How to Be a Successful Marketer if You’re not Super Smart

April 24th, 2015   |    By: Neil Patel    |    Tags: Customer Acquisition

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’m not that smart, and yet I’m a pretty good online marketer. I am actually probably one of the better ones out there.

So, how’s that possible? Well, you don’t have to be smart to be the best marketer. Instead, you need to be creative, execute well, and continue to learn from others.

Here’s the process I used to become a great marketer, and here is how you can follow in my footsteps:

Don’t be afraid to bug people

When I first started out in the world of online marketing, I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know how to edit HTML; I thought MSN was a bigger search engine than Google; and I had no idea where to start.

But the one thing I did know is that there are marketers out there who are already good. Or if they weren’t good, they at least knew something, which is better than nothing (which is how much I knew back then).

What I did was I Googled terms on the web that were competitive in the marketing space. For example, I may Google “seo company” as a lot of the people who rank for those terms are small businesses.


What you want to do is click on the listings of companies that look small, call their numbers, speak with the founders of the businesses, and offer to work for them for free in exchange for knowledge.

You’ll be surprised how many people will take you up on this offer. All you have to do is help them out part-time for a month or so, and you’ll be able to soak up a lot of their knowledge.

Pay to learn

Another thing I did when I started out was I paid a few companies to help me with my website. One of the businesses was Stepforth, and the other was SEO Matrix.

I paid them each a few thousand dollars and soaked up all their knowledge and tactics. Back then, I was mainly trying to learn SEO, but you can do the same for content marketing, social media marketing, paid advertising, etc.

When paying other companies, make sure you are picking those with good reviews and no BBB complaints.

I picked those two companies over 10 years ago because they both used to rank well on Google for competitive terms. To me, that showed that they knew what they were doing.

Network with experts

One of the best things I did when I was younger was attend industry conferences. It was one of my best investments – and still is. From Search Engine Strategies to SMX, there were tons of conferences back then, and there are even more now.

When I was at these events, I did attend the sessions, but that didn’t help me learn much. Instead, I made sure I stayed at the conference hotel and spent as much time at the bar as possible.

Every time I recognized a speaker (most conference sites list their speakers with their photos), I would buy them a beer and food. It was very rare that someone would turn me down.

When buying these experts beers and food, I never really picked their brains or tried learning from them. Instead, I just did some small talk and chatted about anything that was of interest to them.

This helped me build friendships with industry experts. I then traded contact information, and I would follow up after the event and pick their brains from time to time.

This one tactic led me to learn how to build links, how to write sales copy that converts, and how to leverage Reddit. Heck, it even helped me build friendships with a few Reddit power users, and they gladly submitted my content for free.

Learn multiple trades

Marketers specialize in different tasks. For example, some are great at SEO, while others are better at content marketing or conversion optimization.

So I would find experts who were the best at each of those skills.

The way I would learn from them isn’t by just reading their blog content, but by dissecting their own marketing.

For example, Frank Kern is one of the best copywriters I know of. So instead of just hearing him speak at conferences or reading his blog posts, I subscribed to his email list and eventually bought his products. It’s not because I wanted the products, but because I wanted to learn how he is selling.

And by going through his sales funnels, I am able to learn the tactics he is using.

Now imagine doing that with every expert within your space. You’ll end up learning a lot.

For example, Frank indirectly taught me about copywriting. Column Five taught me about infographic marketing. Patrick Gavin from Text Link Ads taught me how to build links. Brian Clark and Darren Rowse taught me how to blog.

If you want to learn from the best, don’t just read their stuff. Analyze how they market to you and others. You’ll learn way more from that than you will from their blog content.

Practice makes perfect

You won’t ever become great by just reading and analyzing other marketing campaigns. You have to put what you are learning into effect.

How do you do this? You start a website, and you market it yourself. When doing so, set goals such as hitting certain traffic numbers each week or each month.

Or you can start off with something even simpler such as writing a blog post once a week.

If you don’t practice on your own site, you won’t learn how to execute fast. The key with this approach is to set timelines.

For example, with my blog, my goal was to reach 100,000 visitors within 12 months. At this pace, I’ll achieve it within 10 months, if not 9. How? Because I keep pushing myself to execute faster and gain more visitors.

My goal this month is to hit 80,000 visitors, and next month – 100,000. Who knows if it will happen, but setting aggressive goals continually pushes me to think of creative ways to grow my traffic.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Experimenting is what will help you sharpen your skills and stand out from the crowd. By doing crazy marketing experiments, not only will you learn more but you will eventually stumble upon some ideas that will revolutionize your marketing.

For example, I’ve experimented with Instagram; I’ve played around with lifestyle marketing; and I even adjusted how I dressed.

And now I’ve been playing around with bus ads, which I should write about soon. In addition, I’ve been toying around with marketing automation a lot.

For example, having you opt in to receive my emails allows me to send you a customized email that tells you that I wrote a letter just for you. But because I don’t have your mailing address, I’ve emailed it to you instead.

So assuming I know your name, I end up adding an image to the email with me holding up an envelope with your name on it (I dynamically add your name to it).


Then in the email, I link you to this letter, which pitches you my services.

If you read the letter but don’t complete the purchase, I follow up with an email that contains the subject line “About Neil Patel.” The sender of the email is one of my co-workers, Nate. He politely mentions the fact that you have read the letter but didn’t complete the transaction and asks you if there is anything wrong.

He mentions that he is my right-hand man and even includes this funny picture of us within the email to try to get you to click on this link.


Don’t be afraid of scummy industries

The marketing world, especially the online one, has a bad name. It’s mainly because of people who sell get-rich-quick schemes or who employ forced continuity.

These marketers who are selling these products or breaking the law in many cases are creative. So I try to dissect everything they are doing and then take their creative marketing tactics and apply them to a legitimate business.

By no means do I recommend that you follow in their footsteps and do anything unethical, but I do recommend that you learn the tactics they use and see if you can leverage them in an ethical way.

I’ve learned a lot over the last year from the diet and brain pills industry as they have some of the most creative marketers I have seen. If only they applied themselves to legitimate businesses! …But that’s a different blog post.

Attend exclusive events

Some of the best marketing knowledge gets passed around at exclusive events. The people who attend these events not only teach you these tactics but they also help you implement them.

For example, I met Frank Kern at War Room, which is probably my favorite marketing event, and he not only taught me about copywriting but he also gave me his copy and said I could use it whenever I wanted.

If you attend normal marketing conferences, you will learn surface-level information and hear pitches to buy products and services. When you attend high-level events, you’ll learn specific marketing tactics that will help you grow your business.

The hardest part about these events is getting in. Even if you have the money to attend (they are expensive), you still have to go through a long interviewing process to get in.


The steps above are how I learned to be a great online marketer. They are so effective that I still leverage them.

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be a good marketer – you just have to be creative and learn how to execute fast. Once you get those two things down, you’ll be dangerous.

About the Author

Neil Patel is the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

About the Author

Neil Patel

Entrepreneur, Influencer, Investor & Advisor

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