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

seo neil patel

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.

seo results

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 to 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).

seo letter

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.

seo nate

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.

How else can you learn to be a successful marketer?


  1. Darin Carter :


    Great article, great points, just all around GREAT, GREAT, GREAT !!!


    • Darin, glad you found the post helpful. Which activity did you find most relatable?

      • Hi Neil Sir,

        Great article…learned something new today. The first one I like the most if you want to learn dont ask for money..!

        • Anil Agarwal :

          Neil, you’re undoubtedly one of the best online marketers who I follow and listen carefully when you say something.

          You know what you talk and you always help people get what they want. Really love your stuff!

      • Hey Neil,

        Again a superb post. I liked your don’t be afraid approach. In fact I analyze many of your marketing skills and getting decent result 🙂 Thanks for that.

  2. Neil,

    This is a great blog post. But I think that the word that the word that include all of this article is “work” harder, faster and better. Evend if you are not a smart marketer you should work harder, faster and better.
    And also, the talking with the specialist is important, but let me ask you something, if you can’t go to the big marketing and social media (if you are from Europe and the big events are always in USA) events where are the big ones, is networking with them on social media is enogh?

    Thank you

    • Robert, definitely. When I first started off I wasn’t able to connect with everyone all the time so social media was a good avenue for me to e-meet people.

    • Hello, Robert. There is also very important to know your customers. Bad targeting is wasting your time and money.

      • But bad targeting is good experience also. Ray Bradbury said: I got my education in library and it was for free 😉

  3. Ayush Sharma :

    This is the kind of blog, I have been waiting for. I have started a website on an aged pr 2 domain. But google is still ranking it for its old keywords in other niche and not the result for my niche.

    Its been around 18 days and over 20+ articles. Should I wait? Also how long should I wait to start reaching out for links?

    Ayush Sharma

  4. Great post! I especially enjoyed the pictures. In fact, when I saw the image in your post on Facebook, I laughed out loud.

    I also really enjoyed your comments about so-called scummy industries. I learned SEO for the gambling niche, both poker and casino, and that’s as good a place to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of white hat and black hat SEO as any.

    As far as not being afraid to bug anyone…I heard an interview with Louis C.K. on NPR this week where he said that he asked out every single girl he went to junior high with, and then he did the same thing in high school He said he just didn’t mind rejection.

    I bet he went out on more dates than most guys.

    That’s the right attitude to take if you’re going to be an online marketer.

    • Randy, it definitely is the right attitude to bring to the table. You’re going to get rejected numerous times before you succeed. Thanks for your feedback and support. Let me know if you need any help with anything.

  5. William Zimmerman :

    Neil, really great column here. I’m looking into attending War Room. Thanks for the heads up! And this article means there is hope for me (haha)!

    Have a great weekend man!

    Bill Z

  6. Great advice Neil,

    Love the part about practice. So many people just take the information in and never execute. They are so afraid of trying failing that instead they just do nothing. The worst that can happen is you have to start over. But this time you will know what not to do.


    • Chris, glad you found it helpful. The road to success is paved with rejection and setbacks — it’s just a natural part of the game.

  7. Another great blog post. More images than normal. I like it.


  8. Tanweer Hasan :

    Thank you for sharing your experience, I’ll try to utilize this but tactic and strategy may differ according to environment , state and country.

  9. It looks like you’ve gotten some new photography done. It’s always good to make moves to step up the quality of your image.

    Keep on rockin’ the free world!

  10. Palash Kumar Daw :

    I can learn by following Neil Patel 🙂

  11. So I’m noticing Neil a lot of style changes. You have ditched the hair, glasses, socks, and startup tshirts.

    For a more GQ look. Is ditching the nerd look part of your new marketing swagbag? Lol

    Great post as well! Love your grind hard style,

    Smell ya later,

    • Deandre, It just works out better for me haha. Thanks for the support and feedback. Let me know if you need help with anything.

  12. Jamie Booker :

    Neil this is why I respect you so much.
    Your modesty and your eagerness to learn, investigate and dissect.

    If more people thought like yourself, SEO and Marketing wouldn’t have such a bad name. I hate the fact that SEO has become full of jargon and gumph that serves only to empty clueless website admins wallets.

    Nowadays you aren’t taken seriously if you speak in plain English because of all the posers and scammers talking absolute tosh – when it’s the plain talkers that are likely to be the honest SEO’s with good intentions.

    Keep doing what your doing, I look forward to your next post.

    • Jamie, thanks for the support — it means a lot to me. Looking forward to hearing much more from you in the future. Also, if you need help with anything don’t be afraid to ask.

  13. Wait,

    You said that “one doesn’t have to be smart to be a good at anything (in this case a good marketer), he just have to be creative and learn how to execute fast.”

    Doesn’t that again mean he should be smart? Being creative, achieving faster and better results – that is what smart people do. Right?

    I just pictured you doing everything that you described in the post – spending time in bar, buying them food, growing up from ground level to the top with that inborn wit.

    Hey, that picture looks really funny 🙂

    • GK, I meant you don’t have to be smart in the traditional “book smart” sense. You just have to have a hustler’s mentality. Thanks for the support and glad you liked the photos.

  14. Wonderful advice Neil,

    To sum it up, you work-hard, show initiative, never quit, and continual learn and modify your process based on understanding where others fail and succeed.

  15. Great post really, a little different from all the other online marketing related posts out there!

    I like how you emphasize on the fact that getting in touch with people in real lige will help your online business. Because in the we’re still dealen with people. Not computers.

    Keep it up! 🙂

    • Karl, glad you liked the post. I think getting in touch with people and getting to know how the game works is essential to growth and success.

  16. Nirpendra Patel :

    Thnx neil , Just subscribed to Frank Kern. I just saw he is selling courses for 5k to 12k.

    I just got thousand dollar idea
    “I can always learn how to sell and how to do email marketing from this subscription”

  17. Steve Estimable :

    Neil, smart post on how to be a successful marketer.

    I like when you publish blog post like these!

    One of the big challenge is “Learn multiple trades.” I keep hearing people telling be a master of one skill. I feel this mindset is changing and you kind of have to be like a knife swiss army human by using your strongest tools most of the time but still have others sharp and available.

    Neil Q: How else can you learn to be a successful marketer?
    Steve A: Humm.. quick tips coming up of the top of my head are the following:

    Be open
    Be a good listener.
    Making things in your life simple
    Know how to hack process and execution
    Read every content that Neil has produced from beginning to now 😉
    Understand how to use data intelligently to influence decisions and refine strategies

    Have a Super Smart day!

    • Steve, thanks for the support and providing that in-depth answer that I am sure many people have. Those are all qualities I think people should strive to possess.

  18. Ciprian Gherghescu :

    Can I buy you beer and food?

    I know a historic authentic romanian restaurant you dare not to miss when you’re in Romania speaking at GpEC in a couple of weeks. 🙂

    Seriously. Looking forward to see you buddy!

  19. Saulo Segurado :


    I think I found a “step-by-step guide” for my career.


    Thanks, Neil.

  20. Really good advice, Good stuff

  21. Hello Neil, Another great Article. Do you know why I make comment to your blog very often ? Not only because I want to keep in touch, not only because I have something to ask.

    Because I end up getting some unique visitors to my site from you. 😛

    Just kidding.

    • Dipendra, that’s a good reason. You shouldn’t be ashamed of your intentions as long as they yield great results. Also, you seem very genuine – so by all means keep it up!

  22. George@Lagos business directory :

    Another great insightful post from Neil. Been using your tips to market my business for over 2 years now. Kudos Neil.

  23. Sherman Smith :

    Hey Neil,

    I haven’t talk to the big wigs of corporations but I have been studying what successful bloggers do to generate traffic as well as conversions. This is what I like about being in the information age! I don’t have to go to an event in order to learn from those who are getting great results. Many recommend going to these events to rub noses with those that are doing simular things which is great as far as meeting face to face but I really like meeting these professionals more so online. I guess it’s the introvert in me;

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Sherman — whatever works best for you. Some people don’t have as much time or are shy so they utilize social media to make connections and bridge ideas. Others like the face to face interaction. Both work well — you just have to be genuine with a will to learn and succeed.

  24. Dave Sheppard :

    man – i now know why our always looking so happy . . . if I had PJ’s like that i’d be happier than a cheshire cat on a sunday.

  25. Kosio Angelov :

    I second that 🙂 I’m curious to know more about the automation.

  26. Another great post, Neil. You never cease to amaze me.

    Started to follow your blogs early this year since I started my own website. Literally learned everything from you, really appreciated it.

    Looking forward to your next post!

  27. Gbenga Akinwole :

    Hello Neil, You are such a blessing to me. In fact this is the only blog I have been able to connect with and follow bumper to bumper. I mean Its only your emails I pay close attention to because I know every email I recieve is going to be a blessing and me learning something new.

    I seem to understand a lot you post about because I also have the same idealogy.

    Okay Enough of my ranting, About the post

    I think one thing that is left is “Nothing Trying to learn and do everything at the same time”.

    Learn one thing at a time and learn to outsource a lot.

    This is one great lesson I learnt along my way of marketing online.

    • Gbenga, glad I could help. The more you outsource and delegate the more time you have to focus on other things that matter. Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  28. Neil,

    Your articles are always so helpful and contain highly valuable information! Thanks very much!


  29. Neil this article couldn’t be more timely. Just this week I was trying to convince my boss to sponsor the ticket so I can attend your upcoming event in Hertzilya at the end of this month. (Note I bought the ticket myself already but thought I’d just see if he would be inclined to sponsor my attendance for events I was interested in).

    He wasn’t convinced and made the same point you did that such events aren’t usually helpful and even before reading your article I did counteract with your argument that it’s good for networking and meeting my peers.

    So sent him your article when I saw it in my inbox and long story short he agreed to sponsor my ticket. So thanks Neil! Can’t wait to see you next Sunday!

    • Resa, glad I could help. Let me know if you need help with anything and let me know how the conference goes!

  30. Hi Neil,
    Great post and I love your blog. Do you think one of the reasons this worked so well for you is because you’re in marketing services? As a financial adviser who doesn’t work with high net worth people do you think it might turn people off, as different to them, too expensive, or resent that they helped to pay for all that. Interested in your thoughts? Thanks.

  31. I really appreciate articles like this. It’s very informative and I learned something from here. Thanks for sharing on How to Be a Successful Marketer if You’re not Super Smart.

  32. Hi Neil. I started following you this year. I am a nightshift worker supporting my big family and have experianced some major disappoinments lately with one of my sons suiciding and the other 10 denied homeschooling and having to go into the public school system. Three of my teenage daughters are devastated that their time to study and practise internet marketing has been curtailed. I have told them to not give up hope…we will find a way.
    Thankyou for this post. I have sort of known in my heart what we need to do but you have confirmed my inner thoughts. I thankyou for firstly being honest in how you “hustled” your way to getting to the top by seeking out and then analysing the best eg SeoMatrix; and you shared your point with regard to Frank Kern. Heres what i have picked up: Be bold, learn the steps that the best do by buying their stuff and ripping it apart; then most importantly….as we say down-under…”have a go”. Do it NOW.
    So much tò thanku for all yr posts from Jan this year. So grateful i work nights so i can read your posts in quiet space. I have big WHY’s.
    God bless you mate for having such a huge heart to Help others improve their lot in life and especially for …being a ray of light…where it has been dark.Shalom bro…Meitaki maata

    • Tairi, thanks for sharing your story. Please let me know if you guys have any specific questions — I’d be more than happy to help!

  33. Neil You’r doing fantsitc job I really appreciate your work how much traffic you can bring on healthproducts site in a month in 500 to 3500 USD.

  34. I agree! There is a huge learning curve and people get analysis paralysis. The best thing to do is just do it, you’ll learn and improve way faster by doing instead of searching for thing you think is needed in order to start. Just start!

    Thanks Neil

  35. Michael Leedy :

    Great Article – – So packed with value, I’m going to have to come back to it and re-read. It’s almost overwhelming in the areas that I’m getting more familiar with.

    On the contrary… a lot of would you said, regards to simply taking action and experimenting to ‘fail forward’ (so to speak) really resonates with me.

    So many folks stop before they even get started, due to the fear of making mistakes… and I like your take on this!

    Great today to you Neil! Will definitely be returning to your site.

  36. Bilal Khan Meo :

    Awesome! Your article, is superb learn new things about marketing and how to make successful marketer Thanks For sharing your experience keep up it

  37. Harekrishna :

    Thanks for sharing your learning experience. It teaches many things. Your steps about learning is truly helpful, even if it requires to pay, then we should ready to pay.

  38. Ankur Pathania :

    This is the sort of site, I have been sitting tight for. I have begun a site on a matured pr 2 area. However, google is as yet positioning it for its old essential words in other specialty and not the outcome for my corner.

    Its been around 18 days and more than 20+ articles. Should I hold up? Likewise to what extent would it be a good idea for me to sit tight to begin connecting for connections?

    Ankur Pathania

  39. happiness paul osim :

    I am happy that I read your article of how to be a successful marketer because I desire to be a successful one and I will want you to be my mentor

  40. Hi Neil, great article and thank you for all the tips and training that you provide. I do have a question: I live in a small town in southern New Jersey and there aren’t many small businesses that offer these services (SEO, social media, copywriting)in my area. So would it be a good idea to find companies that do offer these services in surrounding areas and communicate via email and social media?

  41. Thank you Neil. Very good informations for me.These informations help me very much at marketing.

  42. Thank you so much for this article. Hi Mr. Neil, I’m Aulia. I just started and learned to be a marketer. It’s really confusing for me, how to balance “Sales” with “Marketing”? I just focus on “content” and how to get many followers on my social media and of course my goal is they’ll be my customer. And I think being “creative” is not easy for me. How to get many idea to grow our marketing?

  43. thanks Neil



  46. Wow it’s great. Thanks a lot. This is the best article that I ever read.

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