How Neil Patel Built and Grew His Personal Brand
Today we’re going to be talking about personal branding, which I think is increasingly important. There are a lot of influencers, people on Snapchat, people on Instagram, on YouTube, who are becoming brands with huge followings. Unsurprisingly, a lot of marketers are starting to work with influencers more and more.
But how can you become an influencer and leverage your personal brand at the end of the day?
Becoming a Household Name in Marketing
Neil is a great case study—the Neil Patel brand is huge and nearly a “household name” when it comes to online marketing. That’s because Neil is very focused on building his brand and in fact has made something of a full-time job out of it.
You definitely recognize this guy:
Why does Neil spend more time on personal branding than on branding his websites (although he does that a ton, too)? Let’s do a simple thought experiment: Do you connect more with Coca Cola, or Lebron James, or Kim Kardashian? Chances are, you connect more with an individual than with a corporate brand.
That’s why I believe personal branding is one of the strongest and most important things you could be spending your time, energy and money on as a marketer.
Look at Gary Vaynerchuk, who runs VaynerMedia. He has one of the best-known personal brands of an entrepreneur. He’s active on Snapchat and YouTube and his podcast is everywhere. Like the universe, his brand is continually expanding. If you go to Google Trends, which is a great tool for looking at how big these brands really are, you can see his trendline over time:
The toughest thing is building an audience. It takes a lot of time. A lot of people now are saying, “Well, it might make sense to build that audience first before you even try to sell anything.”
Start Building Your Personal Brand with Social Media
If you want to get started with personal branding, start with your social profiles. When you get a friend request on Facebook, for example, even if you don’t know them, add them. Why? Because when you share something, a personal image, something about your business, something about your hobbies, or whatever it may be—that’s one more person who will be seeing you. And that one person has a large network.
Start off with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Leverage these popular social media sites, share your “day in the life of,” share what you’re doing to learn, or your corporate stuff, or your business stuff, whatever it may be, and grow from there.
Add all your friends that you already know, then cross-promote your social profiles with each other. For example, if you’re on Twitter, tell people to follow you on Facebook. On Facebook, tell people to follow you on Twitter. For Instagram, tell people to follow you on Snapchat and vice versa.
Pair up Snapchat and Instagram together, because they have a similar type of audience. And pair up Twitter and Facebook together, too. When you cross-promote like that, you get more and more fans.
Learn More: The Marketer’s Guide to Snapchat
There are also Twitter tools you can use to automatically follow people within your space or the space you want to be branded in. And when they follow you back, that’s an easy win. If they don’t follow you back, after a few weeks, it removes them. This way, you can grow your Twitter following in an organic manner.
Related Content: 10 Content Marketing Tools that Can Help You Increase Engagement on Twitter
Branding Requires a lot of Patience
When I first started doing my Growth Everywhere podcast, I didn’t have an objective. It was really just a pay-it-forward hobby. Nobody on my radar was talking to entrepreneurs and really diving into marketing tactics that work, or what helped them get their first 100 or 1,000 customers.
Now we’re reaching about 70,000 people per month. It’s only been about two and a half years, and it’s going to get bigger and bigger, as long as I stay consistent with it.
The key is to provide a lot of value to your audience. It’s not just, “Oh I’m gonna post pictures of my food, or this is me partying.” You have to figure out what type of value you can provide to your audience. This is how you build your following in a sustainable manner.
Neil asked one of his buddies, “Hey, out of all the things you’ve done, what has helped you grow your brand more than anything else?” He has a popular blog, he does YouTube videos, he does interviews, he’s been on TV, he’s written a book. His buddy actually told him, “Neil, the number one thing that’s helped grow my brand more than anything else was writing a book.” That’s why Neil wrote Hustle.
Hijack More Traffic with Guest Posts
The other thing Neil does to grow his brand is consistently blog. Not just blogging on his own website, but guest posting on sites like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc., etc. The first time he hit up Forbes, they had no idea who he was, even though he was already pretty well known in the marketing world at the time. So don’t be discouraged—just be persistent with editors.
The easiest way to get an in with one of the editors is to network with some of the guest contributors there. These are people, like Neil, who write on Forbes for free, for fun and to expand their brand awareness.
A cold outreach message Neil has a lot of success with goes something like this:
“Hey Jason, big fan of yours. I love reading your articles on Forbes. I noticed you wrote this article on SEO, but you didn’t mention A, B and C tactic. If you did, I think it would really help your readers or your visitors, etc. Cheers, Neil.”
And that’s it.
Usually Jason will email Neil back and say, “Hey Neil, thanks for the feedback. This was great.” Note that Neil is not asking for anything, he’s just building up a relationship.
After a few days, Neil may follow up with:
“Hey Jason, love this post that you wrote on blogging. I loved it so much that I even shared it on my favorite social sites, Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy, Neil.” That’s it. He’s usually going to respond with, “Thanks.”
Maybe a week later, Neil will follow up with him again. He’ll say:
“Hey Jason, I have a quick question for you. I really love what you’re doing and I want to follow in your footsteps. One of my life goals is to write for sites like Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur. How did you go about writing on Forbes? I can write amazing content for Forbes readers. I don’t know if will be as good as yours, but I would love to take a shot. Any way you can introduce me to the editor there? Cheers, Neil.”
This is actually how Neil got many job opportunities, like the time when someone offered him a $2 million base and commissions of $4 million extra. The guy said, “I was Googling for stuff related to content marketing and I saw your articles all over the web.”
Why? Because he was reading sites like Inc., Entrepreneur and Forbes. Guest posting is huge for brand awareness and visibility.
Some of you might be thinking, “But Neil’s a big brand. He can write for all these sites, no problem. He can write a book, he can do all this crazy stuff.” Here’s the thing, Neil wasn’t always that big. He had to start somewhere, too.
Even if you start by just blogging, it’s going to build up over time. You’re not going to get results immediately because blogging is probably a 12-18 month journey before you get any results. The key, as always, is to be patient and learn delayed gratification.
Leveling Up Your Personal Brand
A couple years ago, I was invited to speak at a local tech event in Santa Monica, and there were 50 people. I had never done any public speaking whatsoever and I was nervous as hell, but you have to start somewhere. You’re going to suck, and that’s okay, but eventually you’re going to start getting invited to more things, you’re going to get more opportunities coming your way.
Neil always talks about the importance of relationships, too. When you’re able to offer tremendous value, people are going to reach out to you. I did a webinar recently, just to my own e-mail list. After the webinar, a company in Brazil reached out to me and said, “Hey, why don’t you come speak to our audience. We’re doing a conference with 2,500 people in Brazil.” So, off I went to Brazil.
Related Content: From 100-1,000 – How Jungle Scout CEO Greg Mercer Acquired Those First Customers with Webinars and Content Marketing [podcast]
Stuff like that will serendipitously start to happen, as long as you keep the wheels churning. But remember, it takes time if you want people to know you as somebody who adds value for the long-term.Too many people give up on branding because it's hard work, but you have to stay persistent. Click To Tweet
As Neil likes to say, it takes years to build up a brand, but it only takes a few minutes to destroy it. So remember:
- Be really careful with what you do and how you brand yourself
- Work at it, and work at it consistently
- Associate with people who already have strong personal brands
Associate with Bigger Brands than Yourself
For example, Kim Kardashian is famous. And anyone around her will eventually also become famous. Neil did the same thing in the tech space. He noticed back in the day, bloggers like Peter Cashmore from Mashable, Michael Arrington from TechCrunch, or Brian O’Malley from Gigaom were commanding huge audiences.
So Neil hit them all up and said, “You know what? I want to help you guys with your SEO and your marketing, and I can get you more traffic. And you know what? I’ll do it all for free. I don’t want a single dollar.” And they were all like, “Really?”
Neil is most fond of his deal with Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch. Neil got Michael more than 30% more traffic (which, as you probably already know, it’s one of Neil’s biggest testimonials).
Once Neil got Michael that traffic, Michael not only helped promote him by linking to him in the sidebar of TechCrunch, he also did an e-mail blast to a lot of his VC friends and venture capitalists who invest in companies. He told them, “Hey, you should have your portfolio companies hire Neil. Look what he did to my traffic. He can do this to your portfolio companies.”
Think about when you were back in grade school, middle school, high school, etc. There was always a cool kid’s table in the lunchroom, right? That’s where most of the traffic flows.
So if you want to be seen at that table and enjoy that type of traffic and have other people who are really popular in your space say wonderful things about you, you need to build up your personal brand and not be afraid to reach out to the rockstars of your industry.
This post was adapted from Marketing School, a 10-minute daily podcast in which Neil Patel and Eric Siu teach you real-life marketing strategies and tactics from their own experience to help you find success in any marketing capacity. Listen to the podcast version of this post below: