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For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Abdo Mazloum, Founder & CEO of WebTmize, a digital marketing agency, located in Montreal, Quebec. From web development to entrepreneurship, his story is a masterclass in success. Uncover the dynamic synergy between SEO and PPC, and how they can supercharge your digital marketing game. Dive into the data-driven world, where every decision counts, and explore the thrilling frontier of AI and machine learning, shaping the future of tailor-made marketing campaigns.
Watch the episode now for more insights!
SEO and PPC are not rivals; they’re allies. Both play essential roles in driving traffic and optimizing online visibility.
Hey, hi everyone. Welcome to your show E-Coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay here. Today we have Abdo who is the Founder and CEO of WebTmize with us. Welcome Abdo, how are you?
Hi Ranmay. Thank you. I’m doing well. How are you?
All good, yeah. Great. Abdo, before we move forward and pick your brains, why don’t you talk us through your journey this far? And what WebTmize is all about? What are good offerings, we’ll head on from there.
I’d say my journey started after, in business, the journey started after graduating with a computer science degree, where I started working as a web developer for an SEO agency. And that’s really where I learned about SEO and I learned about site optimization. That’s back in 2007, quite a long time ago, 15 years ago. I was working on-site optimization, making sure the code was clean, the site speed, image load time, and all those things back then to ensure that the site loads faster and, the database varies, loading faster. I did that for about six months, and then I was recruited to work for another e-commerce software company, which was then acquired by Hybris Software, still exists today, and then was acquired again by SAP as one of the largest companies worldwide. I worked there for about a year, several different e-commerce brands, also on-site optimization web development. After one year of experience, again, I was recruited. The market was started at the time in Montreal, Canada. I went to a company called BetUS, basically sports betting. We had casinos online. Again, similar type of work where it was front-end development, site speed, and ensuring the user experience was good to up the expectations because we had high traffic size.
So I worked a lot again on site optimization. About a year and a half later, I was approached by a recruiter again to work for Essence, one of the largest success stories in Montreal. At the time in 2010, it was still a small business. There were about 15 people in the office. And by the time I left in 2014, four years later, we were over 100 people. I’d say one of the places where I learned the most because that’s where I spent the most before becoming an entrepreneur. I worked my way up from being an SEO specialist. So switched from web development to purely working on SEO. I still work with web developers on site speed and content, off-page, and all those things with multiple parties, and project managers. I said developers, the design team, the creative team, other marketers on the team. I even work with the executives sometimes. I’d say it was one of the most rewarding and turning points in my career. Worked there for about four years, and had a nice growth, but I was approached by not a competitor, but a similar type of business, Beyond the Rack. It was also the heyday of Beyond the Rack after they’ve raised 20 million in funding.
So I went there and I was managing media there. We spent a lot of money and acquired a lot of users. It was a different business model where the focus was acquiring emails. By the time I left, we had 14 million emails between the US and Canada. The business was about to be acquired by a US group, and I don’t think it happened. Then things didn’t turn out very well for them. After a year, I was laid off because business wasn’t going well and I moved to an agency. My boss at the Beyond the Rack introduced me to an affiliate marketing agency that wanted to add an SEO or a PPC to their list of services. In the end, I said, okay, I was in the in-between. Should I become an entrepreneur focused on my business? I went and incorporated WebTmize in 2015. I was about to take that seriously, but I didn’t have enough courage, I’d say, at the time. So went and took that role Beyond the Rack, I’m sorry, at OPM Pros, the agency, helped them create the division from nothing to over seven figures within three years and a team of 11, 12 people at a time.
Then I decided to leave. After 10 years of experience in the industry, working for agencies on the client side, I said it was probably time to work on my agency. That’s when I took WebTmize seriously and hired the first employee at the beginning of 2018. The second employee, four or five, I think we were five or six by the end of the year 2018. We rented an office. I believe it was September first, 2018. That’s when we started scaling things. We were lucky after having enough experience in the space, we built a reputation, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. And one client to another started growing. Today, we’re 25 people, full-time. We’re still growing. At some point, we were even bigger than that. I think at some point, the max we hit was 31 employees, and then we went down to 25. We went through different events that slowed us down. But it’s a normal part of business as it’s good to scale back up and slow down to scale back up. So it’s been a great five years. Just started our sixth year with WebTmize. Very exciting. We’re looking forward to the years to come and more learnings, more development, and more growth for the business for the team, and for our clients and partners that people work with.
Wonderful. Quite a journey, I must say. Great. Like you mentioned and touched upon your experience with SSENCE and beyond the rack, I’d like you to elaborate on a few significant challenges that you encountered during your journey with both these brands in optimizing strategies for fashion and e-commerce and innovative solutions that you would have devised during those days as well.
Sure. So as I said, SSENCE was a key turning point, I’d say, in my career. That’s where I acquired a lot more knowledge and a lot more experience, and I’ve lived a lot more relationships with different people because the business was at high growth, doubling year over year. E-commerce revenues were doubling year over year. It was exciting. The team was doubling. And when growth comes with more challenges, I started as an SEO specialist. Then the person who was running SEM wanted to do something else, so I offered to take on this role, so I became an SEO SEM specialist. Then I hired my first assistant and then became a team lead and hired another SEO manager. It trickled from one thing to another just because the business growing so fast and we have to keep up and accept that growth and work with it. It was an opportunity, and we jumped on the opportunity what was also exciting is that we work internationally. It wasn’t just locally, it wasn’t even Canada only. At first, we were selling worldwide. It’s a luxury product. It was nice to learn about international SEO, working on multiple languages in terms of an SEO site, and multiple partners worldwide.
This was a great experience to be proud of, supporting the team members growing the team, and learning a little bit more about management. That’s where I learned about managing other people. It was a fun journey. Beyond the Rack was mainly US and Canada. I don’t think we were selling outside of North America. It was a different model, a different model. I had to adapt the model of acquiring users versus acquiring buyers, users as in subscribers, email subscribers, and look at the cohort analysis over time when you acquire a new email, what it looks like after six months, seven months, because most of the time you’re losing money at first, but you’ll only make money later on looking at it from a long-term perspective. That was also a fun journey learning about the Coherit analysis. The aggressive growth after the raise, a lot of money spent, multiple million dollars were spent sometimes in a single month, was quite something. And we’re collaborating with different parties. It was a different company at the time when I worked there, we were about 500 people. We had offices in the US, in Canada, and multiple warehouses as well.
I think it was the first time I worked in such a big company, definitely different processes and procedures to follow, but was rewarding as a job.
Great. What was that one moment, because you worked, you incorporated your company, and then you did not focus on it, then at one point you realized, Let’s take it forward. What was that moment when you realized you should come back to WebTmize and grow it, scale it, and just do WebTmize and nothing else? What was that moment? What triggered that decision-making?
It’s a very good question. I think we all have self-doubts. If you want to become an entrepreneur, especially if you make that choice on your own, you don’t have a partner, you constantly are in self-doubt and unsure if you can make it. Unfear, the risk. I think after 10 years of experience, I felt more ready to do it. And I saw how other business owners were running their businesses, which I’m grateful for. I’d say what was nice in my career is I saw other business owners running their businesses, and I was able to learn from them, learn from their mistakes or a company’s mistakes. I said, Okay, I can take those learnings and apply them to my business. Not that I didn’t make any mistakes. I made plenty of mistakes as well.
We all do.
Yeah. We’d learned the hard way sometimes of our mistakes, and I think that was the pivotal moment of deciding to become an entrepreneur.
Yeah, quite an honest answer. Great, moving on. Data-driven decision-making is crucial in today’s digital landscape. How do you recommend businesses, both large, small, or mid-size for that matter, harness the power of data science to optimize their marketing efforts and achieve scalable and tangible results?
Yeah, great question as well. I don’t know if you’ve heard the fact. There’s a fact there’s an abundance of data, heaps and heaps of data out there, but less than two % of that data is utilized. I think there’s an opportunity for all businesses to work with the data that they have, invest in tools and platforms to store the data, and then work on that data. As a business, what we invested in is a data warehouse. We work with Google Bigquery. We store a fair amount of data, our data, and clients’ data as well, for reporting purposes. Then we help clients make infer decisions, sharing insights on that amount of data that is extracted from multiple platforms. Sometimes we work with 10 different platforms. For example, Google ads, Bing ads, Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn, DV 360, and CM 360. Then you work with an e-commerce platform, whether it’s Shopify Magento or Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Then if it’s a Lead-Gen client, you’re probably working with Salesforce or HubSpot or other CRMs, getting all the data from multiple sources and putting it into one place and then merging it in a way that makes sense, like looking at all the cost data, the clicks, the impressions, the clicks rates from multiple sources, and then visualizing it on a data visualization tool like Looker Studio or Tableau is a great value for our clients.
That’s why we’ve invested in terms of that. We work with the data scientist as well, who helped us put that structure together. And also apply AI and machine learning to that data as well to predict future outcomes based on historical data, based on other factors, and whether we have weather-dependent brands. As we were living in Canada, we worked with multiple brands that sell boots jackets, and so on. So as soon as you have a snowstorm, the sales for boots and jackets spike. So if we’re able to add weather data into our prediction models, then the predictions are even more accurate. So this is the type of product that we work on with some of the clients. We’re looking at chord analysis, regression models, RFM models as well, our recent C frequency and monetary models for our clients, and customers, and predicting what the future will look like. And we’ve been quite accurate in multiple predictions we’ve made.
Yeah, I’m sure. Moving on talking about AI, the storm that we all are in, and it’s still going on, and it is getting more integrated into digital marketing. So how do you feel AI and machine learning can be leveraged to personalize marketing campaigns and enhance customer experiences while scaling their operations?
It’s been around for several years. We’ve been using AI, I’d say, before that storm of ChatGPT that came around. We’re Google premier partners. We’ve been working with Google for many years, and they’ve been talking about AI for so many years. They’ve released multiple products like Smart Bidding as bidding on Conversions, Target CDA, and Target ROAS. These types of strategies are all AI-backed or powered. We’ve been using it with the emergence of ChatGPT and its success. We’ve also embraced it & we have a plan with ChatGPT, a premium plan, and our copywriters use it and our developers even use it to automate certain things and generate some ideas and help with pitches, with ad copies sometimes, with content-course human intervention will always be there to ensure that it’s quality-assured and good for a human to read. But generally, we’ve been early adopters of AI and embrace this kind of technology and use it as part of our toolset to achieve our objectives and our client’s objectives.
Brilliant. That’s great to know that.
You just stay ahead of the curve versus a lot of the folks who started coping with it with the discovery or invention of ChatGPT. Brilliant. Abdo, last question. We all talk about on one side, SEO and on the other side, PPC. So how do you feel both SEO and PPC mixed? We all know that it can be a powerful strategy, but can you explain how these two tactics or two different strategies can work in tandem to boost our websites, which have visibility and drive more targeted traffic?
It’s a great question too. Again, I see them as partners. We think of them as two initiatives working together. You have multiple placements, or better than multiple placements for Organic. There is no reason to say one is better than the other. There’s room for both. So absolutely working together in tandem, any business should consider both right off the bat, I’d say. If you don’t have any budget, maybe working on SEO in-house is probably a good start. But you may not see results early on. I think of SEO as more of a marathon and PPC as more of a sprint. You launch your ads, you’re going to start getting clicks right away. On the SEO side, you need to invest. You need to work on your content. You need to work on your website and your pack. All the factors that help with the growth of the site take time resources and energy. There are no guarantees. I don’t know if an agency will ever give someone 100 % guarantees, but you can make predictions. Oftentimes, and oftentimes as an agency, we tend to make predictions. But we don’t accurately say. We say that this is like a moderate expectation of what results are getting.
This is aggressive and this is a conservative prediction.
Brilliant, Abdo. It was a fantastic conversation. But yeah, before we let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.
Sure, let’s do it.
What did you do with your first paycheck? Since you have jumped across companies, and started your own business, do you remember that first check of your life?
I started paying off my debts. All right.
When was that? At what age and stage?
When I started first working in 2007. I had taken some money from a few people, family, and friends. I started paying off my debt from the first pay check.
Great. Lovely. Your last Google search.
The weather this morning.
Let’s say if we were to make a movie on you, what genre would it be?
What is your favorite sport?
Taekwondo. I’ve been doing this for so many years.
Wonderful. The last one, i will not kill you any further. Your celebrity crush.
I don’t think I have a crush.
And I have another one for you, probably a more business-oriented or industry-oriented. What is that one thing, probably, which you like the most about, let’s say, our industry or your job or your work or your team? What is that one thing that you probably wake up for?
Yeah, that’s one of the privileges that we have in our industry to learn on the go. Talk about talking to different founders in any given week or month from different niches in different industries, understanding their business model, how they started, why they started, and what problem statement they want to solve. That is one good part of our industry. So brilliant. Great. Great to have you, Abdo. It was a lovely conversation. I’m sure the audiences would have benefited a lot from the insights that you shared. And thank you so much for doing this with us, man.
My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Great. Appreciate it.
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