And we’ve talked about potentially doing that, but we do also appreciate that it’s a plugin and they could work with other things.
[00:07:13] And there’s a lot of benefits to being in that WordPress ecosystem too.
[00:07:18] Matt: That’s sometimes it’s a disadvantage for a bulk of visitors that come to the site and they go, oh, wait, I was looking for a plugin. This looks like a platform. Do you, have you ever noticed that a drop off in the quote unquote funnel at all, that, that you’ve actually paid close attention
[00:07:33] Nathalie: to?
[00:07:33] Usually it goes the other way where they wanted a platform and then they’re like, oh wait, I need to WordPress. So most, most of our marketing so far is kind of the opposite, but yeah.
[00:07:44] Matt: Yeah, I wanted to give you a sort of a fair chance to see how you disseminated between the plugin and the, and the soft.
[00:07:51] As a mindset, because I think a lot of us, myself included, like I have a tiny little plugin, easy support videos. I’ve done other plugins in the past, which have burned a miserable failure of a death. And, but the fact of the matter is I was always kind of just like, oh yeah, it’s just, it’s just this plugin.
[00:08:08] And I think a lot of us just have to say, no, This is a software business. Like let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s give ourselves a little bit of credit here. Like this is a software business that we’re in. We’re not just like this little throw away plugin, even though that’s the technical term for it. And I think we could do a lot for ourselves mentally.
[00:08:24] If we just have a little bit more of that, that confidence boost when, and when we look at it, because it changes the mindset, it changes how you approach it. And that’s what I want to talk about with your. $99 a month. That’s what access ally essentials starts with. That’s one website. Very far beyond what, you might see from just, let’s say a free LMS or an LMS plug-in that’s $79 for the year or something like that.
[00:08:49] How did you get to this pricing? Was it immediate or did you have some bumps and bruises along? That’s
[00:08:55] Nathalie: a great question. So we started off at 79 a month. That was before, that was the first price that we started originally a couple of years ago. But yeah, we’ve, we’ve had a lot of conversations internally and a lot of it really comes down to what value I think we really provide to people.
[00:09:10] So we are pretty close to making people money, right. So we help them take payments. We have an affiliate program built in and we basically help them sell courses. All kinds of other things. So that to me shows me that we can provide a lot of value for them. And when you’re comparing, what other tools they might be purchasing to do with something similar, sometimes they might be purchasing, multiple things like maybe it’s multiple plugins, or maybe it’s like one thing for a shopping cart, one thing for this other thing.
[00:09:36] And then by the time you add up all the time, Invested in making all of those things work together. That’s kind of to us a lot of value, so that’s kind of how we thought about it. And then we were also just looking around at some of the competition and also what we knew we needed to charge to provide the service that we wanted.
[00:09:52] So that also came into it a lot. So we have two full-time support people and US-based, they we love taking care of our teams, so they have, good salaries and benefits. And I don’t think we could do that if we were trying to charge less and try to compete on the, on the pricing side, we wanted to really provide more value and then also charge well for it.
[00:10:12] And there is also something that changes when somebody pays more for software, which is that they’re a little bit more committed. They’re really in it for the longterm. Most likely to stick as well. So like, obviously if it’s too expensive for them, they’re not going to sign up in the first place. So we kind of lose people that way, but we do have more people signing up and staying long-term because they know we’re kind of in that partnership.
[00:10:33] And a lot of times people tell us we love access ally because it lets us do all these great things. But also because every time we have a question or we have something we want to do that just quite do yet, it comes out like a month or two later. Right. So that’s something we couldn’t do if we were, trying to appeal to too many people at a lower price.
[00:10:51] Matt: You have a degree in software engineering, this, that answer and the way you’ve positioned the product is what I’ll say. And these are my words, not yours is a much more mature business answer than what I normally see in the WordPress space. Again, myself included, you build a product you’re like, oh my God, does anybody want to buy this?
[00:11:11] And then you say to yourself, I know what I’ll do. I’ll just make it cheap. Then somebody will certainly buy it. But you, you jumped in at an eight. 860 ish dollar a year or a little bit more at my mass. Not really good right out of the gate at 79 bucks a month. Is this the first business you’ve launched or this you’re a second, third, fourth, fifth business.
[00:11:29] Cause it sounds like you’ve gone through the paces a little bit before.
[00:11:32] Nathalie: Absolutely. So yeah, this is not the first business. And I started off with my very first business out of college. It was all in the healthy eating space and that was kind of my training business. So I just learned like marketing and like I built my own website and all of those things.
[00:11:45] And then. The kind of teaching of the online stuff and the online marketing was kind of the next one. And then this is sort of the third business I would call it and yeah, it, it definitely like we learn so much. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:11:58] Matt: And this is a great thing because I think this is hard to just like, this is not a question, but much more of just like a general statement and then interested on your thoughts, but it sort of raises the value of all of us, right?
[00:12:12] When you price your product like this. Well, you’re getting true value. You’re asking for true value. And on the other end, it’s a, it’s a solid business. Like you said, there are people working for us. We’re paying them well, you’re going to get great support. You’re probably getting a higher degree of customer as well.
[00:12:30] Like they’re not coming in, just like, give me all this free stuff. Cause they’re already paying a hundred bucks a month. So there’s a different level there. There’s money out there that I think a lot of people just get a fee. I get that fear factor where like, oh, I guess I do have to do a hundred bucks for the year because my God, nobody will buy it otherwise.
[00:12:46] But yes, there are people who just want good stuff with great support. And that’s the most important part for them is to like have somebody that’s going to be there for them and stand the test of time. Right. Especially if they’re a long-term WordPress user who has seen other places come and go or freelancers come and go, they don’t want that.
[00:13:08] Their vote of confidence is I will pay you a solid amount of money. So you stay in business and support me. Well, But it sounds like you’ve learned that over the years and that’s how you’ve got to this point.
[00:13:18] Nathalie: I literally had customers tell us that we know you’re not going to disappear overnight because we’re paying you well, and that’s worth it to me.
[00:13:24] Is that kind of security. And yeah, absolutely. We have that long-term vision and that long. Yeah. Stay in the game kind of energy. And I think that definitely comes across with the people that end up signing up for us. Yeah.
[00:13:37] Matt: To that. I was going to put you on the hotspot, but then we kinda, we kind of shifted a little bit on your pricing page.
[00:13:42] One of the check marks is top of the line support. I feel like everyone might say top of the line support, or we have the best support. What does top of the line of support mean for you and for your customers?
[00:13:53] Nathalie: Yeah, we have a lot of things that we do for our customers. So everyone gets a free jumpstart calls.
[00:13:58] So that means after they purchase, we get on like a zoom call with them. We help them get everything set up. We answer any questions they have. We make sure it works with the things that they’re currently using or planning to use. So that’s a big part of it. And then we also have a tune-up calls. Three times a month right now.
[00:14:14] And so they can jump on any time they have questions or want to walk through something that they’re trying to accomplish, that maybe they got stuck on. And then in terms of actually, if you get into a situation where you’re stuck or anything like that in between, then we also have email support. And like I said, we have two people dedicated to that.
[00:14:30] And obviously our response time varies, but right now it’s like averaging at eight minutes, which is kind of crazy. So during this. So, yeah, we do have, we do a lot and then we also have really robust, message-based and videos and all of that stuff to make sure if you’re more of a, self-serve kind of like, I just, I’m working at midnight.
[00:14:47] I know you’re not gonna be online. I’m just going to finish this up and watch this video kind of thing.
[00:14:51] Matt: Yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s one of the things I do as part of my role at cast dose is we do two weekly calls, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00 PM, Eastern, same kind of thing, open office hours, or show up.
[00:15:02] If you have a question, you can answer it there. We don’t do phone support, which is still like a thing these days. Like people still are like, why can’t I just call somebody? It’s like, well, we have these two dedicated hours where you can hop on a zoom call and you can chat with us, which I think is a fairly fair approach.
[00:15:16] Plus. Nearly 24 7 help desk support through Zendesk and an email and chat. So, that’s a fantastic approach. I certainly like your approach of having that onboarding call that kickoff, call that alone, which I know developers, the more developer mindset folks who don’t want to talk to anybody. I just want to print money with my product that I’m selling.
[00:15:36] Don’t ever talk to me, just buy it. Man, you can re like that’s literally what you can charge. Out of the gate. Like if you just tell somebody that you buy this and I’ll hop on a zoom call to help you set it up, whatever that means for your product, that’s worth so much money to somebody. And it’s just that one hour of your time.
[00:15:53] I know there could be some chances where they knock on the door against, Hey, we’re going to hop on another call. I think largely 95% of your customer base will never knock on your door again and just email you. And I think that’s a fantastic approach. I applaud you for that. What else do you provide on those tune-up calls?
[00:16:10] Is there anything else that you do in a more structured approach? I just leave the door open. I say, come in and show up and ask anything you want, but do you approach it with any more structure than that? Yeah,
[00:16:19] Nathalie: for the most part, we just talk about what people bring to the, to the call, but sometimes we do have like new features or new scenarios and things that we’ve kind of seen people creating and we want to share it with them.
[00:16:30] So sometimes we’ll do like, okay, you’re doing a teams kind of feature. So that basically means, you’re selling to a bulk group of people and then here’s how you set that up. And here’s how they would assign other team members to the courses and that kind of stuff, or we’ll do like, okay, here’s what you need to know about doing this summit.
[00:16:46] If you’re using XSLT to run your summit, like how you do that. So we’ll kind of talk about a little bit about those scenarios that are kind of either popular or that we’ve seen someone do really well and kind of want to share with the rest of the community.
[00:16:57] Matt: Gotcha. No, that’s awesome. I will, I will write that down or release it to my episode and then apply that to cast those next time.
[00:17:04] I’m on my next time. I’m on my call. You started to, to say that, look, we know who our customer is. One they’re paying a little bit more. We’re helping them make money. Who would you say your best customer profile is for accessing.
[00:17:19] Nathalie: So some of our best customers are people who are in the business space.
[00:17:23] So they may not be like teaching business, but maybe they have business processes that help other business owners. So kind of that team aspect I was talking about. So, we have people who are, let’s say a sales trainer, and then they’ve got a program that they’ve developed that they sell to other companies to train their sales teams.
[00:17:38] Or we have someone who’s doing a coaching certification. So she’s a coach and she’s teaching other people how to become a coach. So they will become certified in her method. So there’s a lot of that kind of teaching something, but two groups of people that tends to be one of our bigger people. So we have like a dog trainer and I think, she comes in and she’s, she’s got groups of doc trainers in other businesses learning her methods and that kind of thing.
[00:18:01] So that seems to be one of our, our ideal.
[00:18:04] Matt: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. That’s awesome that you can identify. How can you paint the picture of how that has changed if at all, from when you first started the business? Like, did you go into the business thinking, yeah, we’re going to serve this one particular set it’s changed.
[00:18:18] Nathalie: It’s changed a lot over the years. Mostly our understanding of it. I think kind of similar people have been coming to us just based on like, who knows us and who they’ve recommended it to, and that kind of thing. So we’ve got a lot of authors and speakers and podcasters, and basically the content creators do come to us quite a bit.
[00:18:34] And over the years we realized, okay, the ones who are really doing well are the ones who they have a little bit more of that leverage. They can kind of sell to more people. So that’s. Evolved over time. We definitely have people who are more of the, do it yourselfers or who are just getting started.
[00:18:47] So that that’s great too, but I think our kind of top customer, those people who are a little bit more established and have that credibility and can kind of scale a little bit faster that way.
[00:18:56] Matt: One of the questions I have written down from our pre-interview was how you navigate the competition.
[00:19:00] And as we’re talking, like, I’m thinking about. Like boy I don’t know if you compete against anybody in the WordPress space, just because of your positioning, your brand value statements and who you, who you’re serving now as customers. Do you find yourself competing with more WordPress or more SAS based or is it just a, a good 50 50 mix?
[00:19:18] Nathalie: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a 50, 50 split. I would say. We definitely could be more with like Kajabi and teachable and Thinkific for the most part. But we also have a little bit of competition on the WordPress side too. It just depends on like what people are familiar with when they find us. So a lot of times if they aren’t familiar with WordPress and they’ve probably looked at LearnDash or number press or lift your LMS or something like that.
[00:19:39] So they’re kind of familiar more with that. Or if they’re kind of. Sort of, they don’t quite know what they’re doing, but they just know they want an online course and they might have already looked at Kajabi or teachable or Thinkific. And so they’ll kind of compare us very differently based on their background and kind of where they’re coming from.
[00:19:55] So we do have a lot of developers who are more comparing us to WordPress versus business owners themselves tend to compare us more to the class.
[00:20:03] Matt: Yeah. If you grew up in WordPress and you only knew of the WordPress LMS plugins, you’d be like, yeah, it’s a decent size market, but then once you get into like these SAS based businesses I’ll keep the name.
[00:20:15] I won’t say the name, but I worked with a hosted LMS. It wasn’t really even an LMS. It was just a membership. It had nothing to do with like learning modules or structures or anything like that. It was just a membership site. I’m trying to say this without revealing who it is, there was nothing wrong, but yeah, so it was like this blanket membership thing.
[00:20:34] And it served all kinds of anyone. And I, I talked to this person and I heard what they were doing for revenue. I was like, Wow, the space is that big. Like, I can’t even imagine what these other platforms that are doing that have, like, hyper-focused got great product, great marketing after this person had anything wrong, but it just made me and my eyes wide of like how big this market is.
[00:20:57] Do you have a sense? Of how large the market is numbers wise for outside of the WordPress LMS
[00:21:03] Nathalie: world? Yeah, so I don’t know the exact numbers, but I know that sort of the LMS, like in general market is like billions of dollars and just continues to increase year to year. So it’s definitely growing and obviously like with COVID and like a lot of things have changed more and more in the online direction.
[00:21:20] So. Only going to keep growing in my opinion. But yeah, I don’t know the exact numbers for each individual businesses, but I know that, some businesses are going public or, so there’s definitely a lot of growth in this space. For sure.
[00:21:33] Matt: You said you started a business with your husband.
[00:21:35] Labeled co-founder too, or just painting.
[00:21:40] Nathalie: He’s definitely my co-founder, but I would say he is more like head of engineering and just focused on development and kind of making sure that that sort of thing is solid
[00:21:49] Matt: with everything that’s going on. With, COVID weird to say, cause we’re like for two years, I feel like we’re going two years into it, 20 years into it feels like, but at least in the podcast world, we saw a huge rush to private podcasting company.
[00:22:01] Only podcasting a way to communicate internally with your organization instead of just video calls all day long. I’d imagine there’s a market there for you where people started knocking on the door saying, Hey. It w maybe we don’t want to sell this, but we need software that structures education to our organization out.
[00:22:18] Do you feel like you’re at a point where maybe having a sales team knocking on enterprise doors and like playing that game, is that something that you’re interested or exploring or already doing?
[00:22:28] Nathalie: That’s a great question. So we do have one person on our team who’s in sales, but we haven’t done as much of the outreach piece.
[00:22:34] So that is definitely something that is kind of. I think on our horizon essentially so far, we’ve been just working with the market that we know and kind of just building for them, but there’s definitely a lot more potential for where we can go. And we’re actually just trying to figure out like what what that looks like and kind of what, what those, like other verticals might be as well.
[00:22:54] Cause we are trying to just stay focused just because I think that’s easier to grow, but once we’ve kind of figured this out, then I do think we can kind of open up to the other verticals.
[00:23:03] Matt: Is this a fully bootstrap business? Or do you have investors that salesperson when, what is their responsibilities now?
[00:23:11] Is it just answering questions? Inbound questions. Does he, or she like structure custom agreements extra support, that
[00:23:18] Nathalie: kind of thing at the moment, it’s basically she does demos. She’ll do some of those onboarding calls. So it is half, I would say customer support, half sales in that way. And then we have marketing that does more of the, like getting people to book those demos and kind of come to the website and all of that.
[00:23:34] But yeah, that’s something that we’re like definitely like all eyes and ears open for how to, how to do that slightly
[00:23:39] Matt: differently. Have you had any requests from bigger enterprises or brands, could pay more than a hundred bucks a month?
[00:23:46] Nathalie: I have we’ve had some clients and part of it is like sometimes like a school would be interested, but then we, there’s a couple of things that don’t quite work.
[00:23:55] Either. Have certain requirements and that we’re not quite fast enough to be able to like, get up to speed on what they’re needing. So we, like, I think it’s kind of that tricky thing is like, we built it really for entrepreneurs. So when we have different types of institutions that come to us we might not have exactly, exactly what they want, but we have like 80% of what they want.
[00:24:12] So this is kind of the, the balance of what we’re working
[00:24:15] Matt: on for sure. Put a an identifier on whether or not that’s like a feature that you don’t have, or like an administrative thing you don’t have like SOC two compliance or something. Ridiculous.
[00:24:28] Nathalie: Yeah. A lot of times it’s like SCORM type stuff and like more more things that I don’t personally have as much experience.
[00:24:35] Yeah. Even just having a conversation about it is kind of like, okay. Tell me exactly what that means. It gets a little bit tricky versus where if they’re talking to someone who has that experience, they’re just going to be like off to the races with that. Yeah.
[00:24:47] Matt: Yeah. It’s another lesson. Again, just looking at your site and listening to you and how you position yourself.
[00:24:53] Like, there is lots of opportunity there. And, and for other folks who are listening to this in the WordPress space, 90, but I don’t wanna say 90%, but 70% of the time, like when a big enterprise knocks on your door, Your price could literally be 10 X, what you’re charging now. And it has nothing to do with the features.
[00:25:13] It is the time that it takes to sell them. Right. It’s just the sales process. It literally like six months to a year for most of them. And then it’s all this administrative stuff back and forth. And then it’s your terms. How can we pay you? Right. And. People are like, wait, we don’t have a credit. We’re not going to give you a credit card for a month.
[00:25:32] We want to pay for three years. Like, where’s the, where’s the legal ease around that. And it’s like, if you just had like all of this templated purchasing or procurement structure in place, you could be off to the races without even adding features. And in fact, I’d say features ends up being. Down the totem pole because a marketing person gets excited and they’re like, yeah, this is a great product.
[00:25:54] Oh, by the way, here’s the procurement team. And then you’re just like, oh shit, I got to go through legal now than I have to go through InfoSec, and then I get to talk to like the CFO and they get to talk about like, structuring a contract. So, again, no real question there, but just from my own experience, like I think WordPress can do WordPress products can do better by satisfying some of those needs that just doesn’t have anything to do with.
[00:26:15] At the end of the day. Yeah, absolutely. You your husband to support people? I heard the sales person. That’s five, a marketing person is six. How much more on the
[00:26:27] Nathalie: team? Actually two marketing people right now. One person who is in people ops, and then we have two development interns as
[00:26:36] Matt: well. Nice. How do you recruit the interns locally?
[00:26:39] Nathalie: Yeah, so they’re at the university of that. My husband and I both went to, so they have a really great program. That’s like a co-op program. So we basically just post and interview and hire and it’s been going really well.
[00:26:50] Matt: Yeah. I would definitely say a lot of that. Some agencies and product people should definitely look locally.
[00:26:55] For developers, especially in that sort of intern phase, it’s great to sort of educate people locally and pray to God. They stay, don’t leave the area when they graduate, because where I’m from, they leave the area when they graduate and we lose that, that great talent. When you started, how big was it?
[00:27:08] Nathalie: When I started, it was just me, my husband, and an
[00:27:11] Matt: assistant any, and this was going to be a broad question. Thoughts on hiring people, growing the team? What was that? Was that stressful at all? Turbulent at all?
[00:27:22] Nathalie: Yeah, it was a huge learning curve. So I feel like some of our best hires we figured out. A little bit late was it was already in our community.
[00:27:31] So they were already, super fans or maybe they were building websites for people using our plugin. And so they already have the talent and the know-how and he just had to like recruit them. And that, that was a big learning curve because we were posting on these very broad job boards and finding people who were just looking for a job and they don’t really care about us.
[00:27:50] And so when something else comes along, The end. So, that was a big kind of ruining her for us. And yeah, we’re doing a lot in that, in that way. Like how can we nurture our community? How can you make their lives easier and better? And then, if they’re ready for a different kind of position that fits what we’re looking for, then yet we’re definitely super excited about.
[00:28:09] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. The whole, like, I don’t know if you hear it, but I’ve heard it before I started or when I was starting my businesses, like hire slow fire fast and I’m like, yeah, Yeah, you just got to laugh at that. I’ll be like, I just need people now. Like I don’t have time to slow this process down. And then you realize that six months into it, you’re like I pick the wrong person or this or this person picked the wrong place.
[00:28:32] And now what do I do? And that is so true. I mentor at a local accelerator in the, and it’s a nonprofit accelerator for sustainable businesses in my area and the company that I’m mentoring. Now, they’re trying to launch a nonprofit for daycare for disabled children. And. They’re raised. They’re, they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to get money.
[00:28:51] And they’re talking about grants and funding and all this stuff. And they’re like right out of the gate, we want to hire 10 people and I’m like, man, that’s going to be tough. Like you don’t like that process of just getting people in, especially 10 of them is going to take you. It’s going to take a thousand people to talk to literally quite literally to get these 10 perfect people in the door here.
[00:29:11] And it’s, it is not easy. What’s the next role that you think you’d be hiring?
[00:29:13] Nathalie: We’re actually hiring right now for a product manager and that’s sort of. Me cause I’ve been head of product for quite a while. And it’s great because I talk to our customers a lot. So I kind of know what they were looking for and how to build what they want.
[00:29:27] But I also know I could be doing other things too. So it’s kind of just freeing myself up a little bit so I can do more of the marketing and the sales and kind of the things you were talking about, like, okay. Like what’s next, like lifting my head up a little bit and yeah.
[00:29:39] Matt: Looking bigger picture. Is that where you would focus more on marketing sales?
[00:29:42] If you were to alleviate
[00:29:44] Nathalie: yourself? It, yeah, more marketing and sales, more interviews like these, more things like that where I can be a little bit more publicly visible and kind of get the word out for access to LA. Yeah.
[00:29:55] Matt: Let’s talk about the marketing side of it. How, without giving away the secret sauce, what, what has been your best approach to reaching these customers?
[00:30:03] Previously you built your own audience. I assume you still leverage that same audience. What other areas are you getting into or how are you expanding that?
[00:30:11] Nathalie: Yeah. So a lot of, I think my success is from list-building and building that community in the beginning and just having a lot of alignment with what they wanted and also like what we were offering.
[00:30:22] And so we’ve done so much in the list, building realm, like we did a free challenge, we’ve done a like free, essentially a free video course where people like opt in and then they get a free video every day for 30 days. And that was probably. Lead magnet that was so super successful. And then, yeah, like, YouTube podcasts I’ve pretty much done all of the marketing things and kind of took a break for the past year and a half just because I had a baby and then obviously pandemic and so many things happened, but yeah, I feel like there’s so much in the space of marketing that works really well.
[00:30:52] I will say I don’t tend to jump on. Like flashiest things. So I deleted my Instagram account. I’m not on Tik TOK, I’m not doing it clubhouse. Like I know there’s been quite a few trends of like new platforms and new things, but I try to stick to things that work long-term. So for me, that’s like SEO, YouTube videos.
[00:31:09] Like those are the kinds of things that once you put it out there more and more people will find them over time. So to me, that is a really good long-term kind of investment on the marketing.
[00:31:18] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. I find Instagram to be challenging personally myself, even though I shouldn’t, I just like podcasts, you should be able to, like flex in that area.
[00:31:27] Is that what the kids say on Instagram? Like flex in that area and it should work well, but it doesn’t, especially on like the WordPress site. It’s like, there’s nothing really flashy. That’s going to be like excited. Like here’s a picture of the dashboard with a filter on it. Like, what are we going to do here?
[00:31:40] I get so jealous when I look at like other companies and other brands, right. Cool, like collabs, like backpacks, collabing with like these other makers or creators, like, ah, it’s such an awesome way. You can’t do that with WordPress is nothing there. It’s fun and exciting. It’s a challenge for sure.
[00:31:54] What about you hinted before. That maybe you kind of explored the world of SAS. I know you said you wanted to be hyper-focused or you are hyper-focused even if it wasn’t full on SAS, would you go and kind of pivot to supporting a Drupal or Joomla or another platform at all? Is that anywhere on the radar, SAS or otherwise?
[00:32:14] Nathalie: Not so much the other off of WordPress. If we were to do more of a SAS, we would probably just take WordPress and host it and kind of do it. Like plug and play one click button. Your site is ready kind of thing. Which I know other platforms like Rainmaker have done, like they took WordPress and they sort of, Close it off a little bit.
[00:32:32] So that’s something we thought about and we’ve tested doing like hosting with the seam and things like that in the past. But also we know that our people tend to be power users and they want to be able to install other things and kind of make it work with other stuff. And that’s kind of the beauty of WordPress.
[00:32:45] So we don’t want to like cut off the best part. So yeah, we kind of, we explore it like almost every year. We’re like, what about now? What about now? But I don’t think it’s really the right move.
[00:32:56] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. What about this is also kind of marketing kind of product, but what about partnerships in the WordPress space?
[00:33:05] Advice or success that you’ve seen or not that you’ve seen in the space that you can speak towards partnering other plugins and, or e-commerce plugins or marketing plugins or anything like that.
[00:33:15] Nathalie: Yeah. There are certain plugins that are positioned to do amazing things in terms of partnerships. So I know like WP fusion is an amazing one that they work with so many different things.
[00:33:25] And so we’ve integrated with, with them. And there’s a couple of other plugins that we’ve integrated with. But I would say our biggest integration partners are actually the CRMs and the email marketing systems that we integrate with. So they’re kind of outside of WordPress, but we do integrate tightly with them.
[00:33:38] So that gives us that ability to like co-market with them. And we’re all listed on their websites and stuff as an integration options. So that has been really nice for us too. And people who are really looking for something that deeply integrates with that, they tend to come to us because of that. So.
[00:33:53] Yeah. I almost feel like WordPress is awesome. And also there’s other tools that most people are using. So just thinking about at that level too. So for example, we don’t have an integration with zoom, but we used to have an integration with Google Hangouts. And so we would have, people could start a Google hangout from inside their membership site.
[00:34:10] And so I think that’s something too it’s like, how can you connect to things outside of WordPress? Sometimes that people use a lot as well. So those are some, some things we’ve done in the past and some things that are still working well for
[00:34:20] Matt: us, this seems to be a recurring. Trend in my last few interviews.
[00:34:25] Is is integrations. Ad-ons, when to make those there’s a million places you probably want to integrate with, I’m sure there’s a million people who have requested things to integrate with. How do you find that balance? Because at the other end of it, and people are probably sick of me saying this already.
[00:34:41] Is there is that the, the overhead of an integration that just doesn’t become as popular as you thought it was going to be MailChimp, even though MailChimp’s popular, let’s just say MailChimp fell off the face of the earth. Then it’s like, man, I got a half a dozen people over here using MailChimp and I still get to support this.
[00:34:55] Add on how do you make the decision on when to support one or when to make one? And co-brand with one, two at the same time. Yeah.
[00:35:03] Nathalie: So we currently integrate with five different email marketing systems. And the first one, we just build it for ourselves. Like, like I said, so that one was an easy, easy. Yes. And then after that, we looked at their biggest competitor essentially.
[00:35:16] And so we went with that one and then. We noticed a trend where a lot of people were switching from both of these two to a third one. So then we integrated with that one. And then the next two are kind of just, they were all being compared a lot. So that kind of made sense to integrate at that time.
[00:35:30] But yeah, we have, we have people constantly asking us to integrate with new payment systems and some people maybe in Europe can’t use certain systems or in other parts of the world where they can’t use Stripe, for example. So we definitely get a lot of. And I think it’s exactly what you said.
[00:35:46] Sometimes it comes down to numbers and if we’ve only had one person ask for it, like, I’m sorry, it’s just probably not going to have it right now. And also integrations do change, right? So they changed their API and then we have to test and maintain and make sure it still works the way that promised or, that used to at least.
[00:36:01] So that’s been a bit of a trick. The situation over the years, because as those companies that we integrate with change and mature we have to kind of keep up with that. So that’s definitely been a bit of a tricky thing. And we do have a whole backlog of integrations that people have asked for.
[00:36:14] And we did keep our ears open. We keep track of each person that asks for it. And then when the numbers kind of tick up high enough, then that’s kind of, usually when we pull the trigger on them,
[00:36:22] Matt: I’m looking at the integration page now. I actually don’t see a MailChimp. Has MailChimp not been requested or you just refuse to support the monkey?
[00:36:29] Ah, yes.
[00:36:30] Nathalie: So we’ve had a lot of people ask for it. I’ve never
[00:36:32] Matt: said that on the air before it refused to support the monkey. I don’t know where that came from, but sorry, go ahead.
[00:36:36] Nathalie: That’s hilarious. Yeah, no, we’ve definitely had. For MailChimp and our reasoning for not integrating so far is that they didn’t have the functionality that we needed in terms of tagging and automation.
[00:36:47] So we tend to integrate with the kind of more advanced CRM that do a lot of like cool things. And that basically think back to access LA after. And I know they’ve added a lot over the years, so we’re probably gonna be revisiting, revisiting that again soon, but yeah, for now yeah, there’s definitely people who’ve asked for it and.
[00:37:02] Matt: I noticed that the footer there’s a page called discover experts. Find an expert. I forget the title of it. It looks like there’s a 20 ish or so maybe more if I actually filtered through and started searching how does this program work and what have been the, the positives and negatives of trying to build something like this off the ground, get something like this off the ground, because I know it’s difficult to wrangle folks together to really get something of value here.
[00:37:30] Nathalie: So we started our certification program. I think it was. Six years ago. So, it’s been quite a few years in the making and the first round of it was in person, you had to fly out, we taught you everything there was to know about access ally and building sites and really kind of digging in. And it was a huge, it was a $10,000 program to sign up.
[00:37:51] So it was definitely like, you’re jumping in all in and that commitment level kind of connected with the people who were ready for it. So that really jumps start the program. And, a lot of those early people have had, hundreds of clients sent their way because of, being early adopters and kind of pioneering some of the things that we did with them and giving us feedback to improve the product and all of that.
[00:38:11] So that’s kind of how it started and then it’s really kind of shifted over the year. So now it’s an online things, so they don’t have to come and fly out and meet us and learn the software. We actually teach them online. And basically what we do is we. Make sure they’re really great at what they do.
[00:38:25] And then we kind of filter them out based on what they’re focused on. So some people only work with one CRM, that’s their jam. They’re super awesome at it. Other people love to do the design aspect of the site. Other people are more on the course development. So how to design the course in like the content and modules and all of that.
[00:38:41] So we kind of have people doing different types of things. So we know kind of who to recommend when somebody comes to us and doesn’t want to do their own setup and do all that.
[00:38:49] Matt: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And putting a price tag on it is very smart and I’m just like thinking in my head, how can I, how can I do that too?
[00:38:58] Like, that’s such a, that’s such a great idea. I I’ve, I’ve, I’ve known about obviously certification programs. A lot of them again, when you’re looking at the top it’s it’s, it’s all paid. I again, when I look at the things happening in WordPress, because we’re so I don’t want to say desperate, but we’re just so like desperate to get people excited.
[00:39:14] We’re like, just any, if you could fill out this form, you’re a partner. Like if you can get through the capture, you win. They’re like, okay, that’s the bar we’re setting for ourselves. But no, it’s great that it’s paid. And then, obviously don’t have to tell you, but once people are paying for it they’re spreading the word.
[00:39:29] They want you to succeed. You want them to succeed and it’s just those positive inertia in, in that direction. So that’s fantastic. That’s great to see that, that program, that program working before we hit record, you mentioned that you have a F potentially a new theme coming, anything that you can hint at about that release and why you started to be.
[00:39:48] Nathalie: Yeah. So we’ve actually been working on it for about a year, which is like insane, but it’s one of those things where we wanted it to be just right. And there’s a lot of options for themes and builders and like Burke and so many things that people can choose from to make their sites look great. And the reason we decided to do our own theme is really just menus.
[00:40:07] I know it sounds so simple, but when you have a course and you have our multiple courses with a different menu on each course, it’s a lot of work to set up those menus on all those pages and. So that’s kind of one of the biggest benefits it will save then you access LA theme. And then it also integrates with all the progress tracking.
[00:40:23] So you can kind of see, like, as you’re going through like little check marks show up beside your menu and you have your little progress bar that shows you how far ahead you are in a course or program. So we just wanted to make it easier for our customers to make things that look great out of the box if they don’t want to hire a designer.
[00:40:38] So that’s kind of our thinking with that.
[00:40:40] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. That’s no, that’s great. That’ll be a huge, I’m sure, again, and just from my work with other LMS plugins, that’s, that’s always the hangup. It’s like, I’ve got this perfect theme and it serves like all of my marketing and how I want my blog to look and how I want my homepage to look.
[00:40:55] And then you install the LMS and it’s like, that is the ugliest progress bar I’ve ever seen in my life. No, it looks like, I don’t know what it is like this looks like a geo city site that I built, 30 years ago. Why is it looks so terrible is because it’s not styled for it. Right. And it’s, that’s a huge crux of WordPress and plugin integration.
[00:41:13] Are you excited about anything Gutenberg related? That’s going to make your life easier for the plugin, for the theme.
[00:41:19] Nathalie: Yeah. I really want to love Gutenberg and I think it’s getting there, like, no, no, I really think it’s we’re close. And I think that a lot of people had a lot of. Emotions, let’s put them around.
[00:41:32] And and I think that we’re really, really like if we’re not there yet, I think we’re like super close to actually having that. So we’re actually going to be recommending people, use Gutenberg with theme. So if people don’t have another option that they prefer, and I think that’s going to be really amazing.
[00:41:46] So XSL, it comes with blocks already, so it can do all the things that it needs within that area. I like kind of your main part of your content for your courses and stuff. So I’m super excited about that. And it’s actually something I want us to go into more, like, I think that’s direction. I really want the plugin to go into Morris, making the blocks even better.
[00:42:03] So yeah, I’m definitely all in on Gutenberg, but I think that there’s still a lot of resistance from people who are more familiar with it, or maybe haven’t played enough with it and feel a little bit of that. Yeah, not too sure about it yet.
[00:42:17] Matt: Yeah. In the beginning, everyone was sort of just, throwing their hats off saying why, why, why, why, why do we have this?
[00:42:23] But you know, over, over time, like we all should have known like any soft first version of a piece of software. You, we all know it’s not, it’s not the, the version we are really gonna fall in love with. And it’s taken a few years. I certainly enjoy it, but yeah, there’s still some things where I’m just like, I literally can’t drag this block into a column.
[00:42:42] Like the most basic thing I should be able to do ever. I can’t do those are some frustrating points and then there’s some other awesome points. And I was making a landing page for, at castles today. And, and like the quick commands of like the forest lash and you just hit I, and an image pops up or P for power, like that stuff navigating that is it’s fantastic.
[00:43:06] Like, it just makes that stuff so much easier, but yeah, there’s still some pain points and I think, I think it’s going to be another year, maybe two until it’s really smooth, especially with full site editing.
[00:43:18] Nathalie: Right? Yeah. I feel you on that. And I think it’s like, just. Keeping the hope right. That we’ll get there and like, just keep them at it, keep it going and just putting our support behind it too.
[00:43:29] I think as business owners, we have to say like, no, this is the direction we’re presses going in. And we have to put our support behind that too. So that’s. Yeah,
[00:43:38] Matt: for sure. Natalie Lucier is founder and CEO access. ally.com checkout access, ally.com. If you haven’t, if you have a customer or a client or you want to launch your own LMS, check out access, ally.com, Natalie, anywhere else you want folks to go to say thanks.
[00:43:52] No, that’s
[00:43:53] Nathalie: that’s fine. Thank you
[00:43:55] Matt: stuff, everybody else. My report.com my report.com/subscribe. Join the mailing list. And if you want your weekly dose of WordPress news and under five minutes, the WP minute.com.
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