Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. He is also the co-founder of CrazyEgg, and writes a popular blog at Quick Sprout.
→ How KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg help businesses track and analyze customer data
→ Techniques for increasing traffic to websites, including optimizing social media, fixing site issues, and cross-promoting properties
→ The role of growth hacking in product and marketing
→ The importance of understanding customer behavior and using data to make informed decisions
→ Tips for growing a startup, including hiring the right people, focusing on the right metrics, and finding a unique value proposition
→ The challenges and opportunities presented by the shift to mobile and the importance of mobile optimization
→ The value of networking and building relationships in the business world
→ The future of marketing and the potential for machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance personalization and targeting
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Neil Patel with us. Neil, thanks for being on the program.
Neil: Thank you for having me.
Bronson: Absolutely. Now, you’re a man that doesn’t really need any introduction within the growth community. But go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself. What are your current projects and what are you most known for?
Neil: Sure. Serial entrepreneur had a ton of failures that some that did. All right. Right now, I’m focusing all my time on KISSmetrics, which is a customer analytics platform, and we help you track people. So in other words, I could use Google Analytics and I will tell you what happened to your site. KISSmetrics will show you who did it. And by doing that, you can end up getting metrics like lapped up by the customer churn rate, true conversion rates, and you can figure out what’s causing those metrics to go up into the right or down to the right. That way you can maximize your business. And then before KISSmetrics, I started another analytics company called Crazy Egg, which is a heatmap usability company, helps you figure out what makes things usable and better and unusable and so forth, along with design elements. And before that I did that Internet marketing.
Bronson: It’s perfect. And I think we’ll get to kind of later stuff in just a moment. But let’s talk about the Internet Marketing Agency, maybe first, because you’ve had some crazy successes with that. You’re known for dramatically increasing traffic to some really well-known websites. TechCrunch They hired you to do some work for them, and you were able to, I think, helped them increase traffic by 30% for some period of time there. GM You helped them go up 300% over, I think a six month period. I want this, in your view, to provide as much value as humanly possible to our viewers. So I want to dig in a little bit to how how do you get those kind of numbers? Because these aren’t sites that were already optimized. These weren’t sites that were doing everything wrong. These are well known sites ran by tech people. And yet you came in with your crew and were able just to drive growth in some pretty remarkable ways. So when you come in to a new client, right, day one, they hire you. You feel like they’re a good fit for you and vice versa. You decide to take them on. What do you do on day one when you show up at TechCrunch? What happens?
Neil: Yeah, it varies site by site, but let’s use TechCrunch for example. So what we do is you find out what’s causing them to get more traffic and users and what’s not. And then we started looking for times. Where is it coming from? So one of the things was we noticed that a lot of their traffic was coming from social sites. Then by tracking certain elements that we’re like, All right, what social sites are they pushing on their sites? They have a ton of social media at the time, but what are users clicking on? Well, all right. Here’s what we’re driving. The users are clicking on all these other ones, like New Vine or whatever. Maybe they’re not very traffic, right? Back then, some of those sites were popular. So like, let’s remove those and let’s focus on the ones that actually cause traffic and not just traffic, but repeat users. So doing things like that helped us consistently grow. TechCrunch is like, All right, we’re getting more search and a lot of search stuff, but why are we getting more search traffic? So we’re figuring out, Oh, there’s issues with the site, a lot of duplicate content and stuff like that. So we started fixing all those kind of things and then we started using their properties across from running, Oh, you have X users on Crunchbase and X is on TechCrunch and X is our crunch gear. Mm hmm. Why not cross-promote and have some of those sites help users to TechCrunch and TechCrunch to vice versa? Right. So doing a lot of those tactics really helped us grow.
Bronson: Yeah. And what’s interesting is you say that is it doesn’t sound as complicated as what I expect it to be honest. I was expecting like crazy, like unknown SEO magic and instead it’s looking at the kind of playing field coming up with a wise, almost obvious strategy and then just implementing it. I mean, is that fair to say?
Bronson: Is that the way a lot of growth is, is just someone taking the time to figure it out? But it’s not that hard sometimes.
Neil: I would say that’s how it is, because most people don’t realize that growth isn’t going wrong. It is hard to grow right. Sometimes it’s not like simple as a, you know, give me more users or whatever it may be and you end up getting to your site. But the thing is, is like it’s a common thing that people don’t look at, such as like with crazy. I remember back in the day we were doing something in which and said, All right, we want new users. Well, we have a free trial. How many users are actually part of the trial? Like, how many are actually canceling? Mm hmm. So we would start doing things like. Saying, Why are they counseling? How can we solve that? Here are all these that are saying, how can we get more of these? Well, maybe they know some of maybe we can get them to tweet about it and be further friends, all those kind of thing. Hey, there’s other platforms out there like hosting companies. Maybe we can integrate with them and try to get some of their user bases over to arms because they only have millions of customers. Right. Who’s just trying to figure out unique ways to grow? Some of it’s related to product, some of it’s related to marketing, some of this related to business development. You just got to get creative and is the creative part where people get stuck on this not complicated stuff that’s just yet to be created?
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And let me ask you this, because if you go into a company like TechCrunch and you see that there’s still a lot of growth potential, but if they had you come back today, you’ve already optimized, you’ve already done what you need to do. When do you know you’ve reached kind of a plateau, like, look, we’ve done all we can do. We’re done here. Is it just is there always room to go? 10% more if you’re willing to be that much more creative and put in that much more time? Or is there kind of a ceiling to this stuff eventually?
Neil: There is. There usually is more room to get creative. It’s just harder and harder to find those ways to get 10% more. You can either stop or sometimes you may have a dry spell for a long time and then be able to come up with some new ideas. Like with KISSmetrics, even though like we know a lot about HIV testing, we have a B testing in our product. We went a few months without a B testing on our main site. It was just like, we don’t have the time, we don’t have the resources. Me and my co-founder were like trying to come up with some more ideas and we’re like, There’s other areas that we can impact more. So what we did is we took a three plus month break. Now we’re back at it. And then, ah, we had some failed tests, but within a two month period of time, our first test, you said sign up conversion rates on our homepage by 30 something percent. And our second test that did well didn’t have like a 40 plus percent increase on top of the previous months. And so it’s compounding at that point. Yeah, but sometimes you just got to give it a break and then come back. I get a lot of my inspiration from is just talking to other entrepreneurs and seeing what they’re doing. And sometimes they’ll tell you about something random and you’re like, Oh crap, if I implement it on my product, even though it has nothing to do and tweak this strategy, I wonder if I can get better results.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s exactly why I’m doing these interviews. Because I want people to come here and learn from all these different people and just cross-pollinate, figure out what’s working. It might apply, it might not. But the exchange of ideas is so powerful because so much of it really is creativity. And just having someone spark an idea in you that you just wouldn’t have thought of in your own world. So I really like that. Let me ask you this. When you go in and you do those consulting gigs, are there any tools that are just kind of always in your tool bag? Are there any like apps that you use habitually? Any plug ins use habitually? Like what is in your kind of tool chest that you can share and say, Look, I get this, I use that, I use that, and I use those all the time. Is there anything like that or is it just always random? Every job?
Neil: It’s random that I don’t have like a tool belt where I just say use this and that. But it varies a lot.
Bronson: Yeah. Go back to the creativity part, right.
Neil: Yeah. A lot of stuff is custom and with good engineers and product people. Right. You can then gain a lot of that custom stuff implemented.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned already that you are involved in a couple of products, well-known analytic products. Let’s start with Crazy Red. You told us briefly it’s a heat map, but there’s other heat map products. I mean, that’s not the exciting part. Only of crazy. So tell us more. What does crazy really do that’s exciting and who should be using it if they’re not already?
Neil: Sure. So anyone who is trying to improve the usability of their website or boost their conversions. Mm hmm. Right. So any marketer or designer entrepreneur. So here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a business and you have a website and you’re selling mortgage or cards online or whatever, let’s say cell phone. So that’s the easy way. Mm hmm. Popping crazy on the site will tell you is clicking where, right? It is not clicking how far the scrolling down on your page are people clicking on things that aren’t links but should be links because then you can kind of figure out if you have all a call to action at the bottom of the page, but you stand up with our scroll heatmap that people don’t scroll too much and it tells you where majority of the people cut off. And you know, you should try putting your call to action higher up like testing all of those things is crazy, is really useful. It can pinpoint each user and show you like break it down by referrer, search and browser. Like any metric you want campaign variables and it can show you all of those people and how they engage differently with other people. So you can see if there’s patterns and if you should show them a different design versus other people. But it just ends up giving you a ton of ideas and ways to improve your design. Right. And we’re really seeing more stuff that which you will soon be able to see key maps on how mobile users so someone’s coming from a tablet or mobile device, it’ll show you how they’re interacting versus other people and stuff and so on.
Bronson: Yeah. So it is fair to say that it’s a little more than just heatmaps the way people sometimes think about them. You’ve really taken it and put it on steroids, right?
Neil: Yeah, that’s correct. It’s quite a bit more than heatmaps, but using apps is an easy way to do that.
Bronson: It’s like it does so much more. There’s so much, you know, kind of under the UN, under the thing there. So after a crazy egg, you co-founded KISSmetrics and you mentioned that earlier. Let’s dove into that a little more. It seems like KISSmetrics is really where you’re putting the lion’s share of your time right now. Is that fair to say?
Neil: Yes, pretty much all my time. So AdBlock and stuff like that for fun. But I pretty much spend all my time on KISSmetrics.
Bronson: So dig into it morally, tell us what it really does under the hood. Who’s using it? Why are they using it? And I know you’ve already told us that it’s more than Google Analytics, but dove into that tell us like made the case for why we need KISSmetrics and Google Analytics just doesn’t cut it.
Neil: So in Google Analytics is a great tool. I use it myself. Good. Alex tells me things like visits, pages, bounce rates, a lot of any metrics. It can tell you things like your lifetime value to customer if you know your lifetime value is 500 bucks. Right. And they make multiple purchases and not just one purchase. So this your subscription stays forever. You can spend more on advertising to get more customers that is profitable even if you lose money in the short run. But you can find out that information on Google Analytics or it can tell you why people are churning and how bad your churn is and what what’s causing it, right? Yeah. It also can show you cohort reports such as, hey, you change this, how do people interact with this new user experience? You know, all the people who came on board after the new design are yeah, after the new design versus all the people who interacted with the old user experience. Right? So it’s like it does things like that. And those metric, unless you’re using a tool like KISSmetrics because it focuses on helping you improve your bottom line, we take out the vanity metrics, the saying, if you want them, go use Google. If you want to track the numbers that really help you boost your bottom line, right? Then use this metrics like if you want to end up predicting what’s going to cause a user to cancel before that even cancel is can help you determine that. That way you can figure out how to get them reengaged so that way they don’t cancel your subscription or whatever it may be.
Bronson: Yeah. Now KISSmetrics is really popular in the startup community. Do you see a lot of bigger brands, you know, more established businesses using KISSmetrics also?
Neil: That is actually the majority of our customer is startups. It’s big brands.
Bronson: Now. It’s great. So now here’s something interesting. As the creator of KISSmetrics, tell us about some of the features that are lesser known. What are some things that you just think, man learn people talking about this more. It does this awesome thing that nobody knows about, who cares about. And yet I know it’s the secret sauce that they should be using. Tell us some of those features.
Neil: So I can sum it up in one feature. This is my favorite feature of a non release. It’s sort of our report. The power to it can slice and dice your data any way you want. So you can say Show me all the people that clicked, share the Twitter and then ended up coming back to this and then ended up purchasing after they’re right. Like you can end up seeing all of those things and slice and dice it. Show me all the people within this customer segment that are about to cancel and have used the product and logged in within the last week. So they’re about to cancel because they’re not doing something that the system automatically detects causes long term engagement, but it’s they’re still active customers, right? So it can like slice and dice your data in any way you imagine. You can ask almost any question and it can spit out the answer for it. Right. A lot of computing power there and a lot of costs on our end for that feature. But that’s what actually helps businesses grow their bottom line. You know, you can imagine anything like show me all the people who added something to their cart and we had their email address and they didn’t complete it. And they came back to the website and they looked at the same item again. They looked at their car and they still don’t complete it, even though we eat them right to come back and repurchase and they can use all the people that you emailed and they came back, they still look the part but they didn’t purchase and then, you know, like, hey, we’re not going to get it back. Maybe we should email the coupon code or something, right? Like you can slice and dice it or whatever you want to make it actionable so you can make more money.
Bronson: Yeah. So why don’t people know about it or use it more or talk about it? Is it just buried? Or like, what’s the deal?
Neil: It’s not varied. I have no clue. I need to be really happy. But we’re working on solving the problem.
Bronson: All right. Well, hopefully people watch this interview and they’ll go use that feature, especially if I mean, if you’re promoting the feature, they know it’s got to be good. Hopefully they’ll start using it once I see this. Let me ask you this. What features are on the horizon? What do you want to implement? That’s just not quite there yet. But, you know, it’s going to be so good once you get that in place, anything you can reveal or is it all top secret?
Neil: We don’t reveal much. We are reviewing releasing a new app. We already have a KISSmetrics app, but this is a new app called My Analytics. It actually takes your Google Analytics data, pass it on your phone, makes it really usable and actually makes it more actionable and change how you actually look at your Google Analytics reports on a daily basis.
Bronson: Yeah, let me know when it’s out so I can use it.
Neil: If you tell me, I can email you a link and you can use it on your iPhone.
Bronson: That’s perfect. I’ll do that. So let’s now talk about the marketing of KISSmetrics itself. It helps so many other companies market, but at the same time it’s a product itself. It has to be marketed, right? So it’s kind of a meta here for a second. So let’s go into the meta. What channels have been most successful in growing? The user base of KISSmetrics are using pay per click. Are you blogging doing inbound stuff? Like what are you actually doing to grow the platform?
Neil: All in all.
Neil: It no paid all inbound social media, content marketing, SEO, all inbound.
Bronson: All right. Talk to us about inbound, because I think you might be the master of inbound marketing if there ever was one. I look at a quick sprout. I look at the blog for KISSmetrics. I mean, these are industry standard. You know, this is what gold looks like if you’re trying to inbound marketing. What do you know about inbound marketing you can share with us to just help us level up it.
Neil: It’s all about writing the. Really, really, really good content. That’s all it is and better content than most people are writing. If you can do that, you’ll kill it.
Bronson: Good content. Are you hiring people or are you just spinning insane amounts of time yourself? Because good content’s hard, there’s no shortcut to good content. How are you getting it?
Neil: A bit of both. So we first started with us blogging and we’re just blog, really detailed. Blog posts are like 2000 words that break down specific tactics, tips and information. And people like, Oh shit, this is so good. Who are these guys? And they’re like, Oh, it’s KISSmetrics. Keep reading their content. Well, let’s check out what they do. Because if they’re comments this good, I wonder how good their product is. That’s our motto with inbound marketing. And then from there, we try to get writers and a lot of people submit to do guest post, but it’s hard to find really good writers as well. And we have to even after we get writers submitting content, we have to edit a lot of it, a lot of their stuff, bring it up to our standards and then publish.
Bronson: Yeah, do yeah. Full time people writing for you or is it all guest post? How does it break down the actual logistics of it?
Neil: So I write sometimes my business partner, right? Sometimes we have a few guys internally that write that are part of marketing or product and stuff like that. And then we have one person, Sean, who’s awesome, he manages the blogging is he’s helped make it what it is today.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Are there any other channels that you think you will explore in the future? I mean, inbound works and you love socials, love inbound. Do you think they’ll come a point where you’re like, all right, let me just dump a bunch of money into ads and see what happens? Or is that just, like, not your ethos?
Neil: No. We’ve even tested ads and they actually work and it’s profitable. But we already get enough leads inbound that we don’t have enough sales reps to handle the leads. So what’s the point of spending money on advertising when you already have enough police coming in?
Bronson: Yeah. Now we’re all jealous of you because that’s a problem we all wish we had that our team can’t handle the influx of inbound leads. That’s great. So maybe in the future you’ll grow the team and then do a little bit of both. Possibly. All right, let’s let’s talk about you for a moment. Right. I’ll give you a chance to kind of give back to the community for a second here. You’ve obviously had a lot of success in the products you’ve created. Like you said at the beginning, you failed a lot, but you failed a lot and eventually succeeded a good amount as well. What were some of the pivotal or maybe the most pivotal learning experience in your life that allowed you to understand growth at the depth that you do? What was the experience that just light bulbs went off and it put you on the right path to kind of get it?
Neil: There really was no path or anything. It was just all from learn how to execute really fast, move our products, use data to learn from your experiences and keep iterating. That’s all it’s like. There’s just a lot of hard work and iterations and making decisions based off the data versus using my gut.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. What’s the best advice you can give to somebody watching this interview? They want to understand startup growth. What do you tell them to do? What’s advice for them?
Neil: If you’re not tracking your data and you don’t understand what’s causing users to sign up for churn or any of that, it’s going to be hard to tell. It’s like driving a car with a blindfold on, right? You may know how to drive, but if you don’t, if you can’t look and see and have the visibility, how you know where to go. It’s the same thing with growing your business if you don’t have visibility. Analytics doesn’t have because metrics use whatever you want. Just use something to help you understand what’s causing you to get customers versus what’s causing you to lose customers and all that kind of stuff so that you can go out there and maximize your revenue and your growth.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned, you know, whatever you use, whether it’s KISSmetrics or not. Let me bring up one other company, Mixpanel, right. A lot of people use a Mixpanel. Let me give you a moment to kind of differentiate yourself. What do they do? What do you do? Should companies use bows? Should they pick one? How do you see that landscape? Because I’m sure you see it probably better than most.
Neil: Yeah. So they’re going heavily after the mobile crowd. We work well with mobile as well. Like they’ll do like a lot of mobile apps, social games, stuff like that. So they’re in like like social gaming space. A majority of our customer base is software as a service and e-commerce by far. So it’s kind of like because we’re also freemium, we’re not freemium. We’re trying to go upstream. Think of it this way. I see them as like they could be like a Dropbox going for that low end customer and just getting a ton of them right. Not a bad company. It’s great. We’re trying to be more like the box on that and go after the big companies with big budgets. Neither models are bad. Both of those companies are successful. Both of them are valued over $1,000,000,000. Right. And I think Mixpanel apps are valued at a billion right now, but we’re in a great space is very early. It doesn’t matter who you pick. Just go out there and try to improve your business, that’s all. That’s not the goal of this.
Bronson: No, that’s great. And it seems like you like those high margins, fewer customer kinds of businesses with your consulting. That’s what you did. You weren’t the CEO guy that you worked with 100 companies a year. You work with a couple companies a year. Same thing with KISSmetrics. You’re okay with less users with a higher margin? Well, you said that both models work and are good, but you. You gravitate towards this one? Why is that? Why do you like this model?
Neil: I just know it better. So you tend to gravitate towards things that you know better and you’re better at executing it. I suck at executing at the model. Give me 200,000 customers. It’s just not in my DNA. So I try to fight it. I really love the enterprise, big customers, big contract type of businesses. So when I go for that.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Last question. What resources can you recommend to us? Are there certain books that have been pivotal blogs that you look at besides your own obviously podcast? What should someone who wants to imitate you and learn from the same kind of sources that you’re learning from? What content are you consuming?
Neil: My blog blogger, KISSmetrics. My personal blog and blog that are Volcom, the crazy blog for a lot of conversion data. So blog that crazy econ schemas dot org has a great blog. Search Engine Land has a great blog on just internet marketing. Let’s see. Eric Reece has a great blog, leads a lot of development stuff is actually how you actually grow product and customer base. It’s not all marketing and just acquiring customers. A lot of it actually has to do with product, but having an MVP philosophy is great. Startup Marketing by Sean Ellis is another good blog, so just check out those resources to start off with.
Bronson: Yeah, those are great resources. Well, Neal, this has been an incredible interview. We’re so grateful that you took a few moments out of your busy schedule to come and just share your immense knowledge with our community. So thank you so much, Neil.
Neil: Sounds good. Take care and have a good time.
Bronson: You too.
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