Audience First – How NP Digital Grew To $100m

January 10, 2023

Uber Suggest, Hello Bar, NP Excel. NP Digital.

What do these companies have in common?

The answer is Neil Patel and Mike Kamo.

NP Digital is the $100 million parent of those four businesses, and its story begins in late 2014.

With a seed capital of friendship, grit, and a paltry (by some standards) $200,000, $26,240 coming from Mike, the stage was set for Mike and Neil to build the future as they envisioned it.

One of the core pillars of NP Digital’s growth to 2,200 clients and $100 million is to reward leadership. An impressive form of incentive to offer them is the ability to make a ton of money. If they put in the work, rewarding them with a way to earn more is empowering and inspiring.

How exactly does a lean marketing company go from the trenches to exactly $100 million? Is there anything entrepreneurs and businesses can learn about turning their dreams to reality, without pawning their equity for funding?

There’s certainly more to this story than chance. We can guess all the ingredients of success that got Mike Kamo and the one thousand-strong NP Digital team over the million dollar century line.

We’ll do a trace-back, interpolate this story, and see how Mike and the guys parlayed Neil Patel’s solid brand to a valuation of one-tenth of a billion dollars.

You’re itching to know the how, let's get started 👇

Time Traveling with Mike

Mike is the archetypal entrepreneur. He’s done everything from recruitment, to sales, operations, and global expansion. The big deal about Mike? He’s dipped his hands into pretty much everything running NP Digital could be about right now.

Mike's beginnings are humble, but he’s less than eager to discuss his exceptional qualities in rising out of the shadows of his past.

The Origin

So, Neil Patel has managed to make sense of opportunities in search engine optimization, search marketing, and content marketing. He becomes famous and makes a fortune teaching and helping people amplify their brand and their content marketing.

Then he starts providing services and teams up with his good friend, Mike. As someone with a background in the car business, there doesn’t seem to be much of an intersection with the new business. But, the internet is hot and taking off, so why not? It wouldn’t take all the hours like the car business does, and Mike can explore new things during the weekends.

Mike’s chops in running the critical aspects of business – sales, operations, and recruiting – have helped NP Digital to achieve a valuation of $100 million in just over a decade. His education in marketing came on the road as he traveled with Neil Patel and watched him speak.

Growth Lever #1 – Have Clear Goals and a Monetization Plan

Despite the impressive summary, success hasn’t come in a trice. Mike and Neil started several companies that basically, dithered. Initially joining Patel’s team to monetize the brand, he fine-tuned his offerings for maximum time and monetary gains.

The goal was clear:

Monetize Neil’s operations even more by…

Win back time.

The game plan was simple…

Spend zero time on free half-hour consultation calls to e-book buyers…

Mike saved Neil 20 cool hours a week!

Farm out new leads to other companies. And eventually,

Work on building an agency.

From the get-go, it’s always been a case of reaching for bigger and bigger pieces of the pie.

Growth Lever #2 – Find a Challenge Worth Chasing

As growth and revenue plateaued in Neil and Mike’s businesses, motivation also wore thin. This was the cue they needed to explore fresh ideas.

But, the rationale might not have been as clear-cut.

Their websites were seeing tremendous growth in traffic.

There was a significant uptick in demand for consultancy, even though it wasn’t exactly impacting e-book sales conversions numbers.

They sent consulting leads to third-party agencies.

In a quest for a bigger piece of the pie, Mike and Neil explored new challenges.

Doing agency seemed like a natural fit, and the USP was clear:

Those agencies they farmed out leads were good, but they weren’t as effective at servicing clients, so their retention numbers were low.

This was how NP Digital started in late 2017.

The new company had direct conversations with leads.

And, it certainly was a bigger company, with better results for customers.

Growth Lever #3 – Divide and Conquer

Fortune favors the bold, they say. What’s less obvious is that clarity favors the cause.

Mike and Neil used a divide and conquer strategy to make the most of their businesses.

Uber Suggest is a keyword research tool competing with Ahrefs and SEMRush.

NP Digital acquired the free Uber Suggest tool around 2017 and immediately did two things…

Expand the audience and make it a money spinner.

NP Excel, on the other hand, is focused on servicing small businesses.

It was launched in 2019, to better deal with the shortcomings of the original NP Digital.

In a sense, NP Excel helped NP Digital fulfill its immense potential.

Mike’s visionary leadership was paying off big time.

Initially targeting companies who could fork out $100,000 per year on marketing, it was alarming to Mike and the team to discover how much money they were leaving on the table.

Thousands of leads were using the exit because Mike and Patel were saying to them,

So what changed? Adding NP Excel to the portfolio to engage small businesses on their own terms.

NP Digital continues to get leads because the subsidiaries continue to funnel them into its path.

Growth Lever #4 – Create the Product Your Market Needs

Bringing the business to the level of the market opened up NP Digital to bigger revenues.

Some had observed that HubSpot and similar companies had small revenues but high valuations.

The smaller revenues comes from modestly priced subscription services, in contrast to the millions of dollars that bigger agencies charged per annum.

What did Mike and Neil do?

“Let’s create a software component that drives
of people…”

“Yes! Then, we move upsell them on more expensive services…”

That’s where Uber Suggest comes in, for instance. The testimonials and client reel speak for themselves:

Growth Lever #5 – Build an Organic Brand

Despite Neil Patel being famous in the marketing community, subtracting NP Digital from Neil’s brand has been super-important in letting the company achieve greatness.

It’s hard to not leverage the name.

However, NP Digital is gradually taking on a life of its own.

Growth Lever #6 – Dare to Be Different (and Go for Services)

Embracing the services model is counter-intuitive to modern practice.

It’s unlike offering a full-on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). But…

, and…


To make this model work, NP Digital has had to:

Keeping more things under their control ensures that clients get better servicing and margins are more than marginally better.

Facebook, Twitter, and other select platforms helped NP Digital to push the new narrative it was selling to leads. They enabled a multiplied reach, and by 2016, Mike and Neil’s focus on delivering high-quality services at competitive rates had garnered a critical mass of attention. Apple, LinkedIn, and Microsoft eventually joined the stream of more than 500 clients worldwide.

Growth Lever #7 – Play Everyone in Their Best Position

At NP Digital, service clients have the best hands working on what they do best.

Therefore, Mike has oversight and Neil handles marketing. At the beginning, NP Digital had only one sales rep and a contractor account manager.

“You’re great at marketing. Driving leads is your thing. Do just that.”

“I’ll figure it out. Just put out your best content, the most effective. Work the channels.”

With each new contract closed, the need for another employee was justified. This was pretty much the model NP Digital used to scale.

Growth Lever #8 – Hiring is Work, Do It Right!

Hiring the right people, especially for sales can make or break your company.

Mike ensured he knew how well potential sales hires performed in previous roles.

LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for this kind of research.

Important questions during the interview include:

Their ability to provide detailed answers to these questions shows you how well the sales hire might perform on your team.

Anyone can give smart answers, but Mike serves them tests to simulate real situations.

This ultimately separates the silver from the dross.

Growth Lever #9 – Experiment, Fail, and Learn to Eat Humble Pie

NP Digital has a yearly budget to experiment outside its core business.

It’s a commitment from both founders.

They found out that the outbound function doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of their business commitments.

Such failures are necessary to determine if a venture is more profitable than it looks on paper or vice versa.

Instead of outbound, partnerships have proved to be a better fit for NP Digital.

Growth Lever #10 – Find Partnerships that Work

Having the right partners in critical areas creates synergy that leverages the strengths of each partner.

NP Digital co-created a marketing course with Omnisend.

Students who complete the program become recruitment leads for NP Digital whether for internships or entry-level marketing positions.

What partners demand is a continuous variable.

A few want to monetize the relationship.

Others prefer other benefits, say referral fees.

Some are content with brand exposure, and the Neil Patel name guarantees them that. There’s even a section of their website dedicated to that.

Growth Lever #11 – Help Your People Grow

NP laid a groundwork to scale employees relative to growth.

Growth should also clearly define management structure.

NP Digital’s structure enables motivation within the most logical organizational patterns.

Compensation is also another way that Mike gets the most out of employees.

They’re paid a competitive salary and bonus, but there’s plenty of investment in their growth.

There’s no practical ceiling for employees to earn more money as long as they commit to growth. Helping employees grow involves playing to their strengths and passions.

Mike’s leadership takes the lid off earnings in order to help employees, and therefore NP Digital, to grow the most. Preserving this culture also plays a role in Mike’s cautious approach to mergers and acquisitions. This has left the company to thrive on the original $200,000 investment and distributions, rather than external funding.

Growth Lever #12 – Go International and Stay There

A clear defined strategy helps NP Digital’s forward throttle.

The strategy now includes deliberate international expansion.

Only a few years before, there was just Brazil and India.

But in the last 18 months alone, the company has launched in Australia, Canada, and the UK.

Germany is their first stop in Europe, with at last six countries on the radar over the next 12 months.

Going beyond borders qualifies NP Digital to bid for even bigger contracts, while still being an independent agency.

And there we have it... the step by step process that Neil and Mike used to grow NP Digital to $100m in revenue...

Any comments/feedback?

Drop them to Mike on Linkedin

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