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Digital Marketing Rock Stars: 5 Trends in the Year Ahead

Posted by Greg Schraff

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Not too long ago I participated in an excellent webinar round table, Marketing Predictions for 2018, sponsored by Mention. It featured many rock stars from the digital marketing universe, including Larry Kim, Brian Dean, and Aaron Orendorff, among others from HubSpot, Buffer, and CoSchedule. There were 5 topics that everyone agreed are trends to pay attention to. And, I identified a 6th, bonus trend, that all the panelist had in common . . .

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Each person had fantastic insights into current themes, trends, and predictions for the upcoming year. Beyond their valuable opinions, however, I identified an underlying theme amongst the panelists. This theme sheds light on the current state of online marketing and provides a clue for how to navigate it. That theme is, focused specialization.

But before I get to this theme, I want to provide a run-down of the marketing predictions from the webinar.

While each panelist brought their own unique perspective, there were a couple topics that they all identified as important to pay attention to. These topics are:

Personalization – brands must become more personal by presenting an authentic, transparent and real impression of themselves.

Chatbots – to create a personalized user experience chatbots will become more widely used. This is kind of ironic given that chatbots are automated, but it’s a sign of the times, I guess.

Video – Video content will continue its steady climb as the format of choice for content consumption. If you’re not using video in your marketing, you’re making a mistake.

Email – This stalwart is NOT going away, and in fact is becoming more valuable because it’s one of the few marketing channels where you can create a one-to-one customer experience.

Quality Content (over quantity) – an oversupply of content means that quality will differentiate itself and rise above the mediocre; and content that emphasizes the customer is a plus.

Here’s a quick summary of each panelist and their top prediction:


Aaron Orendorff, Founder of Iconic Content

Prediction: Personalized Content

Marketing will continue to get more personal. Authenticity and transparency are the keys. The brands that present their leaders as individuals, as real human beings, on social and other personal platforms, perhaps even developing their own email lists or followings, will reap the spoils of personalization. Create authentic experiences.


Brian Dean, Founder of Backlinko

Prediction: Video

By the end of the year, 99% of marketers will be using video. Currently, 73% of all online traffic is video, and people spend more time on YouTube than on any other website, including Google. By 2021, 82% of online traffic will be through video.


Brian Peters, Digital Marketing Strategist at Buffer

Prediction: Personalization

An increase of personalization and micro-interactions on social media, particularly with respect to messaging apps and customer service. More people worldwide use the top four messaging apps [WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber] than the top four social media platforms [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat]. 80% of adults and 91% of teens use messaging apps.


David Khim, Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot

Prediction: Chatbots/messaging apps

Facebook now allows marketers to use their Messenger app on their own websites as a live chat tool, as a chatbot. This initiative, along with similar offerings by Drip, Intercom, and HubSpot, democratizes chatbots – it’s now extremely easy for small businesses to experiment with these types of customer acquisition channels without having to have the technical skills to build their own.


Denise Chan, Content & Community Manager at Bitly

Prediction: Customer Experience

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as a brand differentiator. As the number of channels and devices continue to grow it will become increasingly important for brands to track, understand and personalize their customers’ engagement across all these channels.


Larry Kim, CEO at MobileMonkey

Prediction: Google and Facebook will increase customer insight

Because the cost-per-click (CPC) on Facebook and Google is so expensive, these clicks have to convert in order for marketers to get  ROI and continue to use these ad targeting platforms. As a result, both companies need to figure out a way to better understand the person behind the click. Increased insight into the person you’re marketing to will allow for a more personalized marketing experience, which in turn will increase conversion. Larry believes Google and Facebook must adopt a common approach to their ad targeting systems. Currently very separate and different, Google and Facebook's ad targeting platforms will become more and more similar in the future in order to accommodate more personal insight and increase conversion rates.


Nathan Ellering, Head of Marketing Demand Generation, CoSchedule

Prediction: Personalization

Personalization is the wave of future, and specifically, nano-targeting your audiences. In order to get personal, you must conduct audience research. If you’re not doing audience research how do you know that what you are doing is actually connecting with the people you want to bring to your brand? Currently, 65% of marketers are NOT conducting audience research. Those 35% who regularly communicate with their audience report more success than those that don't.


All panelists agreed that these five topics are important trends to pay attention to and apply to your own marketing focus if you want to level-up in the year ahead. And across these five topics, there was an acute emphasis on the customer experience. More specifically, creating a better, more personalized user experience. In short, practicing customer focused marketing!

But customer focus was not the only unifying theme across all of the panelists. As mentioned in the introduction to this post, I identified a 6th, bonus trend, that they all had in common . . . While each of these individuals work in online marketing, they are not marketing generalists but rather have their own marketing specialization:

  • Aaron Orendorff specializes in content marketing
  • Brian Dean specializes in SEO 
  • Brian Peters specializes in social media
  • David Khim specializes in growth and user acquisition
  • Denise Chan specializes in community marketing
  • Larry Kim specializes in PPC 
  • Nathan Ellering specializes in demand generation

Every one of these people are specialists, each having their own niche. And this, I believe, is as much by necessity as choice.

What does this focused specialization say about them, and digital marketing overall?

These professionals realize that in the world of online marketing, in order to be successful, they have to narrow their focus.

I believe this theme  - acute focus - reflects the state of online marketing: In order to be successful in your own marketing you have to narrow your focus. This relates not only to your business but to your profession or career, as well. You can’t be everything to everyone. Focus on what you do best - be great at one thing - and as you become the expert in this area, by extension, you will be given credit for related skills, and it will be much easier to branch out from there.

And focusing on what you do best is one of the 9 essential keys to achieving lead generation reality! If you want to learn more about lead generation, and the other essential keys to success, check out our free Lead Gen Blueprint. 

B2B Leads - The Lead Gen Blueprint


Topics: Digital Strategy & Marketing, Thought Leadership

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