Among other 20 major brands, he has worked with Microsoft, Amazon, and TechCrunch. Neil also runs a popular blog, QuickSprout.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Neil Patel, I’m an average Joe, I love eating Taco Bell and for the last 11 years I’ve been an entrepreneur. I’ve done quite a few start-ups, some have done pretty well, a lot have failed, but, luckily for me, the ones which have failed made up for all my losses. Most of my start-ups are in marketing space. I really enjoy B2B type of start-ups, so I’ve done analyst company called Crazy Egg, my current one is KissMetrics and I also blog about marketing and business at QuickSprout.
You have a very impressive entrepreneurial career. Can you tell our readers more about it?
Sure. Out of all the start-ups I’ve done, quite a few have failed and some have done well, but the biggest thing that has made my career pretty great is that I learn from my mistakes. I go out there and every time I fail or everytime I make a mistake I learn from it and I try not to repeat it. Consequently, that increases my odds of succeeding in every new venture that I do.
These days I work on B2B software start-ups in marketing space, because I have a lot of connections there, which helps those start-ups do quite well at a much quicker pace than if I’d have started something else.
Today you’re a well known entrepreneur, but how did you get from being an internet nobody to where you are now? How did you manage to build a strong personal brand from scratch?
I was able to build a strong personal brand completely from scratch through three things:
Speaking at conferences. You keep on applying until someone accepts you (and you will have to apply a lot).
Networking. The more you network and the more people you get to know, the stronger your brand is going to be.
Blogging. I’ve been blogging over the years and after five or six years of blogging you get more and more readers.
These are the three ways to build a personal brand from scratch.
How did your life change once you’ve “made it” in the business world? What are the biggest lessons that success has taught you?
The biggest lesson that success has taught me is that you don’t need that much money to be happy.
Nothing has really changed for me other than, you know, I don’t have to worry about the mortgage payment or putting food on the table, but other than that my life is pretty much the same: I work 24/7 and I don’t really have too much fun.
The more money you make, the more you find yourself working.
You’re currently focusing on Kiss Metrics. What it’s all about?
Kiss Metrics is a start up that helps people maximize how much money they’re making from the web. Instead of tracking your pageviews, visitors and bounce rates, we track the lifelong value of the customer, conversion rates, etc. We pretty much give you all you need to make actionable insights on improving your online business so you could make more money from your website.
How did you come up with an idea and the name for Kiss Metrics?
The idea came from the business partner and it has evolved over the years.
As for the name, it was a group effort: a lot of people in the company gave ideas on names and KissMetrics was what we came up with.
How did you go about actually developing the product once you had clear idea on what you want it to be?
We hired a ton of developers and designers and we started building it out. We used Eric Ries’ “Lean start-up approach”: build something as quick as possible and get it out and then keep on tweaking until you find a product that people love.
How did you market KissMetrics in it’s early days and how do you market it now?
We marketed KissMetrics through blogging, speaking at conferences, networking, paid advertising, webinars.. We market it the same way today as we did when we first started, there’s no difference there.
How did KissMetrics evolve over time and why?
KissMetrics evolved over time because we found out that the earlier versions of the product weren’t the best fit for customers, so it evolved because we wanted to create a product that they love and want to use all the time.
It evolved from being more of a social analytics company into a company that helps you delight your customers and focuses on it by helping you make your customers happy, increase the lifetime value of the customer, make more money from your customers, stuff like that.
What were the biggest lessons that you’ve learned from running KissMetrics so far?
Make money as quick as possible. It took us a few years before we started making money from KissMetrics, we should have just started selling from day one.
What are the most important things that people who want to start an online business should be aware of?
The number one thing that you should be aware of is this:
Don’t create an idea that you just want to create, create a business that solves a unique problem that people are facing right now and they’re willing to pay to solve it.
This is the number one thing that you should be aware of, because if you’re not able to do that, you won’t be able to create a business that’s doing well.
What would you advise to those who are eager to build something of their own, but they can’t find the right idea (also, how to determine whether an idea is profitable enough to give it a try?)?
Don’t look for an idea, look for a problem to solve. If you can’t find an idea, that’s fine, look for a problem that you can solve that you’re experiencing or people that you know are experiencing.
Profitability wise, that’s hard to determine, you just have to make sure that people will want to pay to get that problem solved and will pay enough.
Then, you can try it out.
What is the most efficient strategy for building a strong brand (aka going from an Internet nobody to a respected online entrepreneur) relatively fast? What’s the 80/20 here?
I would spend most of your time blogging.
Also, network: answer every single person’s e-mail that ask you for advice and don’t try to charge for it, just help people for free, that really helps with brand building.
What are the most common mistakes that new entrepreneurs make?
Common ones are:
- They create a business that is an another copycat, they don’t try to solve a unique problem.
- They try to create a product that is perfect instead of getting it out there and getting feedback and tweaking it accordingly.
- They don’t try to make money fast enough.
What are the key things that separate successful online entrepreneurs from not so successful online entrepreneurs?
Successful ones learn from their mistakes and try not to repeat them.
They also spend a large portion of their time networking, because if you want to make money online, better get in touch with the power players that can help you get there and by networking with powerful individuals you’ll get there much quicker.
Last, but not least, what would you advise to young entrepreneur’s who have a great idea for a business, but don’t have any clue where they should start?
No one can teach you where to start. You just have to go out there and figure it out on your own, because if you’re not able to do that, you will not be able to succeed. Starting is one of the easiest things to do and you will encounter much tougher problems down the road. You can’t ask someone how should you start off, you just need to go out there and do it on your own.
- Learn from your mistakes. This way, your odds of succeeding will increase with every new venture that you do.
- Don’t look for a business idea, look for a problem that people want to have solved and are willing to pay enough money for it.
- Don’t try to build yet another copycat product. Look for a unique problem to which you can offer a unique solution.
- Don’t try to build a perfect product straight away. Just get it out there as quick as you can, then pay attention to the feedback you get and improve it. This is the surest way to build a product that your customers appreciate.
- Try to make money as soon as possible.
- Spend a lot of time networking with different people and building relationships. Don’t just be nice to the big guys: reply every e-mail in which someone asks you for help and don’t try to charge for it.
- Start a blog and use it to build your brand and gain credibility fast.
- Try to get speaking gigs in various conferences. Keep on applying until someone accepts you. Don’t be afraid to apply to a lot of places.
- Money won’t make you happy. Once you start earning a decent amount of money, you won’t have to worry about the necessities like shelter, food and transportation anymore, which is a very good thing. Don’t expect money to buy you a lasting happiness, though, because otherwise you will end up very disappointed.