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Podcasts > Tea Time With Tech Marketing Leaders

Ethical Marketing–Transparent Data Control

Kerry Guard • Wednesday, March 1, 2023 • 68 minutes to listen

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Alec Foster

Alec is a highly motivated and experienced marketer with a proven track record record in developing and executing go to market strategies, driving brand awareness and managing cross functional teams. He's skilled and developing growth roadmaps, leading marketing plans and shaping company's trajectory. He has a strong understanding of growth and lead generation targets, sem SEO organic and paid digital campaigns needed to generate marketing qualified leads, strong analytic skills experience of marketing automation, CRM platforms and ability to translate technical concepts and features into a solution point of view, differentiation and value proposition of customers. deep knowledge of AI ethics, global privacy laws, regulations and best practices.


Alec is a privacy certified growth leader. He is currently working at a company called Stealth as the Go to Market Growth Leader

Alec is a highly motivated and experienced marketer with a proven track record record in developing and executing go to market strategies, driving brand awareness and managing cross functional teams. He's skilled and developing growth roadmaps, leading marketing plans and shaping company's trajectory. He has a strong understanding of growth and lead generation targets, sem SEO organic and paid digital campaigns needed to generate marketing qualified leads, strong analytic skills experience of marketing automation, CRM platforms and ability to translate technical concepts and features into a solution point of view, differentiation and value proposition of customers. deep knowledge of AI ethics, global privacy laws, regulations and best practices.

And this is where my conversation with Alec goes in this idea. The idea like it's not a real thing, it's absolutely a real thing. Especially as more AI comes on to the scene, which have GPT and other automation systems. You can't really have these systems without thinking about the impact on individuals.

And that's really where Alec takes us.

He tells his really great story that I'm not going to tell you to let him tell it, of how he got into this, but it's personal. And it really set him on this journey of wanting to not only protect himself and his own data, but protect others and what that means in terms of ensuring your marketing is ethical. This is so good, y'all. It's so important. And it's so timely. So I think this is one of those episodes where being where you can either sit or stand at a desk with some sort of note taking ability is going to be important, because we need to take action. This episode is a complete call to action. So put on your headphones, pull up the notepad. And we then here's my episode with Alec.


Kerry: Hi, Alec. Thank you for joining me at Tea Time with tech marketing leaders.

Alec: Hey, Kerry, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Kerry: I'm so excited to have you and I love our conversation. I'm going to tee it up for people because I want them to lean in because it's going to be good. But before we get there, let's let our listeners know a little bit more about you, Alec. So what do you do? And how did you get there?

Alec: Sure. Thanks for asking. I'm a growth marketer. And in the past couple of years, I've also become a certified privacy professional as a way of amplifying and making my growth programmes slightly more ethical. I started off I guess my journey started back in 2010 as a meme page admin, which is a bit of a silly story. You know, in high school and in college, I started a number of social media accounts on Facebook, you know, the blue app that were, you know, mostly student focused, you know, creating like silly memes and content. But what a lesson I learned very early is that, you know, pages, especially back in the heyday of organic social media reach, which now you have to pay a lot for Facebook doesn't give that away for free anymore. If you amplify posts from multiple pages that people follow, it's much more likely to be viewed in their feed. So having multiple pages focused on similar topics, amplifying some of the same content. We are reaching more people at my university NYU, then, you know, the student newspaper and I was really important on a decentralised campus. And I was able to, you know, even change some policies at the school that were important to me for good. So I studied communications and political science, and I wanted to turn that, you know, experience and knowledge into a career. So I started off working in political campaigns and advocacy, some of which I'm still doing now. got started in drug policy reform and then I started a nonprofit for digital rights, especially how they affect students and educators. That was really influential in my in my career rear I, a lot of the same skills that I learned then are extremely applicable to what I do now as a grift marketer, where you're designing calls to action and engagement funnels and moving people through these funnels from, you know, being a interested listener to an evangelist, you know, what I now call like an affiliate or a, you know, an engaged repeat customer. So, I did some work in in politics. And then out of college, I worked at Google and then a number of startups I'm currently working for to cybersecurity and a financial security startup very early stage. One of these I was their first non first hire outside of the core team of co founders and helping them get started. And I'm also a data protection professional. So I try to work at companies where I can, you know, use that knowledge to both like make the growth programmes compliant with laws as well as adhering to best practices and gold standards for consumer data handling as well as affecting the product as it is concerned with privacy, which is I think, very important with cybersecurity or companies that have products that deal with sensitive topics such as healthcare or, you know, anything that might need to reach people that there might be policies against, say, regarding advertising or, or just needs to be handled sensitively. So, that's that,

Kerry: Oh my gosh, what a journey. I have so many questions. So many questions. Yeah, no, we're gonna get into our topic. But I do want to pull apart your story a little bit. Because you said a couple of things here that are just fascinating. Growth marketing, let's start with that. I think growth marketing has evolved, where it's not, the title has changed periodically. So I feel like the the the title of growth marketing has fallen off. I feel like I haven't heard that in a while. And has it evolved? Is it still growth marketing? Is it a different title? Is it in this transition? Or is growth marketing really different than the other titles that are sort of thrown out there right now?

Alec: I love this question. When I first heard the term growth, marketing and heard of growth, marketing, or growth marketers, to me the sounded like lazy attempts of marketing, where you're just exporting data from LinkedIn and building, you know, like pumping it through Clearbit. And then building a remarketing audience and Facebook, just like lazy stuff that is often like very hacky, like, very much associated with grit used to be associated with growth hacks. And in like, the politics side, this would just be called Digital, you're just a digital person. And, and my, how I got into demand generation and growth marketing was by accident, where I started off handling events and communications marketing operations at a startup. And then my, my boss, the director of demand generation left the company, and I inherited a lot of these responsibilities. And at first, I was hesitant, because I thought that demand generation and growth marketing would just be the same at any company, I was at a company where I really liked the product, at least at the time, and I thought that it would just, I would just be doing the same thing. It wouldn't take any creative energy, but I realised that it is imbuing a like technical background with like the creative tactics. And I there's there's some parts that feel like maybe a little mundane, like I'm setting up another Google Analytics account connecting Google Tag Manager, you know, creating all of these things on the back end foundation. Oh, absolutely. Oh, it's, it is, I've learned that it's very important, especially for early stage companies, it's probably the first marketing role that one will hire where I think all of the you know, any kind of responsibility can fall into this and there's opportunities to specialise and a few channels that I think can really set you apart from other growth marketers, I think, like, I've been called a like Jack of all trades, but I do have, you know, some specialties that I think set me apart. And I think it's important for any marketer, especially growth marketers to have a couple of channels that they go deep in and specialise in, but have a broad background so that they can, you know, learn things as they go or just do the basics, especially if they're the only marketer at a company. So I, to your question, I do think it has changed, maybe my association with it has changed too. I no longer think of it as cringy as I used to all those certain aspects, you know, depending on how it's executed, it can be a little unsavoury. But in my, in my understanding, it's the best way of I guess getting your foot in the door at a company and then as companies grow, you might be able to specialise in an area that you feel more interested in.

Kerry: Yeah, it sounds like there's some overlap, too, between growth and demand. Like there's there's some blending there. I heard you say both of those things sort of interchangeably, and I think I do use them interchangeably. Oh, that's right. Yeah. I mean, I think that's where Things have headed. And I like what you're saying we're growth sort of was this initial sort of hacking sort of thing. Like, they Oh, the example I always see which is so dated now, which was when Google first launched their email system, Gmail, right. And at the very bottom, they said, you know, sent from Gmail, and that was like, a hack in terms of getting more people to then buy into Gmail. And I just don't think those things, those are a dime a dozen, that's not easily replicable. It is those deep, knowledgeable things that you sort of stack on each other and grow over time.

Alec: So not everyone has the built in audience that Google has. And I think like I'll get into later, like every growth channel, you know, there's a, there's a cycle with it, where there's a period where it's very fresh, and people aren't used to it. But then people spot these or as they become, you know, utilise more widely. People learn to tune these out that like, Oh, this isn't, this doesn't feel authentic to me anymore. This is just the same kind of, you know, automated text or, like, you know, email campaign or, you know, multilevel marketing type style, like referral programme that people are used to,

Kerry: demonstrating that I'm waiting for Tik Tok to, to get there, but I don't do that. We'll see, we shall see. Um, my other question to you that you mentioned. So you're now doing cyber and financial security. What's. So I understand what Fintech is, and I understand financial, but this is this feels new.

Alec: I'm new to this. I'm new to this space as well. The area that the company I'm working with hold credence CR E. D. NZ specialises in is like vendor fraud. In particular, where that is actually the most common type of financial fraud, where I mean, it has the highest dollar amounts, where say, this is extremely common, more common than I realised where a like, say, a scammer or con artist will gain access to a third party systems like say, a vendor of yours. And this affects all types of companies, especially like mid market and larger companies. But smaller companies with fewer employees have fewer checks in place. So they're actually the ones that sometimes see the most damaging type of fraud. And it's also very common in like real estate and like title companies. So I'll give you a couple of examples. So say that the parts supplier says that, okay, for future, you'll get an email from them, or maybe an email that looks just like theirs. And they say that, okay, from now on, send your payments to this new bank account. And it comes to you know, they're from the same email address they've used. And so this has happened, you know, Facebook and like has been hit with these, you know, a lot of companies have fallen victim to these types of scams, where they end up paying the wrong vendor, and that money is quickly like syphoned out or converted into cryptocurrency, and you don't get it back. And this is the most common type of financial fraud much, even in terms of dollar value, it's more impactful than, you know, broad the impacts regular consumers, because there's more money to be made in there. And like the example of you know, real estate, say, your PSA, the broker that you're dealing with, their account becomes compromised, they, they use this, they reuse the same password on their Gmail is they use on their like that one off, you know, you know, photo design web app, and they say, Okay, you got the house here to send the downpayment to this address, and you send that payment, and you end up losing it. And the thing is, is that that the company, you know, involved is responsible for this, where, if, you know, if your account is compromised, you're going to be, you will be held liable for, if not all, then like the vast majority of the damages. So there's a huge incentive for companies of all sizes of all sizes to have standards in place that maybe will check, you know, bank account numbers as like a against a list of like fraudulent accounts or other discrepancies like changes, or there's, you know, portals where, you know, vendors will authenticate changes like this. So it's an important but it's a new space for me, I've, I'm learning a lot about it as I go.

Kerry: I feel like it's doing general like, and this is the category space that happens, right? When these securities huge. And then cybersecurity is a cent is a piece of that. That's huge. And then there's all these different categories in this and this is the first time I've heard financial security, which makes total sense.

Alec: Yeah, well also think about how the pandemic has changed how we work in offices versus working remotely. You're not seeing your coworkers or say that the CEO sends the request to saying, hey, I need you to pay this vendor like it can happen internally as well say that account is compromised, you don't see that same person in the hallway and can ask like, Hey, did you just send this email or, Hey, I'm gonna send you that payment. So it's a lot more important to have other systems that encourage verification when you don't have these face to face interactions as often as he used to.

Kerry: I think it's faster now to the way that we respond to things feels very reactive. So I think a lot of people are learning to sort of question and so their will or maybe I'm in an echo chamber, because I'm in the, you know, in the cyberspace. So that happens, but it's just, it's just fascinating to me. Let's switch gears here, Alec, because I could pull apart your story all day, there's so many interesting nuance to it from poli sci to NYU, was the dream was dream, I wanted to go to NYU. But I never feel like we go on this journey to be marketers. And we sort of end up here with this lovely mixture of background that then facilitates our ability to be really good marketers, because we were able to cultivate all this different all these different skills from this journey we take. So I, I love the mixture of skills you bring to the table here, which is going to lend really lovely to our conversation. Before we get there, though, what's one challenge you're currently facing something that's keeping you up at night? That feels really hard? What What is that for you?

Alec: Yeah, I'll briefly touch on this. So one thing I'm experiencing, and the companies I'm working with these, like b2b software providers is the long sales cycle that we have, where it's not always apparent, you know, how, like, you know, how your channels are doing, whether you're reaching the right audiences, whether these leads are bringing in are qualified, whereas when I worked in a consumer product, it's behave, you're dealing with a larger pipeline of customers. So it's good that you know, the difference between like one lead and two leads, like a week, you know, that, that can be huge, but that's sometimes that can just be very random. Whereas when you are, when you're dealing with longer or larger customer size bases, and shorter sales cycles, it's a lot easier to, you know, see if your, you know, efforts are having an impact. And sometimes these drawn out sales cycles can, you know, hurt your revenue, if it's not what the company expected. And I'm seeing that in like many other companies, where, you know, budgets are having to be reduced, because, you know, companies, you know, took on, you know, large investment rounds, and aren't able to meet these aggressive growth targets that they had, now that we're in this downturn. So I'm sure you're probably wondering how I would overcome this challenge and something I'm still working on. But at least one of the companies I'm working with, we're transitioning to a product led growth model, where we have a free version of the product. Yeah. And that helps, I mean, one, I think it's just a great way of letting people experience the product before dropping a five or six a year, you know, contract on it. And it's you know, widens your pipeline, it also gives you the opportunity for, you know, remarketing to these people like once they've had a chance to experience it, or like bringing people back and gives you more customers or potential customers to analyse like, you know, how the product is doing, you can monitor changes and how they are impacted. So I would say that a product lead growth model, if if it's applicable to your company, is very useful. And I think that will broaden your reach. And, you know, shorten that sales cycle.

Kerry: If you haven't listened to it already. For those who are listening, check back to the very first episode of this year to Peter wheelers episode where he literally talks through how to build a freemium model and the power of that so I love that you're talking about this, Alec, because it really, I feel like everybody steered away from it, because they felt like the leads they were getting weren't the right ones, because they weren't buying fast enough. But from a long term standpoint, if you can bring people in initially who aren't ready to buy from you, because they're too small and are not ready, but then once they start needing those features, and then you need to stack up and then they need to grow like they grow with you. And it's sort of this really empowering, beautiful story that unfolds with with startups and it's really hard to stay patient in it. But yes, I you know, and it gives so much power to small businesses who need these tools that you all are building and allows them to get their foot in the door with you and then as they grow in scale from small business to medium size to scale or to enterprise like they grow with you and they stick with you because you gave them that first shot initially. So yes to that. Yes. Exactly how much joy I want to circle back with you and and next year, and I'm going to hear how it's going for you. Sounds great. Let's talk about this is what's so lovely about your background and the collection. of skills you have from poli sci to now being certified certified, is that the right word in terms of Yeah. Certified in in security. So I first want to understand how you made the leap. Like, what do you told your story? It was like I was doing this, and now I'm doing this, how did you make that transition from more of that meme growth stuff to now being in cyber and fin security?

Alec: Sure. So it goes back to 2012 2013, I was very motivated. I was maybe in substances overly optimistic seeing companies get involved in the SOPA and PIPA protests, I think back in 2011 2012, for like, keeping the internet like free and open, as well as the huge net neutrality battle that was going on with the FCC, and how that evolved over the years. And so that was, those were very formative years for me. And I had experience working with a international nonprofit that was student led, and that was on drug policy reform. And I that was a huge professional development accelerator. For me, it taught me a lot of the skills that I'm using today. But I realised that there was not an equivalent organisation for digital rights, which was a newer interest of mine. So I started off, you know, creating petitions and learning about internet privacy from the activist perspective. And I had a lot of this knowledge. And I realised, you know, years later that I was like, still relying on this knowledge as I was creating my marketing programmes and thinking about best practices. And I realised that, you know, I could translate this, you know, knowledge into practical skills and tactics that I could use in marketing. So I, I also met someone who is a not a lawyer, but most lawyers do have the certification, or most people that have a certification are lawyers, that as a data protection professional, and I learned about the International Association of privacy professionals, which is the International Gold standard of privacy certifications. And I thought, you know, I'm just going to try taking this test to see if I can pass it with my knowledge, you know, from learning about these laws. And, you know, I'm glad that I didn't pass it on my first attempt, I think that, because I wanted, it showed that, you know, this is the, this is a serious body of knowledge. And there, you need, actually, you need to read the book. So I studied a bit more, you know, read all these white papers, read the book, and came back and I passed the exam. And which eye exam I took was for was based in the US privacy laws that focused on privacy sector, as well as, you know, privacy laws here in the US. But what's also incorporated, you know, international laws like GDPR, which is extremely important for marketers to know. And using that knowledge, I think, gives a lens of credibility to me when I'm say applying for jobs, if, to my knowledge, I'm the only marketer that has this certification, it's more of a legal field distinction, but it, it has been very informative. And I encourage anyone with a little bit of like interest or is interested in, you know, interested in specialising in, you know, this area, say, for companies, there's a lot of companies that do make privacy enhancing tools and software, or the cybersecurity industry or companies that deal with sensitive consumer data. Were having this certification will set you apart. But yeah, as it's, funnily enough, started with my interest in advocacy as a bit of an outsider.

Kerry: Let's talk a little bit about privacy. Tell me more about like, what this what is what's data protection, privacy? The mean, I mean, I think we all know what it means how, you know, my most my audience is very savvy. But in terms of what you've been through, what does it mean to you?

Alec: Sure. Well, there are both gold standards, like, you know, baselines of clear protections that you should give consumers that there's been a few, you know, a few of these that have been released that describe general tenants that marketers should know. And then there's also laws that need to be complied with. Some of the most important laws that marketers will, you know, come into contact with is the European Union's GDPR. In California, we have the CCPA and the CPRA, which will have gone into effect by the time this episode is released. There's privacy law in Delaware. And then there's a few channels specific privacy laws that marketers must comply with, like can spam, which has a long acronym that isn't worth repeating. But that governs email privacy. There's the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the TCPA, which not only affects phone calls, but also text messages. And then there's some industry specific laws like in the financial sector, there's a few as well as HIPAA. That's HIPAA. With two A's, not two peas, that affects health care laws and the those, the all those except for GDPR in the US, but as marketers, most of the time you're advertising to or re trying to reach a global audience. So it's, if you have anyone, like on your, if your product is available to people outside of the US in the European Union, you do need to comply with the GDPR. So it's having that, you know, legal background is really important you don't, because it can open you up to fines if you don't comply with these laws. And also just best practices people recognise when their data is being used responsibly. And people do care about this. And there's like data out there that shows this.

Kerry: I mean, every time I open my my Apple phone, and it tells me if I want an app to track me, right, I get the choice, which I always choose now, which is sort of ironic being in the advertising industry, I was choose No. But the fact that even have a choice, right, so I'm curious, what sort of the, I'm asking you to simplify and dumb this down, which I know is probably goes against every fibre of your being of that how technically complicated all this stuff is. But what's sort of the overarching theme through all these things? What in terms of privacy? Is it giving power back to the user? Is it making sure that we're just not collecting and using their data for more than what, what we've promised in terms of like, you're gonna get this exact newsletter for this exact thing? And nothing else? Like? What sort of having gone through all of these, knowing these front and back and this certification? was sort of the high level of what these things do?

Alec: You touched on a few of the things that I would have brought up, I would say there's four central tenants of consumer privacy, there's individual control, like you described with those prompts. And I think that, I mean, going, I want to touch more on those prompts. And like how, like, you know, consumers can be incentivized, like, if they know how their data is used, if they're gonna get more value, that they might choose to give the business more information about them. But, you know, okay, so the first tenant, you know, being individual control, you know, being able to delete and reclaim your data, choosing how the data is shared, what data is shared. The second tenant, I would say is important in consumer privacy is respect for context. So say when Twitter was fine for using telephone numbers that people were providing as part of two factor authentication for their, like ad targeting system, like that is not a respect for context. So understanding, you know, the difference between like, you know, what consent you obtain that data through, and making sure that you're adhering to that or giving consumers a chance to reauthorize use of that data in a different means. A third tenant around consumer privacy is security, where making sure that data is protected and stored properly. I'm sure you've, you know, if you've signed up for many of these services that alert you when your data is found in a data breach, it's becoming increasingly common. And it's, there's a, it's a fallacy that that responsibility should be all on consumers hands like I was a, like I've mentioned, I was a privacy activist. And back in that time, I had a privacy breach where third party developer on Facebook, there, they were using, I guess this is more of a violation of the respect for context, but they were collecting it in order to use their app, you would have to authorise sharing your friends list, and they scrape those images and then use that to create profiles for your friends, even though your friends have never used that app. And then then they took it a step further and reusing my images in their marketing materials. So I found myself in a press kit for this awful third party app, I had nothing, no interest in being a part of but the point being is that I at this time, I consider myself a privacy expert. And I thought it was, you know, I use a password manager. I had like good data hygiene, I had two factor authentication. But still, a lot of these things don't matter if the businesses aren't treating your data properly with respect for the context and also securely. So. So you know, you know, safeguarding against breaches is obviously a very important thing. But you know, there's other steps that businesses should take, you know, perhaps to D anonymizing the data or anonymizing the data. So making sure that like if there is a breach, or that, you know, that data is, you know, more protected, there's less of a Fallout, you know, hashing passwords and etc. The fourth tenant, I would say is important in individual consumer privacy is access and accuracy. There are some financial laws that that require this, but many, many law like I guess many sectors of you know, consumer data and aren't governed by a law and I think that that needs that those protections need to be expanded. So being able what access and accuracy means as being able to view what data a company has on you. And California has done a lot in that regard. So that consumers can send a request to understand what data that is held and also deleted if needed, and verifying the accuracy of it. Like, there's, it's possible that, you know, marketers can segment their populations and like, you might not get ads for like a, say, like, you know, like discounts on a home or whatever, if you live in an area that they think that you, you know, you can afford it, that's very unethical. For it's a very unethical form of targeting. But when like, you shouldn't do that in the first place, but to like, you should be able to remedy this and be able to clarify what information is stored on you. And there's some, you know, applications out there that make this easier. I know, Consumer Reports now has a free tool where you can send these requests more streamlined, and then companies will get back to you after verifying your identity. So, you know, those are the four tenants that I say are most important. There's is others, you know, general philosophies like collection, limitation, specifying what perfect what purpose, you know, general openness and transparency. And like, you know, third party accountability, when, when applicable, but I would say those four tenets I went through are things that every company, large or small, should follow.

Kerry: I like want to unpack all of these. But I think a more logical stance would be to talk through how we use these from a marketing standpoint, like this is a lot. And it's this sort of question, everything we do, from a marketing standpoint, from the lists we build, and how we build audiences off of that, to how we collect data, what we do with it, I have to say, I feel like third party selling has sort of died off a bit, maybe maybe not as much as it should have. But I feel like that's definitely like, I understand why that's lower on your list. I feel like people get that, like, if I'm collecting your data, it's for me and me alone, versus me now reselling that information. Yeah, that's taken.

Alec: I, it is still out there. When I worked at Google several years ago, I did see all these like third party, like data lists that was built into the service where, you know, companies can, you know, find audience lists that are based on affinity and interests and, you know, like demographics that Google doesn't provide, that they have expands on those. And, you know, it's still out there, I think that there is more like, you know, respect for, I'm hoping there's more respect for how this data is used. But I think larger companies still have access to these types of tools. And it's also very prevalent in political advertising more than ever, like, you know, these, these surveys will, like, I mean, I've seen both sides where I feel like, you know, this information can be used for good like, you could mobilise persuadable voters on an issue that I think is very ethical, but at the same time, it can be used, like, you know, to suppress the vote or, you know, misinformed people. So I think that's a

Kerry: whole different, like avenue that this podcast could take. And I mean, especially with voter like, with the elections, and what's been going on with that in terms of the outside influence from other countries. So we're going to create on that next podcast. That is, that is a whole other podcast, and maybe I'll have you back on discuss that. But for this podcast, and specifically for the audience, I'm, I'm, I'm working with, in terms of all this information, which is really important. And while I think we should all go get certified, if we are collecting data in any sense, I do think we need some level of certification of what of how we should handle that data in a really ethical way. So for you and your experience, as we all look to be sort of convinced on going to get these certifications, what's your sense of how we should use this the these best? What are the what are the best practices that we should be taking away and how we approach our own marketing?

Alec: Sure, well, I'll touch briefly on the best practices, but I want to apply it to some, like, you know, common questions that I think your listeners would have, say, like, you know, the platforms that we're all using, like Google Analytics or ads, and we're saying like aI models. So you know, best practices, like I mentioned, you know, respecting the context. But I think this isn't, this shouldn't just be treated as a negative thing like, like you described those. Those prompts that you have on your iPhone, or if you want to share your data with a dad, sorry, with a with an application. I think that there's a lot of opportunity for applications to give pre prompts to explain the benefits of giving permission for data sharing. So making sure that you know customers are informed and that they can And, like understand the benefits if they're already to sharing that data. So I think that it needs to be a treated as an education opportunity, not just okay, I'm being I need to comply with these pesky data protection laws. Rather, I think you can set yourself apart by communicating transparently or giving consumers more control over their data. Like there's there's now things called the CDP is known as customer data platforms that can streamline management of first party data and assets and customer privacy preferences. So, you know, creating these assets of any business and all need to be built in house, there's like, you know, services that provide these systems that you know, can integrate with your like cookie management tool or provide that on your website. These types of tools can be very seamless and unobtrusive, and unobtrusive. So but you don't need a certification and data privacy, to know these and, or to follow these. And I think that's important for marketers to understand, I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad, or give you a bunch of homework, rather telling you that, like I did the research so that you don't have to. So yeah, give it giving people controls, we're all very busy. Exactly, exactly. So you know, pre prompts giving a context, giving more controls, those are, I think some of the baseline things that people can do, that will also make sure that they're compliant with GDPR, or at least the baseline of it. So when it comes to specific apps, I would say that, when it comes to GDPR, by default, Google Analytics is not GDPR compliant. So you actually need to obtain explicit consent from end users through a cookie banner before you activate Google Analytics. And also describe the data processing in your privacy policy. So this, I've encountered this, say, in my own businesses, where their business I do marketing for where our conversion tracking is not always accurate, where I will send you know, we have we run LinkedIn as a on our, the free version of our product. And it LinkedIn does not show the same conversion data that we have on our back end, when we see how many users have signed up for it. Because many of these users coming to the site, when they sign up, they haven't agreed to they don't need to agree to share data in order to access the product. So there is a lack of clarity sometimes that marketers are having to deal with now compared to what we had 10 years ago. But that's, I think, that just means you need to find like other opportunities to, you know, develop channels and like, have more insight into, you know, the back end on your on your system to see, okay, where are these? Like, where are these people coming from maybe the data doesn't go back to, you know, to Google Analytics or to LinkedIn, but maybe you can see, you know, based on what you can create different landing pages, where you can have one landing page for your LinkedIn ads when a landing page for your Google ads are different campaigns. And you can use that information to, like, based on you know how many you can look at your LinkedIn platform, look at how many clicks you got, look at, you know, conversions for that page and see how many new customers that were brought into that page and just do some basic math, and you'll be able to, you know, calculate that same information that LinkedIn or Google would have otherwise given you. So I think it's directional

Kerry: to write, especially if you're working with large, this is great for smaller companies who maybe aren't working with large quantities of data. And so they do really need to make sure that every impression leads to somewhere. Right, right. But when you are a bigger enterprise, and you have a tonne of data, like you don't need, you can look at this. I mean, Google already says that the data they collect is, you know, a fraction of what's probably actually happening, right. So there is some direction, directional gut check that you sort of do have like, okay, there's enough data here to quantify that this is working or isn't working. But I love what you're saying in terms of segmentation. Like I think that's from a landing page standpoint. It is a bit more like work. Yeah. But that makes a tonne of sense. If you really do want to be that granular in terms of how much information you're collecting to know that the dollar you're putting in is the dollar you're getting out.

Alec: Yeah, these are just options. And I'm sure there's other ways that people can figure this out. The couple of other practical applications for how differently you know, popular marketing tools aren't affected by privacy laws would be Google ads. So can standard keyword search advertising, you know, where you're just targeting keywords, not not upload it to a list. Those are not affected by GDPR or other privacy laws. But you do need consent for remarketing and conversion tracking. So that's but so, you know, Google Ads still or Even like LinkedIn ads like where you're just that the non remarketing kind or the you know, if unless you're absolutely need conversion tracking to work, you can still run these ads and be compliant with GDPR. And the third topic I want to touch on is AI like I've I've used machine learning models, for expediting will say are like how we view new leads, like based on the information they submit, and like pre qualifying them based on the information they submit. But the rights that in GDPR, that could be violated by you know, AI, would be automated decision making, if but that means if you're only using AI to make a decision, not if you're like having an extra layer of human review, but this makes a lot of sense. You don't want to deny people access to essential service, because they like because of the type of grammar they use, or the size of slang they use, that's not ethical. And then the second would be in GDPR would be the right to erasure where identifiable data is stored on a third party server, or you use that for generating your models, like you'll need to track down that piece of data and make sure it's removed. So but if it is anonymized, if there's no personal identifying information on it, then that does that is still compliant, where you know, that can be used without it violating the right to erasure.

Kerry: Cool, there's a lot here. So let's let's back up for a second. I do think there's a huge question around Google Analytics right now. So let's back up to that right now. Out of the box, you're saying it is not compliant, which I think we're all aware of, especially as countries continue to, quote unquote, outlaw it. It sounds like GA four is better, but still not completely compliant. So what, is there a way to make Google Analytics or GA four compliant? Or is it just is it just not?

Alec: Well, that's a great question. So I've worked for companies that only deal with customers in the United States. So we did not need a cookie banner. Even if someone from like the EU arrived at our site, like we wouldn't accept playing like a lead from them, if they tried to input their information. So. And like we can also, you can filter that data out, there are settings in there. But it is compliant if you have a cookie banner, and you're not collecting that data beforehand. So the most if when I travelled to the EU, and I load up the same web pages that I visit from the US all sometimes see often see cookie banners that I wouldn't have been exposed to it. So you can have you can implement these technologies so that they are only shown to users in the EU, if that is a concern for you. And so you can continue collecting information from people in other countries if needed. But yes, by default, it's not GDPR compliant, but it's very easy to, you know, have that switch. And I think like I described before having context and informing people, like the benefits of sharing that data, if there are any, you know, if depending on your business, like I think there's many opportunities where people would want to share that data, but it just needs to be properly educated.

Kerry: Yeah. So how do you educate people? If they're just coming to your website and browsing? Like, is it in that cookie banner? Is it in? Is it in these pop ups? Like, I mean, how do you make that information accessible? Yeah,

Alec: I've seen so many different types of banners. I like the ones that don't use dark patterns, like, you know, the big bold button that says, like, share my data and the tiny greyed out button that says like, No thanks, don't collect my data, or that makes you individually toggle each toggle off. And like after opening sub menus, so I think, yeah, but there's like the pre prompt education phase where you're saying like, like, hey, are our business like, you know, relies on this consumer data, it's, it is anonymized, you don't need to worry about, you know, this, this system tracking your information, here's a link to our privacy statement, which should be very simple. uses what little legalese as you can possibly manage? And so, I think, when people are informed, and they say that, you know, they can be better, like, recent and like, and we can understand more about our customers. I think people can be receptive to that type of messaging, but there's, there's always going to be people that won't even you know, acknowledge the cookie banner. So I am not in favour of the huge pop up that blocks you from using the site. But I think there's you should look around at like other like when you're deciding this deciding what route to take for your own business, look at other businesses, maybe use a VPN that puts you in the EU and see how other companies that You have other websites that you use, treat this information.

Kerry: I mean, I'm in the UK and I get cookie pop ups all the time to the point where I'm just going to and I just hit okay. Okay, okay. Okay. Unless there's something I really just hit a lot of okay, because I want to get to the content. And I needed no by way. And I understand marketing and advertising. So I'm like, you know,

Alec: I call that privacy fatigue?

Kerry: Yes. Totally how you privacy fatigue? Is that really all that you need to be like, GDPR compliant, or even for California to be compliant when using Google Analytics? Isn't that simple?

Yes, the just the consent, and also describing how personal data processing happens in your website's privacy policy? How it feels so much more complicated when you're like trying to dig through yourself?

Alec: Yeah, but it's, it's simple, like, what do you understand, you know, the, the purposes of these laws, it is a little tough, say, you know, with, with my company, like, as I described, our conversion data is not very accurate for our free product right now, because we show a cookie banner to all users. And it's also very subtle, I think that in the future, we might have different like, toggles for, okay, this, this information could be used for like, you know, like, just general website analytics or like retargeting, and I think there's some people that would be okay with just general website analytics, and not like being retargeted. Without, and I think that's so giving, giving consumers options, and making those choices very clear is the way to go.

Kerry: All right, last question for you, Alec, in terms of this is, so this is so helpful, because I feel like we're all so overwhelmed by how to be compliant, and, and to a point where we, I always say give up, but like, it just feels very daunting. And you really helped focus on what we need to, like, clearly start with and care about, in the age of where cookies are, eventually, Google keeps pushing it, but at some point, cookies are gonna go away. Is that from an ethical marketing standpoint? Is that the right move?

Alec: That's a great question. I think there is some anti competitive nature to, you know, Google or other, you know, large, very large tech companies having cookies go away, because Google has a lot of first party data, they, you know, track you through your browser, they track you through search, it is the biggest, like top of funnel, you know, data collection and experiment to exist. So, I think that it is complicated, because I also care a lot about, you know, anti monopoly practices, making sure that, you know, the the next Google can have a chance to compete. I do think there's benefits for consumer privacy. But I think it's, it's to be determined if this will have a net benefit for consumers overall.

Kerry: So how can those smaller companies compete that against Google in terms of like, if they're no longer collecting cookie data? And that third party information? Sure, they're going to be using, you know, Google Analytics and less and all that, but how can they the first thing that comes to mind for me is like, Okay, we sort of got to go back to the dark ages of collecting first party data ourselves, which we're already doing to an extent, but I don't know that we're doing it as diligently or as intentionally as we used to, and it feels like we sort of got to head back there, especially with demand gen being so like, take users on a journey where they get to make their own decision of at what point they want to interact with you. So again, everything and you know, ABM all the things it feels like we sort of need to a find a balance and that if cookies are going to essentially go away. Is that is that the case?

Alec: So I think this presents an opportunity for creatively driven marketers to come up with new growth channels, which is something I think I like I tried to specialise in, where you are right, that we there does need to be more first party data. And it's unfortunate for, you know, marketers that have gotten through, you know, through their careers so far doing just, I guess I would describe some of these tactics as like lazy, like just using technologies that already exist and deploying these platforms and letting them do the work and bringing that data to their CEO and there's gonna be going to be a greater need to build platforms or what I call micro sites that encourage engagement that are, say like free to use, or like other, you know, ways of acquiring users that don't rely on the centralised platforms. One of my favourite acquisition channels is affiliate marketing and a One of my greatest accomplishments at a previous company was building an affiliate marketing programme like building the software in house using automation tools like Zapier. So creating these, creating these platforms that can, you know, bring potential customers into your, you know, into into your websites, give them a reason to share their stories, whether it's like a, you know, microsite like a complaints forum, or maybe interacting with like a news wire or some other like free service that you've built. And it doesn't have to be that complicated. But these are, like, kind of going back to, you know, just organic search as a as a greater channel, you know, building more engaging content that people will want to sign up for, like it does. It does require more investment, where you're not just relying on a platform to find these users for you. Like, as these costs are rising, you need to start building out alternative channels. But this is really important, because it's companies, you know, that learn at one stage or another, over reliance on one or two growth channels is bad for business. When these you know, when we will changes their search algorithm or ad rise at prices rise view, your company can be hung up to dry if you don't have a backup plan. So diversifying your acquisition channels is a best practice in general, but it's going to be increasingly important, as cookies are deprioritize or eliminated. People need to have these other channels like affiliate marketing, or, you know, or the content that is applicable to your target audience.

Kerry: This conversation, I hope everybody has a notebook in front of them. And they have filled pages of information because, or head to the website and download the transcript because this is so actionable. And I think in a time of compliance and security, this is so important for how we protect our users and their data and building that trust back with our audience. Because it's what we got to do right now as as marketers and advertisers, advertising and marketing isn't going away. But the more that we lose track our audiences loses trust in us, the harder we're making our jobs. So I love what you said, I just want to circle back and make sure we say this again, in order to build trust with our customers. And to be ethically compliant. We need to give them individual control over their data to say yes, collect my data or no and, and to be able to let them toggle that off and on and to be able to access it later and change their minds. We need to be clear about the context in which we are collecting their data and respect that we're going to stay within those boundaries, we're going to ensure the security of their data so that it doesn't isn't hacked, or accessed or given away in anything that we haven't promised. And make sure that it's accurate that their data that we have collected, they again they can access and is and is up to date. So Alec, I'm so grateful for this conversation. It's everything I've been hearing sort of whirling around the sphere, but it hasn't been brought so to the table in such a clear way of how we can activate it without feeling daunted or overwhelmed. So I appreciate your clarity. Thank you. Is there anything that just one last piece of advice you would give people as they continue to embrace the idea of ethical marketing?

Alec: Yeah, so I'll share a little bit about my philosophy. First, I want to describe, I guess the certain tactics that I view is unethical. And some of these I'm guilty of, I would say peer to peer texting, which was like at first a novel tool, but now is used to spam people's phone messages without having obtained consent. And like just this morning, literally today, I received a text from a number that did not ask for any permission to contact me that the first line read, hey, contacts first name, like because they messed up the mail merge tag. So it is it shows that the the clunkiness behind it and it wasn't like someone trying to initiate a conversation. It was just someone trying to send me to their site. I think that the best types of automation should move information around or open the door to human interaction instead of replacing it. That's a theme that marketers should really remember that like creating opportunities for these one on one interactions, but you can still use automation but use that to open the door and not just replace human reduction that is the direction we should go in some other you know unethical types of marketing that I'm still guilty of were like Twitter automation. adding people to a list if they tweet out a conference hashtag, or bribing people with gift cards or headphones in order to get a meeting to further with them. These types of things they rely on like FOMO marketing, like limited time offers or psychological manipulation. It's not good. Other things I haven't done that I recognise is unethical or, you know, sure we all get emails without an unsubscribe link marketing emails done unsubscribing Oh, that

Alec: I know, I will reach out to the company's marketer on LinkedIn, you will call you out. Limited Time offers, like I mentioned, using data in ways that he didn't obtain consent for it. And just broadly, you know, company executives taking on too much money and having to deliver on sustainable exponential growth because I think that is the environment that pushes marketers towards manipulative and unethical marketing. So my my my philosophy around ethical marketing is that is the opposite of lazy marketing that supports surveillance capitalism, where it surveillance capitalism meaning the economic system, around the capture and commodification of personal data for the core purpose of profit making, and most marketers are complacent in this cycle of consumer abuse when their growth programme is allowed to run them up. As we've discussed, consumers bear the burden of safeguarding their own privacy, we need to switch that. You know, marketing often relies on psychological manipulation by retargeting and FOMO. And as marketers, there's opportunity for us to imbue creativity and take responsibility with how we reuse and share consumer data. The last thing that I want to share is I this, you know, talking to you has inspired me to start sharing these programmes, these step by step guides, with marketers, because it's one thing to wax on around why you should be ethical, but a lot of people don't like might get through this podcast and not know, where do I turn like how, okay, this all sounds really complicated or confusing or challenging. So what I'm going to start doing and I released the first episode, the intro, and by the time this, this comes out, I should have three or more podcasts that I've already scripted and with guides on my website, the first one is going to be about how to build that in house affiliate programme that I mentioned. With, I'll give you a step by step guide on literally every step to create in Zapier, that includes anti fraud checks, so that you can offer affiliates a higher payout than competitors. Because these affiliate software providers will charge around 30% of the of the payment that you're offering affiliates. So if you you're already in your podcast app to search ethical marketing tactics, and subscribe to that, and you'll start getting just the nuts and bolts, just the step by step guides on how to create new growth channels that your CEO will love, and will feel good about. And also post, you know, guides with like imagery on my website, which is www dot ethical dot marketing.

Kerry: And that's my OUTRO Thank you, Alec, I will make sure all of that is in the show notes so that you can either type it in or you can click a button and it'll take you right there. Because I agree that everything you said that was unethical, felt icky, like, as you were saying it, my skin was crawling and I was like I've been there and it is the worst. Like if I get one more email where I'm clearly on an email list where they scraped my email from somewhere and didn't do single leg of of work to figure out if I was going to be the right company for them. Like I just and then to not have an unsubscribe button on top of that is the worst exam and then you add the wrong name to it. And it's just a whole other level of

Alec: you did it you did it configure it right. But as I mentioned, I'm guilty of many of these things. Like, I think the first step is like recognising that Yeah. And I think we I'm trying to take responsibility, I'm sure I'll still make mistakes at some point. But I think it's just having this general philosophy of respecting your consumers, because they will give you more information, like the data suggests that I mean, surveys have shown that only 1/3 of customers believe that companies are using their data responsibly. But two thirds of customers would consider sharing their personal information to get additional value. So there is an opportunity for in between I'm sure there's brands that you are familiar with, or that you've done business with, that you see as like ethical brands that you feel good about their business and want to support. And when you you know, I think like having a human that you associated with that brand like that, that personal touch, or you know the consent that they've like obtained from you and like how they've gone about navigating that it's just like the same kind of respect that you would expect in a like face to face relationship with a friend that like when he started seeing your customers as people. You will be able to deliver more value to them and bring more people into your business.

Kerry: Like this has been such a joy. I'm so grateful. Thank you for wanting to be on Tea Time. And my pleasure, I hope our paths crossed again.

Alec: Sounds great. It's been a pleasure talking to you. I hope we can continue this conversation at a later date

Kerry: That was my episode with Alec Foster. Are you ready to take action? Are you ready to make sure that your marketing is ethical? I am. Let's go. Let's do it. Let's do it. And if you have any more questions, you want to understand more about how you can make your marketing ethical. Please please reach out to Alec on LinkedIn. His link is in the show notes. Thank you for joining me what an eye opening conversation I'm so so grateful. And thank you for listening. If you found this episode helpful, please like subscribe and share. This episode is brought to you by mkg marketing or ETF accelerate submission cybersecurity vendors via SEO digital ads and analytics. Hosted by me Kerry Guard CEO and co-founder of MKG Marketing, music, mix and mastering by Austin Ellis. If you'd like to be a guest, please visit to apply.

This episode is brought to you by MKG Marketing the digital marketing agency that helps complex tech companies like cybersecurity, grow their businesses and fuel their mission through SEO, digital ads, and analytics.

Hosted by Kerry Guard, CEO co-founder MKG Marketing. Music Mix and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

If you'd like to be a guest please visit to apply.

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