Neil Patel - Co Founder, KISSmetrics & Crazy Egg

Episode 46: Building a Thriving Business from a Serial Entrepreneur’s Point of View with Neil Patel

Who is Neil Patel and the key takeaways in this episode?

What do you do if your website doesn’t get any visitors? Like many website owners, the reality of not having any visitors to a site that you thought is the best there is, is just too much of a disappoinment. But for Neil Patel, his experience with his first website opened up an opportunity for him to not only learn how to generate and bring visitors to his website, it also gave him an opportunity to set up his own online marketing agency that will help other people who have experienced the same frustration of zero visitors.

In this interview, you will also learn:

  • What role passion has in Neil’s success
  • What he thinks about company culture
  • His take on transparency and its importance
  • The story of Kissmetrics and his different blogs

The Questions

[4:50] What was your biggest learning experience when you’re starting, for example you’re starting Crazy Egg? What will help you build a following for that company?
Answer: When I was starting Crazy Egg what helped with the following was that I would go to all the bloggers out there. I’d quickly pop to their blogs. I would give them Crazy Egg for free. I’d show them the heat maps and how the tool works on their blog. And there was like “Wow, this is cool.” And I would want them to, or encourage them to, blog on it all by themselves because they liked how it looked.

[3:54] Neil what was your biggest tipping point becoming a serial entrepreneur as you are today?
Answer: You see, for me, it’s just passion. I just really love what I’m doing so I just keep pushing forward and continuing. I don’t really look it as I want to start more companies or make more money or any of that. It’s just that I really enjoy what I’m doing and that’s all it really comes down to.

[16:06] What company do you admire the most as it relates to their culture and why?
Answer: Zappos, I think Tony Hsieh has done one of the best jobs when it comes to company culture.

Culture According to Neil Patel:

For me it’s how people within the company communicate, interact and engage with each other, right? It’s like the environment that you create. And most people don’t care about company culture but I feel that’s what really keeps everyone together and makes them work harder to create better products, services, et cetera.

What Neil Patel Wants His Company to BE:

  • BE Transparent

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:

Where to Find Neil:

Connect with John on

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

John: Welcome to BE Culture Radio. My guest today – Neil Patel. Neil, how are you?

Neil: I’m good. How are you?

John: I’m great, thanks for asking. I’m so excited you’re here and you’re joining us. You’re a wealth of information. But, Neil, before we get started down that path could you share with my listeners your story about you, where you came from, and how you arrived to be the person you are today? A lot of people want to know: where does a serial entrepreneur come from? And how does he start his life? And where does this tribe come from, so to speak? Because on our show we refer to your people as your tribe, as I like to say. So tell us about you, Neil, would you, please?

Neil: Yeah. So, I’m a serial entrepreneur. I started off by creating a draw board back in the day. That was my first website. It failed miserably and the main reason why is that the product sucked. But two, and this is how it started in my career, is no one came to my website. I thought when you pop a site up people just come. But that’s not the case as we all know. But at the age of 16 I had no clue about that. So I didn’t have much money, like most 16 year olds. So I had to learn how to do all my marketing, and I kind of got good at it. And then from there what I would do is I’d run home from school and then cold call the companies and offer them deals where I’d do their online marketing and if they were happy with the results, they would pay me. So I started doing tactics like that. I started getting customers and I started an online marketing agency. From there I expanded into software because I hated how consulting wasn’t scalable. And since then I’ve been doing software. I also blog during my spare time at quicksprout and neilpatel.com. That’s pretty much me and how I got started.

John: So for my listeners, here you are, what, 15 years old?

Neil: Sixteen at that time.

John: Sixteen at that time, right? And you’re out there making it happen already at 16.

Neil: I was trying to make it happen.

John: That’s pretty cool, man. There’s not a lot of people – because a lot of us, we come from different places. I’m one of eight and so you know I had learned early on that – you know, the paper route, selling door to door, silverware, the two or three jobs. Unfortunately I’m a little bit older so I didn’t quite catch on to the whole media side of the business. I think it would have been very helpful, wouldn’t it? I probably wouldn’t have had to travel to so many jobs, so to speak. But it’s such amazing, amazing journey you’ve had. Neil, what was your biggest tipping point in becoming a serial entrepreneur as you are today? What would you call that?

Neil: You see, for me, it’s just passion. I just really love what I’m doing so I just keep pushing forward and continuing. I don’t really look it as I want to start more companies or make more money or any of that. It’s just that I really enjoy what I’m doing and that’s all it really comes down to.

John: You also contribute to publications such as Entrepreneur Magazine, TechCrunch, Mashable, Business Insider, I mean [inaudible 02:32]. I had said to Neil in the pre-show – I said “When do you sleep?” And we started laughing because you don’t. But you pretty much have your hand in a tremendous amount of things, right, Neil?

Neil: I do. I have my hands in a lot of cookie jars. I should probably pick my hands out of a few and then focus more.

John: Nah. Now, is there a common thread you find through all the different things you’re doing? For you is there a common thread that drives you?

Neil: Yeah. If you look at all the companies I do, they focus around marketers. So I continually try to create products and services, the whole marketers.

John: And what was your biggest learning experience when you were starting, for example you were starting Crazy Egg? What will help you build a following for that company?

Neil: Yeah, when I was starting Crazy Egg what helped with the following was that I would go to all the bloggers out there. I’d quickly pop to their blogs. I would give them Crazy Egg for free. I’d show them the heat maps and how the tool works on their blog. And there was like “Wow, this is cool.” And I would want them to, or encourage them to, blog on it all by themselves because they liked how it looked.

John: Now, Neil, let me ask you this: how do you – I’m sure you talked to a lot of people from many different generations and some of us didn’t grow up with the social media, we didn’t grow up with the media marketing and so we don’t understand it but we want to understand it – how do you bridge that gap for us? So that, you know – because some of my listeners, we’re part of the baby boomers but we want to understand it, we want to get on board with it but we need someone to help us. How do you do that for them?

Neil: So you’re saying that people want to get started and how do you get them to start or..?

John: Yeah, how do you – I mean, alright, so you know I love corporate America and I don’t really understand the whole side of the – you know, I don’t get the SCO and I don’t understand how social media drives a company and so can you help people through that process and say “Listen, you have a really cool product but you’re missing it over here and you’re not marketing it correctly,” – because some of us didn’t come from that environment. We don’t get it.

Neil: Yeah. pretty much. See. every entrepreneur has strengths and weaknesses, right? Folks like you, they find other people to fill in the gaps. So what I would do is I would find people who have a good product and service. And when it’s not just liked by me and other people but it has traction financially, right? Because that’s a real business. And then from there I would be like “Oh, I can help you grow and here’s what I can do for you.”

John: Now, how do you define company culture when you look at things, Neil?

Neil: For me it’s how people within the company communicate, interact and engage with each other, right? It’s like the environment that you create. And most people don’t care about company culture but I feel that’s what really keeps everyone together and makes them work harder to create better products, services, et cetera.

John: And can you give us a story from your past where the company culture shaped the hiring and retaining of the talent and helped accelerate the growth?

Neil: Yeah, so at KISSmetrics we always put our employees first. We really care for them. We try to find out what they are trying to accomplish personally. And we help them through all their life goals, problems, et cetera. I mean, it’s to be there for them during their exciting moments. When we started getting sued (we got sued years and years ago over data privacy) and we gladly were able to put that behind us and beat it especially with the government’s help because we weren’t really doing anything wrong. And then we ended up settling during our class action because it’s cheaper to settle than it would be to fight in a court because the insurance company would cover the settlement. But during that time period we really didn’t lose any employees. I think we lost one but they weren’t a good pick culturally and we’re trying to get rid of them as well during the same time. But everyone stayed with us, you know, even though there was financial uncertainty because customers were leaving us and it was hard to raise money during lawsuit periods et cetera. But company culture is what kept the business alive.

John: Now, tell us a little bit about KISSmetrics.

Neil: Sure, KISSmetrics is an analytics tool that shows you what people are doing on your site. So your customers sometimes come back and they keep purchasing. Some of them don’t. Your lifetime valuable customers and your average sales price varies. What we help you determine is: “Hey, here’s what causes people to keep coming back and purchasing and here’s what causes people to only come by once and purchase and never come back again.” So that way you can do more than the stuff that causes people to keep being repeat customers.

John: And you have a blog, right? Quicksprout.

Neil: That’s correct.

John: Can you talk a little about that for our listeners?

Neil: Yeah, it’s just a blog on marketing. I love educating people on all the tactics out there or on the ones I’m using and how they can grow their traffic.

John: Now, we’ve talked a little bit about marketing, can we talk a little bit about the physical side of it? How company culture and how it – the look in the field, the office environment, adds – or there is a connect to our – what I sometimes like to say to people is, you know, we – for the last 30 years I’ve been in the interiors business and I see people with just a banging website and you walk in their facilities and there is a brand disconnect. And can we talk about that a little bit and get your feelings on it?

Neil: Yeah. I think your brand has to be congruent, right? All around. It’s the same with culture. With everything that you’re doing, your story has to match. If it doesn’t, people can sniff it out really quickly and I think you’re going to lose business from it. You’re not going to get the right talent. You’re going to even lose employees from that, right?

John: Right.

John: So whatever you present on the surface, we have to have match everywhere. You can’t just have a pretty exterior and ugly interior, right?

Neil: No. Because it doesn’t work.

John: Now, your companies are unique, so would you say that the facilities are equally unique if someone were to visit your facilities and see where you guys work? Does it match the uniqueness of your brand?

Neil: It typically does, yes.

John: Are there some things that you do – when you look at it as the leader and the founder, are there things that you do to make sure that that culture is maintained throughout?

Neil: We don’t have to do much, other than to make sure we’re hiring people who fit within the culture, because it maintains itself.

John: That hiring process becomes quite a task. You know I talked to a number of entrepreneur and a number of authors and to the person they say that the hiring process is one of the most difficult things they do as a leader.

Neil: That’s correct; it’s not easy.

John: And they say – to really. I’ve heard people say, we – in the process we really take – we go to great pains to protect and ensure the culture remains as people come and add that they don’t take away from the culture. Are there some tips you can give some of our entrepreneurs that you use when you looked at people?

Neil: Yeah. Other than making sure that they’re smarter than you, because you always want to be hiring people smarter than you, you’ve got to make sure that they blend in culturally, and the best way to do that is for you not to just determine that but bring it up to your other people within your staff and make sure that they agree that this person is good to keep culturally. That they have the same values, beliefs, right? Et cetera.

John: Right. It has been said many times that people say people are on their best behavior when they interview, and you really don’t know what you have until about two to three weeks after they’ve arrived. And I find some of that just quite honestly shocking because you go through a whole process and say “I don’t know this until now?” So to your point, I try to bring four or five different people from my organization into the interview process and I leave the process and just leave them there with the candidate and I found – sometimes you find out the most amazing things.

Neil: No, I agree with you on that one.

John: Now, from a marketing guru perspective, what are the ways that company culture can leverage their unique culture to market their brand? What are some things we can take away from you?

Neil: So you are saying, what are some things that-

John: How do they market it? People – everybody has their one of one, their special sauce, what makes them different. But I think the issue a lot of people have is that they don’t understand how to market it, how to drive that out to the people that they’d resonate with. I was just wondering if you have some thoughts on how we might better do that and share our one of one with the customers at large.

Neil: It is just putting – creating an about page that shows off your company from many different aspects. From pictures to text to video, its just really about showing the good, the bad, and the ugly, and pretty much being fully transparent.

John: Now Neil, when you looked out at different companies – and you’ve seen a lot of different companies – you do today already have your hands on a number of things – are there things that you would say to people: “If you’re going to do this, I’m going to give you a tip, do this one thing,” what would that one thing be if you were to say “Listen, you could pick from a hundred things but here’s this one thing that’s very meaningful, do this.” From a cultural perspective, what would that be, Neil?

Neil: I would say: just be transparent. I found that transparency helps more than almost anything else.

John: And a lot of people have many different definitions of transparency, so could you talk a little bit more in-depth about what you mean when you say “Be transparent?” I know that I’m asking a lot of you but I think our listeners want to know.

Neil: If you share everything, like for example we’re in a lawsuit, we had an update and we would update them always on a regular basis sometimes because we’re in a lawsuit, and what’s happening? Is it looking good or bad? Like, it’s being really being fully transparent, right? People are just like, “Why would you do that?” And I’ll say, “Well, we believe people stick with us, right? Because we’re being open and honest with them and some of this people we have known for years and if I were in their shoes I would love it if someone was transparent and honest with me.” And that worked well.

John: Do you take it even to the – I had spoken with some entrepreneurs and founders and they said their transparency they demonstrate they take it all the way down to the everybody knows what everybody makes. And from an income stand point, there’s nothing- nothing is off limits.

Neil: Yeah, Buffer does that. I haven’t tried that yet but it works really well for Buffer.

John: Yeah, I actually interviewed a few people and they were like you. Everybody knows what everybody makes. And it goes back to the same part of the cultures, just because someone makes more money doesn’t make them right, they just make more money. So everybody’s opinion matters and that respect, everybody comes to the table trying to give to the organization and bring their ideas forward. I think when I take away from that, what my listeners take away from that was that’s just more information that you’re not trying to suppress.

Neil: Yup, exactly.

John: Now, what one thing would you tell someone’s – here we are, trying to build a company, we’ve got my series A funding, I’m starting to hire people, I’m starting to build teams and build cultures. What advice would you give us as what not to do, what to stay away from, Neil?

Neil: So you’re saying what they shouldn’t stay away from? When they-

John: “Don’t do this.” You’d say “Hey, don’t do this. I’ve seen it a hundred times, don’t do this. It doesn’t work.”

Neil: The biggest thing I’ve sort of seen companies make, especially when starting out. They’re hiring people who they think are the best for the job from a financial aspect, when they don’t fit in culturally, and I kid you not, I can assure you may see someone as firm but in the long term you have to pick and choose a lot more. You’re losing your key players, you’ll skip the culture, and once you do it, it’s really hard to fix. [inaudible 12:49] is a great job of this, unless you can do something rare when someone gets offered a job they didn’t give him money if they quit. Right then and there.

John: Seriously? That’s awesome. I also had one of our guests that came on and he had said “Don’t ever hire a friend. Because if that doesn’t work out, I lost a friend and I lost someone to work with.” And so there are two schools of thoughts. I’ve heard a lot of people say “I want to hire my friends because they’re more like me than not.” Where do you stand on that, Neil?

Neil: I hired a lot of my friends and I found it to work; you just have to be really careful who works at boundaries. Let them know during the beginning “Hey, this is how it’s going to be.” And usually you don’t run to any issues when you do that.

John: I think that resonates with me because everybody of the twenty people I work with are my friends. I spend more time with them than I do at home and that’s by choice, not by necessity. And I really enjoy the people I work with and I think if you build the right culture and you have the right type of organization, won’t you find it as you go down the path, Neil?

Neil: Yeah, I totally agree with you on that, too. One other thing, too, is when you have friends, like, hopefully they care about your business from the beginning, right? Because they care for you and they do what’s the best for the business.

John: It does make a lot of sense. And Neil, I want to take you to the lightning round if that’s okay?

Neil: Alright, fire away.

John: Is there a book that changed your life and why?

Neil: There has not been.

John: There has not been. Okay. Do you have a quote that you go to for inspiration?

Neil: I do not go to a quote for inspiration. For me, what gives me inspiration is actually just looking outside. So just enjoying the little things in life actually gives me a ton of inspiration.

John: What company do you admire the most as it relates to their culture and why? Other than your own.

Neil: Zappos. I think Tony Hsieh has done one of the best jobs when it comes to company culture.

John: And if there was someone interviewing with one of your companies, why would they want to work with you?

Neil: We cannot only help them improve career-wise but we can also help them grow as an individual. We really care about our team members and if you look at the people that are working with some of our businesses even though we haven’t carried the biggest companies, we’re the live first. We had people who come right us from business to business and have been with us for eight to nine years.

John: Wow, why is that?

Neil: Because we really do care for our employees and our team members.

John: That’s amazing. Now Neil, big finish, so here we go. If you had to describe your culture of the companies you started in three words, what would you want it to be?

Neil: That’s a tough one, I would say or for me it’s actually just one thing and I would say the one word is transparent.

John: So be transparent?

Neil: That’s correct, be transparent.

John: Excellent. Now, Neil, how can my listeners connect with you?

Neil: They go to quicksprout.com and visit the contact page.

John: Excellent. Anything you want to tell us that you’re rolling out and you’ve got your hands in it that would give my listeners a little preview?

Neil: I’m rolling out a SC02 lawn at neilpatel.com in the next thirty days for free, you should love it.

John: Wow, for free, huh? Getting value every time, right, Neil?

Neil: There you go.

John: Alright. Now, Neil, I want to thank you for spending time with us today. Every time I have a guest I share with them that I do have a favorite quote by Maya Angelou, which is “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I certainly hope we made you feel welcome, and part of our tribe today and thank you so much for coming on.

Neil: No problem at all. Thanks for having me.

John: You bet. Be well my friend.

Neil: Same to you.

John: Bye-bye.