Ep. 542 w/ Farzad Rashidi Lead Innovator at Respona

Kevin Horek: Welcome back to the show.

Today we have Farzad Rashidi.

He's the lead innovator at Rea Farzad.

Welcome to the

Farzad Rashidi: show.

Thank you so much for having me, Kevin.

Kevin Horek: Yeah, I'm excited
to have you on the show.

I, I think what you guys are doing at
REA is really innovative a and cool,

and I think a lot of people don't
understand how important and useful.

What respondent does can
be for their company.

But maybe before we get into all that,
let's get to know you a little bit better

and start off with where you grew up.

Farzad Rashidi: Sure.

So I'm actually originally
Iranian and Oh, cool.

I lived there actually, I was
born and raised till I was, uh,

a teenager and I moved here, um,
um, when I was a high school age.

Kevin Horek: Got it.


So you went to university.

What did you take and

Farzad Rashidi: why?

I did business administration.

So it was kind of a, um, well I was
originally a biology major and then,

and like growing up, my parents
always said, Hey, you're smart.

You gotta be a, you gotta be a doctor.

That's like a stereotypical,
like Persian parents kind of like

ingraining us in the, uh, brain.

They'd like, you've
got to become a doctor.

And I.

To be honest, just didn't like it.

I mean, I was doing well, um,
academically, but it's just, I could

never see myself looking at that,
uh, looking at medicine as a career.

I mean, it's a very respectable job
and I Sure, and I always, you know,

have high regard for doctors, just
not something that I wanted to do.

Um, so I got involved with,
uh, no, I was always in tech.

You know, I, I, I was, uh, kind of doing
some electrical engineering programming

growing up, you know, middle school, high
school age, and went to some competition.

So I always had a passion for technology.

Uh, but I didn't, again, wanted to
want to do that as a career per se.

I wanted to kind of have a
little bit, uh, I have a broader

perspective, uh, and, and build a.

Startup or company.

And that's always really my goal.

Um, and be tech savvy enough to
understand, to hire people that

are smarter than me to actually
put the building blocks together.


Um, and so I started, uh,
actually interning at a, at a

company called SME at the time.

It was a very tiny startup when I
was in college and, and, and that

sort of led me to become their first
marketing hire, uh, at a school.

And, um, basically got promoted
director, our marketing.

And, you know, we, vis was a.


Well, it is a wireless successful startup.

We've got over 18 million active users.

We're getting close to about 4
million in monthly organic traffic,

over a hundred team members.


So that was basically, uh,
the, the journey there.

So got quite lucky there to
kind of get involved with the

right team at the right time.

Kevin Horek: Very cool.

Okay, so you were there for a while.

What made you actually
decide and, uh, start doing.

Farzad Rashidi: So it is interesting.

So I, when I joined Vis, we're Boots.

Well we are still to this day,
bootstrap companies and we never

raised any outside funding.

And as you know, in the software space
it's quite difficult to compete with

very hard looks at, you know, our go and
raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, My job was basically to build
a customer acquisition strategy.

It's not to just get a few customers
here and there, but to basically build a

pipeline of evergreen flow of customers.

So, um, there was a few channels
traditionally where basically

a lot of software companies
acquired a customer is one.

Uh, the first thing's, the problem that
popping into mind is cold, average, right?

So going door to door, start selling and.

Problem with that.

It works very well.

The units, the, uh, the economics
of it works only if you're selling

a product that is of high LTVs,
as in numerical values, right?

So basically if you're selling an
expensive product, then it makes sense

to hire UI space, SDRs and AEs, right?

To do, you know, co do cold outbound
outreach and kind of do demos and

onboardings and contracts and.

Whatnot and, and vis me as a
product was a very, well, it

is a very affordable software.

I think at the time it
was like $15 a month.

Oh wow.

Now it's like starting like
20 something dollars a month.

So it just doesn't never make sense
for us to do outbound on mean.

Obviously nowadays, uh, we're,
we're experimenting with it for some

of the enterprise customers, but
again, this is, at the time was not

something that was worth the effort.

Um, outside of, you know, just
getting user feedback and,

and, and just proof of concept.

Not a channel is paid advertising.

And as anybody who's ever tapped
into paid advertising, everything

looks great on surface, right?

So you're like, great, I can just go
and target my ideal customers and pay

a few dollars to get a conversion.

And it just doesn't work
that way when you do it.

It's funny, uh, in real life, um, don't.

Dive too deep into this, but basically
what I've found with paid ads is

that there is some diminishing
return over time when it comes to

um, uh, debt return on investment.

So basically, To put it simply, if you
double your conversions, you, uh, excuse

me, if you double your budget, you
normally don't get double the conversions.

So at some point, your L T V, uh, which
is your lifetime value of customer,

catches up with their cuss of a
acquisition or cac, um, very rapidly.

And, and then a, anything above that, even
if you just increase the budget, you're

just gonna take a loss on conversions.

So at some point, Tap those out and,
and we still do some paid ads up to

this day, you know, some of retargeting
campaigns and whatnot, but it's very

minuscule compared to our size, just
simply because they use a bidding system.

And what happens is that over time,
the cost of acquisition and cost

reflects rise rapidly, like it's been
tripled over the past two, three years.

So, Wasn't really a reliable channel.

Also as a bootstrap company,
we didn't have the cash to

pour it all into pay that.

Right, got it.

Uh, we still had to meet payroll and, you
know, r and d and all sorts of things.

So what we basically ended up
doing was understanding where our

customers were and started showing
up in places where they were looking

for us instead of us having to go.

Push ourselves in front of them.


Or Chase after every customer.

So, sorry, can I

Kevin Horek: interrupt you there?

When Yeah, go ahead.

How did you do that or figure that out?

Because that's really challenging.

It seems.


It sounds so simple, but it's really

Farzad Rashidi: difficult.


So here's exactly what we did.

So Kevin, you are a potential
customer for Visit Me, right?


So let's say you are looking to create.

An infographic for this podcast
and you wanna publish it somewhere.


And you, you would like to look for
a solution that helps you do it.

What's the first thing
you do to find a solution?


What do you Google?


Kevin Horek: I guess it depends, but
for the most part, you'd just ask

for like, you know, templated graphic
or podcast templated graphic or

Farzad Rashidi: something like that.


There you go.

So you just answered your own question.

So we knew that that basically, okay,
our customers, it's the type of product

that you normally Google to find, right?

So it was a matter of figuring out,
okay, what are they Googling and

how do we get ourselves up there?

Cuz normally you, when you Google a
term, there's a bunch of ads at the top.

We normally skip those, right?


You go through the organic search as well.

Find a couple products, take a
look at the landing page, and you.


Um, and so that customer journey or that
buyer journey for us was kind of pretty

much clear from, from at, at the very
beginning of the creation of the company.

Uh, and again, this is not to say this is
the right channel for everybody, right?

So that's why I kind of went through the
exercise with you because one, you are

aware of the problem you're solving, and
two, you are looking for it on Google.

And those are really two key questions
to ask before start investing in seo.

For example, one of my friends
is a, is a director of marketing

at a medical device company.


And, and, and then she asked me,
she was like, so far we really

wanna invest in our SEO this year.

And so what do you recommend,
would you recommend us to do?

And I was like, okay, uh,
what's the average deal size?

They're like, well,
about a hundred k plus.

And I was like, who do you sell to?

They're like, well, our, like hospitals
normally, and like other facilities.

And I'm like, Are these people
Googling to find a solution to,

to buy a hundred thousand dollars,
like for example, M R I machine.

And they're like, no.

I'm like, then why are you
looking to invest an seo?

You gotta go where your
customers are hanging up.

Maybe the right channel for
you guys is to go on events,

conferences, maybes to go higher.

Salespeople go door to door, right?

If you sell, for example,
T-shirts and shirts, any sort

of lifestyle product, right?

Nobody's gonna Google to find.

You gotta go to retail stores
and try to get your, or, or do

eCommerce, maybe Facebook ads
or hire some TikTok influencers.

I don't know.

Just go where your CU
customers are hanging out.

So the type of product you
sell is going to determine what

channel is gonna work for you.

It just so happened that the type of
product that we sell at Vis, uh, WA

was a, was a prime candidate, uh, for
SEO as the main customer acquisition.

Got it.

Kevin Horek: Okay.

That makes sense.


Okay, so how did that lead into rasp?

Farzad Rashidi: So what happened
was that it, uh, it's a lot

easier said than done, uh, getting
ourselves up into search results.

So, Kevin?


Can you do this for me?


Just one of our main keywords, for
example, is presentation software.



So if you go and Google right now,
just open a little in the tab and Okay.


So your existing social.


And then just go ahead and look up a
keyword like presentation software.



Of course

Kevin Horek: I can never type when
people are watching or listening.

Farzad Rashidi: Okay.

It's up.

Okay, so you see how right underneath
the search bar it tells you how many web

results like it found, like about, yeah.

How many searches also there,
how many zeros do you see?

Uh, what, 3

Kevin Horek: 6, 9 9 zeros.

Farzad Rashidi: That's right.

So 1 billion search
results over a billion.

It's just, yeah, that's right.

1 billion, 20, 20 million
billion and 70 million, right?


So, uh, anyway, so you see some
ads at the top, so skip those.

What do you see, like in the
organic search results that

you actually would click on?

Kevin Horek: First one is, uh, vis me.co
15 Best presentation Softwares for 2023.

Full Comparison guide, and then Zapier.

Farzad Rashidi: There you go.


So, so let's think about this for a
second logistically, all right, so

let's say added this B one billing.

We all know most websites are good, right?

So like, let's say if you did your
best, create the fastest, prettiest.

Most user-friendly website
that's in the top 1%, right?

I guess we can all agree
at top 1% of websites it's,

it's pretty damn good, right?

Hundred percent.

When there are a billion of surgeons
you're competing with, top 1% is nothing.

You're selling them tens of millions.



Um, so basically what we have to
figure out was to understand, okay, so

these are our target keywords I get.

By the way, I don't recommend folks to
go after to parent keywords from day one.

So normally there's a state,
it's like a different phases of

building authority for your website.

Over time, they'd like you to normally
start with less competitive, more long

tail versions of your keywords, and you
kind of work your way up from there.

But just to kind of stick to
the principles, we don't want

to dive too deep into the topic.

We have to figure out how Google
works as a search engine and, and, and

that algorithm basically determines
what we need to do in order to come

across as an authoritative resource.

And, and, and, and I can dig a
little deeper, but I wanna pause

really quick just to give you a
chance to, to, uh, see if you, how

deep you want me to get into this.


Kevin Horek: I think Keep going.

This is,

Farzad Rashidi: Okay,
so the year was 1990.

Let's go back to the nineties.

Um, so you know Kevin, you're a young
guy, so you probably don't remember

well, I'm 40, but Yeah, I remember.

I remember forties, young, forties, young.

Um, Anyway, so back in the late nineties,
like Google wasn't the, the king of

search engines at hundred percent.

There was, you know, AOL and Yahoo and
Bang, and there's a bunch of other ones.

So they didn't have a Jersey market
share and what they come up with.

So what, what happened at the
time, the search engines, the way

they work was basically all based
on the content on the webpage.

So you go and look up a
phrase or a keyword and.

Go look at their index and see, okay, what
other webpages have this keyword in there

that is most likely caters to this intent?

And then we just show this website.

And since marketers ruin everything,
uh, people would just stuff

keywords on their webpage, right?

So just do shady stuff.

So they just repeat the same
keyword like 10,000 times.

And then the surgeons, so what
happened to the decals was quite.

So what Google did, they're like, okay,
so let's introduce a new variable.

So instead of just relying on on page
metrics, which is, you know, how good is

your website or how good is your content?

And now recently, how fast it
loads and how, whether it's

responsive, all that stuff.

Aside from that, because those are all
under your control and anybody can do

it, let's also add a popularity metric.

So for your website, we can
see how popular Kevin is.

And if audit relevant, authoritative
resources in your niche, in your space

are talking about you and referencing
you, then we put a lot more weight on

this website to get up into search halls.

So that include, uh, that basically
was the backstory of creating

the, uh, creating this algorithm
called pay rank at the time.

Uh, which I thought it was because.

You rank different webpages.

That's why they call a page rank.

But it's actually because Larry Page, the
founder of Google, actually invented this.

That's why they called it page rank.

Just fun fact.

But anyways, awesome.

Yep, keep going.

So that radically improved the Google
search results quality, and that's why

everyone started using Google as our
main search and engine, just because

they could get their answers quick as
fastest and from authoritative sites.

And that's where sort of the concept of
back links came to be is that basically

it's just saying how popular, you're kind
of like a mean girls popularity contest.

The more relevant author resources are
linking to you and talking about you and

this hyperlinks that you see on across the
web, it, it's kind of a vote to popularity

and that sends a signal to Google
and now all the other SEARCHs really

that, hey, these must be an authorit.

Website and resource because
other people are talking about it.

And, and that sort of, uh, gener, uh, kind
of was, was kind of the backstory there.

Very cool.


Kevin Horek: so what made
you build software around

Farzad Rashidi: this?

All right, so at Vis me, what I did,
basically we were like, okay, we know

where our customers are hanging out.

We know that they're Googling
terms like these, and let's go

just build a bunch of pages like
caterers to the search intent, right?

So we run and build a bunch of landing
pages and block posts, and we're so

excited to launch this like after a few
months of writing and, and, and we put

it up there and guess what happened?

Nothing happened.


Kevin Horek: like that's a,
that's a normal startup response.


Farzad Rashidi: right.

Everybody thinks a million
people are gonna come day one.


We're, we showed up when I,
we woke up in the morning.

We were like, where are all these people?

And so anyway, so it was just
two people visiting the website

and there was, one of them was me
and other one my mom, and yeah.

So we're like, okay, we built
all those pages, but none of

'em are getting in ranking.

They're just buried in
their search results.

So what we've soon figured out is
that, okay, we need to start reaching

out to other websites in our space and
collaborate with them and incentivize

them to actually start talking about us.

And what happened over time
when we started investing in

that effort, um, significantly.

It started trickling in a lot of
mentions and now, you know, a big part

of what actually happens organically.

So we still do quite a lot of average, but
that kind of starts that, uh, you know,

that snowball effect basically, where
it's very difficult at the beginning and

then gets easier over time of getting
other people to talk about you and, and

basically link back to your website.

And that in and out of itself was
basically, um, The process that helped

vi me now get over close to about
4 million monthly organic visitors.

Now, just to kind of put some dollar
amounts behind it, let's say, Kevin,

if I were to bring in the same level of
traffic, same keywords, right through

Google Ads instead of our organic
results, how much would you think we would

have to pay Google on a monthly basis?

Throw a.


Kevin Horek: probably like tens of
thousands of dollars, potentially.

Farzad Rashidi: Tens of thousands.

It would be around 1.7
million a month each.

Oh, wow.



Paid advertise, right?

Because the customer clicks of the
keyword, some of 'em are like 5,000.

Yeah, I, yeah.

Kevin Horek: Fair enough.


Farzad Rashidi: so.

Basically now that effort is
generating as 1.7 million a

month worth of free advertising.

Right, right.



And, and along with, you know, obviously
myriad motor benefits, like brand

awareness and all that good stuff,
but basically that effort was sort

of, Again, was a lot easier said than
done because we were like, okay, we

need to reach out to the website.

What do we say to them?

Who do we reach out to?



Who's the right person?

How do we contact them?

So the concept, again,
sounds Easy's easy on paper.

When you actually start doing
it, you f you soon realize that

this is a very time consuming,
excruciatingly difficult process.

So, Oh yeah.

What we were doing at the time was
just to basically duct a bunch of

different tools and what a lot of
companies still do is like manually

kind of doing things together.

And there's a couple of tools
out there, some legacy tools,

and they're either like spam.

Software on the, on one end of the
spectrum, or there are just a manual crm.

So there, there wasn't really
a software that would help us

kind of keep a sense of scale.


But at the same time be personalized
because at the end of the day, we're in

the business of building relationships.


So, right.

Um, that whole process was sort of done.


Staggered across, scattered across
like a bunch of different tools.

So what we did was to put together
the whole process under one roof.

We kind of duct taped together a, a
internal software really to kind of

help our team be more efficient and
streamline the whole process from

start to finish, from researching the
type of website to finding the right

person to get into contacts, to sending
them connection requests and, and

average them on email, yada, yada yada.

Keep track of them and that.

Basically was that big, the Baby Alpha
version respondent was created internally

and it just worked ridiculously well.

Like it, no way.

I can't quantify this, but like
it literally 10 x up productivity.

So we're like, okay guys,
we've got something here.

So we decided to release it as a
standalone product and that's sort

of how Respondent was born as a
separate product out of his me.


Kevin Horek: it.


So you obvious.

The company's been around
a number of years now.

What, what did it kind of, or how
has it evolved to what it is today?

And then let's cover some use cases of
how to use the tool today, because I, I

think even just the four you have on your,
your main website are, are interesting.

Farzad Rashidi: Thank you.

Yeah, so the, so you know, as
any entrepreneur, we, we made a

lot of mistakes at the beginning.

Like one of the first things we did
was this very unclear messaging.

Like, yeah, it's hard.

That's so hard.


So like, people landed on a website,
they're like, what the heck is this?

Like, I literally, I remember like
the first website we put together,

it was like, uh, it's like,
don't span build relationships.

Like that was like the title.

I'm like, okay, what does that mean?

Like now looking back, it just sounds.


Like it's just so obvious,
like in retrospect.

But at the time we didn't
really know like whether or not

this was a big enough market.

We didn't know who else we could help.

And what we soon realize, well not soon,
obviously it took us months, but um, yeah.


Now in retrospect, looking back, um,
We, we figured there's mainly two

types of, uh, we say businesses that
benefit from our software a lot.

One are other SaaS companies
that rely on content marketing

to bring in traffic and signups.


Um, and two are marketing agencies,
SEO agencies that basically offer

this as a service to other clients.

So the, their clients could
be Commerce SaaS, right.

Or even non, like some more
traditional businesses.

You know, mom and pop shops
and smaller businesses.

Um, but those normally aren't
as successful running these

outers campaigns because they're
normally not as tech savvy per se.

I don't want to disrespect anyone, but
normally that's kind of the pattern that

we've seen is that software companies do
really well internally, uh, but for other

types of companies, normally as best if
they hire an agency to let 'em do it.

And those agencies are
normally our customer.


Kevin Horek: it.


No, that makes sense.

So can you maybe give us some use
cases, um, like how, maybe let's just

go off, go off the four you have in
your homepage, like walk us through

some link building, podcast discovery,
press inquiries, and affiliate

recruitment, because I think Sure.

That covers the gamut of probably at
least one of those, or a few of those

will hit with, with the listeners.

So do you maybe wanna
start with the Absolutely.


It's hard to talk visual on,
on audio only things, so,

Farzad Rashidi: right.

No worries.

I'm used to it.

Ive been doing these interviews for
quite some time and, uh, I'll do my best

to make sure I paint a good picture.

And I'm also gonna direct folks, so we
actually have, as you mentioned on our

website, responder.com, R e s p O N a.com.

It, the bottom of the page is
something called an average strategy

hub, and it basically is a step
by step instructions to all the.

Link building average strategies that
I'm gonna talk about a couple of today.

Uh, but, but if you guys want a
resource that actually is visual

and it actually shows you it's on
gated, it's, you can, it's free.

So you can just go open
it up and literally start

implementing them manually.

You don't even need
respondent for most of them.

Like you can just.

Do it yourself manually, right?

It's just gonna take, take
a little bit more time.

Then whenever you're ready to scale
things and you're actually ready to

kind of take it to the next level,
then obviously respondent would be a,

a, a platform that helps you do it.

Um, but, but let's talk a
little bit about, uh, a few

practical examples, right?

The folks can actually implement.

So one of the simplest one I like to start
with is what I'm doing right now, which

is going on other people's podcasts as a.

Makes sense, so that obviously
this is not to say that's the

only reason why I'm here, Kevin,

Kevin Horek: so Well, no,
like I totally get it.

Like we're it's beneficial for both of us.

Farzad Rashidi: Right, exactly.

And that's the whole point of
doing all of these average tactics.

It's not to just take something
from other people, is to create

mutual beneficial relationships.


So Exactly.

So there's a mirror to benefit on going as
a on, on, on going, as on podcasts as a.

One, I'm helping you
create an episode, right?

So I'm, I'm basically create, helping
you create a piece of content for

you and, and, and so that, look, I'm
spending an hour of my time, right?

Going and, and doing that for you.

So that's, here's what's in it for you.

What's in it for me is a few things.

One, I'm getting to meet smart
people like yourself, right?

So Kevin's my buddy now, right?

We're now connecting on LinkedIn
and we chat, we're email, right?

And uh, and that relationship means.

And long run, uh, when you
meet other fellow like-minded

people right in your space.

Two, obviously it's free
advertising to a niche audience.

Anybody who's listening to this show
right now has heard of Ver Respond, right?

Has heard of me.

Uh, and even though if you don't just
go and sign up for Responder right away.

At least whenever you come across it,
down the line, you've heard of us.

And that brand awareness is
something that companies have to

spend millions of dollars, right?

Um, a hundred percent, yeah.

To, to just get their
brand name out there.

And three is also, you know,
helpful because whenever you.

Dissect probably, you know, transcribe
this episode or normally podcasters have

some sort of website that they put the
episodes on and guess what you're gonna

have to mention responder somewhere.

So, yep.

That in and out of itself as the back
links dimension, that also helps increase

our domain authority and, and be able
to get our web pages up in the search.

And I thinks because Google and
under search engines, they're like,

okay, if Kevin is referenced and
respondent, they must be legit.

So, you know, that basically
helps also getting our website

up into search ranks as.


Kevin Horek: makes total sense.

So how do I use respondent to actually
do some of this link building outside of

maybe like doing a podcast for example?

Farzad Rashidi: Sure.

So actually that's how, uh,
our team landed this interview.

So what they do is that
they Oh, interesting.

Fire up, respond.


So what they did, basically they fired
UPA and uh, uh, basically respond.

Uh, we have a template
for podcast outreach.

So they'll basically ask you to, um,
so it literally has a step by step.

So he is like, okay, name someone
in your industry they respect.

So it could be another founder,
it could be another competitor.

And then basically just write a
little bit of bio and question.

And what it does is that it'll go
and find all the podcast episodes

that that person's been a guest
on that automatically tells you

three things about those podcasts.

One, they said guess right,
because not all podcasts do.

Kevin Horek: Wait, sorry.

Sorry to cut you off.

Go ahead.

So wait, so you searched for.

Somebody like a, a guest, and you
don't have to tell me who it was,

but like somebody that's well
known, that's been on other podcast.

Is that what I heard?



Farzad Rashidi: Yeah, absolutely.

So I can actually pull up, so if you
go and look up the conversation history

you have with our team, I can ac I'm,
I'm looking at this out right now.

There we go.

So, okay.

No, I'm fascinated by this.


So our team member, lemme
see, was it Vlad or Yvonne?

Uh, Ooh, that's, I'd have
to look at my email as well.

I'm looking at US vLab.

Shout out to Vlad for
booking this interview.



So what he did, he is like, hi,
Kevin, just finished listening to

your interview with Tammy McQuinn.

Oh yeah.

That person is actually, and, and I
love the tip about personalization

at scale, yada yada, yada.

And I'm wondering if you're open to be
introduced as, uh, to someone I know

in the SA space, yada, yada, yada.


Kevin Horek: okay.

Wait, sorry.

Can I ask a couple questions
about this email then?

Go ahead.

Did Vlad have to listen
to some of the interview?

Because if he's pulling a tip
out, where's that coming from?

Farzad Rashidi: That's
coming from Respond.

So here's what we do.

So interesting.


So what respondent does, first of all,
when you feed it a person of interest

or a niche or target keyboard, it goes
and finds all the interviews for you and

goes and finds the contacting information
of the right person at the podcast.

And what it does, it pulls the, that
either if you found that episode

or if you've found the podcast, and
it'll pull the latest five episodes

of the podcast and gives you the
show notes, uh, of that podcast.

So you can actually click through
and also see the transcript and you

can easily personalize it outside
of just the variables, right?

So the emails are genuine emails, they're
not like just masks and emails that,

that I'm sure you get every day, right?

That process is just streamlined so that
it takes very little time for him to,

you know, listen to part of the podcast.

Maybe you, you know, take some notes from
the episode and show notes and transcribe

and, and personalize the sentence.

Um, so that it comes across as
not, doesn't come across as spammy.

It comes across as saying, Hey
Kevin, I actually did some research.

You know, I'm not just reaching
out to every single podcast

that's out there, and we're.


There's some criteria that has
to be met, like the podcast has

to be popular show, which your
show is in the top 10% globally.

I'm not sure what, do you
know this actually, but you

have a very popular show.

It's so great job on that, Kevin.

All right, thank you.

Yeah, and I'm sure there's been a
lot of work and also, um, you know,

there's some criteria has to be met.

So that whole process though,
respondent walks you through it,

so it's kind of hard to mess.

So that's one of the things is that
a lot of people go about these type

of average tactics, trying to do 'em
manually and just miss a few steps

because it just takes so much time.

But when respondent just puts it
in front of you, it's just very

easy to to get that done correctly.

So you're not just spamming people, but
you still maintain a level of scale.

Kevin Horek: Yeah, interesting.

Because you're right, like
now I remember the email now

that I'm looking at it, right?

Like I get, like you said,
I get a ton of these.

But the interesting thing, and I, I
want to cover this cuz I think it's very

important cuz your competitors, I, in my
experience don't do this personalization.

And you could correct me if I'm wrong,
but you probably say like, that's

why you built the product, right?

Um, Yeah.

Like, so yes, you definitely, like your
first line is, well I don't need to

read it, but I'll just summarize it.

It's basically like, yeah, that
you listened to her episode.

You, you mentioned something
that was clearly in the episode.

Cause I remember the episode.


Cause we did it in person.

So it, it's interesting because
like, It was like, this is episode

number 66 and I'm in 500 and some.


So for me to remember an episode I
did probably five plus years ago with

somebody, but the fact that it was done
in person, and I remember us talking

about what you put in the email, which
is interesting to me because a lot of

people don't, it's not that personal.


And then, um, it, you also mentioned
that you, you put it, uh, You're

gonna put it in the newsletter.

Your newsletter, which mm-hmm.

Is like cross promotion for me.

That's right.

Which is obviously important.


Um, and then you also took that
personalization information into like an

internal newsletter, which is interesting.

People don't, or sorry, with your team
and then, You're basically asking like,

oh, can you introduce me to like you?

Which is fine.


Like obviously you, there's a call
to action, which is makes sense.

And then whether it's true or not is like
been a longtime listener of the show.


Which is interesting because
it's like, well, if you've.

If you're back that old of, uh,
episode, the chances of that statement

being true right, is potentially high.


Because, because of your first
opening comment of like, here's a

tip that I actually found useful.

I shared it with the team,
and you know, they're gonna

put in their next newsletter.

Like, that's right.

It's like very personalized.

Even though it, and I wouldn't
have guessed when I got that email.

That it was generated
by a piece of software,

Farzad Rashidi: right?

That's, and it actually literally says,
sent by responder at the end of it.

If you, if you take a look at it, because
that's something that we do intentionally.

You don't, our customers
don't have to put it in there.

Let me see.

Uh, At the bottom of the signature,
it says sent by respondent.

But anyway, we, we have that so that,
that we are using our own software

to actually do this type of outreach.

And the goal was never
to be deceptive, Kevin.

And I don't want you to
ever feel like, right.

So this is basically something that
does require some research and we

don't re reach out to a whole lot.

Actually, I think it's like
five to 10 podcasts every week.

And, uh, and we normally get a
booked interview that one a week.

And that's the extent of
what I can do with my time.


It's, it's not so much that, that
we don't want to, it's just that

there's some time restricts there.

So, uh, what I'm trying to say
is that this is something that

is a lot of entrepreneurs.

We've got an interesting story.

Um, this is.

Very effective when it comes to
getting things rolling and other

strategies like, uh, again, don't
want to be too hung up on the podcast.

There's tons of other things you could do.

For example, one of the simplest
strategies that I recommend folks

to get started with, Especially
when it comes to either eCommerce or

SaaS is, is a list strategy, right?

So figuring out, okay, what are some
of the articles or blog posts that

people have written on, for example,
best presentation tools, right?

That haven't mentioned us, but they've
mentioned a compet, uh, competing

product or service or, uh, or best
C b D gummies or yada yada yada.

So you get the idea and basically,
uh, reach out to those bloggers, find.

They're in charge.

So that's, again, part of what respondent
does is finding the correct person on

autopilot and getting the contact info
that took us like two years to build.

Uh, but oh yeah,

Kevin Horek: I can imagine cuz doing,
like, if, if you had to do this manually

with the web and or LinkedIn, this takes
like, I, I don't really wanna necessarily

go back to the podcasting thing, but
to, to find five shows that you want

to be on that are relevant to you.

The guest is gonna be, take you
an astronomical amount of time.


And so That's right.

It's the same with doing PR or
trying to get whatever, right?

You can do all this stuff manually.

It's just, it takes you so much
time as somebody that's used

tools and done it manually.

Trust me.

You want to use a tool,

Farzad Rashidi: right?

Yeah, absolutely.

I mean, I, I don't want to, you know, plug
our tool too much here just to come across

as like a salesperson, but I'm, I'm just
saying that we don't ever do any magic.

Like I always say, even to our
customers, I'm like, you can do

what our software does manually.

We just do it like a hundred
x faster, so you can.

Maintain a level of scale experiment
with different strategies, with

different messaging without having
to sync like six hours of your day.

You can do it in six minutes, right?

But, but I

Kevin Horek: actually think that's
a very good startup founder.

Well, at any or busy
person, it doesn't matter.

Or like, if you can automate
something, And I get that you're

not a hundred percent automated
and you can still personalize it.


So I don't mean it like that,
but if I, I'm a big believer in

spending a little bit of money to
save a ton of time because Right.

If you, if you save, take six hours,
and I'm not kidding, six hours

to six minutes to your example.

Well, that's a huge time savings.

And, and the dollar amount you pay
for, you know, respondent is nothing.

Farzad Rashidi: Right.


I mean, we we're like starting 99
bucks a month building monthly.

So yes.

I mean, it supposed to be a
no-brainer, but you'd be surprised

how many people ask for a discount.

Sure, yeah.

I mean, we say no, but the thing
is, you know, sometimes we have

this, uh, stigma around paying
for software or tools like we.

Like you go to the grocery store
and you buy like a pack of like a

bag of groceries and cost 120 bucks.

I mean, I, at least dc that's point.


And then you're like, alright,
you're gonna save a full

working day every week at least.


Yeah, exactly.


So, Yeah, but I mean, what, that's why
like we found like a lot of software

companies, agencies, like these
guys valued their time like crazy.

And so, uh, software that can
help 'em save this amount of time

is, is, is a no-brainer for them.

So that's kind of why we've
picked our ICP to be those two.

It's not to say that other types of
companies, like if you're, if you own

a blog or if you have a, some sort
of publication, Can use our platform.

We have quite a few folks who use it for
that purpose, but we found that like if

you run a software company, you probably
have a million other things on your plate.

So you don't wanna just have like
a team of people managing this.

Uh, and cutting that head count
down at least is, is just a

no-brainer for this software tools.


Kevin Horek: The other thing that
I want to cover, um, too, is you

actually help people like find the
person's email address as well.


Which can.

Farzad Rashidi: Time consuming, right?


So that was actually one of the things
that I had to come up with, um, at the

very beginning of respondent, at the
creation of our platform, just because we

had a team of six full-time staff members.


Whose entire job was just to.

Find contacts using tools.


Like not manually, like we had
a like three or four different

software tools like Hunter io and
LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Right.

All sorts of things.

And just to make it work the way we wanted
it because there's no other software that

was built for these type of average, like
there is a lot of sales tools, right?


So you can all pull up all
and say, okay, gimme all the

marketing managers in DC in SaaS.

And they give you like a list
of gazillion people, right?


ZoomInfo and these type tools that they,
they're just built for salespeople and

on the other hand are tools that are
built for finding contacts, but they.

Predominantly like generic contact
information like web scrapers, like

they give you like support@xyz.com
and then good luck trying to

get a response from these.

So there's not a software that, that
would go and do research to find the

right person for the websites that you
wanna reach out to get the contacts.

So it's kind of like reverse sales really.

Uh, cuz you start with.

A website and kind of, and
then also there's a lot more

things involved with that.

Like with podcasts, like normally you
wanna look at the r s s feed and like

with different websites, you wanna also
look at the contacts page and sometimes

you wanna go on, look at LinkedIn
and there's like 24 different data

providers that respondents plugged into.

So all of that had to be done manually.


Basically we brought it
under our automation.

So right now, when you load it up
with a bunch of websites and that

the respondent helps you find, uh,
then you just click find contacts.

Then it's the automation that runs in
the background normally takes a minute.

So for each, uh, um, content piece
or each, it's opportunity as we call

it, and it will go and find the right
person, gets the contact and verifies

that contact information in real time.

Finds the social profiles to
compliment and, and, and then puts

you the, gives you all the results.

So you basically don't
have to do anything.

The reason why even that takes that
long is that the machine is kind

of putting all that stuff together.

Kevin Horek: Interesting.


No, that makes sense.

And it's somebody that's
done that stuff manually.

It's, yeah.

Yours is saving a ton of time.

Right, right.

I totally, yeah, it's,
it's totally meets a need.

I, I'm also curious.

And maybe what, what other ways can
people use respondent to promote

their company startup business, et
cetera, other than maybe the four

Farzad Rashidi: we covered.


So, see, funny enough, Kevin, I'm
surprised of some ways that people

find use cases for respondent.


And it's like this.

So the tech tech stack we built
basically helps you go from

websites to contacts, right?

So, so you load it up with any
website in the world, it will go

find the right person and get the
contact information and then you can,

uh, reach out to them, the person.

Email and LinkedIn and
automate automated follow ups.

And then we have some CRM and
stuff built, uh, on top of it.

So that's the, that's all we do, right?


But then the use cases for
this is endless, right?


Now you can reach out to partners,
you can reach out to blogs.

We have people recruit affiliate partners.


So let's say you start
an affiliate program.

How do you get people to actually Sure.

Promote you, right?

So, okay, let's go find, uh, who's
already in affiliated of Compe competing

or not a product in our space, right?

That's already successful.

Gets a lot of traffic.

So let's reach out to them, invite 'em
to join our affiliate program, right?

Uh, some people use it
even for sales, right?

So we ourselves are dabbling
into outbound and okay.

We have a list of, um, marketing agencies,
um, that potentially could use respond.

Let respondent go find the
right person, reach out to.


Um, I, there, there again, there's
quite a few different things you can

do with a platform that is outside
of the scope of link to link per se.

But that's, uh, that's the
main use case that a lot of

our customers are using it for.

But normally once they get
into the tool and get access to

these, Uh, power, I would say.

Um, they, they also find
different ways in how you use it.

So they, they kind of have
different types of use cases.

So we don't have a customer just using
it for one particular pur uh, purpose.

Kevin Horek: Got it.


So you've been at this a long time.

What advice would you give maybe
your younger self or people listening

that you wish you knew maybe

Farzad Rashidi: earlier?

About the business or in general?

In general or both?

So I'm, I mean, I guess it,
it is just my own maturity.

Um, when I started in the
business, I was quite young and.

I tend to be very impatient at times.


And I'm getting better over
time as I'm getting older and

getting a little more mature.


Um, you know, good things take time.

That's what my co-founder says who's
been in the business for 20 plus years.

And that's just something to keep in mind.

You know, a lot of people get so excited
when it comes to, you know, the idea

of a respondent sounds great on paper.


So, but the, it's just so many.

Certainties and like so many problems
or hurdles that there's no way

you can foresee that happens along
the way and the only way you can.

Get through this is by being
patient and and persistent, right?


Showing up every day and, and do the
work it needs to get done, even though it

sucks and it feels like you're not moving.

But these incremental changes
and showing up every day.

Now three years passed, then you
got a, you know, solid product.

You got a solid customer
acquisition strategy built.

You got an evergreen flow of customers.

So like going through that hurdle.

Most, that's where most people kind
of give up, uh, on, uh, cuz there's

so many reasons to give up and, and
then you just gonna have to push

it aside and, and, and push through
and, and figure out things as you go.

It's kind of like driving a car as
you're changing the wheels, right?

It's kind of the best.


Um, I didn't come up with this.

I, somebody said that.

I was like that, that.

That resonates with me.

So, no,

Kevin Horek: I, I think that's,
that's really good advice.

The other thing is, I, I
want to cover this as well.

You guys are actually hiring in textile
kind of doom and gloom right now.


Do you maybe want to mention what
types of people you're looking for?

Cuz I, I know

Farzad Rashidi: a lot of
people are looking right now.

Yeah, so we're, we're actually actively
hiring for, our main role right now that

we focus on is a software engineers.

Um, okay.

So on front end, uh, maybe backend,
uh, we always need some help building.

We have a long list of new features on
our roadmap and our backlog, so anyone,

uh, we can help to help us get it done.

We normally tend to work with folks
that are like senior engineers,

just cuz we're a small team.

We just don't have the capacity to train.

A junior staff member to, to start.

But yeah, any, any senior engineers,
uh, who are interested, I'd

love to hear from you and react.


React front end.



That's the

Kevin Horek: main stack, right?


Fair enough.

Um, we're kind of coming to the end
of the show, but is there anything

else you want to close with and then
we'll mention where people can get

more information about respondent?

Farzad Rashidi: Uh, one, just one
thing, uh, um, that I see a lot of

companies kind of sort of miss, and
then again, I'm guilty of that myself.

Not to have the, the shiny object syndrome
is that anytime you see a new technology

or anytime you see a new, uh, strategy
or tactic or hack, you jump on it.


Without thinking of good advice,
long term opportunity cost, right.

Of letting go of stuff, doing stuff
that's working and kind of jumping

on different things and kind of spray
yourself then, and, and so I would

say whenever you find a channel that.

Ignore all the other channel
that don't, and kind of doubled

on the stuff that works already.

And that's what I've found to be the
most effective way of doing things when

it comes to all aspects of the business.


Kevin Horek: I think that's really
good advice, but we're out of time.

So how about we close the show
with mentioning Mark, where people

can get more information about
yourself, respond on any other links

Farzad Rashidi: you wanna mention.

Sure, thanks.

So yes, we're spa.com.

That's, that's, we've got a lot
of free educational content out

there, so definitely check us out.

But myself personally, my name is Farad.

Rashidi aren't a whole lot of
us out there, so I'm, I'm pretty

easy to spot normally on LinkedIn.

That's my main channel.

So feel free to stop by and say hi,
and I'd love to hear from folks.

Kevin Horek: Perfect far.

Well, I really appreciate you taking
the time outta your day to be on

the show and I look forward to keep
in touch with you and have a good

Farzad Rashidi: rest of your day.

Thank you so much for having
me on the show, Kevin.

Kevin Horek: Thank you.

Okay, bye.

Ep. 542 w/ Farzad Rashidi  Lead Innovator at Respona
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