Dr. Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, founder of inspiredinsider.com. I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders like founders of P90X, Baby Einstein, Atari, many more. How they overcome big challenges in life and business. After reading one of your blog posts, Neil, I realized that intro is like the halo effect that you talk about on one of your blog post. This is part of the Skubana E-Commerce Mastery Series where top sellers and experts teach you what really works to boost your e-commerce business. Skubana is a software platform that manage your entire e-commerce operation. Today, we have Neil Patel, he’s co-founder of Hello Bar, KISSmetrics, and CrazyEgg that helped over 50,000 companies grow their business. He helped companies like Amazon, NBC and Viacom grow their revenue. He runs a popular site, QuickSprout. And the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Entrepreneur magazine call him a top influencer on the web. Neil, thanks for joining me.Neil: No problem. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Weisz: It’s been two years. In two years, the real question is what made you decide to shave your head? Last time, you had hair and a mustache.
Neil: Mustache probably meant that I didn’t shave in a while because I would have scruffs. Looks like I grown a mustache, but I typically shave at least once or twice a week. As for the head, I was going bald.
Dr. Weisz: So am I. So I have to decide when do I shave my head?
Neil: Hey, you still look good. For me, it was more so that I was going bald, and I used to part my hair. So when I was parting my hair, it didn’t work out because the part’s in the front and there was no hair in there. So this is like parting the middle and then the rest and I was like, “Ah, forget this.”
Dr. Weisz: I want you to incorporate a blog post on how content marketing and you shaving your head or something like that. I was watching an interview with you in an e-commerce event in Romania. What were you doing in Romania and what’d you learned there?
Neil: I was at a conference there. I was teaching the Romanian audience how to grow their businesses through content marketing and just general marketing. For me, I speak all around the world, and it’s fun to get us meet different people in different countries. You get to understand different cultures, and that allows me to figure out how I should also be marketing my businesses internationally because 51% of our revenue comes from international audiences. So I like traveling to make sure that I know how different cultures are.
Dr. Weisz: What did you find resonated with your message with that international audience when you’re talking to people, mingling?
Neil: The one thing that I really found that they could really understand was with forms of marketing, especially internationally, they’re not as up to date on content marketing or social media marketing or CRO, a lot of the tactics we use here in the U.S., especially e-commerce businesses. They’re probably all over the world. So what they try to do is they try to find quick hacks instead of making a long-term like, “Oh, our audience isn’t used to this. So what could we get away with really quickly.” [inaudible 00:03:14] ROI versus, “Hey, what should we do that’s best for them,” and thinking what a long-term. They’re getting there. They’re just not there fully yet.
Dr. Weisz: So what do you recommend? Obviously, you take a long-term approach.
Neil: You always have to take the long-term approach because consumers are savvy. I don’t care where you’re on the world. Eventually, they’ll catch up. You should always do what’s best for them. I believe in the Warren Buffett philosophy, “Do what’s best for your brand, even if it doesn’t make you as much.”
Dr. Weisz: What are the most common questions you get with e-commerce founders?
Neil: The common question I end up getting with e-commerce founders is, “Hey, how do I end up generating more traffic when I can’t do things like content marketing or social media marketing because it’s not sexy with our e-commerce business?” That’s not always true. You can do some of those things. But where e-commerce companies tend to lack is they don’t focus enough on link building. You can still do a ton of manual outreach, which works. They do a lot of broken link building. That, again, still works. They don’t focus on optimizing their conversions. They focus on more traffic instead of optimizing conversions. Once you do the conversion part, you can now open yourself up to paying way more for paid ads. Paid advertising always goes up over time. So if your conversion rate stays the same, it’s not economical. But if you can increase your conversion rate to double, you can spend, in theory, double on paid ads.
Dr. Weisz: About the conversion rate, I want to talk about traffic for a second. But before I do, I reach out to a couple of e-commerce professionals and want to know what do you want and know from Neil. What’s top of mind? So they give me a few questions. One was what recommendations or tools would you use to lower the cart abandonment rate for an e-commerce website?
Neil: I would do a two-step checkout. There’s a company called Rejoiner. They do some [inaudible 00:05:04] as well. But I also do two-step checkouts in which usually if you ask for name and e-mail first and then check out on next page, you get more conversions. Also look [inaudible 00:05:13] called Rejoiner which usually helps conversion rates for abandonment for e-commerce companies.
Dr. Weisz: Thanks for that, Neil. I figured you have some good solutions for that. Obviously, Q4 is here. So another big question when I reached out is if you had a piece of advice to tell an online seller in regards to taking full advantage of Q4 and the potential profit increase for their business, what would it be? What advice do you have?
Neil: Focus on conversions. You’re going to get a ton of buyers. Focus on conversions because if you can increase it, it will allow you to do things like spend more on ads and capture more of the Q4 audience or maybe, you may be able to even do things like free shipping. Free shipping, even though you don’t make as much, it’s the number one conversion driver that we’ve seen for e-commerce companies.
Dr. Weisz: What is number two, three, four or a hundred?
Neil: Then it gets into product images that we see that have a big impact. Reviews have a huge impact, assuming they’re legitimate, not like your friends going and leaving a ton of reviews. And the ability to sort by the reviews, good, bad, like what are people talking about, the one’s people find the most valuable. We also find options. Will giving too many options in the e-commerce world really hurt? Upsells and downsells on the checkout process, we found that actually help improve your average order value.
Dr. Weisz: What are the biggest mistakes people are making when you go and, obviously you get called in to consult with a lot of businesses too. What are the mistakes that you see right off the bat that people are making?
Neil: They just copy other players and they usually copy the larger players like Amazon. What works for Amazon will not work for you. Amazon has very strong brand loyalty. Amazon’s been around for years. They don’t have the issues of people not trusting them or credit card fraud or some things can get stolen. They’re in a whole different ball park, so don’t try to copy them. You got to look at people in your space, what they’re doing. You got to survey your audience, find out what they like, don’t like, and make changes from there. But don’t just copy someone else just because of their success or even in the same space. What works for your competition may not work for you.
Dr. Weisz: That’s a really good point because you want to do what works. What do you see people copying that, at first glance, that would seem like it’d work but doesn’t when you copy Amazon?
Neil: Like, “Oh, Amazon uses these orange checkout buttons. It must work.” Well, if all the colors in your design are orange and you had orange checkout buttons, it’s not going to work. Really depends on your website and how it looks.
Dr. Weisz: That’s a good point. One of the things people commented on from that interview, in the Romania interview is you talked about the traffic conversion. You were talking about to focus on traffic first, and one of the questions people were asking below is how do you acquire massive traffic if you are just starting out? What recommendations do you have for that?
Neil: No matter what kind of site you are, e-commerce, services-oriented business, you can always have a blog. For example, if your e-commerce company sells cables for TVs, you can talk about how to improve your TV’s picture quality without upgrading your TV. You can create a lot of interesting articles that could benefit potential buyers. It doesn’t even matter if you’re pitching your own parts or services. You’re just writing content that’s useful for people interested in products or services in your space. Doesn’t matter if they buy from you. When you write articles like that, naturally you’ll link out to other people. When you link out to other people, you can e-mail every single one of those people and say, “Hey, John. I just want to let you know, you have amazing content. It’s so amazing, that I even linked out to you from my last post. Let me know what you think. Cheers, Neil.” And then I would add a P.S. at the end, “P.S. If you like my content, feel free to share it. It wouldn’t just make my day, it would make my decade.” I know it’s kind of corny.
Dr. Weisz: I like it.
Neil: So things like that help you get more traffic. Another thing you can do is you go to Twitter, you look at all the people who have tweeted similar content because there’s a search feature on there, and then a lot of those people have bios. In their bios, they’re linked to their website. You could end up going to their website, getting their e-mail address, e-mailing them saying, “Hey, John. I noticed that you tweeted this article,” and then put the author’s name or by XYZ author, “last week. I actually have a similar piece of content coming out or much more detailed piece. It’s like a guide or epic piece of content in the space. I think you’ll love it. Let me know if you want to see it before it comes out.” Then when you release it, you send it to him in e-mail, you’d be like, “Here you go, John. Enjoy.” A lot of those people will tweet it out or share.
Dr. Weisz: Love that Neil. So where are you now? I know you’re traveling. I know we talked that you’re in a hotel somewhere. What are you up to today this week?
Neil: I’m in L.A. for meetings. Shitty internet which sucks. I’ll end up going back to Vegas on Friday, which is where I live. And I also spend a lot of time in Seattle, too.
Dr. Weisz: What’s top of mind for you for Quick Sprout or what you want to do or grow because one of the questions I got was, “Neil is the content marketing expert. We want to know where the puck is going for content.”
Neil: There’s nothing changing other than more advanced content, and people are making mistakes right now. They think that the more detailed content you write, the better off you are. It’s, no, it’s the more advanced content you write, the more social shares you’ll typically get because it’s been around for a long time. A simple post, assuming your headlines are simple. If I write a post called, “What is Content Marketing”, much more likely, or “What is E-Commerce”, I’m way more likely to rank for the term e-commerce than if I wrote an advanced guide to e-commerce.
Dr. Weisz: Really?
Neil: Yeah, because the click through rate is so high on those basic terms like, “What is X?”
Dr. Weisz: Love that. I mentioned at the top of the interview about Amazon, NBC, Viacom. What things do you tell Amazon?
Neil: I teach them about CRO. It’s all to do with different division. They have so many products and services. I’ll help them with CRO. I can’t get into what I help them with. One thing I help them with specifically is just pure CRO.
Dr. Weisz: So for that, for the conversion optimization, what should people do that…you said obviously, don’t copy Amazon. What should they be doing that Amazon is doing?
Neil: Don’t ever think about what should you be doing that other people are. It’s more so, “Watch, I’ll give you one.” Amazon doesn’t just make changes, they do a lot of surveying. So they look at their analytics, see where there’s the holes. So that’s one part. And quantitative data only gives you half the piece of the puzzle. The other part is qualitative. So they also do a lot of surveying. Both of those, they get feedback. The feedback helps them determine what they should or shouldn’t be doing. The change is perspective because then you’ll create tests that have a much more likelihood of winning versus just screening a ton of tests that fail.
Dr. Weisz: So there are certain tools or software that people should be thinking about using for that, for surveying or reaching out, that you like?
Neil: Yeah. You can use like SurveyMonkey or Qualaroo. Those two tools work out well.
Dr. Weisz: One of the other things was we talked about some of the big mistakes. What are some challenges that maybe e-commerce, they may be facing down the road that you see because you’ve worked for these big companies? What are some challenges that people should look out for in the future?
Neil: The challenges are out-of-cost are going to go up. It’s going to become more competitive. You’ve got to figure out a way to get free shipping, keep your expenses low and provide more to users, so then that way, you don’t have to spend it all on advertising. Some people say, “All right. We’re going to spend a ton on advertising. Just increase our prices.” You should try to do what’s best for the user because what will happen is word of mouth will kick in and they’ll keep coming back.
Dr. Weisz: So Neil, you prove so much content. Just going through the one that was posted today, “Learn from the best. 12 Lessons from 5 Content marketing case studies.” What does your schedule look like? How do you, I guess your content creation schedule?
Neil: I spend around two to three hours a day, sometimes four or five, blogging. Seven days a week.
Dr. Weisz: How do you decide what’s next? What topic?
Neil: I get [inaudible 00:14:00] in e-mails and people ask me a question. I just pick one, then I write a post.
Dr. Weisz: Really?
Dr. Weisz: One of the remarkable things is it’s not just the content, but it’s the engagement. You’ll have like a hundred comments or 200 comments. So talk to people about, not just creating content but about how to increase the engagement like you do.
Neil: Write in a very passive tone…not passive, a conversational tone. Use the words, you or I. That’s like, “Hey John. How are you doing today? Probably not so well, right? Why? Because you’re reading this article? Just talking about why your e-commerce sales dropped by 50% and what you should be doing next. Well, don’t worry. I actually have a few solutions for you that will help you grow your e-commerce business.” Light, conversational tone. I know it’s not as smooth, but I just came out of it or came up with that right now. What happens is when it’s conversational, people won’t think of it as a lecture, and you’re much more likely to create a conversation through comments, engagement, interaction. Make sure you respond to each of the comments. All those types of things help increase engagement.
Dr. Weisz: What are you excited about lately, that you’re working on with Quick Sprout or other projects?
Neil: CrazyEgg is getting into the AV testing market, excited about that. Hello Bar is growing. Those are the main products I’m working on.
Dr. Weisz: What’s going on with Hello Bar that people should know about?
Neil: It’s a free tool that helps you collect more e-mails and conversions, and you can do offers for your e-commerce business like free shipping, and you can post messages. It just helps you improve your conversions. Sooner or later, I would say within three months, we’re going to release marketing automation for e-commerce businesses. They’re simple and they’ll be free. And we’ll even give away all the templates that you should be using to maximize sales from coupon templates to getting people to come back and buy more, etc.
Dr. Weisz: There’s so many pages, Neil, on obviously e-commerce sites. You mentioned a few really great tips on conversion like the free shipping and images. What pages should people look at on their site as far as optimizing?
Neil: Product pages. You’re going to usually yield the highest ROI with product pages or checkout pages. Everyone e-commerce business, when I first meet people they’re like, “Let’s test out our homepage.” I’m like, “You can test out your homepage, but if you look at your traffic, the majority of it’s coming from long tail terms going to product pages. Unless you’re a really big e-commerce company, you’re not going to get a ton of traffic to your homepage.
Dr. Weisz: So if you were starting, let’s say a yoga product business today, what would you do? What would you start with and what would be your main focus now and then for increasing sales?
Neil: I would create a blog on yoga products, create a ton of content, go find a lot of Instagram and Facebook influencers who are into yoga. Pay them to post content to beef up the traffic and the branding. Then from there, I would start selling products once I have a big email list.
Dr. Weisz: I know you’ll always have a goal in mind with QuickSprout. What’s the latest goal that you’re striving towards?
Neil: Product release. There’s a content marketing product that we’re going to release to the market, I would say, within three to six months. It should help people boost their traffic on their blog.
Dr. Weisz: Something you can’t mention now until it comes out, I’m assuming?
Neil: That’s right. You [inaudible 00:17:34] on the homepage of QuickSprout.
Dr. Weisz: What other software should people be using to run their e-commerce store?
Neil: If you’re trying to run your e-commerce store, start with something simple, Magento or Shopify. Make sure it’s optimized. You have the SEO plugins if using like Magento. Make sure you’re collecting e-mails. There’s like Hello Bar, Exit Intel, Bounce Exchange, etc. which can help you collect more e-mails. Hello Bar’s great if you’re a small e-commerce company. If you’re big and do hundreds of millions of dollars, something like Bounce Exchange is great as well because they do all the work for you.
Dr. Weisz: Neil, since the Skubana E-Commerce Mastery Series, I always ask what’s been a low moment, business wise? And what’s been a proud moment, business wise?
Neil: Low moment was when I was a kid, I lost over a million dollars on a hosting company, cloud hosting. It wasn’t popular at the time or really out, and now it’s called cloud hosting. A bad team, poor execution which sucked because it was borrowed money, so I had to pay it all back, too.
Dr. Weisz: That is a low moment. Yeah, I can see that being a low moment.
Neil: I was a kid. It was devastating. Happy moment is just helping out businesses and getting e-mails every day saying, “Wow, your content’s amazing. Thank you for the information that’s really helped change XYZ for me.” That makes me happy.
Dr. Weisz: What’s been one that sticks out for you of someone taking your content and really taking action in getting to the next level on their business?
Neil: I would say…
Dr. Weisz: Or maybe it’s a consulting client that you got a lot of results with.
Neil: It’s actually small mom and pop. Scanning the e-mails of people. I had a mom and she was a single mom, had a bed and breakfast somewhere in the boonies [inaudible 00:19:19] nowhere. She didn’t know how to make money. She’s like, “My son has worked at Home Depot to help pay the bills.” I gave her a few tweaks to her website like how to not make people go through 10 pages before they can book a reservation. Simple things maybe to you and I. Her business changed. She only had, I think, 10 or 11 rooms, and now she’s almost always fully occupied. She’s like, “This is amazing. My son now helps me. He doesn’t have to work. He can now go to college and I can support him.” I was like, “Good for you.”
Dr. Weisz: That’s great. I love that. That’s a good point, Neil. It’s simple, but it’s something that even advanced people probably may skip over or not do as far as fundamentals go. What are some also those simple changes that may seem obvious but are a must for people to look at?
Neil: Instead of telling the simple changes, I’m going to teach you how to actually find them on your own.
Dr. Weisz: Go ahead.
Neil: You’re going on your own website, put yourself in the user’s shoes. Or if you can’t do that, go find a company like…what is that? All they do is like you pay for recordings.
Dr. Weisz: Oh, MouseFlow? MouseFlow maybe or no?
Neil: It’s actually a company that gets you…usertesting.com.
Dr. Weisz: Okay.
Neil: UserTesting will go get random people in your niche and have them use your website, and they’ll show you all the bottlenecks. So just have some friends go onto your website or you go onto your website, and just look at it and say like, “What’s hard? What’s confusing or what doesn’t make sense if I was a potential customer?” If you can’t do it, go find someone who could be a potential customer and have them go through your site and ask them what they would like to change, or ask them what’s confusing.
Dr. Weisz: Neil, I appreciate your time. I know you’re like in between conferences, hotels, interviews, so thank you so much. Last question. What’s a typical day for Neil Patel? What’s yesterday look like? What do you do?
Neil: Yesterday? Travel. Airplane.
Dr. Weisz: Like a non-travel day, let’s say.
Neil: Wake up early in the morning, e-mails. I even do e-mails while I’m brushing. I’m like brushing with one hand…
Dr. Weisz: Seriously?
Neil: I still haven’t eaten breakfast. It’s 10:39. I’ve been working too much. Vegas is a bit better. If I’m not traveling, I’m home. Someone’s there to help me with food and packing and whatever daily tasks need to get done. But I just work, e-mails, meetings, blogging, phone calls. That’s really it. It’s blogging, phone calls, meetings, e-mails. That’s all I do.
Dr. Weisz: So what time you wake up? What time you usually go to bed?
Neil: Today, I was up around 6:30. I don’t ever need an alarm. Naturally, I wake up between 6:00 and 6:30. I usually sleep around 11 o’clock, and I’m usually working til I sleep.
Dr. Weisz: Do you do anything for fun? It seems like you’re working all day.
Neil: Work. Network entrepreneurs. That’s really it. Almost all my friends are entrepreneurs as well.
Dr. Weisz: Any interesting events that you’re speaking at or going to the rest of the year and next year?
Neil: There’s one in Lithuania. I forgot the name, but I should know it, I just wasn’t able to pronounce it. I just got a ton of events. I don’t always know which ones are great until I’m there. I usually have the most fun and learn the most when I’m going to international events. You get to see how a lot of the other world works, parts of the world. The U.S. is the same. U.S. is actually different if you’re going from Texas to San Francisco. Outside of San Francisco, and New York, LA, the rest of the U.S. is very similar. But those little hot spots, it’s a bit biased. When you go overseas, it’s like a culture shock. You get to really see how your customers overseas are, their size, what their problems are, etc.
Dr. Weisz: What has changed your perspective? Obviously, it widens your perspective when you go to these international conferences in overseas. What have you brought back in your business here that you wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t done that?
Neil: A lot of them say they won’t spend money on U.S. products unless the currency for the products is not in USD. They want it in their local currency. So things like that, little tweaks really impact sales for international business.
Dr. Weisz: I know you’ve been in a lot of conferences, seminars. What should people think is a must for if you’re in an e-commerce world? What should they attend?
Neil: If you’re in the e-commerce world, what you should attend is not one specific conference or anything like that. You can go to conferences, but actually what I recommend doing is instead of attending a specific conference, start googling for prompts in your e-commerce business. Spend that time and money trying to learn because most information is out there for free. Go and try to hire someone with the extra money, not me but you can go hire a consultant or an engineer for really cheap on oDesk or Elance, and get them to make those changes to your website and see what happens.
Dr. Weisz: So far, great actual tips. What should we leave people with as far as starting to do right now for their business?
Neil: If you’re trying to do something for your business, go start with UserTesting or go find someone that can go through your website and help give you feedback on what you should change or what doesn’t make sense. That’s where you should start off.
Dr. Weisz: Neil, thank you. Go back to your hundreds of e-mails that are now piled up in the past half-hour, and I really appreciate your time. Thanks so much.
“The common question I end up getting with e-commerce founders is, ‘Hey, how do I end up generating more traffic when I can’t do things like content marketing or social media marketing because it’s not sexy with our e-commerce business?’ That’s not always true. You can do some of those things. But where e-commerce companies tend to lack is they don’t focus enough on link building. You can still do a ton of manual outreach, which works. They do a lot of broken link building. That, again, still works. They don’t focus on optimizing their conversions. They focus on more traffic instead of optimizing conversions. Once you do the conversion part, you can now open yourself up to paying way more for paid ads. Paid advertising always goes up over time. So if your conversion rate stays the same, it’s not economical. But if you can increase your conversion rate to double, you can spend, in theory, double on paid ads.” (03:45)
“Focus on conversions. You’re going to get a ton of buyers. Focus on conversions because if you can increase it, it will allow you to do things like spend more on ads and capture more of the Q4 audience or maybe, you may be able to even do things like free shipping. Free shipping, even though you don’t make as much, it’s the number one conversion driver that we’ve seen for e-commerce companies.” (05:41)
“So things like that help you get more traffic. Another thing you can do is you go to Twitter, you look at all the people who have tweeted similar content because there’s a search feature on there, and then a lot of those people have bios. In their bios, they’re linked to their website. You could end up going to their website, getting their e-mail address, e-mailing them saying, ‘Hey, John. I noticed that you tweeted this article,’ and then put the author’s name or by XYZ author, ‘last week. I actually have a similar piece of content coming out or much more detailed piece. It’s like a guide or epic piece of content in the space. I think you’ll love it. Let me know if you want to see it before it comes out.’ Then when you release it, you send it to him in e-mail, you’d be like, ‘Here you go, John. Enjoy.’ A lot of those people will tweet it out or share.” (09:23)
“Don’t ever think about what should you be doing that other people are. It’s more so, ‘Watch, I’ll give you one.’ Amazon doesn’t just make changes, they do a lot of surveying. So they look at their analytics, see where there’s the holes. So that’s one part. And quantitative data only gives you half the piece of the puzzle. The other part is qualitative. So they also do a lot of surveying. Both of those, they get feedback. The feedback helps them determine what they should or shouldn’t be doing. The change is perspective because then you’ll create tests that have a much more likelihood of winning versus just screening a ton of tests that fail.” (12:00)
“Write in a very passive tone…not passive, a conversational tone. Use the words, you or I. That’s like, ‘Hey John. How are you doing today? Probably not so well, right? Why? Because you’re reading this article? Just talking about why your e-commerce sales dropped by 50% and what you should be doing next. Well, don’t worry. I actually have a few solutions for you that will help you grow your e-commerce business.’ Light, conversational tone. I know it’s not as smooth, but I just came out of it or came up with that right now. What happens is when it’s conversational, people won’t think of it as a lecture, and you’re much more likely to create a conversation through comments, engagement, interaction. Make sure you respond to each of the comments. All those types of things help increase engagement.” (14:25)