How a One Man Startup Conquered The Marketing World

But how exactly did he earn this reputation? It turns out Neil Patel wasn’t always the successful entrepreneur we know of today. From humble beginnings, he turned a one-man business into an international company with international clients such as Amazon, Google and NBC. Here’s the story of how a middle-class boy from London built an international brand.

The Boy Behind The Man

Neil was born in London in 1985, however, moved to Orange County, CA at the age of two. He grew up in a middle-class family and was introduced to the world of entrepreneurship at an early age. While in high school, he took extracurricular classes at Cypress Community College and sold CD’s in school to other students. The budding entrepreneur didn’t stop there. On the side, he branched out into a second business, selling black box TV sets to his friend’s parents. Although this wasn’t his main income source, it provided him with a great side income and was a sign of things to come. 

At the age of 15, Neil got his first ‘real job’ at Knotts Berry Farm, where his duties included picking up trash, cleaning rooms, and the unfortunate job of cleaning vomit. Unhappy with the work he was doing, he quickly moved to another job at Quality Systems, where he worked as a door-to-door salesman. His job was to sell Kirby Vacuums. Although young to be a door-to-door salesman, this experience taught Neil a key skill he would use in his later career: how to sell. 

During his time at Quality Systems, he quickly developed his own method to increase sales. He would offer to hoover potential buyers’ homes for free. After they saw what a great job he did, he would then pitch the vacuum for $1600. If successful, he would take a few $100 from each sale. Though he quickly realised this job wasn’t sustainable. The biggest issue? Not many people were willing to pay $1600 for a vacuum. As a result, he decided to explore alternative opportunities in a new, upcoming industry.

Digital Marketing – An Upcoming Industry?

In 2001 Neil Patel decided to move away from door-to-door sales so he could focus on a new, upcoming industry – internet marketing. Using what he learnt at Cypress Community College, he made a bold move to start his first website, Advice Monkey, at the age of 16. To gain traction, he started by paying several marketing firms to help him. Although he gained some traction, the site itself wasn’t transactional and ultimately it failed. To make matters worse, he was charged significantly more than the industry average, with the marketers taking advantage of a young entrepreneur. Eventually, with no funds left for marketing, he called an end to the business. 

Although this could be seen as a failure, Neil used it as a learning curve. During his experience, he learnt the fundamentals of becoming a digital marketer firsthand. This would provide him with a huge advantage when he set up his second business, Advantage Consulting Services (ACS).

Failure Is Just A Stepping Stone To Success

Following the initial failure of his first business, Neil decided to set up a second with the support of his sister’s partner. This business would become Advantage Consulting Services, an internet marketing brand. His first client was Elpac Electronics, which signed a monthly retainer contract of $3500. After helping them grow, ACS expanded its client base signing on several new businesses. This was Neils first big success and would lay the foundation of future business. He reinvested most of the profit, improving his services and his own knowledge along the way. On the side, he also spent time researching and investing in new startups to create new streams of income. 

However, not all investments were a success. After investing $1 million in Vision Web Hosting, Neil ended up losing most of his investment. This was another big hit in which he lost a significant sum of the money he had built up. Instead of quitting, Neil did the opposite. He set up another business called Crazy Egg. Crazy Egg was funded using the profit from ACS and was one of the first businesses to provide the analytic tools that many businesses use today. These included a heat map, a scroll map, an overlay, and confetti, all of which would track the user’s journey on a website. 

Through his unique industry insights, Neil understood that analytics would one day become an important part of the digital marketing world. This is exactly what he had in mind when he created Crazy Egg which turned out to be a huge hit.

Its niche offering allowed businesses to fully understand the customer journey, which would allow them to optimize their customers’ experience. Although this is a common feature today, back in 2005 this tracking technology was revolutionary. The project was such a huge success that in 2005 Neil was mentioned by the Wall Street Journal at the age of 20.

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

In 2006, Neil decided to further expand his influence in the digital world with his first blog site, ProNet Advertising. The timing of Neil’s blog couldn’t have been better. Blogs were not yet mainstream but were becoming popular around the world and as a result, his blog quickly gained traction. It was one of the few blogs to focus on digital marketing and growth. Using his unique insights into a relatively new industry, Neil was one of the few people around the world who could provide readers with the knowledge he had built up first hand. The blog grew so quickly that within a year it was named the “Best social media blog” by Search Engine Journal and was ranked in the top 100 of Technorati for the first time. 

In typical Neil fashion, he didn’t stop there. Instead, he launched his second blog site QuickSprout Blog. This blog was similar to his first, though had a greater focus on supporting startups. At the time, there was very little information online to help startups succeed, especially in the world of digital marketing. As a result, Quick Sprout Blog also became a big hit and still supports startups today. It’s home to a wealth of resources including how to set up a website, the best domain options and the different types of marketing available for your business.

Business, Funding, and… Lawsuits?

In 2008 Neil launched another business, KISSmetrics. This was the first business he created using external funding, with it being funded by True Ventures. Similar to Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics focused on web analytics. It allows users to pay a monthly fee for insights on user interaction on their website. It identified a clear picture of user activity, collecting in-depth data on every site visitor.

It quickly became another big win for Neil. The software was a huge hit amongst small businesses who were now able to track their customer experience from A to Z. However, in 2011 a lawsuit was filed against the company for using flash cookie technology. This lawsuit cost the business a few hundred thousand dollars which set them back significantly. Despite this setback, they were cleared of all charges and continued to dominate the market. Three years later in 2014, Neil left the business to move on to his next big idea: personal branding.

Educating A Mass Market

Although Neil had achieved huge success with his businesses, he had set himself a new target: educating the masses. He aimed to do this through his personal brand He launched the brand in 2014 with the goal of 100,000 monthly visitors to the site. Today the site has over 1.8 million monthly visitors. Within only a few months Neil had achieved his goal and provided opportunities for millions of people around the world to learn how they can become a success in the digital world.

The site itself focused on two main aspects of digital marketing: blogging and SEO. It offered everything from training modules to analytical tools that help businesses enhance their customer journey. During this period, businesses were starting to understand the importance of blogging. Many entrepreneurs such as Tim Ferris had linked their success to blogging, which only increased the demand for people to learn. Once again, Neil Patel had launched his service at the perfect time. His personal brand helped people learn a subject that would otherwise never be taught in school and in the process gave him his nickname as “The Blogging and SEO Guy”.

As well as educating people on how they could use SEO and blogging to optimise their site, Neil also continued to work on his businesses. He started a spin-off from his personal brand, Neil Patel Digital, in which he worked with businesses to help them get the most out of their marketing. He also continued to consult businesses, charging fees of over $100,000 per month for his services. Due to the success and coverage of his other brands, Neil was able to land huge clients such as eBay and Google, which made him one of the world’s leading digital marketers. But once again Neil was ready for a new venture. This time, in the form of books.

From Entrepreneur To Author

In 2016 Neil Patel launched his first book ‘Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum’. Much like his blog and websites, his book was created to teach new, inexperienced entrepreneurs the basics of the game. It focused on the redefinition of ‘the hustle’ and how business owners can find their optimal path to success. At launch, the book was a huge success and was included on The New York Times and Los Angeles Times best-seller list.

Hustle served as much more than just a book for Neil. It solidified his reputation as an SEO and digital marketing expert and introduced him to people who may not have otherwise been involved in the digital space. It also added another product to his already impressive portfolio and worked as another outreach method for onboarding new clients. ​​It became so popular that Fortune named the book a “must-read for any entrepreneur”.

Neil Patel Digital Today

Today, Neil Patel Digital is one of the world’s leading digital marketing firms. The company’s client base spans around the world and includes top brands such as Amazon, Salesforce, eBay Hewlett Packard, and Viacom. It has 123 employees and generates around $30.8M in revenue each year.

As well as serving businesses, is also one of the leading education platforms for entrepreneurs trying to break into digital marketing. The site showcases over 11 different topics from SEO and Ecommerce to Instagram and YouTube modules. These programs are designed to help new marketers understand the fundamentals of internet marketing, so they can apply it to their own businesses.

Outside of the workplace, Neil has also been praised for his impact on modern entrepreneurship. He was recognised as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by Obama. He was also named one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by the United Nations and was awarded a Congressional Recognition by the U.S. House of Representatives.

What We Can Learn From Neil Patel

Neil Patel is proof that success can be achieved by anyone. Coming from humble beginnings, he was able to build a multi-million dollar company from the ground up. So what exactly can we learn from his story? And how can we apply these lessons to our own lives?

You Need To Fail To Succeed

The biggest lesson we can learn is that success doesn’t come easy. Throughout his time as an entrepreneur, Neil faced many failures. Most of which would have made the average person quit. He could have decided that entrepreneurship wasn’t for him when Advice Monkey failed. He could have decided that it was time for something else when he ran out of money. He could have quit when he lost his investment in Vision Web Hosting. But he didn’t. Instead, he chose to learn from his mistakes and used his failures to move to the next level. His desire to keep going through this pain allowed him to achieve more in one year than most achieve in a lifetime.

Being Flexible Is Key In Business

The second lesson we can learn from Neil is the importance of being flexible. When he achieved what he wanted with one business, he moved right on to the next project. At no point did he stick with something because it was what he’d created. After achieving all he could with KISSmetrics, he moved on to personal branding. Whilst working on personal branding, he released his own book. All of this was achieved while he built Neil Patel digital in the background. Neil’s ability to move from one project to the other allowed him to dominate the industry of digital marketing, to the point where it’s impossible to search for SEO without seeing his name.

Understand Your Customer

One common trend we see with Neil’s successful projects is that he knew the key pain points of his customers. Many modern startups make this error when getting started. They create a product, then search for a market to sell it to. Neil reverse engineered this process. He found the problems his customers had and provided a solution. In fact, with Crazy Egg he took this process one step further. Being an expert in his industry, he predicted the future problems that digital marketers would experience. By doing so, he created a tool that would allow them to track user behaviour and therefore create tailored solutions. This innovative idea was one of the first to be implemented on a mass scale and arguably changed the world of digital marketing as we know it.

Success Takes Time

Today we always hear of ‘overnight successes’. People who set up businesses and made millions in only a few months. However, the reality is, most overnight success comes from years of work. Neil Patel is a clear example of that. Most of his initial businesses took years before they were a hit. He had to work through countless failures before he achieved anything substantial. It’s important to remember this in your own businesses. Sometimes, success may not appear obvious. You’ll have days where you want to quit. But what’s important is that you’re patient with your success.

With the world turning more digital by the day, Neil will continue to have an ever-growing impact on the world of entrepreneurship. Through his education platforms, he will continue to teach new entrepreneurs the skills they need to achieve success in the modern world. The question is, how will the digital world impact you?

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