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Part three: 54 leading digital marketing experts give their predictions for 2016

8 January, 2016

54 digital marketing experts give theirpredictions for 2016

What do 54 leading digital marketing and technology experts predict will be the next big thing in 2016? Read the final part of our special new year three-part blog post today.

54 leading digital marketing experts give their predictions for 2016

Read PART ONE here

Read PART TWO here

Read part three below…

(41) Don’t forget the ‘grey pound’

Mark Pack from Blue Rubicon highlighted the current disconnect between the cutting edge digital technologies that many marketers like to focus on, and the older late adopters that often have the most money to spend.

The population is getting older so there’s now a huge (growing) demographic to consider that don’t always engage with digital. Yet in a room full of digital marketers, the talk is about how we can target the teenagers. Older people have the purchasing power but tend to be slightly slower to take up new things. Marks says that the excitement over new things is great, but the bottom line is – who’s got the money, who’s going to purchase the products or services? It’s the people who are older and these are the people we usually need to target.

(42) Always start with a good, unique offer

Brandon Yanofsky from My WP Expert thinks (and hopes) that people will concentrate more on developing a high quality and unique offer before launching into a content marketing campaign.  From his background in email marketing, Brandon saw a lot of people in that space “marketing” themselves without a product or service – five years later they are still not making money.

He therefore thinks that this year there will be a push towards better products and services. Doing exactly this took him from making nothing (financially) to making a lot more. David pointed out that it’s tough to involve products and services, especially if you’re a big company, so this may give the smaller companies the opportunity they need. Content marketing should be built into the product or service development process, so he foresees improvements in integration and integrated campaigns.

(43) The importance of onsite SEO: structured markup and schema

My prediction (Jonny Ross from is about a renewed focus on onsite SEO. While inbound marketing and linkbuilding will remain important, onsite SEO is still a vital component for Google rankings. Digging deeper, it’s all about structured data, mark up, and using schema.

I’m amazed at how many big brand websites still don’t make content correctly and have lots of errors across the sites – simple, basic stuff that still needs to be put into place but can make a big difference.

With Google’s new live blog ‘Carousel’, you can add structured data and schema to your content in order to appear in the Google carousel scrollbar.  Ultimately, you have to be more reactive in order to appear in newsworthy content – for example you have to be blogging during a live event, so it means you need more resources. But this can return some big wins.

David noted that a Google engineer recently said “A lot of the big sites don’t get it right when it comes to structured mark-up, so don’t copy them”.  I do a lot of in-house workshops with some big e-commerce sites and I am amazed that most of the teams don’t have a clue on how to do structured mark-up effectively. The big sites are often the worst, as they rely on their existing reputation and profile, which could leave them vulnerable in future.


(44) Back to basics

Joel House from Black Shirt Marketing also thinks we’ll go back to basics, with a lot of businesses starting to focus on revenue optimised SEO. This is because there’s a huge ROI on content if it’s done correctly, but a lot of businesses don’t have the budget to push it to that level. This means we’re likely to see small businesses focusing on where they can make direct money rather than using the same approach as big businesses with the content approach.

David pointed out that Mark Pack also said this – you should never disregard the traditional conventional marketing activities. Digital Marketing has grown up and is now just marketing. Joel agreed 100%: there’s no longer ‘digital’ and ‘marketing’, it has to be integrated there’s no divide any more.

(45) Segmentation and better marketing automation

Heather Porter from thinks that deeper level of segmentation needs to be done in two ways. For those with a website, it’s worth really focusing on using dynamic content.  For example, if you have a blog post on a certain topic, how would you then have the next level conversation with those people? Through banners on that content saying “Hey what did you think of this – well, this is the next thing that I want you to check out”.

Dynamic banners popping up on the content, exit pop ups that are used creatively and better cross-linking can all help feed into that sales funnel.

Those of us with CRMs like Infusionsoft, Salesforce and Ontraport need to use our lists more effectively for segmentation purposes, so use the rules that come in our systems, the whole “if . . . then” scenario.  So if somebody clicks on this link which has this topic, remove them from your main sequence and funnels and move them into a funnel that’s highly geared at the topic that they want to know about.

David summed this up as better marketing automation and the fact that conventional businesses can learn a lot from solo marketers, internet marketers who use dynamic popups within what they do – it doesn’t need to be aggressive, it can be subtle and personalised. Heather agreed, saying it’s all about online conversations and that’s why segmentation is handy for those of us with a bigger business that don’t’ have time for all the one-on-ones. Using that segmentation more effectively within your own systems will personalise those conversations with your people. Use technology to facilitate conversations.

(46) Talk talk – The voice of the cutomer (VOC)

Jon Buscall from Moondog Marketing thinks that 2016 will be the year of VOC: Voice of the Customer. Business owners and websites are going to have to put the customer’s voice on their sites as a key differentiator.

We’ve seen in the last 10 years the absolute growth of PPC advertising, content marketing, inbound marketing – now getting people to our sites is more difficult with so much competition. If we want to demonstrate that we have real value with our customers, the best way to do that is to put their voices in our websites.

Onsite customer reviews

Amazon and other big e-commerce websites use customer reviews effectively – you don’t see reviews on consultant websites and you don’t see conversations going on on the websites of small service providers – he thinks this needs to change. We have to make it clear to customers that we will talk to them no matter what.

Audio and video testimonials

David asked about incorporating audio and video into testimonials. Jon acknowledges there’s a barrier there – people don’t want to hit the record button and put their face and voice out there – most want to hide anonymously behind the keyboard. But he thinks businesses will have to give people the opportunity to comment on their services and products, even for B2B.

B2B client reviews

Jon thinks we’ll have to let people come onto our websites, talk about what they’re doing (anonymously if they want) and not go in there and cut them away. This will bring authenticity because consulting businesses and service businesses are going to have to look at what’s succeeding in the B2C industry and e-shops.  He thinks they’re not convincing enough people to take action with them.

Why onsite and not on social?

There’s so much noise on social that Jon thinks the VOC will have to come to our websites.  At present, customers are talking everywhere and it’s difficult to monitor mentions of your business online because it’s so vast.  Why not just open up your site, let people talk about the service offerings you have or what you’ve done for them in a free (and anonymous if necessary) manner, don’t aggregate it and don’t comb through it to delete stuff.

VOC strategy

Jon summarises by saying that although it’s a scary prospect, every business needs to have a VOC strategy going into 2016 because this is only going to get bigger.


(47) The death of ‘average’

Andrew and Pete from (the “Ant and Dec of Digital Marketing”) think digital marketing will get even more competitive. It’s already noisy out there, and it’s going to be difficult to secure that all important engagement. This year, we’ll have to be so much better than competitors, more innovative, and more creative. The companies that will win in 2016 are the ones that can do that.

Barriers to entry are falling dramatically; it’s easy to be online. As a digital business, you’re competing not just with your local competitors, but with competitors worldwide. Companies that are average will not succeed. It’s so much easier to spread word of mouth recommendations online so the world will filter out the average companies and focus on the ones that are worth talking about.

(48) The power of personality

Mark Asquith from Excellence Expected believes the success of livestreaming, email marketing, segmentation etc will all come down to personality. He thinks 2016 will be the year of personality, especially for small businesses.

Brands that can afford to fake the personality and create things tailored to an audience will always do well. But Mark hopes to see small businesses realise it’s okay to be authentic and put themselves out there too. You have to stand out, you have to be different and the only thing you have that’s genuinely different is yourself.

David asked if it will be possible to be successful online just as a brand without putting yourself forward. Mark agreed with earlier comments about individuals within a brand having unique voices – business owners should listen to what they think about how they should be portrayed. “We’re already seeing and will see more brands taking on different tones or voices for different types of people they want to target.”

(49) An offline epiphany

Daniel Burstein from Marketing Sherpa revealed that his prediction comes from an epiphany that he recently had. For years we’ve been seeing offline companies trying to move online, trying to engage in e-commerce. E-commerce companies are going to have to go offline more, to figure out how to have that offline experience.

Marketing Sherpa recently conducted a survey of 2021 US consumers and one of the questions was “How do you discover products?” He thought the answer would be search engines but 59% of people revealed that they use in store browsing to discover new products. Daniel realised he had been thinking like an e-commerce company, an online marketer – he hadn’t considered everything that’s going on offline.

E-commerce makes up 7% of all retail sales. This means 93% of sales are still happening offline. E-commerce marketers need to step out of their bubble and look at what’s going on offline because their customers are there as well.  David pointed out that online and offline need to be tied together and also tie different digital marketing functions together. Daniel agreed, pointing out that even Amazon is now opening a physical bookstore in Seattle.

(50) Sustainability and repurposing

Colin Gray from The Podcast Host said that firstly, quality is vital (Andrew and Pete mentioned it earlier on). Content marketing is becoming the norm. So while it was possible to stand out last year by blogging or podcasting once a week, it’s going to take more than that to succeed in 2016.

We’ll have to blog a few times a week, do regular podcasts, turn them into videos – get into the world of repurposing to make sure we use everything to its utmost to make it as effective as possible. Leading on from that is to make everything sustainable – figure out how to make sure that our content ties together and how to make sure that you’re making it easy to come up with content week after week (think about a “series”). He points out that podcasting has to have text to go along with it as well. So plan in the development of video/podcasts and written content as well.

(51) ‘2016: the year of interactive content’ where added value is essential

Jeff White from Kula Partners agreed with Colin Gray about creating different types of content. One thing he’s seen this year is an increase in the use of interactive content – useful tools that help customers find you, such as payment calculators, ROI calculators. These convert much better than non-interactive content like white papers.

He suggests offering something useful and helpful. You have to provide not just content that people can read and use to find solutions, but tools where they can enter information and see what you’re able to bring to the table to solve their problems. B2B websites especially need to provide some type of calculator or ROI device that will show how they can help the customer.

(52) Experience counts

Matthew Turner from Turndog predicts that in 2016 it will all be about experience – experience needs to extend into everything – FB group, email list, real life meetups.  Using various types of multimedia, writing, video, audio, Periscoping, just trying to get inside the mind of the audience and think about how you’re going to expand their experience, get them to invest in the journey.

(53) Content marketing, customer experience, back end business systems: will business owners see the light?

Chris Marr from the Content Marketing Academy, coming from a business perspective and working with small businesses, disclosed that they’re not taking digital seriously enough: not grasping it nor embedding it in their culture. He thinks this is a massive problem that will hold a lot of businesses back.

He says businesses need to embrace digital marketing and content marketing. They need to get their heads out of the sand and start listening to what’s going on in the world, as it’s staying for good and it’s advancing at such a pace that marketing has to be the fastest changing landscape in business today.

When it comes to content marketing, most businesses are at the novice stage. Content marketing needs to be a cultural thing within an organisation, something that the whole organisation takes on board. Customer experience, on and offline, needs to be taken seriously. Lastly, the business systems for administering that such as the calculators, etc. have to be provided on the websites.  Content marketing, on and offline customer experience, business systems on the back end are three major issues that need to be taken into consideration in 2016 to stay in the game.

(54) 2016: ‘The year of the woman’

Mark Traphagen from Stone Temple Consulting thinks we’re going to see more female faces in 2016. He says we don’t have enough women in the industry and we need to find more female faces. He predicts that 2016 will be the ‘Year of the Woman’ in the digital marketing profession.  He says that they are out there but we’re going to see them taking more leadership positions and finally see more women represented at conferences, on panels, as experts on roundtables, etc.  He also believes that we’re going to see more appreciation for those who do these things and take the effort to include the very, very smart women who are in this field. There needs to be equal representation.

(55) Interactive content

Adam Vowles from SUSO Digital predicts that we will see more interactive content designed to improve the user experience. We need to be creating content that requires some sort of user input and that’s also designed to work in tandem with social. The goal with content is to create an emotional involvement so if the user feels that they’re included in creating the content that’s half the battle won. HTML5 and endless platforms that can be used to create and entertain will facilitate this. For example, he says, this show is a type of event and is a lot more personal to the end user, which is important. We’ll move away from long chunks of content for content’s sake and endless guides and how tos and start to make things that involve the user and put the user at the centre of their own journey.

(56) Where’s the money?

Roberto Blake from thinks in 2016 we’ll see a dramatic shift in practicality, with people focusing on revenue generating activities in the digital marketing space – both in terms of individuals, small businesses and even marketing professionals.

Does this mean you can no longer just focus on content marketing, but need to focus on ROI, David asked? Exactly, said Roberto. This is a big thing that a lot of people overlook, especially when starting out as new businesses, individuals and even marketers.

Roberto has focussed a lot on content marketing and got a lot of traction, especially in video marketing. But he always had a plan for how he was going to monetise that, and what the overall ROI and value proposition for him was as well. He wanted to create value for his audience, but this had to relate to an activity leading to something for him, either passively or an active sales opportunity or referral business.

Businesses have to know what that structure is and how it adds to your pipeline. Is this content adding to your email list, is it a passive income strategy, is it qualifying leads or an opportunity to do active selling? Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it. As David summed up – focus on the end goal and the path to that goal – don’t get lost in the fun projects and things that you enjoy.  Roberto agreed, saying don’t go too far down that rabbit hole or you’ll find yourself lost in terms of where you want to be.

(57) Clear out the clutter – and pay to play?

Ian Anderson Gray from thinks a number of problems that have been growing in the industry and they’ll reach a peak in 2016. Part of social is going dark. We’re getting more social sharing via private apps such as Facebook messenger and WhatsApp, which makes it more difficult to listen in to where those conversations are happening.

We’ve talked about adblockers: the free model is in trouble and there’s just so much content out there. People are getting overwhelmed because there’s too much content. He wonders whether this will lead to a willingness to pay to cut through that clutter and get the really high quality content without the fluff?

(58) More repurposing tools

We need to be producing more of the type of actionable content, which will make a difference to business. The other thing is that we may see more tools that will help with repurposing content such as Blab, which will turn a podcast into a video. He thinks we’ll see more tools and platforms that allow us to do that and make it easier for us as content marketers. David admitted that he was intrigued by the possibility of pay to play which means consumers paying to view content rather than content distributors paying to post it.

[Beki Winchel from PRDaily was unable to overcome technical problems with the audio, even on a third attempt.  However, we’re destined to hear more from her in the future and you can view her in a previous episode.] 

(59) Personal brand authority

Finally we come to David Bain’s own prediction for 2016. He thinks that conversion rate optimisation (CRO) will be increasingly powered by personal brand authority because PPC is getting more expensive.  He also thinks that there are so many great design templates (such as WP) that it’s becoming easier to build a great website which will lead to the real difference being personal brand authority. By building your brand authority as an individual, your conversion rate should increase too.

And that completes our 2016 predictions round-up. I hope it’s given you some useful insights.
Anything you agree or disagree with? Do please share your comments below!
You can watch the programme in full on YouTube here or below:

Thank you to all the experts who shared their time an knowledge for this. And most of all, thank you to David Bain, who brought everyone together and led the conversations. You can catch him on his regular Digital Marketing Radio programme.

For weekly digital marketing tips and ideas, sign up to the blog here.

  • Jon Buscall says:

    What a fabulous blog post series. It was a lot of fun seeing what folks came up with and very insightful. In hindsight I could just as much harped on about the shift from blogging on your own homebase to blogging on rented ground (such as FB, Medium, etc). Still, that’s what makes the industry so fascinating, seeing where changes come. I for one am excited about what will happen in 2016.

    I talked more about Voice of the Customer on my podcast just ahead of David’s event. It’s available here:

    Many thanks again for this post series. It will stand as a great document to review this time next year.

    1. Jon Buscall says:

      What a fabulous blog post series. It was a lot of fun seeing what folks came up with and very insightful. In hindsight I could just as much harped on about the shift from blogging on your own homebase to blogging on rented ground (such as FB, Medium, etc). Still, that’s what makes the industry so fascinating, seeing where changes come. I for one am excited about what will happen in 2016.

      I talked more about Voice of the Customer on my podcast just ahead of David’s event. It’s available here:

      Many thanks again for this post series. It will stand as a great document to review this time next year.

      1. Jonny Ross says:

        That’s really kind Jon, thanks for the link, really good for my users to get a deeper insight into this! Appreciate it!!

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