Episode 026

How Zest has generated rapid growth by combining a human touch with automation

“We have biased algorithms that are designed to give us content that we want, but not content that we need.” – Yam Regev

Yam Regev, founder & CEO of Zest.is, talks about how combining automation with a human touch became essential to Zest’s rapid growth.

In this episode, we cover:

Today we’re talking with Yam Regev, the founder of Zest.is, a content distillery focused on providing actionable content to its users. Yam shares how combining a human touch with automation became essential to Zest’s rapid growth.

Zest has gone from 0 to almost 18,000 weekly active users in just a year, and a lot of that growth is thanks to the fact that Yam personally responded to every single content submission when Zest first started.

That human touch created a powerful WOW moment for Zest’s users, which created a positive feedback cycle that brought them back over and over.

So listen to how Yam was able to achieve this super-human feat by being smart about when to automate & when to be human, and how his commitment to the unscalable led to Zest’s success.

(And make sure to tune in next week, where Louis and I are going share what the next phase of this show is going to look like.)


Show notes
  • [00:01:23] What Zest is, and what led Yam to found it
  • [00:04:22] How Zest works
  • [00:07:55] How Zest created a human buffer for content
  • [00:10:12] The difference between content and knowledge
  • [00:12:18] Yam’s user-first and human-centric approach to growing Zest
  • [00:17:18] How Yam responded individually to all of the content submitted to Zest
  • [00:22:01] How Yam scaled the process of individually answering each submission
  • [00:25:11] The kind of responses that Yam got from his personalized emails
  • [00:32:53] Zest’s user success methodology
  • [00:35:49] How success is defined at Zest
  • [00:40:57] How Yam would help people understand that people-first is the most sustainable way to grow
  • [00:44:42] Resources that Yam recommends

[00:00:05] David: Welcome to The Human Strike Back by Hotjar, the weekly podcast designed to help you succeed by putting people first. I’m David Peralta. Today, you’ll be hearing from Yam Regev, the founder of zest.is, a content distillery focused on providing actionable content to its users.

Yam is going to be talking about how combining automation with a human touch became essential to Zest’s rapid growth. Zest has gone from zero to almost 18,000 weekly active users in just a year, and a lot of that growth is thanks to the fact that Yam personally responded to every single content submission when Zest started. That human touch created a powerful wow moment for Zest users which created a positive feedback cycle that brought them back over and over.

Listen to how Yam’s able to achieve this superhuman feat by being smart about when to automate and when to be human, and how this commitment to the unscalable led to Zest’s success.

Make sure to tune in next week where Louis and I are going to share what the next phase of the show is going to look like. Enjoy.

Thank you so much Yam for taking the time and coming on the show. I really appreciate it.

[00:01:13] Yam: Sure, it’s my great pleasure, of course.

[00:01:15] David: I'd love to start by asking you, can you tell us what Zest is exactly and what led you to found it?

[00:01:23] Yam: Zest fights or solve the pain of information overload and fake content. We actually built an engine that knows how to categorize, target, and distill professional content, and then we use, or the engine uses the distilled content to create a continuous learning experience for the end user. We are actually, tailoring your new learning experience as a professional. Right now, we are focusing only on the marketing verticals. We are good only for marketing professionals.

We founded Zest in March 2017. Today, we have almost a 20,000 weekly active users. We have two co-founders, who closed the whole loop by themselves. I'm like a marketing professional. I’m a go-to strategist expert. My co-founder Idan is the CTO, and he's a wizard of technology. I can't remember what's the name of the guy from 007, I think it's Q who create cars with wings and exploding pens, so this is Idan.

We actually founded Zest because we felt a huge pain on our end and we met some of the companies that we work with together and we discuss it over ping-pong, a play which I lost by the way, and we understood that there is no effective and reliable solution for professionals to consume content that have a lot of added value for themselves. Suddenly it struck us that in order to become a professional today, you start your professional career or professional path by going to a university, then you learn. You become an amateur to a professional, and after that, you start to work at some company and then you could take some Lynda courses, Udemy courses, whatever they are.

What happened in the meantime, all of us are consuming so many articles, so much content on a daily basis, and we discovered in a McKenzie-backed article which is quite interesting, that each employee or each of us professionals, we are losing nine and a half hours each 10 working days for scouting after content that we want or need to consume in order to become better professionals at what we do, and then to consume the wrong content or too much fluff content that algorithms serve us or whatever the reason is that we discover it.

As I said, there is no such solution to help us make the whole continuous learning experience much efficient and precise. I know it's quite a mouthful and we will drill down on it later on, but that’s what Zest finds to solve, and the way that we solve it, it's unique, and I'm sure that we'll talk about it in a few minutes.

[00:04:22] David: Basically, as a content marketer, you're saying that I am consuming content about content marketing and the issue that I have is either at Google and then I have to sort through all the different articles to find out what's actually relevant for me or I waste time with a lot of these articles which are not worth my time, or I'm going to a site which is curating content for me, but not particularly doing a good job of it, so in order to get the highest quality content that really enables me to level up my game and level up my professional abilities, Zest is curating that level of content that I would need in order to do that.

[00:05:00] Yam: Yup, exactly. That’s spot on, and you know, that’s quite interesting because what you said is only one way for us consuming knowledge, because one aspect of it is to search it. Then we go to Google, over there we have two main problems. First of all, you are going to get drowned in tons of links for articles that SEO people promoted. As marketers learn how to manipulate algorithms and then to push up in the search engine results pages, blogs or whatever the content is.

That aspect, that’s the search point of view of consuming knowledge. The other aspect is discovering this knowledge of professional content. Over there, we are bombarded, most of us are using tons of different feeds. We have the Facebook feed, and we have Twitter, we have LinkedIn, and so on and so forth. Over there, I'm sure that most of the listeners are quite aware of it, we have biased algorithms that are designed to give us content that we want, but not content that we need.

You find yourself scrolling through the feed, you see cats playing pianos, then you see Yam’s selfie at a great conference, and then you see a professional article. In this professional article, you see David from HotJar who liked the article and they say, "Okay, David liked it." And one of my friends liked it as well, I go ahead and click on this post and I’ll consume the content that I'm scrolling through the article, and they can see that it's not that relevant, or not that in depth, or not that professional, or maybe basic and fluff.

I'm wasting my own time again and again. That's exactly what we're trying to solve because we understood that if we want to discover content and to be better at what we do by learning and consuming the right knowledge for us as professionals, we cannot let the machines takeover the way that we learn, and the way that we become better at what we do, there should be some sort of buffer that should be human based between the moment that you are creating an article or a piece of content and then distributing it or sharing it.

There should be some sort of buffer that will help us to filter and distill all this noise, and one last sentence about that, today the problem is not really information overload, that’s some sort of a sad reality or maybe a reality others would say. Today, the problem is the way that we filter things and the way that we discover them and then we need to understand how relevant it is for us, for our own staging of the current position and career and where we want to go to.

[00:07:50] David: How did you solve this issue? How did you create this human buffer at Zest?

[00:07:55] Yam: Great. What we built is an engine that’s built on two technologies. One of them is machine learning, and the other one is HBC. HBC is human based computation, it's a technology technique. What we did today, we understood that we cannot go and scrub the web or something like that in order to have more and more articles and to put them into our engines if we called ourselves the content distillery, we love alcohol as well.

The metaphor is quite good, but again, if we want to use the best kind of material, we need to use people as the first point of touch as far as it relates to filter the content between starting to distill. We let the community suggest content that they feel that others should consume, other people from our tribe, and once they suggest those articles, then the engine, the machine learning comes to life and then start to tag the contents, score it, understand who suggested it, and the machine learning creates two type of outcomes. One of them is content, what we define as content, and other one is knowledge.

Everything that is entitled as content, we sort it to be out of the distillery, it's not getting distilled in. If we categorized this knowledge, then the machine is then publishing it on the Zest stream and then people can consume it and of course over there, they can personalize their content stream as well.

Most of the content today, the machine doesn’t know if it's content or knowledge, and then we use the human based computation which is between the system or the machine sends a lot of queries to a lot of volunteers. We have a few hundreds of volunteers in our tribe, they are like proactive Zest members. The machine asks them, "What do you think about this content?"

I'm not talking about stupid kind of question like, is this content in depth? But we ask them, are there enough references from the article to other articles to support such statements, and other sort of questions that build some sort of image to our system? Then the system can define is it again, content or knowledge. If it's knowledge, it's getting distilled in and published on the Zest stream.

[00:10:12] David: Are you finding content and knowledge as simply, content is basically anything that gets created, but knowledge is specifically the type of content that's going to help you improve yourself professionally.

[00:10:24] Yam: Exactly, you've got it. Content as far as we relate and we created some sort of a guideline. Knowledge is something that has to be in depth. If you cannot provide an educative message that you can learn from in 400 words kind of piece, or 500 words. It needs to in depth, it needs to be insightful, there should be a lot of references, maybe screenshots and visuals that will help you to understand the whole content structure.

We're starting to lean the structure and the semantic aspect of the text itself, and the most important thing is that it should be very actionable. Zest is not for news items and PR stuff, and new releases of algorithm updates and stuff like that. For us, we see that the community is not approving the new algorithms that Facebook or Google change or update, but what actually can be done with this change type of articles. So that would get distilled eventually.

[00:11:22] David: Okay, so not high level articles about what's going on, but more very specific drilling down into the details of how you can take this information and do something with it in your day-to-day job.

[00:11:33] Yam: Exactly, and what's nice is that today you can share an article or the content you consume on Zest, directly on Slack and Trello, each month we have around 15,000 shares on Trello and Slack. That’s the default in Zest, the default is not to contribute to the information overload and share things on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But for us, a great KPI is how many professional interactions there are with our content. So how many times a piece of content was shared in Slack and Trello that got into the marketing team's workflow.

[00:12:07] David: Okay. One thing that I'm very interested to know is from what I understand, you’ve taken a very user first and human centric approach to growing Zest. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

[00:12:18] Yam: Yes sure, both me and my cofounder, we have quite a lot of experience in go-to strategies and product market feed and stuff like that. At the beginning with Zest, when we understood that that there is this crucial human factor that we should absorb and to create the engine around it. Again, users are an integral part of the whole solution, and in order to understand them better which is quite strange that humans are part of your own product, the more humans there are, the better the product is in our case.

We had to move out all the automation kind of software that we used to use, email automation, and chats, and stuff like that, and we said, “Let's put all these aside,” because we felt that they are creating some sort of buffer between us and our users, and it will take us more time to achieve the product market fit, although it's a continuous kind of KPI, quality market fit, you can never reach it, you can just perfect it.

Once we did it, we found ourselves in front of our users and when someone suggested an article on Zest, we didn't have any kind of automation email to them like, "Thanks," or something like that, it went directly to me at the beginning. It was like a one and a half years ago, and I actually emailed to everybody who suggested content on Zest, why is an article accepted or rejected?

[00:13:50] David: Every single submission, you responded to manually?

[00:13:56] Yam: Yeah, I did it and in order to learn how they are experiencing Zest, what is good? What is bad? We understood that it's even better for our growth to reply to people. There were tons of content suggestions. We said that it's okay to reply to someone even one week after they suggested the content, then to have an automation solution for that and people got wowed with that because we understood that there are three wow factors on Zest, almost 90% of our growth is word of mouth, I'm the CMO, not only as the CEO, but I'm wearing the CMO hat. I still didn't start to do any sort of campaigns, of course not paid acquisitions and stuff like that.

It's all about word of mouth which is super cool. After people suggesting other colleagues to use Zest, they come to the stream, they love the way that it looks, I believe that the UI is quite intuitive, they feel at home if that makes sense. That's the first wow moment, they really like it.

Then the second wow moment is that it comes after a few days that they see that the content over there is something a bit different. We had many reviews, testimonials and users are sending us poems and jingles, if we'll have time, maybe I'll send you an audio recording of it, it's amazing.

People are saying that they're afraid of clicking on the articles that they find on Zest. You can ask yourself, alright, but that's not that good, but as far as we're concerned, that's beautiful because they never had this kind of actionable content consumption experience. They know that if they will click on an article and they will consume it, they will come up with homework for them, for their employees, for the bosses, or whatever, it's something that they get into there and as we said, a workflow, that’s beautiful. So it's the second wow moment and that's actually the added value.

The third wow moment is that once they suggest an article and we get back to them with a feedback about the reason it was rejected or accepted, they say, alright, what's going on? Are you taking seriously my content suggestions? And we say of course yes, your content suggestion is like a feature creation in your product, it's something that you should treat that seriously because it's going to impact others and you're going to waste their time on the other end to contribute to their own knowledge to become better at what they do.

This was really the basic foundation of how we created the tribe of raving friends that keep on suggesting articles using their product more and more, and of course writing about us, so many articles recommending us to other colleagues.

[00:16:43] David: I'm very interested in the third wow moment, the part where you are responding individually to every single submission regardless of whether it is accepted or rejected. Now, I can understand how that would create a wow moment because many times people are expecting an automated email, like, "Your content was rejected, thank you for submitting. Bye-bye." Or "It was accepted, thank you, send us another one." But you put a human touch there. Did you have a script or did you actually take the time to say exactly why each piece was accepted or rejected?

[00:17:18] Yam: That's a great technical question and I love technical question because I believe that this is how the listeners can actually––it's a connection item. What I did is that I created something three to four different scripts, but they have at least, I think, it was like 50 to 20 different kind of added value items that I added to each email each time differently, and I direct everything in a CRM to make sure that I'm not repeating myself, and then the other team members joined in, and they did exactly the same, but added value kind of thing is that you can ask your member, your user in this case, "Would you mind to recommend us to two other cool marketers like yourself. We are gathering more feedback right now and it can really help us." It can be "Would you like me to speed up the community based content approval process for you?" Or whatever. Those kind of things that added a little bit of a twist to each email, and that would cause each recipient to scroll down until the end of the email and actually read everything, and then to reply to me. That’s how we create this kind of relationship.

[00:18:35] David: In other words, it was not as simple as, "Okay, we rejected you." Or, "Okay, we've accepted your submission." It was more on top of whatever it had to do with the article, you always added an item to help the user, to help the person on the other end of that email add value back to Zest.

[00:18:58] Yam: Exactly, and we used a lot of funny gifs, and we use a lot of punctuation mistakes, if that makes sense? I read a lot of emails, I can't remember where, maybe it was in a Hubspot blog, I read over there a lot of emails script that they use for sales prospecting and stuff like that. Because I'm not a native English speaker, I understood the structure of the email, it's all short and straightforward and no games, no masks. I understood what I can use, an intentional punctuation mistake.

You add the space between the end of the sentence and the question mark. So the question mark is not close to the last word. Those minor things are what's making your email to be a little bit more human. This is how you are humanizing the email. You're making those small mistakes that even the readers will not see, but at the back of his mind, he got something.

[00:20:07] David: You mentioned that you had different scripts that you would use, and different elements that you would add, and you mix and match and combine them for each individual email. But was there an element of personalization that you would also add to the emails?

[00:20:21] Yam: To all the emails, whether the first sentence or two after the hello, name, or how's it going buddy, or stuff like that, all the language was really authentic. I leveled, I'm sure that I made a lot of non-native English speaker mistakes as well which probably contributed to the authenticity, and then of course, I added personalized sentences in it as far as it relates to their brand or their geolocation like, “Yeah, I visited Wyoming a few weeks ago,” then I added another context to my email, or kind of things that really help me connect with the user while we know that the context is just the content suggestion, but I try wrap it up with some added value kind of elements, and with personalized elements and that's how we got––this is how we actually built the tribe from scratch.

[00:21:19] David: Okay. I can totally relate and get to the fact that, I mean when you're doing this at scale, you do need some aspect of automation, I mean you're not giving it over to email automation, but you do need something that you can repeat scripts and pieces of text that are going to be common across emails, but that human element, that personalization, that's what makes it clear that somebody took the time to write this email, and that element was not prescriptive, that element is unique to me.

That begs the question to me, how do you scale that and how do you manage to answer all these emails and still have the time to be the CEO and the CMO of Zest?

[00:22:01] Yam: I think that first off, once we learned a pattern of suggestions, we also added a lot of scores, like suggest their score, what is their success score, the domain rank, authority, and all that. We managed to automate some of the procedures. There is not really a good reason to send five personalized emails to a given user.

Eventually, if they have a high success score, you can leave emails aside and you can start sending them a web push notifications, or in-product kind of messages that deliver a great message as well.

It can be too creepy or scary to be all over them too personalized, too humanized, we call it that we understood that our members want to feel the warmth of our hand on their shoulder, but not in a creepy way.

[00:23:01] David: Right, that’s an important distinction.

[00:23:04] Yam: It’s good to have, "Hey, buddy, I'm here, I'm human, we're good, we want to be more familiar with you if you can help us in this and that, that will be even better, I promise to do my best to review your content faster and to give you more exposure, and so on and so forth."

But you should back off a little bit after a while because again, that’s what makes you so human, right? We are not all over each other all the time. You give them some space, you give them the respect and you just move back a little bit.

We managed to automate some of the procedures over there. We are still working on it until this day because we don’t want to lose the humanized charm. We created some walls, and we understood what can be done and what's not. Again, because I have Idan, my CTO and co-founder with me, my Q, he managed to automate those things in a perfect manner which left me enough time to do that and things that the CEO and CMO is doing.

What's nice is that over the course of the last, almost one year, more than 20 users became our part-time employees, they all were volunteers, some of them still are. That’s another great proof of concept that the product gave a lot of added value for the users, and they all became some sort of employees. The team right now have around five people, some of them stayed with us for long, some of them less, but we managed to choose the best, and that's something that really gave us goosebumps because we never thought that someone or so many someones will be so happy to give their time, just to give it back and to help us in what we do. I just love it. We have all those hundreds of other volunteers who distill the content itself and that's beautiful.

[00:25:03] David: I definitely want to ask you about the score, but first I want to ask you, what kind of responses were you getting from people when you were sending them these very personalized responses?

[00:25:11] Yam: I think the best ones they said, it will relate us to another thing, a nice point of view of that is that, they are telling you first of all like, “Wow, I can't believe that someone read the article and said that it's good or not, and thank you so much for the feedback, now I can make the article even better, or my blog to be even better. I know huge brands that change their content strategy or their blog layout just in order to make it Zest worthy.”

We said, "The article is great, but you have no publication date associated with your blog article." It might be from three years ago, maybe the content isn't all that updated anymore, and we know that those huge brands changed their blogs and they added a publication date.

After the wow message,we got the real hook of why they appreciate Zest so much, and I love that you said the appreciation term because appreciation is everything, and once you give a lot of added value to your users, you're getting so much in return. It's not just me, I'll help you out, I don’t mind to be a volunteer, also without them even putting a lot of attention about that, all of our website pages like the homepage and the content page which is our current revenue model, all the content over there was written by users who either they wrote an article about us and then we just quoted them, or they sent us messages on Facebook and LinkedIn, or emails and then we took those, of course we ask them for their permission, but they actually built all the UPVs, USP's H1 and H2 and a lot of the taglines that we currently use, and most of our investor deck right now holds what other people told about us.

They help us to define who we are, what we do, what we should do, and I'm not only talking about features or roadmap and product related stuff, but actually our propositions, goals, vision, what we are here for and stuff like that. This is the real added value that we got to back from giving a lot of added value to our own users and probably a humanized touch.

[00:27:35] David: We had a very similar experience with the launch of this podcast where my co-worker, Louis, my co-host, he brought the entire story and the background behind The Human Strikes Back and this is what was sent in an automated email, "You signed up for the landing page, you get this series of stories." But then we would ask people questions, "What led you to sign up? Tell us a little bit more about yourself." And we really meant those questions, and we got a lot of answers, and we took the time to respond to every single one of those replies.

It felt like an overwhelming amount, more than we felt like we could handle, but we still took the time for each one of those people and gave a personalized well thought out response. It wasn't just, "Thank you so much for writing. Watch the show." It was really in depth understanding more about them, and their situation, and specifically what they wrote about. What happened was absolutely incredible which was, we built a relationship. I mean actually it's not so incredible, that's what happens, it's actually very natural. It's just incredible coming from a background where so many things are automated and you get so many automated emails to actually have the people on both sides of the show come together, and talk to each other, and have conversations before the show is even launched.

By the time the show was launched, by the time went on to a private Facebook group, the level of engagement and involvement was so far beyond what we ever thought possible just because we took the time to care about the people that we were interacting with.

[00:29:06] Yam: So true and it's not just for yourself or for your own product, in this case your podcast and everything, it's for everything. It’s people who talk about you with others, they become very active members and I see some in your Facebook page as well, over there, over The Human Strike Back, there are a lot of active users, or active members we can say, those people carry the message much further, and it's made everything to be much more sustainable.

I think that if look at things on a graph of how unscalable things that we did so far, actually so scalable. It’s amazing, maybe it's not this hockey stick graph, I'm not a big believer in hockey stick graphs, I want to see in my first year, this is what we're doing in Zest, it's a solid, sustainability, linear growth of real people who are here to be with us, to help us in what we do, and to carry the message onwards. That's what's so beautiful in it.

[00:30:11] David: I completely agree with you because it's the kind of thing that––you talked about this in marketing theory or marking classic, you don't have the time. You shouldn't have the time to do this because there's so many other things that you should be focusing on, and yet when we took the time, and when we actually care about the people, and develop those relationships, the return on that was so much greater than if we hadn’t taken the time to do that at all.

We would not have had an engaged group. We would have had passive listeners. We wouldn’t have people contributing to the development of the show, contribute to the concept of what the show is going to be about, helping us build the show the way people have been helping you build Zest. It’s all because of these things that are supposedly unscalable, and it seems like you don't have the time to do it, but when you invest the time, then later on, the return comes so much more powerfully.

[00:31:05] Yam: Definitely. It's like to put concrete in all your strategy. If this is the way the you're laying down the basic foundation for your growth, and community, and the way that you're creating your product, and the way that you go to your market, I think that that puts you in a really solid place.

[00:31:30] David: I totally agree, and actually I was having a conversation with David Cancel, the CEO of Drift, and he said something very similar which is, you hear a lot of CEOs talk about, or maybe not a lot, but you hear some really good ones talk about the need to start with things that are unscalable at the beginning, but David said something fascinating which is, he never stopped doing those things, never. Regardless of what stage Drift went through, he never stopped having one-on-one conversations with people.

He in fact started to meet more of his customers and take more time to take them out to dinner. This is what I loved, what they started to do is that they would actually start to connect their customers with each other. So they would say like, "This customer is involved here, and this person's involved here, they would actually probably love to meet each other." And they would host a dinner and just show up, and just let these people talk to each other.

[00:32:25] Yam: Well that's the next level of what we just talked, that's beautiful, I'm so happy to hear it. That's just amazing.

[00:32:31] David: It's totally along the lines of what we're talking about. I'm so happy to hear that you're doing this at Zest. I did want to go back to this idea that you talked about, the score that you were using. Actually, I want to take one step back in something that I read from you. You mentioned something called the user success methodology. Can you tell me what that is?

[00:32:53] Yam: When we thought about how to grow Zest, and what is our growth methodology, while it’s true that we are only two people, we have a big vision like fight information overload, and distill knowledge. It's one of the web holy grails, probably. Then we understood that even if we bring in a lot of money and we fundraise big rounds and all that, what will move the needle eventually will be the brain power that we have, and not the money power, and not the technology power, and not the innovation power and all that.

We call it the Gulliver Maneuver. It means that a lot of pieces can overcome a big one. If you have a lot of brains with you, you'll be able to overcome huge challenges, you'll beat giants, you'll become better, stronger, smarter, and faster. So then we built something that’s called the user success methodology.

User success methodology, really briefly, we took some doctrines from the B2B world, IBM, account based marketing, account based sales, and account based everything. Then we merged them with customer success methodologies. Then what we got is the user success methodology which means that we want our users to be successful, not just our clients or paying members, or whatever we call them, that was a huge shift in not just how we do things, but the way that we implement our roadmap.

Today, we have almost 64 people in our user advisory board. Some of them are CMOs of huge companies, and influencers, some of them are juniors, they're from all over the world, and we actually quite described it a few minutes ago, but that's how we came up with—to put our users in front of everything and not in the center.

We believe that if you put users in the center of what you do, you're wrapping them up. Again, with technology, automation, and these softwares and tools and stuff like that, they should be in front of what you do, they should be the first ones who give you feedback to suggest stuff. All our revenue models, roadmap and stuff like that is something that's been voted and discussed with our user advisory board.

Once your users are feeling successful, your sales marketing pipeline, the retention, the average per sale, the output, all the parameters are increasing, and everything works much more smoothly although again, you need to retain a lot. It's a lot of manual work, discussion, and stuff like that, but we can see only the upside of it at this current stage.

[00:35:45] David: How do you define success for your users at Zest?

[00:35:49] Yam: Right, so we got a testimonial yesterday. Yesterday, what happened were two cool things. We finalized our fundraising ground, which was happening in a span of three months, which is cool, and also we got to beautiful testimonial from a Brazilian gentleman and he wrote us, "I'm a professional marketer for the past decade, and I'm learning each day, and reading a lot of articles. I had extension learning curve with new subjects whether it's in SEO, social media affiliates, B2B marketing and so and so forth. Since I started using Zest, my learning curve just looks like a hockey stick graph and it's amazing because I'm learning much faster, I have much more time to do other kind of things to manage my own agency, and to onboard new people, to focus on what I should be focusing on and not to run after content and to consume content that is not that relevant and good for me at my current stage." That's a huge appreciation and we just love it.

[00:36:56] David: Is the user success methodology and your method of success, is that something that’s qualitative? Is it based on what kind of feeling you're getting back from users? Or do you have more concrete metrics that you use to determine whether your users are successful or not?

[00:37:17] Yam: That's a great question, part of humanizing our brand, I think that it's something that is laid down on three main pillars, it's all about authenticity, transparency, and being vulnerable in such a quantity.

But we created some sort of investor dashboard, it’s actually still live, and we keep on updating it. You can go to investor.zest.is. We created it as part of our fundraising efforts in order to create a transparent and straightforward communication channel with like-minded investors. Everything is over there, bad KPIs if we are not hitting them, and good KPIs, and we have the weekly active users, and the demographics, and growth stats, and everything.

But something that I really like is the “analysis,” and we saw that even after 12 weeks, the people since the moment that they started to use Zest, we still have around 30% of our own users. Again, we're just two people, we know what to do good stuff, but let's say that we have zero off boarding efforts. So if you want to stop using Zest, you can just go ahead and do that, no one will bug you.

I believe now that we funds raised and we have more resources, we can put more efforts on that but if you ask if we can quantify something like user success, I think that the “analysis” that says after X amount of weeks, you still have a double digit percentage of usage, you are in a really good place.

Of course, we have other kind of things like suggestions, suggestions per user, and other kind of product or growth KPIs that help us to understand if this methodology works or not, those are the measurable stuff, but most of the things you cannot measure. The hundreds and hundreds of articles being written about us, or mention us in it, and people who want to volunteer to be part of the movement that we create, and just be part of the product, something you cannot quantify, you can just feel it and sleep a little bit better at night.

[00:39:42] David: Yeah, actually going back to David Cancel, he also spoke in a different interview that I had with him outside this podcast about how there's so many things that we do that are immeasurable that you can't actually have a metric around. You've created a podcast, they've created a podcasts, how are they actually measuring, this is actually creating leads for Drift, you can't measure that. But what he does know, his signposts tells him whether this is working or not is when he goes to a conference and somebody says like, "Oh, you're the one behind the podcast. I love listening to your podcasts, that's the reason why I started using Drift."

Over time, when you start to get enough of this feedback, this qualitative feedback tells you that you are on to something. This resonance that you have with people is your signpost, is your metric telling you that you are on the right track.

[00:40:28] Yam: Yeah, exactly, I love it.

[00:40:30] David: One thing that we ask all of our guest is, a lot of people are on the fence about taking such a strong people-first approach the way you have, putting your users first, putting your customers at the forefront of everything that you do. There's so many metrics, there's so much this, there's so much other things to focus on, what would you say to those people to help them understand that people first and user first really is actually the most sustainable way to grow.

[00:40:57] Yam: I'm an advocate of this methodology, something that I learned, I say that I am reviewing probably around 4,000 articles each week because I'm like the admin of Zest, so I manage to review tons of marketing articles. I can tell you now for sure that something that I really don't like is that a marketing influencer or a marketing someone say in this podcast, or writing it in this or that article, "Hey guys, this is the new methodology that you can do and it will work charm on your charts and growths and parameters. That’s the latest SEO skyscraper technique, it will be good for you. Put all your resources on that."

I learned that all of us, again, we are not machines, it's all about biology. You cannot really quantify biology, I can tell you that 99% of the things that I told you here in this podcast are good for me, are good for my company, are good for my geolocation and the way that we do business, and the way that we grow our own product and try and build stuff is like a fingerprint, a fingerprint you have only one, it's unique, it's good for me, so take all my advices with a grain of salt because you need to understand if it's good for your purposes or not.

If people are on the fence, they should ask themselves. I think that's who they are, eventually what to me and my cofounder, Idan, understood is that Zest allowed us to be who we are. In other companies that we worked with or worked for, we weren’t able to express ourselves as we are.

We're quite wild people, we love party, we like to party, we love to tell our stories not to be cocky or something like that, just to share things. So even with ourselves, with our friends, with people, and our colleagues, and with our own articles right now that we write, we write about our fuck ups, we write about things that we blew up, it's fine, it's okay.

I think that it's good for us, if it's good for this or that brand, I'm not sure. You need to ask yourself if you're feeling okay with it. Will you feel complete by telling your story that way? If you feel uncomfortable with that, maybe you shouldn't do that, it will not be authentic, then you will not be able to be that transparent or that authentic or that vulnerable. You'll not achieve it, you'll just hurt yourself, your self brand and your company.

Ask yourself, is it really you, because again the brand, Zest brand tone of voice and everything is exactly how we speak with less spelling mistakes of course.

This is who we are, and we feel so complete with the brand, and we just talked about it with my cofounder, we feel that Zest is another best buddy of ours, that we created another great friend. If that makes sense, and we love it that way, and I'm sure that we'll try to maintain it in this aspect.

Everyone needs to think for themselves––do they want another someone like themselves? Will they feel comfortable with it? Can they express the other one like they express themselves? Those kind of, I think, internal question that you need to ask yourself if it's good or not. One methodology will work one, but will not work for others for sure.

[00:44:31] David: Finally, is there any particular resource that you would recommend whether it's a book, a video, a podcast for people who do want to succeed by putting people first.

[00:44:42] Yam: That's a tricky question because I will tell you to go to Zest and start consuming articles over there because most of the content that get approved is content in this kind of style. I need to think about it. I can't think on a single resource.

[00:44:57] David: It doesn’t have to be a single resource, I mean what has helped shape your people first approach.

[00:45:03] Yam: I think again it's the inner me. It’s something that was there all the time, I felt in the other companies that I worked with for that they should do that and I didn't manage to express myself that much. I could never do Zest differently. I would not feel at home, I would not feel as I belong, and I think that it's part of me and part of my co-founder.

Again, it's really internal, personal kind of issue, I believe. So that's for that. Again as we said, one methodology will work here, but will not work there, so if I hear a good podcast like Humans Strike Back, or Everyone Hates Marketers, or [...] or stuff like that, I will take things that I believe are relevant for me, I will digest them, and I will implement them in a very different and unique way that’s good for me, but not good for everybody else.

Again, if you'll tell me to do the SEO skyscraper technique, I will do it in my own way, I will definitely not do it as Neil Patel suggest to do that, not because Neil is bad, but because it's good for Neil, and Neil's clients, so I need to do them in my own colors and shapes.

[00:46:18] David: Right, so basically being yourself, bringing your whole self to what you do, that's the way that you're going to discover your particular way of succeeding.

[00:46:26] Yam: Yeah, and feeling complete with it, it's really important to feel complete with what you do if you're going to humanize your brand and everything, and you know you can take a radical approach like we did, we have the user advisory board and all that, or the open investor dashboard, or you know, it's like a scale of humanization. You can choose how much you want to humanize yourself, and you really need to put yourself on this access, and just work with it.

[00:46:53] David: Great. Yam, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciated the conversation.

[00:46:58] Yam: It was so fun, thank you so much for having me.

[00:47:07] Louis: Thanks for listening, my fellow human. We know how fast paced life is. If you're listening to this on your daily commute, while running, or even cooking, you can always go to Hotjar.com/humans and look for today's episode. That's where you'll find access to all the resources and humans we talked about, the full transcript of the conversation, and even links to really see the episodes.

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