There’s no arguing that Neil Patel is a talented marketer.
He has built a marketing content machine with over 2 million views a month, written a New York Times best-selling book, and built a couple of successful SEO companies.
He knows his audience, the ones who want to learn about marketing with little to no experience in the field.
He provides a nice crash-course in the basics, with easy-to-follow how-tos on improving performance on digital marketing channels such as SEO, SEM, social, and email.
He experiments with his personal brand to demonstrate his strategies.
In one scenario, he bought an existing Instagram account, changed the name to @whoisneilpatel, and hosted a giveaway where hired models posted pictures in bikinis holding cash or luxury goods with the #whoisneilpatel to see if he could gain followers.
It worked. And I’m writing about him now — so it worked again.
Yet, the other day, I had a cringe-worthy moment, if it didn’t already set in from the Instagram example. One of my clients that offers a cloud-software solution for Fortune 500 brands told me he wants to run Facebook ads.
“Why, I inquired?”
“Oh, well, I read it on Neil Patel’s Blog.”
“It’s proven…I saw the numbers!”
This conversation is an all too common occurrence — skipping the discussion of who and where are your potential customers and going straight to the channel.
Facebook may be wonderful for selling mattresses that help you sleep cool at night, but it likely won’t get buyers excited about Cybersecurity applications.
But not asking Where’s Waldo isn’t Neil’s fault.
What is, is the fact that he fails to segment his content so that it makes sense for the different types of companies looking for guidance.
He over-generalizes marketing concepts by blending B2B and B2C, companies with $500 in revenue or $100M, 20M followers, or zero.
Understanding and segmenting your audience are critical components to any market strategy. Yet, you also won’t find an article on how to do so on Neil’s blog.
Figuring out how your various channels work together, in light of how customers think and act is also critical. Yet, you won’t find an article that talks about creating multi-channel campaigns on Neil’s blog.
Neil often asserts that you should “start with one channel.” While that might not be bad advice for people trying to grow a personal brand, it’s not good advice for startups and emerging tech companies who are carving out a new market for themselves with plenty of cash flow to disrupt a market.
You need to start somewhere, but boiling an ocean takes a lot more than some social posts, SEO hacks, and catchy email headers.
I can’t entirely blame Neil for his everyone can be a marketer approach. In the age of Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, our personal brands are assets to be pimped out and monetized. There’s no lack of people searching for help on how to do so while Neil is waiting with the answers. And his posts can be quite useful for growing a personal brand, or starting a small business.
But it doesn’t work for everyone. Generic assertions will give generic results.
Having worked internally for B2B tech companies for the last 11 years, consulted dozens of tech startups and had my own B2C eCommerce brand I can tell you that selling air plants on Instagram, ranking #1 on Google for business loans, and growing AI software are not the same.
What most people get wrong is that marketing doesn’t start with an action, a channel, or a tactic.
It takes a strategic mindset that includes both the short-term view of generating revenue and happy customers and the long-term outlook on painting a vision for the future.
It involves knowing how to best convey not just what you do, but what you stand for and how you help people get there. And the best marketers know, you won’t get there from one channel at a time. It makes a lovely nursery rhyme, but no one ever won a marathon from a single training.
If you want to understand marketing or are looking for help growing your business you’re better off finding someone who understands your market and how to create relationships with your audience — not any audience.