How Neil Patel Made $4.4 Million With 4 Controversial Marketing Experiments
If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably heard of Neil Patel.
In case you haven’t, here’s a quick introduction.
Neil Patel is the co-founder of both Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He also works closely with companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom to grow their revenue.
As one of the most prolific names in the digital marketing world, Neil Patel is as polarizing as he is well-known, often tiptoeing the line between genius marketer and mad marketing scientist. After all, not every marketer has the opportunity (or, let’s face it, the moola) to test buying a $1.7 million condo as a marketing strategy.
But how does Neil decide what to test?
I was wondering that too - so I asked him. He told me...
"Based on data. I look at both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative is numbers and I look at things like drop off rates in the funnel for example, bounce rate, or even time on site. Qualitative is feedback that you get from users through methods like surveying. For example if everyone says they don't want to buy your product because you don't offer free shipping, increasing your product price and making shipping for free could be a test worth running.
Beyond the millions of dollars Neil spends on “testing” these extravagant marketing tactics, there’s a lot to be learned. So today, I’ll be breaking down four of the grandest, most controversial marketing strategies Neil Patel has employed, and constructing takeaways you can put to use in your own marketing.
So put on your lab coats, you lead-generating, landing page-creating, A/B-testing chemists - it’s time to dive into the mind of Neil Patel: the Mad Scientist of Marketing.
The “Dan Bilzerian” Effect
The Spend: $57,000
The Focus: Instagram
The Timeframe: 1 month
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Neil Patel is no stranger to controversy. That’s what makes him the successful marketer he is today. No marketing idea is out of the question - from conservative to crazy, he’ll test it. You’ll see what I mean as we go through this article.
In truth, this first experiment relates pretty heavily to Experiment #4 down below. However, because he employed such a specific strategy within a specific segment of digital marketing (social media), I thought it best to keep it separate.
Turns out, even Neil Patel isn’t free from the reach of social media influencers.
If you’ve been on Instagram in the past few years, you’ve probably heard of Dan Bilzerian, who Neil refers to as “the modern Hugh Hefner”. It’s exactly what it sounds like - Dan’s Instagram feed is full of beautiful women, luxury yachts and copious amounts of alcohol. Dan Bilzerian is so popular because he has succeeded in creating a life other people want.
"It isn’t Dan’s lifestyle that interests me, however. It’s what other entrepreneurs say about him. In essence, they love his life because they can’t have it."
As is natural for our marketing mad scientist, Neil sought to recreate Dan’s success on a lesser scale and embarked on a quest to become Discount Dan.
One of @danbilzerian's less scandalous photos.
Neil received a lot of flak on his blog for his Bilzerian-esque Instagram marketing tactics… but received just as many comments from people commending him on his methods, or from entrepreneurs who found him through Instagram.
If you want to see the specifics of Neil’s Instagram strategy, you can check out his write up here. If not, here’s my TL;DR...
whoisneilpatel's follower stats.
UFC ring girl Arianny Celeste promoting @whoisneilpatel.
Though Neil didn’t provide any specific figures, he did say once he “fine-tune[d] the approach” he would be able to drop his monthly costs to $10,000 to $20,000, and turn a profit within 3 to 6 months.
Chances are, if you’re not Neil Patel, you don’t have $57,000 to drop on a single month of Instagram marketing. Fair.
What Neil learned is that, true to its status as a social network, promoting your brand or business on Instagram can be simple if you’re willing to put a little money into it. Frankly, I think Neil spent a bit too much for the results he achieved - but I think there are two main strategies you can take from his test:
Because Instagram has matured into a platform ruled by influencers, it’s a no-brainer that partnering with these influencers is a great way to quickly spread brand awareness. Running contests like Neil did is a solid way to build your follower base and grow engagement.
Content-wise, Instagram is a lifestyle platform. Build your Instagram brand on a specific lifestyle that resonates with your target market, instead of on your product. As Neil discovered, people want what they don’t have. But if you can convince them your brand is their best chance of having what they want… you just might see great results.
The Spend: $138,491.42
The Focus: Meals
The Timeframe: 1 year
That’s no typo. Neil spent over 11 grand each month on meals. Even for an entrepreneur as successful as Neil Patel, that’s a lot of money. Sure, most of these meals were business meetings, and those that weren’t were usually meals with coworkers… but almost $140,000 on food alone?
The look Neil gives you as he pays for your dinner and you sign a $2 million marketing contract.
Well, if you’ve been paying attention so far, you know Neil doesn’t let anything through without testing… and that includes the food he puts on the table. So, he grabbed the data from his bookkeeper and got to work.
Neil wanted to find out:
So what’s the real deal behind meals with Neil? Let’s find out.
"In my book, spending money on coworkers and colleagues is never a waste because you are showing your team members that you appreciate them. For these reasons, I never try to calculate an ROI on this set of expenses."
Okay, let me guess… you also don’t have 140 thousand dollars to spend on meeting with clients… let alone ones you haven’t closed deals with yet.
This case study, however, gives us insight into Neil’s values. Paying for meals is Neil’s way of showing respect for everyone he works with, and a way of “sweetening the deal” when it comes to meeting with potential clients.
"Food is a great social currency that goes a long way."
Though Neil’s ROI is concrete, the real return consists of the relationships he builds with the people he treats. So… don’t drop thousands of dollars on a meal with clients - but realize that something as simple as paying for a meal might have a large effect on your business’ future wellbeing.
Starting from Scratch
The Focus: Generating revenue through blogging
The Timeframe: 1 year
In March of 2015, Neil wrote a blog post called “How to Generate $100,000 a Month from a Brand New Blog”. Instead of giving his readers a step-by-step list of things to do when starting a blog, Neil decided to take things into his own hands.
Our favourite marketing madman gave himself 1 year to build a blog with $100,000 in monthly revenue. Because his readers wanted him to build a company in a space he had no prior ties to, Neil Patel started a nutrition blog.
This is going to be a lengthy section, so buckle in and put on your safety goggles.
Statistics from one of Neil's Facebook Ads.
"It’s not my name that gives me the advantage—it’s my experience. I’m probably better than most marketers are at building links, running social media campaigns, and writing content."
May 2015 - July 2015
One example of a Facebook co-promotion.
August 2015 - September 2015
"I’m not a patient person, but SEO takes time, and there isn’t much you can do about it. It doesn’t matter how much content you write or how many links you build, search engines don’t just open the floodgates to your site."
Neil and Mike used Buzzsumo to find influencers to share their content.
October 2015 - December 2015
Nutrition Secrets' Amazon product page.
Nutrition Secrets' new bottle design.
January 2016 - February 2016
Nutrition Secrets' sales for January.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it’ll be easy to do the same thing. Neil definitely has an advantage when it comes to his marketing experimentation because of the considerable resources available to him. But it doesn’t mean you can’t apply the strategies he employs at least in some part to your own business. There’s a few, so let’s go through them quickly.
To keep costs low when first growing your blog, try creative methods of advertising. If you have an English blog, don’t be afraid to target other English-speaking countries with a lower PPC.
Partner up with other growing blogs or brands in your industry to accelerate the growth of your business. This is a great way to create connections in your industry, and reach new, high-quality customers with interests related to your business. Consider writing or featuring guest posts, or even running contests to leverage a strong partnership.
SEO is a huge traffic driver, and you should always keep it in mind when considering all things blog-related: URL, content, backlinks… it all affects your search ranking, and having a strong ranking for keywords related to your business or product is imperative when trying to reach your target audience.
Use tools like Buzzsumo to find the content that's trending in your industry, as well as who’s sharing it. Look for opportunities to connect with social media influencers, and reach out to them with content you think they’ll find interesting. If they find it valuable, they’ll share it with their followers - another great way to reach new people in your target market.
Finally, make sure you’re constantly growing your mailing list - the people in it make up a reliable audience who are likely to be receptive to content or products you release in the future. If your goal is to get people to buy a product you’re selling, having leads from your mailing list gives you the opportunity to nurture them with email marketing automation drip campaigns.
Showing Off for Science
The Spend: $2.1 million
The Focus: Creating business through lifestyle marketing
If you haven’t noticed yet, Neil Patel has money.
Like, a lot of money.
That’s why I’m really not all that surprised he spent nearly two million dollars “testing and analyzing lifestyle marketing”.
To be honest, that just sounds like a good excuse to ball out and spend a ton of money. But if you got it, flaunt it, right?
If you’re active on Instagram, I’m almost certain you’ve seen lifestyle marketing in action. The guy I referenced in the first section, Dan Bilzerian, is a prime example of it. Neil refers to lifestyle marketing as people “telling the world about their fancy lives”.
I’d say this is one way to think about it, but lifestyle marketing can also refer to marketing strategies employed by companies like Red Bull, who push an “extreme sports” lifestyle in their marketing communications. As far as I’m concerned, lifestyle marketing refers to any marketing strategy that emphasizes any particular lifestyle; it doesn’t necessarily need to be an extravagant one, though that does help when trying to draw people in.
Neil has, er, “tested” lifestyle marketing in a few distinct ways he’s discussed on his blog…
- Real estate
Let's get into it.
The fashion-upgraded Neil Patel.
Neil with his "flashy" (and ultimately ineffective) Breguet watch.
Neil's home hotel, the Hyatt at Olive 8.
Neil's humble abode.
"I didn’t know who they were or what they did. I just found it odd that they were walking around in small packs. One of them walked up to me and told me I had “swag.” I wasn’t very familiar with the term “swag,” but I took it as a compliment."
"After chatting for an hour, we traded contact information, and within a month I signed a contract with his company…all because he spotted my watch across the room and saw it as a sign of me being a successful entrepreneur."
"From a business standpoint, living in a building full of entrepreneurs has been rewarding. Assuming you enjoy networking and you know how to leverage connections, it can help you make more money."
Sometimes, you need to spend money to make it. Neil Patel’s foray into lifestyle marketing is proof of this: even though he spent upwards of two million dollars, he made back nearly $3.4 million in the deals generated through his experiments.
As far as lifestyle marketing itself goes… I think it’s clear to see that it’s really not for everyone. Neil claims in response to some more sceptical comments (from people with less money than Neil) that it can be done on a smaller scale. In my opinion, the kind of lifestyle marketing Neil utilizes is reliant on its grand scale. The man Neil met in the restaurant likely wouldn’t have batted an eye at any watch worth less than his Patek, let alone invited Neil to join him.
That being said, it’s important to try and build the image you want to portray to potential business partners or clients. There’s no doubt - especially after reading Neil’s Ferrari story - that just the appearance of success is appealing to other people. In this case, it’s okay to fake it until you make it, as long as you’ve got the chops to back it up.
As far as your business goes, consider (more tame) lifestyle marketing to sell your brand to your target audience. Be more than your product - think about the life your customers want to lead and do everything you can to associate your brand with that life. You’ll find it’s much easier to connect with your consumers and strengthen the connection they have with your brand.
Pretty crazy stuff, huh?
I once had an Economics professor whose motto was "assume nothing"... and I guess Neil Patel's is "test everything". After all, this marketing mad scientist has built a brand out of it.
So if there's one thing you take away from this article today, it's that.
Assume nothing, test everything.
You don't need Neil Patel money to push marketing boundaries. Just remember that in the world of marketing, nothing is too crazy.
As long as you test it, of course.
So what do you think? Has Neil Patel gone off the marketing deep end? Or is he just the right amount of nuts? Let me know in the comments below!
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to help me share it with Neil!
- 24 Amazing Facebook Giveaway Examples
- Facebook Landing Pages: 38 Ideas, Tips and Examples
- 5 Facebook Landing Page Template Examples Critiqued
- The 2017 Guide to Instagram Contest Rules
- Social Media Marketing Plan: An 11-Step Template
- 10 Terrific Instagram Tools for Business
- 25 Awesome Ideas for Giveaways on Facebook
- 25 Sure-Fire Facebook Contest Ideas
- 30 Amazing Examples of Branded Facebook Contests Done Right
Wishpond's Facebook Contest Apps make it easy to create sweepstakes, photo contests, Instagram hashtag contests & more.