Season 3 / Episode #74 : Farzad Rashidi
Farzad Rashidi is the lead innovator at Respona, the all-in-one link-building outreach software that helps businesses increase their organic traffic from Google. He previously ran the marketing efforts at Visme, where he helped the company gain over 14 million active users and passed 3M monthly organic traffic.
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In This Episode:
[0:27] An inspiring business success story
[2:23] The bad note on his business journey
[4:28] How did they overcome that challenge?
[7:05] How they got fans very quickly
[14:02] What tools do they use to succeed in their business?
[17:11] How does Farzad find the right people for his team?
[18:52] What’s exciting in Farzad’s business now?
Tim Melanson: hello, and welcome to today’s episode of the work at home rockstar podcast.
Excited for today’s episode, we have the lead innovator of respond. And what he does is he helps businesses improve their Google rank and get organic traffic to their website. Using a software tool called RESA, excited to be rocking out today with Farzad. Rashti. Hey, are you ready to rock?
Farzad Rashidi: Yes, sir. Let’s roll.
Tim Melanson: Let’s roll. Exactly. Rock and roll. All right. We start off on a good note here. So tell me a story of success in your business so we can be inspired by.
Farzad Rashidi: Sure. Thanks. So I would say the story of how we ended up with respond was quite an interesting story because, um, I started my career in marketing as a first marketing hire ad SPO at BIME.
Have you heard of SME before Tim BIME? Yes. I have heard of SME before. Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. So for folks who haven’t heard of us, it’s a brand content creation platform for businesses. So basically you can create any sort of infographics. Presentations, et cetera, somewhat similar to CAMBA. Uh, but we cater mainly to businesses, SMB and enterprise.
Uh, but well, when I joined the company, uh, we basically were, um, a completely bootstrap startup with very limited funds and we had to very quickly figure out a way to, um, bring in a flow of. Customers consistently over time, uh, to our, um, platform without having to spend a ton of cash and paid advertising go coal average because our price points was very, uh, affordable.
So it wouldn’t make my sense to hire sales people and go and start selling. So what we started to do was, was basically focus a ton on our ICO. So we started end up building the right. Website started producing content and it was crickets . It was there’s absolutely no one coming to our website. And, uh, what we decided to do was to focus, uh, and allocate our resources differently.
Uh, so we right now spent 80% of our resources on content promotion and link building. And I sort of led to the creation OFA, which now is a standalone product because. It, we were like, guys, this is awesome. If you can help us, I’m sure you can help a ton of other people. So we basically released our secret sauce, internal software that we built to help us kind of increase our, our organic traffic from Google.
Uh, and that’s sort of how we ended up with respondent. Wow. That’s a really cool
story. So you basically, you solved your own problem
and then that’s right. Offered it to the, to the market. Mm-hmm right on precisely mm-hmm well,
Tim Melanson: not everything is sunshine and rainbows so we like to talk about the bad note as well.
So along that journey, like. Was there some mistakes. Was there some things that didn’t go as planned that we can learn from?
Farzad Rashidi: Oh, oh, so many I can’t count. So my, uh, in my head, but I, I would say one of the most recent ones was when we had built the, the MVP version respondent at the beginning, which was sort of the initial version that we were like, Hey, we bill this for ourselves, but are other people willing to pay for it?
So we basically released a, a very beta version and it was, you. Blew up. And we basically got bombarded by customers, people who wanted to use it, which was great. So what we decided to do was to, um, because as a software company is kind of like a building a Lego. So like you can’t, um, build on top of a software that doesn’t have a, a good foundation.
So what we started to do was to basically build the software front scratch that was ready to scale. And, uh, we took some time to build. 1.0 version, which we have today. And the 1.0 version is basically a very scalable, modular or format of respondent that’s built for years to come, but the transition period was a nightmare.
And what happened was, uh, last year when we actually released our software, we had to migrate all of our existing customers into the new version. And, uh, I believe. We hadn’t well, in retrospect, we hadn’t, uh, put enough time in testing of the new version because it was completely down from scratch. So, um, it caused, uh, a lot of.
Upset customers because they were, you know, we had like an eight hour downtime and, uh, obviously the new version, uh wasn’t at, quite as clean as the other one, because it was, it was a brand new software that we had put out cuz completely new infrastructure. So, uh, for about a month there, uh we were on our toes 204 7 working, but thankfully over time, obviously the software is kick cast now and it it’s great, but at, at the time it was quite stressful for the whole.
Tim Melanson: Wow. Okay. Well, so how did you recover? Like, I mean, there must have been PR nightmares. Like what, like what did you do? How did you smooth things over?
Farzad Rashidi: Sure. So the good thing is that we were in beta. So the customers that had signed up to our platform knew at the beginning, Hey, these guys are in beta.
So there was quite an expectation that, Hey, at some point we’re gonna have to migrate to. Solid version. And, uh, so they kind of, sort of were, uh, understanding of, of the transition. And, uh, and, and thankfully we didn’t hit as big of a PR crisis as, as we thought again, it, it is a little bigger in our heads than maybe our in, in, in our customers might, but as, at the same time, uh, would say transparency was a big deal.
So we basically were bare up front when our customers were like, Hey guys, Ah, we are ripping this bandaid off. It’s gonna hurt for everybody. Uh, but we can get through this and we’re doing our best to, to get this, uh, in shape and keep things stable. And, and we did, and it was kind of that aspect and yes, I mean, we lost a few customers and, but, but the majority, I would say 99.
0.5% state . Uh, so yeah, I think I, it, it’s kind of a Testament to our, our customer base and how loyal they are. But at the same time, I would say it was quite stressful for us because it was kind of embarrassing, uh, when, when they put their trust in you, obviously you wanna make sure you provide the best experience.
Yeah. And I think there’s something to be said from what you said about the transparency and making sure that they understood that it was a beta program. Cuz I think that that. That might be like a stumbling block for some people where they want to seem more professional and more polished than maybe they are, especially when you’re getting started.
Mm-hmm but I mean, this is a, a great example of what would happen, like what would’ve happened. I guess, if you had not said that you were in beta, if you were just kind of like, pretending like this was a, oh yeah. You know, then you probably would’ve lost a lot more of those clients. Right.
Mm-hmm , you know, so yeah, exactly.
So think it’s, I. Yeah. And then also, you know, keeping that in mind that, Hey, it’s a one time thing. Once we release this in a stable, which it is, uh, now, um, it’s never gonna happen again. This is, uh, where we’re transitioning from beta to 1.0, so it’s, it’s. Kind of bound to be a disaster for any product. Now, the amount of time it was longer than we expected at hope for, but obviously, and you know, it is what it is.
We can’t do magic. So at, at some point you’re gonna have to, um, you know, You’re best and move on. Yeah. Yeah.
Tim Melanson: And, and be transparent. And I, I think that that’s the most important thing here now. Mm-hmm okay. So you mentioned when you, uh, initially put the product out there, you had a lot of, a lot of bites, and I’m wondering, like, we talk about fans here.
So how did you get so much interest so quickly? Right? What, what, what, what did you do.
Farzad Rashidi: That is a great question. So at the very beginning, what we started to do was I actually had written a piece of content and ebook that folks can download it for free. Right now it’s called BI marketing playbook. And if you go and just look up BIME marketing strategy on Google can download that ebook.
And it was basically a step by step playbook into our SEO strategy at SME. That’s now getting over two and half million in monthly organic. And, uh, and we’re getting about 20 thou 20 to 25,000 new users to platform without relying on pay ads or pulled out. So basically we’re getting that for free quote unquote.
So we, I explained transparently exactly step by step when we did. And, uh, that was a big hit. And we, I think we got like 10,000 downloads the first two weeks he went live and we had some partners with some other companies that also promoted it. Um, and basically. List of people that had downloaded E. Was the initial touchpoint that we were like, Hey guys, you guys downloaded our ebook.
Guess what? The software we used to implement all these strategies call respond. We just released it to the public. If you wanna check it out or check it out. So we obviously brought in a good amount of people, but at the same time, it wasn’t a scalable, um, obviously strategy. So what we started doing from day one and responds, actually work on our blog.
Start. That eating our own dog food, basically to start producing specific pieces of content that we wanted to rank for and using our own product to actually start building back clean. So right. Nowa is fully, uh, an inbound company. We’re getting, getting close to about a hundred thousand people to our website every month.
And we started our. My website about two years ago, a little over two years ago. So, um, that basically is also a Testament that a product works. So at the same time now, and we don’t have to rely on paid advertising to get customers. Wow.
Tim Melanson: Wow, great. Wow. That’s a great story. You know, it reminded me of quote that I heard a long time ago.
The best time you build your network is before you need it. that’s
Farzad Rashidi: right. So,
Tim Melanson: so I know that, you know, maybe if you’re listening to this and you’ve already got your business started well, it’s too late to build your network for like, at this point, but, uh, never too late. Well, I, I mean, I mean, it’s too late to build it before you need it.
Right. Cuz now you need it. uh, but I mean, if you are listening to this and you haven’t started your business yet now would be a good time to start building that network as you’re developing your product or your services. Uh, because like you say, I mean you, you had, and. And, and I guess the other big thing about that is that when you were building, when you were putting that, that, that, uh, uh, whatever document out there that was free, right.
That was free information. That’s right. And I mean, I’m hearing this all over the place nowadays. There’s just so much out there that, uh, you’ve. Got to get people interested in you, and you’re probably not gonna do it with a paid product. So why not put some free information out there that shows that you’re a professional and that you know what you’re talking about?
And then, uh, you can start to convert from
Farzad Rashidi: there. Exactly and I mean, that’s also the basis for us. Yeah. Is that you’re putting together on gated free information. That’s educational that your target customers are actively looking for. And, and basically through that content, you have a getaway. To communicating with these potential customers and, and, uh, build trust and credibility over time.
And they would convert to whatever product you’re sales estate you’re selling, if they’re actually, um, valuable to, to the tar market. Right? So you can’t mark. You can’t do good marketing for a product or service. That’s not good. It doesn’t matter how good of a marketer you are. Right. If you actually have something of value that people are willing to pay for, um, that basically would be a great way to put in free educational.
Uh, information out there is, is the best way to get customers. And that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. yeah, yeah,
Tim Melanson: yeah. Yeah. And, and I mean, also the, the other big benefit is that you learn so much from actually putting that information out there in the first place. Cause you know, it requires a little bit of research.
It requires you to get whatever’s in your head, out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Right. So, you know, the, you grow as you’re putting that free content out there as well. Right? Hey, rock stars. Do you need a website online store or just maintenance on your existing site? Well, then you have to check out creative crew agency.com.
Creative crew agency is your full stop shop for graph design, web development, web maintenance, web hosting, and any general tech support. Go to creative crew agency.com and click let’s chat to book a free consultation and let our experts maintain your online business presence. So you can focus on building your business.
Farzad Rashidi: Yes, but there’s quite a lot of mistakes that people make along the way. And that is, they sometimes mistake the content that they put on a website as, um, Content that they would put on social media or something that people are actively Sur. And they’re basically right about things that people aren’t actively searching for.
Uh, a lot of people think that people just come onto their website and automatically open their blog, start reading their content. It just never happens. It’s backwards. Normally people come onto your blog. As the getaway, and then they basically read through the rest of your website. So knowing keeping that in mind, uh, there’s gotta be quite a lot of strategy involved in terms of what you write about in the first place to make sure that you prioritize, uh, the certain keywords and also the topics that you target customers actively searching for.
And then kind of moving on funnel from there. Uh, I
Tim Melanson: love it. I love how you just explained that. That’s great. Cuz you’re you’re right. I mean, when people get to your website, they’re tech, they’re probably not hitting your landing page at first. Right? I it’s funny that they call it a landing page. because that’s right.
Uh, because yeah, they’re coming in through your content and then once they get there, then they’re going like, who is this person? And they might click something else. Right. Mm-hmm so, you know, that’s a good way to think about how you’re building your website as well, to make sure that, you know, those links are easy to find from the blog as well, right?
Farzad Rashidi: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s not so much also about the, the them navigating it’s normally best to, um, once they hit. Your blog, they probably aren’t ready to purchase. So there’s three steps in the buyer journey, right? So the first step they’re they’re awareness in stage and ask where normally your blog articles are at.
So people that are looking for informing themselves about a particular problem, though, they’re trying to resolve. And then, um, that point you want move into the consideration stage where you wanna hit him with the gated content or that’s where. Basically like, okay, we can provide more value. It’s like, for example, download I ebook or, you know, opt into our newsletter or whatever.
And that’s where you sort of get that content info again, keeping the commitment low. And then from there you wanna nurture em down to the, uh, decision stage where, okay. Now do you have this problem? We educated, you, you download our guide. We build a relationship now, Hey, we also offer this product or service that actually helps to.
This and that, and, and a tiny portion of those people would be interested, but once you get some volume, now, things become a lot more, uh, easy, uh, or I would say easier in a way, uh, that, that you can sort of build this machine that automatically brings you a certain flow of traffic then that you will nurture down the funnel.
Tim Melanson: So I feel like we should be talking about instruments and tools. sure because you have a tool, but what other tools do you use to get success
Farzad Rashidi: in your business? Absolutely. So actually I would recommend, uh, people signing for responder straight away. If you’re just starting out, uh, responders of platform that you could pretty much do a lot of the things that it does manually.
Uh, but it’s just very painful and time consuming. So. My recommendation is to always start doing things manually up to a certain degree where it’s very difficult to scale and, and do over time. So then becomes almost a no brainer at that point to start signing up for tools that kind of help you automate a lot of things, uh, respond and include it.
So, um, I would say first things you want to do is first of all, start with the clean slate. So a lot of people have, I just see so much bad practice in the co game where, uh, people are just slapping content on their. Go ahead and delete all list. Go take a look. If something doesn’t have any back links, doesn’t get any traffic over the past six months.
Delete. You don’t need ’em you have wasted your time and resources. Just accept it and move on. all right. Is that with a clean slate? Now you wanna do things right from the ground up. So first step is actually start with some keyword research and I talk about all these steps, by the way, through the ebook down I road.
So just go download BI marketing strategy. I kind of go step by step through all these processes. It’s kind of difficult to explain that kind of stuff through a podcast, cuz I can’t just move, share my screen and kind of show you, but yeah, uh, But anyway, just to kind of keep, keep things to the basics. So you wanna start with some proper keyword research and I explained how you can find keywords that your customers actively searching for.
So it gets a certain amount of collection volume, but at the same time, it’s not super highly competitive. So you wanna prioritize keywords that are low competition that are, that are underserved. And at the same time, they actually have. There some sort of commercial value for your business. So that sweet spot is in the middle.
This what are called opportunity keywords. It’s a process, a very scientific process of how you can actually find these keywords. You don’t just come up with ’em right. And then once you have that target keyword, there’s also a process on, okay, what are some of the questions that people are actually looking to get answers from?
And that is what I call the user intent. So you just Google a keyword. Google and just analyze the top 10 search results and you can easily see, okay. If somebody’s looking for, for example, how do I water my plants? They’re looking for a block post. I explain. So, or for example, if somebody’s looking for, what are the best gardening tools they’re looking for a Listal right.
Or if somebody’s like, Gardening, um, uh, hose or whatever, and then they’re looking to purchase it. They don’t wanna read about it. Right? So they’re, depending on the user intent, once you have a prioritized list of keywords, you create a corresponding web page on your website, which could be either a landing page or a blog post, or a template page, regardless of, uh, depending on basically that user.
And then you do all of that. You put on your website, you create these pieces of content. And it’s gonna be crickets because there’s likely millions of other websites. Uh, still, even if they’re underserved, uh, competing for the same keyword and that’s sort of where promotion and response sort comes into play
Tim Melanson: right on, right on.
Okay. Well, we can get more into that in your, uh, uh, guest solo, but let me hear a little bit about your band as well. Like, so you know, who do you have around you in your team and how do you find.
Farzad Rashidi: So we are a software company. So the, the basic structure of a company that we have is very different from say, if you are a coach or if you offer a service, uh, basic, um, I would say, um, advice I like to give to business owners that if you’re just starting out, don’t go hire an agency.
From the get, go, uh, try to do it yourself first. Educate yourself first about everything it’s difficult, but it, and I mean, there, you’re never gonna be an expert in it, but having a basic understanding of the task you wanna delegate helps you set better expectations from the people you’re hiring. So, um, uh, but obviously as a software company, there’s a lot.
A lot more moving pieces, right? So you’re building products and a lot of technical people, et cetera. So keeping that head count to a minimum and then starting out doing everything yourself, I point until a point that it gets very hard to scale, and then you start either automating or delegating. And that’s one advice I’d like to lead people with.
Tim Melanson: that’s amazing. Couldn’t say it any better. Yeah. I mean, having, I think people do get bogged down because you know, they’re oh, I just don’t know anything about that. I’m just gonna hire somebody to do. But you’re right, that having that basic understanding, you don’t need to know how to do everything, but having a basic understanding will help you to guide the people in the right direction.
And it’ll also help you to know whether the person’s not doing their job right as well. That’s right. I mean, you could waste a lot of time and money on somebody who’s not doing what they should, they should be doing. If you don’t have any idea what’s going on in that area. Exactly. Now. Okay. So it’s time for, to get solo.
So tell me what’s
Farzad Rashidi: exciting in your business. sure. So, as I mentioned, Tim, when you go ahead and do all the research and put together content and build the right site structure. And by the way, I don’t like to deter a lot of people. SEO’s a lot of work, but I haven’t found in my career in marketing and better channel for acquiring customers.
If your customers are actively aware of the problem they’re trying to solve, and they’re researching for. Right. So that means that if you are a life coach and, uh, I mean, that actually is not a very good example. Uh, but if you, for example, sell a very expensive like medical device that only like certain hospitals use, it’s probably a waste of time for you to focus on SEO because your customers aren’t actively searching.
Right. But if you sell, for example, either a commerce product or a software company, or if you have an affiliate website, et cetera, it doesn’t matter what it is that, but what, what you wanna do. So put yourself. Shoes are your customer. And nurse said, Hey, are these guys actively Googling to come across a potentially a product service?
The answer to that is. Then it means that it’s almost idiotic not to invest in because that’s where customers are hanging out. So cost of advertising is, is five X over the past, uh, few years and it’s continuing to grow, continued to grow. So, and also it’s very hard to scale channel cuz when you double the budget, doesn’t make you get double convergence.
So it’s diminishing ROI and coal average for sales going door to door only works with certain products that are super expensive, cuz otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense, uh, to hire sales people or, or spend your time. So if you have a reasonably priced product that people are actively searching for online, then you get invest in SCL and.
Probably most people are listening to his podcast that they’re on that shoot. And, and what you wanna do is start with the right strip structure and, uh, explain kind of step by step, how you can do so through that ebook and visit me marketing strategy. But the problem that a lot of people face that once they hit that point and they put these kinds of pieces out there is exactly what happened to us is that it’s gonna be completely crickets no, it’s gonna come find you magically.
And that’s sort of where the. Idea of backlinks come and apply. So, uh, as I mentioned, we spent 20% of our resource and content creation and the other 80% goes into promotion. And if you don’t have resources for it, just produce less frequent content and, and, and, and allocate your resources in the same way.
Doesn’t matter how much resources you have, whether you’re one person show. Or you have a team of people. And, and, and the matter of fact is for link building. Obviously we only have two minutes. I can’t discuss exactly how things come in to play, but we have an average strategy guide under respondent website.
So if you navigate to respondent.com, R E S PO na.com at the very bottom of the page, uh, we give you a ready, used recipes and templates you can use to. Now, once you built these right pieces of content and landing pages, how are we gonna. Get back links and to your website to now get ’em on the search results, man.
Tim Melanson: That was really, really well put . Uh, yeah, cause, uh, I think that’s the key is that when people are, uh, are on Google looking for something, if they’re looking for you, then SEO makes sense for you. But if they’re not like if you are out there trying to create a market. then SEO is probably not gonna be for you cuz they, they don’t even know what they’re looking for yet.
Right. Mm-hmm exactly.
Farzad Rashidi: Is that a good way to put it? yeah, absolutely. And also you have to consider that not all keywords are necessarily directly talking about your product, but any, anything that’s relevant, like for example, we’re in the SEO gain. So if somebody’s looking for, Hey, how do I get organic traffic to my website?
So they’re not necessarily directly thinking about content promotion or link building, but they they’re relevant terms to our business in. If somebody’s trying to get organic traffic to our website, there is no surprise that they need to have a promotion strategy and outreach, uh, GA uh, outreach strategy in place.
So then responder would be a nice fit. And now let’s start. So that’s at the very ver stage where now let’s start actually getting these people into the website and then nurture ’em down, uh, to become potentially a customer down the line. Love it.
Tim Melanson: Thank you so much for ad for rocking out with me today.
Farzad Rashidi: been a lot of fun. Absolutely. Thanks for having me on the show.
Tim Melanson: Cool. And to the, uh, listeners, make sure you subscribe right in comment. We’ll see you next time on the work at home rockstar podcast.