#348:WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Ben Pines CMO of Elementor

Elementor is one of leading new bread of WordPress page builders on the market in 2018 which Is an excellent tool for building your new WordPress powered membership/LMS website.

We have a great interview here with Ben Pines CMO of Elementor and discuss the history of the company and how he sees Elementor dealing with Gutenberg project. It amazing to see that free version Elementor has been downloaded 1 million times!

Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic show. I haven’t got my cohost with me, she’s tucked away but we’ve got a great special guest. We’ve got Ben Pines, CMO of Elementor…

Jonathan Denwood: So, Ben, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?

Ben Pines: Yeah. I’m the CMO in charge of marketing Elementor. If you don’t know Elementor, it’s a visual page builder and turns website builder for WordPress. We hit the market about, I think it was two and a half years ago. Now it’s climbing up those top plugins and we’re over 1 million active installs and we really changed the landscape in terms of a design oriented. visual designer in WordPress. So, that’s the gist of it. I would say.

Jonathan Denwood: What’re the origins of the company Ben? Because it just seemed to kind of, you know, explode upon the scene in the, you know, as you say, you go over me and active you. You know, installations of it are, which is just amazing, but you seem to come from, the company seems to come from nowhere. That was obviously, that’s not the reality so can give you some background about the comp…

Ben Pines: I think it’s like the Beatles, you know, they had 10 years before that they cruised around in Germany. [Inaudible] set the ground works and for us, it was the same. So, the two founders of the company started out as an agency creating a website. A small agency, you know, without a lot of experience, they quickly climbed the ladder and build websites for top brands here in Israel. So, I’m talking about Coca-Cola and really, the highest of the brands. I think it’s because of the, you know, they’re talented people. So, but they noticed that it was not smart just building websites, customizing websites from scratch each time. So, they built a theme company that was, the theme company started in 2014 if I’m not mistaken. And there were several themes that also did very well in the local market and also abroad, focused a lot on RTL themes.

Ben Pines: And the themes also had a builder, a back-end builder. And again, the same, they noticed the same thing, that it wasn’t illogical to get feedback from clients. Okay, I want the header from this team and I want the footer from this theme. Because they had like a portfolio of, I think 16 themes and those mixes and matches it was basically the same thing.

Ben Pines: Why not give a tool that will allow you to design the whole thing, the whole Shebang. Plus, it was a kind of difficult to customize each website with code and CSS. It wasn’t as intuitive for every website that needs, you just need the logo a bit larger or you need the menu to stick a bit more to the right. It’s not logical to hire developer just for those texts. Developers have their own set of legitimate tests that they need to focus on. So, that became the division for Elementor.

Ben Pines: So, we worked on it for a year. A really small team, and then I joined, half a year before launch and that was three years ago. And yeah, the rest was really like bringing it to the market, showing that it’s a better solution. And it’s kind of exploded from there, you know, there was no unusual marketing I can share on my own. There was no unusual marketing effort. It was really the product that was leading it. So, we did the usual, you know, product hunt and the rest of the things that give you a boost. Because it’s important because there’s a lot of noise and people are very skeptical and they were skeptical at first. They were like, okay, I don’t want a new thing. It was a populated market so they were already a lot of products with large audiences. So, it was really conquering audience after audience, starting from the early adult adopters. People who kind of are looking for the next thing, they don’t care, they just want something new and they were very important at first and then progressing to more different audiences.

Jonathan Denwood: This is just my take on it because I heard about you initially from Adam of WP crafter. He has done a lot of training videos around Elementor and he loves it and I’m a friend of Adam’s. So, but also, I think your free version is pretty amazing really because it’s fully functioning as a tool on its own. Right, isn’t it?

Ben Pines: Yeah that’s definitely part of it, and it was also important for us. There are two hats here because it’s important for us to give back and offer a robust; I mean the free version is still the most robust solution that you get. And you get a whole lot and we keep adding new features to the free version.

Ben Pines: We just added a finder, which is like a handy search bar that you can pop up and quickly switch between different areas and pages. And we added it to the free because it’s pretty easy for us to understand what should be free and what should be in our PRO package.

Ben Pines: And our PRO package is also robust. And if it’s something that has to do with, something that every site owner need then we will put it in the free version. But if it’s something that is more oriented towards professionals and people who make websites for a living. Then we put it in the professional, in pro version.

Ben Pines: And it’s really huge, you know value proposition that you get when you upgrade to the pro version. So, that’s kind of how we see it because you know, open source is great. It is what made WordPress so amazing. It helped us also build the kind of community we were looking for. And we managed to do that, I mean our Facebook group is now 27,000 people and its really people helping each other.

Jonathan Denwood: This is amazing isn’t it?

Ben Pines: Yeah! And I recorded a podcast with one of our admins of the group and she stated that the conversation is different than other groups. More inclusive, more sharing, helpful! And that’s exactly what we hoped for. And it’s by large, I mean it’s a huge reason to draw people in.

Jonathan Denwood: Certainly, is because I think the company’s ability to offer that free product and the way that you’ve worked out the blend of functionality offered in the free and the paid version. You’ve done a fantastic job of working that out which isn’t easy.

Ben Pines: A lot of plugins, what they do is like; they give you a light version. But if you really want to use the plugin then you need to upgrade. But if you think about the most successful plugins, woo-commerce, ACF, and then you know you can get so.

Ben Pines: And even products outside WordPress like Zoom, Zencastr, if I may plug some tools that I use personally. It’s not always the best method to do that, you have to be really clear about. Because it’s not easy to approach marketing this way, it has its own challenges. It’s not liked the golden way, but if you are aware of the challenges and the difficulties then you can make it happen.

Jonathan Denwood: Well, I think one other concern is you can you’re going to face lots of support requests on the free product. So, how you deal with that? Do you offer a different tier of support with the paid and the free? Or does everybody get the same kind of level of support? And if that’s the case, how do you deal with it?

Ben Pines: Well, it’s kind of something that also developed with the product. So, now a lot of users as I stated get help and support from individuals from the Facebook group. It’s kind of a give and take. Because most of the people that help also offer their own services, so they get known for being helpful, being an authority, and being experts at Elementor. And then they get paid eventually and it works.

Ben Pines: I’ve had the conversation; it works for a lot of those people. You know, there’s the WordPress support but we’re not there all the time, we can’t answer each because there are hundreds of questions. We try to offer this free support, but premium support it’s like you know.

Ben Pines: I think now almost 20 people that answer support around the clock 24/7 and help you and if you need going to the site and try to locate exactly the problem and fix it. And you know, it’s hundreds and hundreds of tickets every week and that’s a great service that we offer. Today support is definitely one of the features that you get with PRO.

Jonathan Denwood: Yep, that was great. I myself use all the link in page builders, the only one that I don’t use on a very regular basis is DIVI. But I know the people in all these page building communities they’re all extremely, I don’t know what it is about page builders. But the people get very low and very passionate about the particular one that they’re using. Don’t they Ben?

Ben Pines: Yeah, it used to be with themes, I think. And now the same, I would say zealots here. That’s the word. Yeah, definitely. And I don’t know, there are pros and cons in that. I mean it’s, it makes it a bit, sometimes it’s a bit funny and sometimes it’s a bit harsh. We, you know, I keep all the conversation is always respectful. That’s how I approach it; I never bad mouth a competitor. So, I think it’s in good spirits more or less,

Jonathan Denwood: You just said it is a very large market, but also a very competitive one. Like you got DIVI, I know the people from DIVI. You got beaver builder, I know the crew there very well. I was going to ask you is based in Israel, do you think put you on a slight disadvantage? But obviously, it hasn’t been it?

Jonathan Denwood: Or do you think your growth would have been even faster if you had been based in the US or do you think it doesn’t really matter now in a globalized market like WordPress?

Ben Pines: It’s really hard to say, I don’t know if I can answer. I mean we try to visit every Word Camp in, in Europe at least. I think it’s a difficult question because it certainly helps to be in the US, especially in terms, I don’t think in terms of marketing, but more in terms of collaboration with, you know, partnering with different companies that are in the US.

Ben Pines: That said there are some amazing companies that realize the huge potential of the global market and people appreciate it. People appreciate that Elementor has been translated, by the community by the way, to over 50 languages. So, people kind of see it as a global phenomenon. We see it like this.

Ben Pines: Maybe if we were based in the US, we would have been more oriented towards the US market. And now the US is, of course, our number one market, but we also think a large part of the Europe market, and Australia, and all over the world.

Jonathan Denwood: To wrap up the first half of our interview, you know, obviously it’s WordPress plugin. Obviously, you got Wix, which is also an Israeli based company, am I correct?

Ben Pines: Yeah!

Jonathan Denwood: And then you got some other competitors in our SAS products. Would you attempt to go in to look at the SAS marketplace? Or was it because of the history of the company it was always going to be a WordPress plugin?

Ben Pines: We were definitely geared toward WordPress and it’s really, you can say that it’s more than a business. It’s a conscious decision, you know, it’s something that is shared by and big and small. I mean you see it in large companies like Yoast and you see it in small individuals and freelancers that visit word camp. That spirit is something that is apparent in the conversation the way people talk and when you talk to someone, you kind of get who, if he’s a WordPress person, you know what I mean?

Ben Pines: It’s like that the understanding of the importance of democratizing content, and open source, and all of these factors are like a parent for us. Once you understand that WordPress is, you know, you believe, I would say more. We’re WordPress is the…

Jonathan Denwood: [inaudible]

Ben Pines: Yeah, but once you believe that it’s the CMS that should be on top and you think that if other CMS’s will prevail and it’s a threat I have to say. Then people will be less, how do you say, will benefit less from it. Then yeah, it’s an obvious choice because yeah, I think all WordPress users share the vision of meth in one way or another, you know?

Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, I see your point there. Well, folks, we’re going to go for a break. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation so far, when we come back, we’re going to be talking about Gutenberg and how Elementor is going to fit into the coming drastic changes in word press. But we’ll be back in a few moments.

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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. I’ve had a really interesting conversation with Ben Pines of Elementor. And like I say, Ben, you know, let’s starts off. So, Gutenberg is nearing release, it looks like it’s going to be a drastic change for word press, a new direction. How do you envision Elementor fitting into this new world?

Ben Pines: Well, I think it’s a great fit. I’m totally psyched about Gutenberg. I think it’s a good thing, the good direction that WordPress is heading. And bringing the awareness of the more visual aspects of writing content and including rich media is important. We don’t really see it as a threat as some people. I think simply because, you know, I just thought of this right now this analogy.

Ben Pines: You know I use Google docs a lot and it has some visual capabilities. I don’t think even Google is, you know, kind of an amazingly rich company. I don’t think Google docs will replace Photoshop in the new future. Because you can’t have two hats in one platform. There’s so much importance, that’s part of the thing that we brought, I believe, to WordPress, the concept of UI.

Jonathan Denwood: I think you’re, I totally agree where you’re coming from. [cross talk] One of your strengths has been UI.

Ben Pines: UI and UX exactly the both of them, because if you think of the landscape of solutions that there was. Not only in terms of page builders but if you think of forum builders and kind of every, your typical plugin. There was no regard to first UI, like really thinking about each and every element and streamlining the work process and second UX meaning the experience that’s a large topic. But I’m talking specifically about speed, having everything work fast.

Ben Pines: And so, these are things that cannot be, you know, just jumbled together. It takes a whole lot of thought, a lot of fights in our team to get it just right. We have a lot of improvements to go. So even if you take, that’s kind of what is happening. Like even if you take into considerations that competitors aren’t naive and they catch up and try to copy what we do, then we have a whole, you know, one-year, five-year plans from now.

Ben Pines: It’s going to keep developing and we keep adding features at, I would say, I can say that that’s another thing I can share that there’s going to be a whole lot, the same kind of features that you’ve seen in the last two and a half years. More and more updates and features that are helpful. And, if you compare the first version of Elementor to what is now, it’s part of why now we draw a lot of more professional designers than before.

Jonathan Denwood: Well, I think there’s an enormous amount of scope with integration anyway, isn’t there? Because you’ve got products like click funnel, Kajabi, products like Kajabi because my WordPress podcast we deal with plugins like yourself. But also focus on course and course building membership sites.

Jonathan Denwood: So, like click funnels, Kajabi, there’s an enormous amount of work that’s necessary to make, you know to set up a website with good core easy to build landing pages that integrate with email functionality, and text messaging, and marketing optimization in general. Isn’t there? There’s a lot still to be done…

Ben Pines: Definitely!

Jonathan Denwood: To make the whole thing a lot easier for effective online marketing, isn’t it?

Ben Pines: Definitely, and both in terms of marketing features, we have coming up real soon. Next week, a suite of marketing features and we have lined up marketing features, design features, these are, there’s so much more we can do. So, 2019 is going to be really amazing I believe. We already crossed the 1 million so we have higher goals for this year and it’s going to be interesting.

Jonathan Denwood: And I do agree with you because a lot, there’s been, you know, being open source project is bound to be a lot of discussion with something like Gutenberg. But my fundamental position on its Ben is that the actual page editor, you know, the content editor did need to be modernized because compared to some of the SAS project products which we have mentioned in this interview, it was clearly well behind and it needed an update.

Ben Pines: But also agree with you for them to catch up with a product like yours is going to take a long while. I notice you’re moving at a breathtaking pace yourself, your company. So, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to be any in the foreseeable future, in the next two to three years in a position where there could be anyway, any shape or form of challenge to your company. I totally agree with you there.

Ben Pines: Yeah, you know there are always challenges and I think that it’s really hard to know what kind of, what the future holds.

Jonathan Denwood: Especially technology.

Ben Pines: Yeah! A new competitor can come in and make a better solution that’s true to every, a category. I’m sure that the people at slack are not slacking together and always think also how to improve, and how to deal with the fact that you have to offer. If you’re a company with a vision and you want to offer, you have, it’s not just making money, and you want to offer the best solution.

Ben Pines: You don’t want to trick, you know some of the companies that I see, and it’s kind of like the same trickery that I saw. I’m not talking about WordPress plugins; I’m talking about SAS and the same trickery that I signed early 2000’s.

Ben Pines: You know what I mean? It’s like join in, you’re going to make a whole lot of money, here’s the boss, here’s the CEO with a Mercedes. We still see this kind of marketing and if it works for you then go for it. But for us and for several other companies that I see starting to grow, it’s not, it’s not the case. Plus, I think I’m in general, WordPress is becoming a more stable ecosystem for companies to join in.

Ben Pines: So, I hope that other, that you get other kinds of stable companies like Yoast, like Elementor that you know what I mean? Because when people buy a plugin, they don’t, I don’t know how much scrutiny they make as to the makers and is it going to be there a year from now, two years from now. So, my hope is in regards to WordPress that becomes a strong ecosystem so as to allow other companies that are actually companies, not just one man shows that can falter.

Jonathan Denwood: Well you know, even with the best intentions a one-person developer of a popular plugin, they just get overwhelmed with the support. That’s expected!

Jonathan Denwood: Even if you make it really clear that on a free product you can’t offer, you just do the best you can. I’ve known a few developers that have developed really popular and, in the end, they’ve sold it to iThemes or another larger company for the main reason was that they felt a bit overwhelmed, you know?

Ben Pines: Yeah. You get certain; I think you get certain individuals that can make it happen. Like Elliott from ACF, he’s a person that I totally trust…

Jonathan Denwood: Well it’s amazing isn’t, really what [inaudible] isn’t it?

Ben Pines: But he’s like one in a million and for each one of his like I would say probably 30,000 plugins that are run by, that have just been created on the spur of the moment maybe reached success. But the owners aren’t willing to really put the elbow grease to work to maintain what they created. So that’s unfortunate because the plugins stop working, the company that uses it, the companies that use it suffer. And that’s really bad for WordPress you know, publicity and…

Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, totally agree with you. And go back to Elliot, I think one of his, not only is he brilliant and a hard worker, he’s kept the business model, the pricing structure very simple, hasn’t he? He hasn’t really tried and gauge his users, it’s always been extremely great value, very similar to your own product.

Ben Pines: We also have, we’ve been told this so many times that we have very subtle marketing in terms of the upgrades in the plugin itself. You can hardly notice it. Yeah, it’s, it’s definitely directed and oriented towards this.

Jonathan Denwood: Right. We’re coming to the end of our interview, so what’s the best way to learn more about Elementor, more about yourself and what the company is up to in general?

Ben Pines: Well, we have a newsletter and we have a blog that we publish articles like top 10 websites and my podcast so you can subscribe and get that. Of course, use Elementor to build your landing pages or an entire website. And if you’re already an Elementor user, of course, join the group and pick up the conversation and download it for free of course from the repo.

Jonathan Denwood: And that’s the amazing thing, folks, because like we were saying that the beginning and during the interview, the actual free version is fully functioning. There obviously, there are upgrades to the PRO version, but you can really do amazing things with just the free.

Ben Pines: Yeah, you can build up a really beautiful website with the free version and it’s not, you don’t, it’s not a different plugin. When you install pro, it’s another plugin. So, you get to the entire functionality plus more for the PRO version.

Jonathan Denwood: Well, I got today Ben, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Hopefully, you’ll come back in the New Year and we continue our discussion. And I wish you and Elementor a very successful 2019, I’m sure it’s going to be. We’re going to wrap this interview up now folks. We’ll be back next week with another great WordPress expert, giving your insight about WordPress online entrepreneurship and building your online course. We’ll see you soon folks, bye.

Ben Pines: Bye. Bye.

Every Friday at 8:30am PST we have a great and hard-hitting round-table show with a group of WordPress developers, online business owners and WordPress junkies where we discuss the latest and most interesting WordPress and online articles/stories of the week. You can also watch the show LIVE every Friday at 8:30am PST on our Facebook WP-Tonic Show page. https://www.facebook.com/wptonic/

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