Interview With Neil Patel
We’ll make you look like the smartest person in the room.
- Learn Neil’s secret to getting the best marketing results for your budget.
- Hear what qualities Neil recommends you should look for when hiring someone to do your marketing for you.
- Hear Neil’s story of success and failure with marketing.
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Intro: You are listening to the Marketing and Cocktails Show, a podcast about marketing and growth hacking techniques for small business. Interviewing today’s top thought leaders in marketing, helping you get quick, actionable tips and tricks you can start using today. Now, here are your hosts Liz and Gretchen.
Liz: Welcome everybody to today’s podcast where we are interviewing Neil Patel and you guys are in for such a treat. Wait until you hear about this guy. Entrepreneur Magazine calls Neil the number one marketing company in the world. He created his first website at age 16. Then he took all the money he earned from working at an amusement park and he hired a marketing firm. He got no results. I’m sure you guys can all totally relate to that story. He is known for being honest and over delivering. I would personally say that he’s genuinely kind and authentic. He has helped companies like Google, NBC, eBay but his passion is for small business and that’s why we invited him here today.
He has shared his insights on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. magazine, Fast Company and colleges around the world teach his content. Over the years … Are you guys ready for this? He has received awards from the president, from the house of representatives and the United Nations. He believes there is a formula for getting results with digital marketing. His mission is to share that formula with you. Welcome, Neil. We are so grateful for you to be here today.
Gretchen: My god. Yes.
Neil: Thanks for having me.
Liz: We’d love to hear … We’ve heard your story about … Since everybody knows your name. Can you tell us a little bit about the days when you were working at the amusement park, just kind of a little bit about who you are as a person?
Neil: Yeah, I was young. I was 15 and a half. I was trying to figure out how to make a living, having extra spending money so I decided to get a job. The only place I could get a job was an amusement park. Picked up trash, cleaned restrooms, I was just happy I was getting a paycheck.
Liz: Awesome. Neil where are you from?
Neil: Born in London, grew up in Orange County California, live in Seattle and Vegas these days.
Liz: It’s always fun. One of the big reasons we’re asking you is because our audience, we really talk about we’re all real people. Yes, you’re a big name but you’re also a real person. We like to hear some of your backstory.
Gretchen: People’s back story.
Liz: Tell us a little bit because I’m sure our audience would be really interested in knowing about this. You were working there and you decided to hire a marketing agency. For what? What was the purpose?
Neil: To help get traffic to my own website. I created a website, a job board. I was trying to find a job online. I couldn’t find one online at least. One of the sites I ran into was Monster.com. I thought I would recreate a replica of that because they were making so much money at the time marketing firm drove no traffic. I popped up a job board, it didn’t do well. I’m like, why isn’t it doing well? There was many reasons but the first and primary one was no one was coming to the site.
Liz: Gotcha. That’s how it all started?
Neil: Yes. Exactly.
Gretchen: We’re firm believers. That’s why we started Unthink Solutions and why the name unthink. Why doesn’t the traditional marketing firm model work for small business owners do you think?
Neil: Most of them get so many big clients that what ends up happening is these companies, they don’t end up spending that much time on the small accounts. They’re going to spend the time on the best buys, the general motors, the american expresses, or whoever is paying the money. But they’re not spending that much time and energy on the small guys. The people who are barely paying them much money because these small companies don’t have a big budget. It’s very rare that they’re going to spend five, ten grand a month on online marketing. Even on ten grand a month these days it doesn’t get you much which is why you have to learn it on your own.
Gretchen: But it is possible, right?
Neil: It is possible, yes.
Gretchen: We wanted to hear you say that. We tell our clients but it says something different when you say it.
Liz: Yep. Absolutely.
Neil: It’s possible but the problem is you can’t pick the huge firms. Most small businesses when they pick marketing firms, they don’t want to go for that local, small company which is the one you should behind. They want to go for the Deloitte’s or Deloitte consulting and the big name companies out there and that’s where you get screwed. That’s what I’m talking about with the American Expresses, Googles. Because the small agencies typically don’t have those accounts so when they work with small, medium businesses they really do work hard with them.
Liz: Yeah, exactly. The big agencies … we have worked for big agencies in there.
Gretchen: One of my first projects was Monster.com’s, one of their newsletters. We’re really familiar with them.
Liz: We know what it is and then after being in that industry for so long we actually wanted to work with small businesses because at the end of it all, those are the ones that move the economy forward and the ones that nobody wants to help for the reasons that you were saying.
Gretchen: It’s a pretty steep learning curve. We talk about, to our audience, it’s almost like a lifestyle that you have to think a new way. Is it worth it do you think for small businesses to get involved with digital marketing?
Liz: To learn it themselves?
Neil: Yeah, it’s worth the learning it themselves but if they’re not that technical, no I recommend just going and finding either an intern to help you out or someone that you can hire that can do it in house or a small boutique agency. When I mean boutique, I’m talking about under 50 people. Those are the three things I would do if you’re a small and medium business.
Gretchen: What qualities should they be looking for? [crosstalk 06:19]
Neil: For example, when you work with people do you talk with them yourselves, or is someone else on your team talking to them?
Gretchen: We personally. We personally work with them.
Neil: There you go. That’s probably the biggest quality that I would look for if you are a small and medium business because when you’re talking with a lower level employee the quality of the work is not the same compared to when you talk with the owners.
Gretchen: There’s a lot of confusion with our audience. Marketing is this gigantic umbrella term and there are all these people hitting them with a solution but really it’s a tactic. They get called by Google and there’s an opportunity to be ranked on our page. Yellow Pages is calling and there’s all sorts of SCOs who say sign up for a contract. 2000 dollars a month, we’ll get you this traffic but it’s not qualified traffic and it doesn’t really convert. How would you communicate the difference … how do small business owners wade through that complicated landscape of marketing options?
Neil: The way they wade through it with that complicated … you just got to figure out what’s best for your business. So if you’re a localized business, you can do some small localize marketing. The key that you should look for is don’t look for those automated services that are hitting you up and just asking you for fees. They don’t work too well. You have to look for a person who’s scrappy and hungry that’s going to help you out or a small boutique company where the founders are going to help you out. Those are the two things I look for because if you barely have the time signing up for Yellow Pages or something isn’t going to do that well. Signing up for some software that submits you into different directories, not going to do that well. You need someone to actually spend time on your campaign.
Gretchen: We love it.
Liz: We call it rent the marketing department for a little bit so that they can focus on what they do best which is running their business. Yeah, definitely you have to know how to pick and what’s best for your business. Agreed.
Neil: I can’t emphasize enough, look for the personal touch. If you can’t talk to the founders and you’re a small, medium business don’t do it. If you’re a big cooperation it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the founders. You have enough money where you can hire amazing people and even if you do that it doesn’t mean you’re going to get great results. I typically get the best results when I talk to the founders and we hire small and medium boutique agencies. Because I myself don’t do really any consulting anymore. Sometimes we hire other people to help us out with our own products because we’re strapped for resources. We always let the small and medium agencies or companies that can help us out and the founders are dedicated and motivated and they’re the ones ready to work on the campaign.
Gretchen: I love it. I love it Neil. We’d like to do what we call a master minding because I think one of our big, Liz and I approach our business model is that it’s executable for a small business owner. We’d really like to help them understand some steps they can take to actually make digital marketing work. We’re wondering, will you master mind with us and put you on the spot?
Gretchen: Okay. Awesome. What kind of business did we decide?
Liz: We have two businesses. The first one is one that there’s a lot of competition and a lot of people can relate to.
Gretchen: An insurance company. This person might actually work for an American family insurance and there are how many other agents who are all scrapping for the same audience. Essentially, what do you say to that person? How could they leverage digital marketing cost effectively?
Liz: How would they start out of all the options out there?
Neil: I would just create content blog posts online that just educates people at different insurance plans how it looks and what they mean. Most people when they look at these insurances, whether it’s life, health, iniquity, whatever it may be they have no clue what they’re getting into. They don’t know how to read the fine print. If you can break it all down, you can explain the benefits, when is it right for you, should you be getting it at all, and you’re just being honest and transparent and just writing educational content. You’ll get business from it. Will you beat out the Allstate’s of the world? Of course not but you can do better than most reps.
Liz: Yeah, if you focus with your local clients.
Gretchen: How would you recommend they build their audience online?
Neil: Social media. Instead of trying to create a blog on your own website I would just post content on Twitter. I’m sure you can post much but Facebook media, LinkedIn, social networks like that.
Liz: I have an SEO background and interestingly enough, if you post that in social media Google will pick it up faster than if you post it on your website. It could go viral a lot easier that way as well.
Gretchen: Realistically, our audience is also really quick fix minded because they have been sold by all of these promises and contracts that actually don’t work but they have this mind set and they hear all these big stories about people and these businesses are success overnight. Realistically, if they start generating content how long do they have to wait until they see some kind of conversion? How do they set themselves up for conversion?
Neil: It can take anywhere from like three to six months minimum. Sometimes longer and the way you set yourself up for conversions is just have your phone number on there. You have email collection or lean collection. Field within your sidebar within your content throughout your website. It’s just making sure you have a clear messaging that people can get in touch with you. Have your face on there. Let people know it’s personal that they can get in touch with you as well. All those things help.
Liz: It’s funny because a lot of the people that we work with, they know they have to create content. They know but they can never find the time. What would you say to those people either outsource set or as you have the time just write it out? What would you say in regards to time management to accomplish this? What do they need to do?
Neil: They can just outsource it. Find a small boutique agency or go to [jobs.prologgle.net 12:44] and they can find usually a person or two that will help them out there.
Liz: You said something really key earlier. Just hire an intern. Someone that’s either about to graduate or something like that that knows how to write content.
Gretchen: What was the other one you wanted to-
Liz: Now if for a more niche, I guess industry let’s master mind around a consultant.
Gretchen: Like a business consultant.
Liz: Like a business consultant or even like someone maybe like a software developer. Something like that. Would you give the same advice? Write content or how would you separate yourself from all the other developers out there?
Gretchen: These guys this is like a one or two medium shop. Maybe they have like five contractors when you get a big project.
Neil: I would write content. So educate. The other thing I would do is I would just go to Craigslist and look at all the job openings for developers and just shoot them emails on how your firm or your company or you could help them out. Give them code samples and show them why you’re amazing and some references or testimonies.
Liz: I like it.
Gretchen: I like the references and testimonies part. I think that our client doesn’t usually think about how important those are. When you start bringing it up they’re like, oh yeah I’ve got 50 people who would write something for me but they never actually do it. Would you say that’s a pretty quick and valuable way to get conversions and get attention?
Neil: It definitely is. Yes.
Gretchen: We have one last question. Well we have one last question that’s marketing related and then we have a fun question for you. If you could give our listener one take away for this interview, what would it be? What’s one thing you want them to remember?
Neil: You have to go out there and pass a lot of things with marketing. Think of it like spaghetti. You have to throw stuff off. Throw spaghetti on the wall, see whatever sticks, and based on whatever sticks that’s what you should focus on. That’s how marketing really is and that’s what people forget. Not everyone has the right answer right away. It’s just a lot of testing.
Gretchen: I love it Neil. That’s a great way to finish. Now for the fun I’ll let Liz ask you.
Liz: Our podcast name is called Marketing and Cocktails. We always ask our guest what’s your favorite cocktail and when was the last time that you had it?
Gretchen: You might not want to admit that. It was labor day.
Neil: I don’t really drink cocktails. I drink an iced coffee that someone made me try. I think it was called like the Vesper. It was like the James Bond cocktail, I think that’s what it was called. It didn’t taste that good. I hated it.
Gretchen: I’m with you Neil. I’m not a cocktail kind of person either.
Liz: We should have called it Marketing and Wine or Marketing and Beer or something.
Gretchen: It doesn’t sound as good.
Liz: I know. It’s kind of catchy Marketing and Cocktails.
Gretchen: Well Neil, we are so thrilled for all of your insights. We are forever grateful for your coming and talking with us today.
Neil: No problem. Thanks for having me.