It’s every salesperson’s dream. An influx of clients inquiring about your product or service. Warm leads you didn’t have to convert from cold outreach. People who are interested in what you’re selling from the start.
To turn this dream into a reality, a lot of work has to be done behind the scenes. Building a highly effective inbound client acquisition strategy requires a deft combination of art and science. For many companies, that perfect mix seems like a holy grail – difficult to find, but amazingly powerful once discovered.
When it comes to building an inbound strategy, where do you even begin?
On this episode of Evolved Sales LIVE, host Jonathan Fischer sits down with Farzad Rashidi, Lead Innovator at link building outreach platform, Responsa, to reveal the exact framework you can use to build your own inbound machine and increase your warm leads.
Don't forget to follow us on LinkedIn for more engaging sales insights and discussions! Happy watching!
Farzad Rashidi is the Lead Innovator at Respona, the link-building outreach platform that helps businesses increase their organic traffic from Google. He was previously Head of Business Development at fast-growing tech startup, Visme, where he and his team built a world-class inbound client acquisition strategy that achieved truly impressive results. Closely coordinating their marketing and sales efforts, Farzad applied an integrated action plan which gained over 18 million active users for the application and passed 3.5M in monthly organic traffic within just a few years!
Check out the transcription of this webinar episode below!
Jonathan Fischer 0:04
Welcome back. I'm Jonathan Fisher, great to have you once again. Building an effective inbound client acquisition strategy can be one of the most difficult things for any company. It's a Deaf combination of art and science. Almost like a holy grail. Very difficult to find, but extremely powerful. If you can get your hands on it, well put your explorers hat on, because today's guest is going to show you exactly where to dig to create your own. For Zod Rashidi is actually, he first made a name for himself, working as the business development head for visit me where he strategies attracted three and a half million monthly organic visitors and gained over 18 million active users for the platform all within just a few short years. Today for Zod is the principal and lead innovator at rispone, a powerful outreach platform that helps businesses explode their organic online traffic. And today, he's gonna give up the goods show us exactly how you can build an inbound client acquisition machine for Zod. Fantastic to have you on the show today. Welcome.
Farzad Rashidi 1:08
Thank you very much for having me, John. I'm excited. Yeah, I
Jonathan Fischer 1:11
have to. So it's quite a story. And if it's okay with you, I'd love to start there. How did you even come about the insights you're going to be sharing with the listener today.
Farzad Rashidi 1:20
So John, as you mentioned, I'd started my career as the as a first marketing hire, advise me. And, you know, over the course of the past few years, we've made our fair share of mistakes and good and bad decisions. And finally figured out the blueprint that really helped us scale our organic traffic and be able to build an inbound engine. And now it's resulted Close to close to around 80 million or so active users. And we basically started respond to as a internal product that was built over on the business side, and trying to replicate the same success. That's
Jonathan Fischer 1:59
fantastic. Well, that journey must have had a lot of ups and downs a lot, a lot like a lot of tech startups figuring out the right go to market is like, it seems like it's the never ending problem that needs to be solved. Tell us a little bit more about that facade, if you would.
Farzad Rashidi 2:14
So that's a very important question, John, is that a lot of the stuff that we're going to talk about today is not necessarily applicable for all types of businesses. And that that's one of the first things to understand is, is the type of product or solution that you're selling, and also the market that you're in. So at the time, when I started working at Visby, we basically, were still trying to figure out, what was the best way to show up in places where people who are looking for a product like ours would organically come and find us versus us having to go and chase after customers. And the reason being is, it's twofold, really, one is understanding whether or not the customers that you're catering to are aware of the problem that you're selling. Right. And so basically, selling a solution for SEO at the time, you know, visiting for folks who don't know what it is, it's a presentation and infographic raishin tool for for businesses. So we knew from day one, that folks that are basically running a business, they have to create some sort of visual content on a daily in, and they obviously I have a need for, for product that we were selling and that we're aware of it. And so it's not that nice off type product, and also on the other. On the other hand, it was very important for us to figure out a an economic way of acquiring customers. Because we were at the time, I think starting at like $15 a month or so catering to SMBs. And it's a type of product that's built to be affordable, and so doesn't make much economic sense for us to hire a lot of salespeople and go door to door to stop selling, right. So basically understanding if you basically the economic unit economics of customer acquisition makes sense to rely on either outbound and inbound. And for us it was quite crystal clear from day one, that we had to figure out a way to acquire customers affordably just because of the price point.
Soon, Jonathan, it seems like I
Jonathan Fischer 4:21
that's the other thing is such a big issue for a lot of tech startups is figuring out the right pricing strategy. I mean, there's entire, you know, Harvard Business Review and Gartner studies on on pricing strategy and where you want to be. And it's interesting how small collaborations working with the client right now on that, and it's all over the map in their very specific niche. So that's a real real issue. Well, first of all, one of the reasons I'm excited to have you as a guest on the show today is because you've been there done that you've actually worked out some of the nuts and bolts and ironed out some of the wrinkles. Can you be really specific for us today and begin to give the listener an outline, how can he or she begin to grapple with these issues and maybe create some similar results in their tech startup?
Farzad Rashidi 4:58
Show? Thanks. So when you First, answer those two initial questions, right? So one, are my customers aware of the problem that I'm solving? And two? If they're actively looking for a solution for it, then it means that an inbound engine is most likely your best bet to be able to build a scalable acquisition strategy. So once given that the answer to both of those is that yes, then it becomes a matter of okay, how does that buyer journey look like? So, you know, Jonathan, say you're looking to create an infographic for this episode, right? And you don't already have a solution that you're looking for? What's the first thing that you do when it comes to starting your research process?
Jonathan Fischer 5:44
You're going to hit Google, of course, or maybe use something you've already used in the past or talk to a colleague or all the above?
Farzad Rashidi 5:51
Exactly. Yeah. Normally, that's that's true of many industries that that the journey, the research process, that buyer journey normally starts from Google. So understanding that Okay, first of all, we understand that our customers are actively looking for a solution. And we knew from day one that okay, they're looking for that solution using Google. And it was almost a no brainer that we had to figure out how do we actually get ourselves to start showing up in places where they're looking for. And in our case, it was focusing on our search engine optimization on Google. So regardless of the industry that you're in, and understanding what, where are your ideal customers are searching and researching new products and services, and making sure that you show up in places where they're looking for it is step one. So as far as in our case goes? Well, we had to figure out was, okay, what are some of these phrases? What are some of these key words that folks were using, and searching to, in order to come across a product like ours? And, and very quickly, you know, there's a ton of other platforms like SEMrush or Ahrefs, that you can do some keyword research on and, you know, presentation, software, infographic, software, etc. Were some of the parents viewers that we were looking after? And what we soon realized that, Jonathan, just quick question for you. Let's say you come, let's just take our presentation software keyword as an example. How many search results do you think come up in Google, when you when you search a parent keyword like that?
Jonathan Fischer 7:26
It's got to be a large number. I don't have a clue what the number would be. There's got to be a lot.
Farzad Rashidi 7:32
1 billion with a B
Jonathan Fischer 7:36
wasn't wrong, but it really is how right I was.
Farzad Rashidi 7:40
That's right. So we're like, yes. So it's us against a billion other websites. And when it comes to the SEO advice, a lot of folks are like, Okay, you need to optimize your website, you need to do keyword research, you need to make sure your site loads fast, you've got to create good content. And, and basically, we're going to talk about that, right. And the goal here today is to give a step by step instructions on how you go about starting those. But what happened was that I started basically investing a lot of resources, creating those landing pages and blog posts, and you name it any sort of content you can imagine. And after doing all that research. And once we put it up there, guess what happened?
Jonathan Fischer 8:20
Probably not a lot, because that's, that's David and Goliath right there, man. I'm not sure you had your five smooth stones just yet.
Farzad Rashidi 8:27
Exactly. It was it was absolute crickets. And you're 100%. Right. So we were like, Okay, we must have done something wrong here. Because as a bootstrap company, obviously, the resources are always limited. And we went back to the drawing board and understood that, okay, when we are going to guess the billing websites, even if you're in the top 1%, when it comes to quality of content, however, we want to define it right? So let's say you have the best, fastest previous website in the world. And even if you're in the top 1%, you're still in 10s of millions, right? So basically, when, when we understood, okay, how does this algorithm work? How does Google decide what websites to promote and shown the top search results versus some that get buried? It was a matter of authority and understanding that, basically, the way Google came about back in the 90s, and became popular was by developing this algorithm called PageRank. That helps other websites, or helps prioritize websites based on their popularity. So if other relevant, authoritative websites in your space are constantly mentioning you and talking about you, and normally those are measured in terms of those hyperlinks, which we call backlinks. And pointing to your website is almost a vote of popularity nice of Google and other search engines also started following the same type pattern. And it's been the same for over 20 years now. And we're like, Okay, that sounds great. We need to start not only you know, doing our keyword research and creating content, we actually need to need to start reaching out to other folks cuz in our space and incentivize them to collaborate with us in order to get those mentions, and and basically proved to Google that, hey, we're an authoritative resource, and and basically started getting rankings for our target keywords.
Jonathan Fischer 10:16
So it sounds like, Okay, first I've got a question because it sounds like a lot of this is just really good best practices in terms of mastering Search Engine Optimization. But I got to ask you, how did you have the confidence to take this on with? So when you first did your initial research, and you realize it was quite that large? Like, did you did you immediately have some some more nuanced ideas that popped into mind or tell us more about that one, dig deeper on that side?
Farzad Rashidi 10:44
Sure. Thanks. So let's start from the research side first, because a lot of businesses unfortunately make this mistake of when it comes to SEO, in particular, is that did go after, like their parent keywords from day one. And that's normally a huge waste of time, because most websites, especially new ones, they don't have nearly enough authority for them to be competitive enough to be able to, you know, basically be placed for those target keywords. So what we have built over the years, and again, this is not something that I sat down one night and came up with, you know, didn't just occur to me, it was, I would say, years of trial and error that that resulted in this process. But basically, the way we go about our research, and this is something I always recommend businesses to start with, is to first understand, okay, let's, let's just take a keyword like presentations, right? So we know that that's one of the functions main functions of FISMA. And that's one of the things that it does best. And, and what we started doing was using these tools, like I mentioned, sem rush are a traps and run a keyword search and gives us a gazillion number of keywords, different ways on how people are basically searching related terms to presentations, for example, how do I make a presentation? Or what are some of the best PowerPoint templates, right. And what we then started doing is to try to basically build a system around prioritizing these because any company has a limited number of resources. So understanding how do we actually go about, you know, attacking a habit plan of action was extremely important. So I built this little formula that I'm going to kind of dissect that a little bit. And I used to call this to fire. So it score and team didn't accept it. So we ended up with opportunity score. Very heartbroken about that. But
Jonathan Fischer 12:39
we can call it the forest and score Come on. I mean, you got the liberty to do that here on the bar sales here,
Farzad Rashidi 12:44
let's call this the fire. So score love it. Right. So basically, what we what we wanted to do, the goal was, we need to first find keywords that are one within our grasp, right, so not shooting for the stars here, understanding keywords that are within the authoritativeness within the range of authoritativeness of our website, and also hit three pillars. One, obviously, to get a decent amount of volume, if nobody's looking for that term or phrase, obviously, it's pointless. So it has to have some certain level of traffic, at the same time equally as important. It needs to also have a sense of commercial value, right? So not only that, it gets some certain level of traffic, but also, it's actually important for the business, from a business sense,
Jonathan Fischer 13:35
are you talking about it needs to be targeted to your ICP, or to tell us more about that, if you would,
Farzad Rashidi 13:42
I'm going to tell you how we are going to quantify each one of these because these three pillars sound pretty subjective, but I've found a pretty good measure a number that we can assign to each one as a representative and we can plug these into a formula that then it will help us basically go through down the list and prioritize 1000s of keywords with okay,
Jonathan Fischer 14:04
because he's been so decent volume, commercial value and your third pillar
Farzad Rashidi 14:09
competitiveness. But that's the reverse metric. We want to prioritize keywords that have lower competitiveness, or basically lower competition versus the ones that are higher, right. So ideally, from a mathematical perspective, we need to have keywords that have a decent traffic volume, commercially valuable and are low in competition, right? Sounds like too good to be true. But how do we actually go about quantifying them so we need to assign a number for each one of these keywords so that we can plug them and just multiply them together right and get that little bars out score. So call it so that we can sorted as the ascending on a spreadsheet and I'm sure other people use a similar type score is not something that I necessarily, you know, came up with. This is not rocket science. But what I use normally for the traffic. So basically understanding how much search volume and keyword gets, I don't normally like to look at the traffic volume for the keyword per se, just simply because there are a certain number of keywords that have a feature snippet, or have some sort of information that Google gives right away. So it's not something that's going to drive traffic necessarily to the website, even though there are quite a few people who are looking for it. So it's not to say that it's not important. But normally I like to prioritize and not a metric that works best. And that's what we call traffic potential. And that is the that the or get the monthly organic traffic of the number one search result for that target keyword. So when we take that it also takes the secondary keywords that that content piece is ranking for, as well and to consideration so that we're not just looking at the search volume for a particular keyword in isolation, because most likely, whenever you're writing content pieces, yes, he has a target keyword, but you're also indirectly, including certain secondary keywords and longer, longer tail variations of that within the content piece. So taking a look at okay, who's number one for this keyword and how much traffic they're getting? Is that number is is basically a better metric to assign mine as the volume for the keyword. Second one is commercial value. And it this one is a bit tricky, because obviously, we have to quantify things, right. So it's not something that you we're going to use our best judgment after we have a list. But once you have 10s of 1000s of keywords, we want to figure out a systematic way of going about it. And the best metric have found for commercial value is CPC, or cost per click for that keyword, which has nothing to do with SEO necessarily because cost per click for a keyword is a paid advertisement metric, right. So meaning that what other advertisers are paying on average, for a click for that particular keyword. But what this tells me is if other advertisers are willing to pay their good green cash for a click on this keyword that sent me a signal as an SEO person that this keyword must be commercially more valuable, because advertisers like to make money. So having that as a metric is extremely helpful. Even though we're not running ads here, but But it's normally a pretty good metric when it comes to prioritizing based on or assigning a value for that for that pillar. And last but not least, is competitiveness. And that's something that I take from normally one of the SEO tools that we're using. And it's a metric called keyword difficulty, which is looking at how authoritative or those websites on the first page, right, so how many backlinks they have, and how authoritative they are, are they dominated by websites like Apple and Google themselves and, and or they're, you know, smaller websites that we may have a better shot at. So keyword difficulty is normally a score from zero to 100. The higher down, the more competitive the keyword is. And normally, we want to take that in reverse, right, so what we do normally is that we multiply that traffic potential by one plus cost per click, because the reason why I added one plus in that parenthesis is because I don't want to completely ignore keywords that have zero cost per click, because that would make the score zero entirely, and just neutralize that. And so if they have a cost replace, just going to help that score go up, and then multiply by one over a Keyword Difficulty which is a reverse metric, right? So because we want to prioritize keyword to have lower competition, not more. And once you plug that into a little formula on a spreadsheet, doesn't require anything fancy, gonna give you a very arbitrary score, the opportunity score as my team calls it, and this is just to help you prioritize it doesn't mean anything on its own, could be a random number, like 1203, or something like that. And this is just going to help you start based on that score, and give you a blueprint of where to start. Because it makes your life 10 times easier when you have a sorted list of items. Now it's a matter of going through each one, and then use your best judgment and figure out okay, it's this keyword really actually relevant for me. But from a mathematical perspective, the ones that end up at the top normally have the highest amount of competition, excuse me, traffic volume, lowest amount of competition and highest commercial intent. One last thing I forgot to mention is I normally have a good rule of thumb that I literally had to have a chat with our team about a day and that is we ignore keywords. Again, it's a rule of thumb, not that probably most folks are going to disagree with me, but as good but I've found it to be very useful. As a good rule of thumb, I don't go after keywords that have a Keyword Difficulty of higher than my domain authority. What that means is, don't go and shoot for the stars, if you have a website that's new or low in authority, don't go after keywords that are super competitive just because you have a much lower chances, chance of being able to be one of the top 10 search results for that. So starting from some of the longer tail variation, keywords normally have lower volume or less commercial intent, and then kind of working your way up over time is key to start getting some traffic trickle in. And then over time, you'll be able as your website grows and authority, which we're going to talk about here in a second, then you'll be able to go after some of the more keywords that are more competitive.
Jonathan Fischer 20:43
Well, let's take that as a segue because you know, having really, really good targeted strategy in place, as you're talking about, it's got to be plugged into the content strategy to match up with that, and create the results. Talk to us about how you bring the two together, how do you build a masterful content strategy around this?
Farzad Rashidi 20:59
So another thing is also, we're talking about Google today. And it's not necessarily that the stuff I'm talking about is I'm not advocating for Google as the main search engine. If you're selling different types of products, or company, or companies that offer some sort of services that are normally purchased elsewhere, like for example, for e commerce Store, you're probably going to look at Amazon as your predominant or as the main search engine or, you know, other sorts of businesses that that may be selling through other channels. The principles we're talking about today, it's applicable to other search engines. And obviously, you gotta modify based on the type of business that you have. So having that content strategy basically doesn't, you don't necessarily want to look at it necessarily as a pure Google Play, but you can replicate it also for YouTube, for Amazon for all the other surgeons. So wherever your customers are hanging out, you go through the same process for the target keywords, and that they're searching through those search engines.
Jonathan Fischer 22:04
Well, and there's, there's a certain theory that the digital world does reflect something about the real world, right? I mean, the activity is being conducted by humans who are interested in a certain outcome. So it makes sense that that will correlate across platforms. Real quick reminder to our live audience, we are going to get to some q&a here in just a few short minutes, don't wait. Go ahead and post your questions in chat. And at the half hour, we're gonna revert over into q&a and get some real time answers from our expert. And you can walk away with even more golden gems in that way. So for Zod I really good a content strategy is where we're blowing through our time here today. Good stuff, very detailed, actionable stuff, can you give us some good principles about building more authority that is our cross platform, and just overall content strategy methodologies you have found to be very effective.
Farzad Rashidi 22:56
So that's really the main point, Jonathan, as I mentioned, at the very beginning, you know, we did all of this at the beginning with with me and and it was still crickets. And it's not to say that you just follow all the best practices, and all of a sudden, folks are gonna queue up and start coming to you. So the missing piece normally in any of these strategies, and again, when you when you go and start working with SEO agencies, normally, that's all they're focused on. Because these are stuff that's under our control, right, everybody can pull it up, up, pull up a spreadsheet, and start doing some keyword research and run a few tools and start writing content, right. And as humans, we like that, because it's under our control, we can start typing words, and then put it put on our website. But there's one side of the coin, that's a piece of the puzzle. The biggest piece is that once you have these really good content pieces that you created, and you've done proper research to understand what to create in the first place, is how do we actually get it up into search results? Right. And this is true of pretty much all sorts of search engines. And as I refer to at the very beginning, it's a matter of understanding how the algorithms work and algorithms rely on authority, right? They want to promote stuff that they believe to be true, right? And provide you with higher quality services. And that's how to cater to the users. So we need to understand, okay, what do they define as authoritativeness? And as I mentioned, it's a matter of popularity, because that's very, that's a very difficult thing to fake, right? Because you can you can create user generated content, you can create a you can get AI to write your peace of mind, but you can't get Jonathan to start talking about respond automatically. It's a very difficult thing to do. You need to know what you're doing right? And having that at vouch right, that have that vote to popularity is extremely important. So how do we actually go about getting these right? Because it's easier on paper normally, and easier said than done? And yeah, that's sort of where respondent came to be actually as a product out of this man. And we're gonna dig into that here in a second but What we ended up doing is anytime we put out a new piece of content and or landing page or a new feature or any sort of basically update that we have, we normally started going after other relevant, authoritative publications in our space, and to start a collaboration with them. Let me give you some examples. Again, I like to keep things pretty practical, Jonathan, I'm sure the audience would appreciate it. Yeah, one of the best ways to do it is what I'm doing right now. That's podcasts. And a lot of people don't think about it as an SEO strategy at all. And it's true to an extent but what not to say this is the only reason why I'm here today. Obviously, there's a myriad of benefits to going on events as a speaker one, first and foremost is meeting smart people like yourself, Jonathan, we're making great connections. But also, when Jonathan's talking about respond to, you're going to, you know, put this podcast episode on a little web page. And inevitably, you got to have to mention a response, right? Maybe link to our website. And you are, you're not even thinking about this, but you're sending a signal to all the search engines that hey, fire saw it from response, or somebody that I'm vouching for. And when you when you turn on into a process, when you do this every week, so on, I was on about 50 podcasts last year. And when that becomes systematic, that becomes a really, really nice engine, to be able to kind of first get free advertising to a niche audience. And also at the same time, you are helping the podcaster and the hosts to create a piece of content. And at the same time, you're getting these vouchers through search engines. And this is one out of a gazillion different strategies that we that we normally do. But but but this is one of the simplest ones that we implement. And I always recommend, especially founders, a lot of companies to start undertaking because it doesn't require that much time. And it's a mutually beneficial collaboration. And that's, that's at the end of the day, what matters. Because when it comes to building relationships with people, you add value, get value, right? So I'm helping you, Jonathan to create this episode. By providing content and at the same time, you're helping us promote the word and get the word out about responding.
Jonathan Fischer 27:14
Well, I like that too, because you're actually leveraging your your connections in a way that's very powerful for all parties. It's an all ships rise theory. And it makes me wonder if podcasts are almost like today's PR, it used to be able to do a lot more pull from PR back in the day. Today. It's kind of a formality. I mean, a lot of companies still do it. But I don't know how much how much legs there are. That's not the right word way to say it. I'm not sure how much leverage that gives you to do old school PR. But hey, sharing audiences with each other is a great way to rise together. And you're also kind of leveraging social proof to use more of a sales terminology, right, that we all tend to buy in if someone else already has our trust and respect and they're making a recommendation. It's far more powerful than any search result, you might say.
Farzad Rashidi 27:58
Absolutely, yeah, for sure. And, and you know that that's not to say that this is the only way to get the word out there. There's a number of different strategies that goes into building authority and content promotion. And I actually like to direct folks to a free resource that we have on our website. And it's a completely unrelated thing. It's not a lead magnet for us. But just for the sake of time, since we're getting close. And I didn't get to chat a bit more about some of the other strategies, I like to direct folks who are responding. Coming at the bottom of the page, we have this outreach strategy hub that basically gives you ready to use recipes and templates that most of which you can replicate by yourself, right? Manu average doesn't require any fancy tools, including responder, and you'll be able to start putting into place so start getting some mentions of backlinks. And when you hit a point that it becomes quite time consuming, then obviously tools like responder would help kind of streamline some of our processes but but that resource, I think is a good place to start when it comes to figuring out some of this promotion tactics. Just like the podcast average, as I mentioned
Jonathan Fischer 29:05
before is at your sharp guy, you did my job for me. But I'm grateful of doing that little kind of segue into how folks can take the conversation deeper. So I want to have my recommendation as well. listener, go ahead and check out response.com, which is just our ESP o n a.com. bottom of the page. There's a great free resource there. And just a brief word on what respondent does as far as how do you guys help companies do some of the things we've been talking about today?
Farzad Rashidi 29:31
So Jonathan responded was born actually as a as an internal software that we built have visit me to help streamline all of these average tactics to help us with building authority for our for our website, and basically what what it helps. What it helped us do was to automate a lot of this research process and mundane tasks so that we can spend more time on personalization and actually building relationships. So what responded does, and he sent me Lose a new piece of content. Anytime you have a new feature, I will help guys identify the right websites to contact the correct content pieces that you need to contact, find the right person who's in charge of that website, who's a Content Manager, and then gives you a way to contact them by email and LinkedIn to get in front of a much like outbound right for sales. But it's that goal here is completely different. We're not trying to sell someone something we're we're trying to start a collaboration and startup relationship. But it kind of brings the whole process under one roof, and makes it very easy to follow right a step by step process that you can go through from start to finish in 10 to 15 minutes. And, and that just saves a lot of time. And it also incentivizes the team to do this on a regular basis and not just rely on these tactics as a one off. And and do this every single week. Anytime there's a new piece, there's a new feature, or there's a new product that comes out and there'll be able to replicate that within within about a matter of a few minutes.