Farzad Rashidi - Respona

Content Marketing for SaaS: How to Scale Your Content Promotion – with Farzad Rashidi [323]

Content Marketing for SaaS: How to Scale Your Content Promotion

Farzad Rashidi is the co-founder of Respona, an all-in-one link-building outreach software that helps businesses increase their organic traffic from Google.

In 2018, Farzad was leading the marketing team at Visme and trying to figure out how to grow their organic search traffic.

The team spent a ton of time and effort creating content but after many months they had hardly moved the needle on their SEO and organic search traffic.

Eventually, they realized that they were spending nearly all their time creating content and almost zero time promoting that content.

So that's when they made a major shift. They allocated just 20% of their marketing resources to content creation and 80% of their effort went into content promotion.

They also knew that getting links from authoritative websites was key to building organic traffic, but it was a slow and tedious process. So they built an internal tool to make their lives easier.

That SEO and content strategy has paid off for Visme, which currently gets almost 3 million monthly organic website visitors, and the product has around 14 million active users.

But despite the success they had with their internal tool in helping with link-building outreach, they struggled to get traction when they tried to sell it as a standalone SaaS product.

It turns out a big part of the struggle was down to how they had positioned the SaaS product. When they figured that out and simplified their positioning, things finally started to click.

It's a great interview with tons of actionable insights.

So I hope you enjoy it.


Click to view transcript
[00:00:00] Omer: Welcome to another episode of the SaaS podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is a show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business.

In this episode, I took to Farzad Rashidi the co-founder of Respona all in one link building software that helps businesses increase their organic traffic from Google. In 2018, Farzad was leading the marketing team at Visme and trying to figure out how to grow their organic search traffic.

The team spent tons of time and effort creating content, but after many months they'd hardly moved the needle on their SEO. Eventually, they realized they were spending nearly all the time creating content and almost zero time promoting it. So that's when they made a major shift, they allocated just 20% of their marketing resources to content creation and put 80% of their effort into content promotion.

They also knew that getting links from authoritative websites was key to building organic traffic. But doing outreach, as anybody knows, is a slow and tedious process. So they built an internal tool, which later would become Respona to make their lives easier. That SEO and content strategy has paid off really well for Visme which currently gets almost 3 million monthly organic website visitors. And the product has around 14 million active users.

But despite the success, they had with the internal tool in helping them with their link building outreach, they really struggle to get traction when they try to sell it as a standalone product. Well, it turns out a big part of the struggle was down to how they positioned the SaaS product.

And when they finally figured that out and simplified their positioning, things started to click. So this is a great interview with tons of actionable insights. I hope you enjoy it .

Farzad welcome to the show.

[00:02:05] Farzad: Thank you so much for having me Omer. I'm beyond excited.

[00:02:09] Omer: Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us?

[00:02:13] Farzad: No Omer. I was actually thinking about this, , before I interview and I think one quote that I use personally, I would say at least once a week is good things take time. That's by my own co-founder Payman, who says it a lot and it's, it's definitely sometimes quite inspiring not to get discouraged on the down days.

[00:02:31] Omer: Great. So tell us about Respona, what does the product do? Who's it for. And what's the main problem you're helping to solve?

[00:02:38] Farzad: So Respona is an all in one link building outreach software that helps businesses increase our organic traffic from Google. We predominantly cater to SaaS companies and also marketing agencies that do marketing for predominantly SaaS companies.

The problem that we are resolving is basically helping folks get connected with relevant authoritative resources and publications in their space in order to get the word out about their brand. And also improving the backlink profile of their website. So that increased their likelihood of being able to get better rankings in Google.

[00:03:11] Omer: Can you give us a sense of the size of the business, where you guys, in terms of revenue, customer size of team.

So, team size, we're about a team of nine. I would say six full-time including myself and we have three part-time contractors. As far as the revenue numbers, my co-founder's a little more private than I am.

[00:03:26] Farzad: So just sound respect for, I, I promise not to share any numbers yet, but it's getting very close to seven figures, I'd say multiple six figures and we're completely bootstrap, never raised any outside funding. And we've launched the 1.0 version of our platform in November of 21. So it's been a little over eight, eight months, I would say.

[00:03:44] Omer: Great. So let's talk about where the idea for this product came from. What were you doing at the time and how did you come up with the.

[00:03:52] Farzad: So I started my career in marketing Omer when I was gosh, how many, however, many years ago that was at, at a company called Visme I know we chatted about this in a pre-show interview, but as far as for folks who don't know what Visme is, is an all in one brand content creation platform that helps businesses sort of create presentations named infographics and whatnot. And I joined as a first marketing hire was at, it was another bootstrap company, seven or eight people founded by Payman. Who's my current co-founder here at Respona and there were basically a team of engineers and designers who had built this really cool product.

And at the time where it Canva hadn't taken off yet. They were like, okay, Farzad you go sell this thing. and I was like, okay, sounds like a good plan. So my goal was not necessarily just to get, to make a quick buck for the company. My goal was to build a customer acquisition strategy, meaning okay. How we're gonna acquire customers today, but also what we're gonna do five years from now.

So we quickly had to evaluate some we'd say acquisition, strategies. First few ones that came to our mind was coal average for sales, obviously. But the problem with that was that our price point for the product, we also have our freemium product. So price point was very affordable, I think was like 14, $15 a month.

So it's not something that would make economic sense for you to go hire sales people and go sell a door to door. And paid advertisement also was, was in cards. But. As a bootstrap company, obviously we're always cash strength. So we didn't have hundreds of millions of dollars to pour into paid advertising.

But another problem with that is not very scalable. So, it is something that is diminishing ROI. So meaning if you double your ad budget doesn't mean you double the conversion. So it becomes at a certain point plateaued because your, your cat sort of, or customer acquisition cost sort of cats know which your LTV.

So we were like, okay, let's put ourselves in shoes of a customer. And understand how they would go and find a product like ours. All right. So Omer, let's say you wanna create an infographic for this, for this episode, as soon as it comes out and you don't already have a product, what's the first step you do. When you wanna look for a product like ours, what would you do?

[00:05:57] Omer: I guess I'd look for infographic software on Google.

[00:06:00] Farzad: There you go. So we knew from day one. Okay, people are Googling to find a product like ours, because first of all, you are aware of the problem you're trying to solve. And two, you're Googling about it.

So those two check marks, this is something I always recommend to any SaaS company to any business, really who wants to focus on SEO? It's like, are your customers aware of the problem? And are they Googling about it? If they answer to either of them is no SEO is a waste of time. We knew from day one SEO was definitely in the cart for us, because we wanted to make sure that we show up in places where people are looking for a product like ours would come and organically find us.

Instead of us having to either become a household name that is super expensive or good door to door start selling, which is not very scalable. So long story short, what we did was to start putting together a lot of content pieces and you know as one would, when it comes to content marketing, we just started the blog and built a bunch of landing pages.

And we basically released the, I would say the new version of the website within about two months after I joined. And guess what happened?

[00:07:04] Omer: It was an amazing success.

[00:07:06] Farzad: That's what I was hoping. Unfortunately, it was not like that. So that, that sort of started the rest of the journey.

[00:07:14] Omer: Great. Okay. So you decided that you're gonna invest in content. You know what your target customers are searching for. You are creating a whole bunch of this content. Why do you think it didn't work the way you expected and what were some of the lessons you learned from that, that helped you to figure out a better content marketing strategy?

[00:07:38] Farzad: Absolutely. So home Omer, one day I basically pulled our Google analytics. And there were literally two visitors to our website, and I'm pretty confident. One of them was my mom so one really? So I was like, okay, well, we're definitely doing something wrong here. So I pulled up Google in a new Incognito and I just looked up one of our keywords, which is presentation software.

And guess how many searches all popped up? Like as far as you see how Google tells you here's how many webpages contain this keyword? So how many, how just throw a number out there. How many search tools do you think come up with that keyword?

[00:08:12] Omer: 2 million

[00:08:13] Farzad: 2 million with a M? Close. It was three and a half billion with a B. So little off.

[00:08:20] Omer: I was close.

[00:08:21] Farzad: Yeah. But so we were like, okay, well, we have spent all this. We we've spent all this time creating these pieces of content. And now, by the way, we're ranked number one for that keyword. So if you actually go Google this now, hopefully we're still up there. But just to give you the sense of scale right now, Visme is getting close to about 3 million in monthly organic traffic, and we're about 14 million, 14 and a half million active users and close to a team of a hundred fully profitable steel bootstrap. So keep listening. Nice. I guess interesting.

[00:08:49] Omer: How long ago was it when you checked and it was your mom and one other person on website.

[00:08:55] Farzad: It's been quite a few years.

[00:08:57] Omer: How long has it taken you to get to, you know, the volume of, of traffic you're getting today on Visme?

[00:09:01] Farzad: Right. I would say about five to six years, at least to, to get to this point. So it wasn't overnight success for sure. But what was really interesting for us was to try to figure out how these Google algorithms work. As a marketer you can't just go stuff keywords on a page just to imply to these search engines to, Hey, our content is of high quality, right?

Because even if you're in the top 1% in terms of quality of content, when there's three and a half billion searches you're into tens of millions still. So how do you go from tens of millionth to top 10? If not top three, they get over 99% of the clicks. So we knew that it wasn't just enough to slap a bunch of content on our website.

So what, what, so obviously we've come a long way in terms of figuring out what are some of the keywords that we need to target. What are because there's a lot of big guys in the industry that are dominating some of the search key terms. But as far as the real key that helped us sort of skyrocket the traffic was an inproportionate focus on our promotion tactics.

So up to this day, still, we spent 20% of our marketing resources on content creation. And the other 80% goes into promotion and link building. Let me repeat that again. We spent four times the amount of time we spent on content creation on promotion, and that's what really put us over the top. And it's still propelling us forward because that's not how 99% of companies do content marketing.

And that's that journey sort of led to the creation of Respona because obviously when you put 80% resources in one thing you wanna optimize and, and kind of save time, cuz it's an excruciating, really difficult process because it's a lot easier said than done. It turns out so that that's sort of the backstory.

[00:10:35] Omer: So when you say content promotion was this mainly emailing outreach to other website owners, trying to get a back link.

[00:10:46] Farzad: Yeah, absolutely. So through a variety of different strategies. So unfortunately link building has gotten a bad rep because since it's some, would've been new thing lot of marketers are still trying to figure it out. So , they resort to spamming and sort of blasting emails, everyone. I'm sure you get these every day.

Hey Omer, I wouldn't like to publish a guest post. So those things simply don't work. And, and the ones that do respond to those pitches are from websites that you don't wanna link from. So building relationships with relevant authoritative publications, there's a variety of different strategies that you can utilize in order to get there.

And normally those type of strategies require you to have something of substance to pitch, and that requires you to have certain types of content that are built for sort of these link building average campaigns. You can't just go out and pitch everything.

So say you build a product page shouldn't go out there and try to build back links to that because you, you can provide little value, but original research articles stuff that is you've done a survey or you have proprietary information that you can share. And these are normally the type of things you want to do outreach for.

And then what we use is, is a process called the middleman approach. As a trips guys, call it where you sort of. A beacon when it comes to links when it comes to attracting external links to our website and then normally have internal links within those pages that kind of pass on that link that go to 200 pages.

So that's just a fancy way of saying that it's not just simply spamming. It does require a good amount of strategy and preparation before you start. Pulling your laptop out to start emailing people.

[00:12:20] Omer: Yeah. I think that you're right. Link building has got such a bad rep because there are so many people doing it and doing it badly.

I think people are just tuning out. It's harder to get people's attention because there's so much noise out there. So I'm curious when you say building relationships sounds great. Sounds like the right way to do it. But it also sounds like a painfully slow process. It was, and you're 100% correct. So how do you do that?

How do you do that in a way that helps you move the needle while not being like all the other. Examples of bad outreach.

[00:13:03] Farzad: Exactly. So you're a hundred percent correct Omer. It is a very painfully slow and unscalable process. So what we were doing at the time was practically throwing spaghetti on the wall initially to trying to figure out what works.

And it turns out the stuff that works takes normally the most amount of time. So I'm gonna give you a couple examples what are some of the things that I, that we do that, that will work still not to this day. But as far as the, the time part, since there is quite a lot of preparation needed, and also in terms of building relationships and kind of opening up these conversations, that was sort of the reason why we started building Respona in the first place, because a lot of the tools that were already in the market were either mass average tools that I'm sure a lot of spammers use nowadays to send these emails, or there were CRM tools that are helping you keeping track of your opportunities, but it doesn't really so much help with the average part itself. So what Respona really was built to do was to automate a lot of the dirty work and mundane tasks, like, okay, you have this article wanna promote it.

Here's a list of these particular webpages that we think that you need to build links from. And here are the right people at each one of these websites to actually manage the content. Here's the direct verified email address and social profiles. And here's a template. Now spend time on personalization average.

So all of that stuff is sort of taken care of in terms of automations that are built in, so that now as a human, you can get yourself involved at the last step to actually start engaging in the conversations and, and personalizing these pitches and actually interacting with them through a variety of different channels.

So for example, I can, I'm happy to outline a few strategies. One of them is, again, I don't need this to come across as a link to link strategy. So we, we chatted about this Omer and I said, I'm gonna talk about it. I've been a big fan of the show for years. I was telling Omer and I've listened to pretty much every single episode within the past I would say at least two to three years, I challenge Omer to quiz me on it and so the, the, the matter of fact is it's, it's a true honor and a pleasure to be a guest on this show and it's something that I've been wanted to do and took quite, quite a amount of convincing me.

[00:15:12] Omer: Thank you for that. And I appreciate that. And, and talking about long term relationships, you and I have been talking on and off for several years before.

[00:15:21] Farzad: That's right.

[00:15:22] Omer: We got to this point. So you, you know, you walk the talk when it comes to building relationships.

[00:15:26] Farzad: I appreciate that. Thank you, Omer. But so one, one of the, so for example, we are getting a back link from your website SaaS Club to Respona did we ever spam you? No. Are we getting a back link? Yeah. So one of the strategies is actually going on other people's podcasts as a guest. So Respona helps you find some podcasts in your space that are relevant. So you can find, for example, Hey, here's a competing company or someone in our space, where are they getting their interviews?

Are they getting going on podcasts? Okay. What are these podcasts? So that automatically tells you three. One, they accept guests to the relevant to your space. And three makes your life easier when it comes to pitching. Cuz you can just say that, Hey Omer, you know, Kim across the interview with this person and that, and I love the find guests talked about so we can actually listen to that episode.

See if there, if you are actually gonna be a good guest, give you some metrics about the podcast to see if, if the audience sort of matches your target market. And if there is a match you as a guest can provide value to the audience. And also the audience is the type of customer potential customers for your business.

Now that's a match made in heaven. So let's go ahead and find let Respona find the host, get the email, and then help you reach out to them with a personalized pitch referencing that episode they found through now. That has a lot of benefits. One you're getting free advertising to a niche audience, two you're building relationships with smart people and publications near space like yourself.

And also you getting these backlink mentions to your website from websites that don't normally work with these email spammers. So these are gold and when it, so when it comes, so that's, that's one out of a gazillion different ways in how you be able to provide value to publications. And in return, obviously it's not a quid procure. It's normally a, a collaboration, a partnership that normally starts that conversation.

[00:17:16] Omer: So let's recap on what we've talked about so far, you, you joined Visme. You wanna try and sell that product. You invested a lot of time in content marketing, nothing seems to work then through trial and error, you start to realize we're spending way too much time on content production and not enough time on content, promotion, distribution.

[00:17:40] Farzad: That's right.

[00:17:41] Omer: And so it was a bunch of trial and error. You basically have an internal tool, which is helping you do this outreach and content promotion better. And then you start to see results from that. And eventually that led you to the aha moment, which is, Hey, maybe this tool is a product itself.

So why don't we kind of move to that part of the story where you decide to build, Respona as a standalone product. How did you go about getting your first time customers?

[00:18:13] Farzad: So Omer? I remember this, I put together a, so we were pretty much at the time doing everything manually, came to research, finding opportunities, finding, reaching out to folks.

And as I said, didn't, we did some investigations. Some of didn't really like the software that was already out there. So I literally put together like this little I would say sketch here and, and envision at the time and, and went and pitched it to Payman. Who was the CEO of who is the CEO of Visme.

And I was like, Hey, I have an idea for this tool that's gonna save us a lot of time, at least internally. And you know, who knows, maybe if you actually end up working out, we can probably sell this as another tool. And what happened was that we actually got one of the developers cuz we were already a SaaS company.

So we had some access to designers and, and you know, developers there. So one, we got one of the developers to spend like 30% of his time on this site, sort of building duct taping together, this little MVP at the time wasn't we even called the Respona it wasn't called anything really. And we, we built it and then put it in front of our team members, marketing team, which I was leading at the time.

I was like, guys, I built this thing for you. You're welcome. And they just loved it. They're like, Hey man, this is awesome. It's saving us a lot of time. It was sort of, I would say Zapier. So it was sort of was automating a lot of this work that they had to do by kind of you know, building some scripts that was sort of connected to different APIs and kind of automating a lot of things.

And we were like, okay, that sounds great. Let's, let's see if you can actually sell this thing because if you can help us, I'm sure it can help a lot of other SaaS companies. So. We, we reached out to a few I know folks that were in the startup world, like on beta list. We scraped that list and, and I went and reached out to every single founder and I was like, Hey man, or, or lady you wanna come try this thing that we just built?

And some of 'em would say, yeah, because they're, you know, people are in the tech space and they're always open minded normally. And out of the blue one or two of 'em actually started paying for it. I was like, okay, well, There's some sign of life, you know, that's not quite a product market fit, but it's still something that other people are willing to pay their credit card, put down a credit card and pay for.

So what I did was for a number of weeks, I actually started building this little ebook. That's still live, still getting downloads. It's called Visme marketing playbook. And it was sort of a step by step instructions to all the stuff that we had learned over the course of years, trial and error.

That we did over the Visme side to make our quantum marketing function. And I'm happy to give you some snippets from that, because I think there's a couple of good nuggets there I could share. That's not just related to content promotion, but that ebook we're like, okay, well that sounds great. We can, we can promote it to our audience on the Visme side, but a lot of them aren't really target market for Respona.

We have kind of users from all across the board on the business side. So that is also something that was kind of discouraging. We're like, okay, we got all these millions of users. , they're not really someone we can cross-sell to. So we wanna reach out to App Sumo. And we're like, Hey guys, I, I wrote this ebook about 160 pages and I've literally outlined step by step everything we've learned the past, like five years building our, I, I think our traffic at the time was like a million or two still wasn't 3 million. And they were like, sure, we can launch this maybe as a freebie. So I was like, great. So, so we went, we went to App Sumo and we already had a relationship with them because we had ran an LTD with them on a business side back in the day when it was very early beta and but Respona is the type of product that doesn't make sense to LTDs for, just because of reoccurring data costs. It's not something you can just give out for free for life. So we basically launched ebook and it immediately got like almost 10,000 downloads the first two weeks.

And it was quite a sizeable list. So then we reached out to them at like a week or so after we're like, Hey, by the way, we just built this product. It's. At the time, I think it was called AI PR or whatever we call it Respona eventually. And and then got, got a few people in and, and they were interested.

So, you know, I think 20 or so 10, 20 customers signed up for it. So that's sort of the backstory there.

[00:22:25] Omer: They paid for the product.

[00:22:26] Farzad: They actually started paying for the product.

[00:22:28] Omer: Okay. So when you wrote this ebook, did you do that intentionally for App Sumo or was it supposed to be just a lead magnet?

[00:22:36] Farzad: It was just gonna be a lead magnet. Right. So initially we were like, we're gonna promote it to our community. We made some put some ad money behind it. We did, but it was obviously very expensive. And we also tried to partner with HubSpot that fell through, but App Sumo is the one that we actually collaborative with in the past that we had a better chance of working with them.

[00:22:53] Omer: So why create 160 page ? I mean, who in their right mind does that. I mean, people give away lead magnets, which are like one page PDF, so right. A 10 page ebook, but a hundred that's. Why did you do that?

[00:23:10] Farzad: So, you know, retrospect, it probably would've been shorter. It wasn't supposed to be that long. So what happened was that I was like, okay, I wanna share stuff I learned and then create a step by step guide with screenshots and stuff in there. So it's not just pure text. It's actually like, okay, go open this, do this that it's very practical. And it was sort of serving as an SOP also for our team. We still use it up to this day for new hires. We just send in this book, we're like, okay, read the first two chapters, maybe not entire 160 pages.

But so at the time it was sort of, it happened sort of by accident because we weren't planning on it, but then I just got into it and overnight, and on the weekends, I was like, okay, this is actually kind of fun to document the stuff that we experimented with, and I'm happy to share a couple of things with you again, from that ebook.

For example the process that we use for keyword research is still up to this day is still what we use now. And it is a formula I developed, we used to call it, well, I call it Farzad's core. And then people were like, no, not calling this Farzad's core. So they call it the opportunity to score where, you know, when you, for example, let's say your SaaS company, you wanna start writing content, where would you start?

Right. So. Using it, some of these SEO tools like hrefs or SEM Rush, or if you're just starting out, maybe Uber suggests you run a parent keyword, like for example, for respond or parent keyword is link building. So you can run that parent keyword and they give you like a gazillion search suggestions that you can pick from, because there's so many keywords, so many variations of how you can ask a question related to link building.

So. The way we prioritize it is by little formula we develop that basically prioritizes keywords based on three factors. We call it the three pillars. One is a volume. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna get into that. How many people are actually searching for that keyword every month, two is keyword difficulty, how difficult it is to actually get up in the search list with this.

And the last is commercial intent. So exactly what actually related to our business, how much business value has so wanna prioritize keywords. Contain that are in that middle overlapping part. So we have a formula that basically is, so we use three metrics from these SEO tools. One for balling. We use the traffic potential metric, which is the matter organic traffic that the first search results gets.

So that multiplied by one over keyword difficulty, which is a metric that these SEO tools gave you that explains how difficult it is to get up into search results. So if it's dominated with some of the big guys, maybe skip that and last but not least is the commercial intent. So the way we've basically objectified is by CPC for that keyword.

So if other, and the reason why we do it, even though it's not related to SEO is because advertisers like to make money. So if there's a keyword advertising who actively paying for that means that they're making money out of it. So that means it's a higher commercially valuable keyword. So we prioritize some keywords organically based on that.

And then one last thing I also mesh me messed out is that we have a rule of thumb that we don't go after keywords to have a higher keyword difficulty, which is a metric from zero to a hundred than our domain rating, which is not a metric from a hundred zero to a hundred. Which is again, fancy way of saying we stay within our lake when it comes to the keyboards for pick. So that's one of the strategies, for example, that I talk about step by step ebook.

[00:26:31] Omer: Great. Where can people get hold of this ebook?

[00:26:34] Farzad: Just Google Visme marketing strategy somewhere on there so probably there.

[00:26:38] Omer: We'll find the link. So did you, beyond the App Sumo launch, did you use content marketing, SEO and content promotion as the main way that you found customers?

[00:26:51] Farzad: Yeah, so Respona we actually, that's one of the first things we did and be before even we had a product, we built a website and it started writing content now using the same strategy, taking out small keywords, building blogs. And so that's something we started actually two and a half years ago. So now Respona gets, I think we're experiencing a little bit of a summer dip now since it's June.

But I think end of may, I think we hit around the a 100K in monthly organic traffic. Within about two years, which is still pretty impressive. But again, it took us two years to get here. So it's not a, it's not a validation sort of strategy. We didn't know. Cause I know the first 10 customers don't normally don't come through SEO. That's normally your hundredths or more customer that comes through.

[00:27:33] Omer: So I also wanna understand how much effort were you putting into the content that you were creating for responder? I see a lot of companies do the research out what keywords to target. and a lot of the times they end up creating content, which is almost the same as everything else that you'd see in the search results.

Right. For that keyword. One of the things that you mentioned earlier, which. We just sort of glossed over, but I think is super, super important is the uniqueness of content. You talked about original content, you talked about doing surveys, which creates some kind of data which people might wanna link to or site or reference or so on.

So how much effort do you typically put into a piece of content and how important is uniqueness to helping you rank for, for that keyword?

[00:28:26] Farzad: Absolutely. So Omer One thing that a lot of people don't talk about enough is that we create different types of content each with different objectives. So we create SEO content. That's built for volume in bringing customers to our website or bringing relevant people to our website. Two is link magnet content, which sounds bad. We have to pick another word for it, which these are our original research stuff that is super high quality that people wanna link. And the third piece is conversion content, which is ranging anywhere from product pages to best XYZ tools, to stuff, that template pages, stuff that we actually, you know, sell our product through.

So each one has a different objective and different strategy behind it, any starting from production all the way to promotion. So for our bottom on of funnel content or money pages that we create, like, for example, if you go Google link, building software, like Respona should be presentation, software, infographic tools, a maker, whatever any of these keywords are related to our companies. We are always on the top results, but we never do any sort of average campaign for these pages because. Even though they're very extremely hard to get because they're very highly competitive keywords. This is not a, the right strategy going built back links to these particular pages. What we do is that for each silo of content.

So for example, for Respona, or let me actually talk about Visme I think it's easier. So for Visme we have a few silos, like infographics, presentations, reports, each one has a money page, right? That's the core page that everything links to. And then that category also has three types of content, content that we use that we exclusively create for basically attracting links content that we create that is exclusively built for bringing SEO, traffic, targeting, higher traffic volume keywords, and then content we create that is basically in the cons people in the consideration stage of the buyer journey.

So let me give you example, for example, let's take the keyword like infographic maker or, yeah, that's actually a good one. So the type of content that we create for SEO is how to make an infographic, right? These educational pieces of content gets a lot of volume and that's the type of content pieces that we create that we optimize for, for search engines, but also at the same time, creating content. That makes sense. Right? So people actually can walk through et cetera.

So we don't actually, we, we stop our nerdiness when it comes to writing. So we, all the nerdiness happens before we actually start typing in a Google doc. Right? So all the research process happens before and we pick a topic, we get the writer to write about it, right from the heart.

Like don't just over optimize things. Now the type of content we create for consideration stages is for example, the infographic maker landing page. If you Google it pops up, or if you could look up infographic templates, right. We pop up. Those are pages normally that we don't do any sort of link-building outreach for, but here's the type of content that we do link-building outreach for.

Omer. Have you watched Game of Thrones before?

[00:31:25] Omer: Oh yes.

[00:31:26] Farzad: Okay. Perfect. I was, I was like, okay. Friendship over, if you haven't watched it. so Visme is inherently a database tool. So right before the last season came out, by the way, I haven't watched last season yet just because people keep spoiling it for me.

So I'm waiting till I forget, but it happens and it doesn't help that I talk about it on a podcast, but anyway, so right before the last season of game of Thrones came out, one of my team members on the content team went and visualized. Based on a betting website, just put together infographic on, who's gonna win the Game of Thrones.

What are people actually betting on? We ended up actually betting the wrong person, but it, that campaign was still a success because people were betting on the wrong guy. but then what we did was that, that, so we created a bunch of really good-looking visuals there. And if you look up like Visme Game of Thrones, it should pop up.

And what we did then was to go and reached out to any journalist that covered Game of Thrones within the past seven days. So there's a bunch of people like on, for example, Psychology Today. There's an article on, Hey, Game of Thrones last season's coming out. Yada yada, yada reached out to the journalists.

We were like, yo, John, you know, just came across your article about last season of Game of Thrones, research team actually just put together this guide or this graphic sets on who's gonna win Game of Thrones based on how much people are betting on it. Just send it over to you. Let me know what you think. Guess how many backings mentions that particular piece brought on its own.

Just throw a number.

[00:32:53] Omer: Thousands.

[00:32:54] Farzad: Maybe not thousands. A hundred 60 of 'em were from top tier publications. And like Psychology Today, Man's Health. I think Forbes bunch of big guys. Now that trickles in to all the other web pages that we have now that tells Google that, Hey, these guys are an authoritative figure.

And because that, that is an infographic page that we had created or people were linking to. And so it creates what we call topical authority for that infographic related keywords. Now it also helps with through is internal links. We passed on that link equity. It also helps with our content pages to get up there.

[00:33:26] Omer: Right. But the question about that one. So I think that's really cool. I just Googled it. I like that you even put all the Game of Thrones characters into like a Myers Brigg infographic, which is pretty unique, but this is gonna attract Game of Thrones fans, isn't it? Yes. They're not gonna necessarily buy your software.

[00:33:42] Farzad: Exactly. So I'm with you. So the link magnet content is not conversion content, so this is the type of content that's going to bring in relevant publications. So it's, since we're a database tool, that's something that made sense for us to do not something I recommend for every type of company to do.

Because this may caters to a long to a wide range of variety of users. For example, for Respona what we were doing is, and it's like we're releasing this guide on basically a survey that we ran with link building experts on how much link building costs in 2022, like each link that you are so proprietary data. So then we're gonna go and reach out to search engine journal and a bunch of relevant publications in our space and pitch that content to be featured.

You know, you see what I'm saying? So I want you to apply that to your industry for your. Not saying that that Game of Thrones is particularly the type of campaign that you wanna run.

[00:34:32] Omer: You're taking data that's publicly available, but you're putting a unique spin on it. And, and I think that's what creates, you know, the interest that people wanna link to.

So I think we've talked a lot about the experiences of, of content marketing, SEO with Visme and, and how you've applied that to Respona in, in terms of growing that we talked about the App Sumo launch as a way to get some early traction and, and the first 10, 20 customers. And so you are basically building that growth engine around content, as you did with Visme.

Let's talk about the product a little bit. Because for quite some time Respona wasn't link building software, right? It was doing a bunch of things or you were telling people it was doing a bunch of things. What was going on there and now that you look back, why was that not a good idea?

[00:35:22] Farzad: Absolutely. So the website that we put out, I remember that the messaging was the, it was a motto, which was don't spam, build relationships. So that was, that was the title of the webpage, which to anybody doesn't make any sense until you know exactly what, what we were, what we were selling here. So our, our idea in our head at the time was that, okay, we're gonna start from a wide market.

So we're gonna target people who are looking to do influencer marketing. We're targeting PR people that are looking to contact journalists to release a press. We're gonna target some SEOs. We're gonna target some people who are doing podcast outreach. So all of the functionalities that our app does, by the way today, what happened was that we were selling to everyone and no one in a way that, you know, our, our process was okay, we're gonna sell, try to sell it to everyone.

See who pays for it. And then we niche down. And that was a bad idea in retrospect, because it just sort of diluted a lot of our effort. In a way that we weren't really catering to anyone. Like we didn't create word of mouth in any certain community was sort of, yeah. I mean, if you come across it, some people were like, oh, this is cool.

But then everybody was sort of using it in a different way. So our messaging was not very clear. Cut enough. Our pricing was sort of, you know, we're overvaluing some markets and we're under in some certain ones. Its just sort of a I would say you, we're stuck a hard kind of rock between a rock and a hard place where didn't really know who, who our target market was.

And then we really eventually settled was like, okay, what target market do we actually provide the most value to? And those turn out to be content marketers, people are in SaaS companies or marketing agencies, maybe even some affiliate marketers that are actually looking to gain more organic traffic from Google.

They have to do some outreach in order to get some back links. Now let's go make their lives easier and build this product cater to directly towards them. So that also reflected in our pricing changes in our features, in our onboarding flow, all that stuff. That in retrospect, I would've done differently.

[00:37:22] Omer: But when you think about product market fit, the approach you described didn't sound that unreasonable. We're not sure what the target market is. And so we are going to target a few different markets. We're gonna figure out where the product resonates the most. And then that's where we are gonna focus.

[00:37:39] Farzad: Right.

[00:37:39] Omer: If you look back now, how do you think you could've got there faster? Because there are a lot of people who struggle with the same, same issue. So, what did you learn from that experience?

[00:37:48] Farzad: So it was the initial problem we were solving. So remember, we were a SaaS company building this in order to build back links.

We knew that already from day one, there was no reason for us to dip into other industries that are dominated with some of the big guys like PR there's precision and melt water or influencer marketing there's Upbound, influence. And there's a bunch of other companies that do this there's sales outreach, which there's like sales, loft and outreach, etcetera.

So there's so many, so many tools in the, in these saturated markets. We strap tiny load of startup with an MVP product, wasn't really gonna make it. So it was a lot of wasted time and effort to understand that in a way that, because we already knew from day one that, Hey, we are a link building software for SEO purposes, and that's something that we should have stuck with and that sort of dip into other industries from the get go.

[00:38:39] Omer: So internally, this is, this is interesting internally, you knew you had super clarity. On. What the product was, what problem it solved. And you could articulate that in one sentence. Yes. But when you went out to the market, you kind of watered down that message. Yes. And tried to feel to everybody.

[00:39:00] Farzad: We were like, we were for everybody and then trying to sell it to everyone. It just wasn't really the right approach.

[00:39:06] Omer: So how, how long did that go on for, and then what happened when you went all in and focused on link building software?

When we start.

[00:39:16] Farzad: So it was quite a gradual process. It wasn't a clean break. And what we really did that sort of focused us a lot was back in, I would say late 2020.

So it was like sort of a year of playing around with MVP and we had some customers getting some feedback on and we were like, okay, now we gotta. We got a decision to make, because building software Omer, as you know, is kind of like building Legos. You're starting with a base and you're building on top of it.

So we were like, okay, we can keep building features and capabilities on this base of a MVP product. We have to remember, we didn't have to write infrastructure set up. There was no market services. Like one thing that could go wrong that we took take the whole app down and there was like, no clear cut, like database instructor, no Kubernetes.

Like I would say it was just very bare bone because it was built for ourselves internally. So we made the decision and I think we made a good decision to take the entire year of 20 21 to actually build the right foundation. In terms of infrastructure back in front and everything from scratch with a professional designer that we're gonna simplify the product that becomes self serve, intuitive to use super high performance, everything loads super quickly and, and with very minimal bucks.

And we underestimated the amount of time it will take because as one would in the software space. And we have kept having to push the launch back and back and back. And we were initially shooting for six months and it became seven months and eight months. And then until November 2021 rolled around and everybody was kind of getting impatient and including our investor Visme me guys Payman and we're like, Hey man, what are you guys doing here?

Why aren't you releasing this 1.0. So right before our CTO had a plant sailing trip to in the middle of the ocean, like with no internet access for 10 days, we were like, okay, we either gonna have to push launch back two weeks or we're gonna do it now. So we made the horrible decision to release a brand new version that was.

Gonna get migrated into like other people were, were data would actually get migrated into in the middle of the week. So in retrospect, it was a very dumb decision on my end to do cuz obviously it was, it took some time and cuz we had to take the system down and migrate everyone over and, and bring up the whole new system.

And obviously, so. Right before our, our main engineer is in the middle of deceased in the middle of a sailing trip on the ocean. So not the smartest decision. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. We should have probably taken those two weeks for more testing and, and wait until everybody is ready, brace ourselves for impact before we launch.

But we ended up going through it and customers thankfully were so empathetic and, and understanding, cuz we had very close relationships with each one. All of them I talked to at least twice on a Zoom call, like, we, we knew each other very well and finally rep the bandaid and, and released a 1.0 and, and and then that, the rest is history.

[00:42:21] Omer: Awesome. So we should wrap up, move on to the lightning round. You know the drill?

[00:42:25] Farzad: Yes, sir.

[00:42:26] Omer: You've probably heard, heard these questions more than I have. Ready?

[00:42:31] Farzad: Yes, sir. Let's let's do it.

[00:42:33] Omer: What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

[00:42:37] Farzad: Niche down from early on. Don't do it later.

[00:42:40] Omer: What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

[00:42:42] Farzad: It's a book that I'm actually just about to finish and it's called, How to not be wrong. And it's called The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg.

[00:42:51] Omer: What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

[00:42:55] Farzad: Being comfortable with uncertainty.

[00:42:57] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

[00:43:01] Farzad: Something I've actually few months ago started doing as leaving my cell phone, outside the bedroom, and instead reading for 15 minutes before falling asleep and going to bed improved my life, quality, sleep happiness as a person.

[00:43:16] Omer: I need to do that. I used to keep my phone downstairs and then I got a cool new charger and I was like, yeah, I'm gonna put it next to my bed. Worst decision I ever.

[00:43:26] Farzad: No screens in a bedroom, just, just an Alexa for alarms. That's right.

[00:43:31] Omer: What's a new crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

[00:43:34] Farzad: Building smart clothing with IOT, which is completely random and irrelevant to software founder, but that that's one thing I'd like to work on at some point in the future.

[00:43:44] Omer: What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?

[00:43:47] Farzad: This is somewhat embarrassing, but I used to be a professional roller blade racer back in high school and I thought I was being very cool, but in retrospect it was not .

[00:43:58] Omer: And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

[00:44:01] Farzad: I would say fitness. It's a boring answer, but I'm a big fan of, you know, physical exercise, hiking, working out and staying healthy physically. And that that's one thing I tend to prioritize right after work.

[00:44:13] Omer: Awesome. Alright Farzad thank you so much. I think the last time you and I talked Respona wasn't link building software, right. It was kind of a bunch of bunch of different things, right? Yeah. Yeah. So great to see the, the nicheing down on the focus and you know, congratulations on the traction you've had so far. And if people wanna find out more about Respona they can go to respona.com that's R-E-S-P-O-N-A. And if folks wanna find out about Visme. Is it visme.com?

We own both.

[00:44:46] Farzad: Yes.visme.com and the main domain is visme.co that's, where we started and still hosted.

[00:44:52] Omer: Right. And if folks wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

[00:44:55] Farzad: I know my name is just like yours and my name is Farzad Rashidi. There's not a whole lot of 'em out there, so I stick out like a sore thumb on LinkedIn. So in case you wanna drop by and say, hi.

[00:45:05] Omer: Yeah, not the most competitive of keywords.

[00:45:08] Farzad: Keywords, right? That's that's a little cheating right there.

[00:45:12] Omer: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Thanks for sharing your story. Appreciate you sharing a, a bunch of insights that I think can help SaaS startups and founders to, to do a better job with content marketing and to do, if you're gonna do link building doing it the right way, which I think, you know, the bar has got so low in some areas that if you take the time and you have the long term approach and you think about relationships, you stand out, you get more attention.

So I appreciate that. I wish you and the team, the, the best of success.

[00:45:40] Farzad: Thank you very much. Thanks. Thank you so much for having me on me. This one, this one was a good one.

[00:45:45] Omer: My pleasure.

[00:45:45] Farzad: Thank you.

[00:45:46] Omer: Cheers.

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