Neil Patel’s Secret to Growth Hacking? Don’t Listen to Opinions

October 7, 2014

2:48 pm

Do you have a great idea? Check. How about a product to go along with that? Check. Okay, well, how many users do you have? Yeah, that’s what I thought…

When it comes to building a startup, it doesn’t matter whether you have a great idea or whether you’ve got a product with some great potential. A startup is – by definition – a new business, and with every new business, its success is dependent on how many users you actually have and the rate at which you gain new customers. This morning, we had Neil Patel – the cofounder and vice president of marketing for the customer analytics platform KISSmetrics – join us on stage at Tech Cocktail Celebrate to talk about how to build your customer base.

As a startup, it’s important that you not lose sight of your primary objective: to survive, and hopefully succeed. This survival, of course, is dependent on the number of people who are actually using and appreciating your product on a daily basis. Are people visiting your site? Are people engaging in your app? Are you actually getting users to sign up for your services? If not, then you’re screwed.

Patel isn’t a stranger to failure. When he was a teenager living in the poorer section of Orange County, California, he had aspirations to become a rich dude. After learning how much money Monster.com was making, he created a similar site called Advice Monkey with the goal of also making millions of dollars; however, he soon realized that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

“I set up a similar website [to Monster.com] and I expected to be making at least a fraction of Monster,” said Patel. “I expected people to automatically visit the site, but it was clear that I wasn’t good at driving money. And then I was like, ‘No shit you’re not going to make money when you’re not letting people know it exists.'”

Since then, Patel has managed to learn a lot more about building a customer base. And his secret? Just look at the data, and growth hack from there. Don’t listen to the opinions or advice others are telling you; rather, really look to the data that you have and see where opportunities lie.

“I’m a big believer of big data: if you want to grow, base all your decisions on the data over opinions. When you analyze the data, you will eventually grow your business,” said Patel. “What I do is go for the lowest-hanging fruit first – where are the clogged arteries? What’s causing things not to grow? Then from there, I’ll move on to figuring out what will make the biggest impact and what’s the easiest thing for me to do.”

For nascent companies looking to build their user base, Patel recommends that startups pick the first and best channel they think will work for them, focus on that primary channel, grow it, and then move into other channels. He thinks that pursuing multiple marketing channels at one time is a flawed approach and involves a lot more work than a startup is capable of.

On October 6-7, Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference is gathering hundreds of attendees, industry leaders, and inspiring speakers in downtown Vegas to meet the hottest startups and investors from around the country, learn and collaborate with others turning their communities into startup cities, and enjoy music, parties, and llama spotting. Check out more Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference coverage here.

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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