2016 – predictions, trends and wishes for your marketing

Crystal balls and magic wands – our expert friends give their hopes and predictions for marketing in 2016.
So what’s on the cards for this year? Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, Doug Kessler and co give their views.

Content marketing predictions and trends

Crystal balls and magic wands – our expert friends give their hopes and predictions for marketing in 2016.

Yup, it’s that time of the year again. In last year’s Valuable Content crystal ball gazing post our panel of experts predicted more intelligent and creative content, the resurgence of traditional marketing methods and the death of Facebook (as a useful free way for small businesses to market themselves. Not the death of Facebook itself.)  So what’s on the cards for 2016? We’ve gone back to some of our favourite experts, added some new friends and thrown in a couple from us too. So what will we see?

We asked our panel for their predictions for marketing in the coming year, and in a slight twist on last year – what they wished for too. The question we posed was ‘if you could wave a magic wand when it comes to your clients’ marketing what’s the one thing you’d hope to see change this year?’

Grab a cup of tea and enjoy.

Chris Brogan – automated interaction (good and bad)

Chris Brogan“I predict that people will attempt to automate more but automate the wrong parts, thus missing great opportunities.

My magic wand would be set for automating in a more human-minded fashion, allowing for more personable & 1-1 interactions. Even the biggest brands in the world improve their success rates when people feel as if they’re seen & heard. There’s revenue tied to the effort.”

>> Chris Brogan is author of many brilliant best selling books and CEO of Owner Media Group

Henneke Duistermaat – a return to word of mouth

Henneke Duistermaat“Marketing our businesses online seems to get tougher. We all know that the amount of content online is exploding. It’s getting noisier and noisier, making it more difficult to get heard. Some businesses will throw more money at content marketing and buy more attention through advertising or by publishing more and bigger content. Businesses with smaller pockets will go back to the middle ages – not in terms of technology, but in the way we used to do business. They’ll get closer to their customers and create a small but dedicated fan base, nurturing stronger connections. For them, word of mouth will become a more important factor in growing their business. Just like in the good old times.

And if I could wave a magic wand? I’d love more business people to think less about marketing and more about making a difference.”

>> Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer on a mission. She is founder and teacher at Enchanting Marketing

Tim LeRoy – the rise of niche networks

Tim LeRoy“I think that this year will see the rise of niche networks and more personal apps.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have all lost their sense of real community and become ‘content delivery platforms’ (advertising engines), and nobody wants that.

Instagram is on the rise because it has stuck to its founding simplicity. It’s still fresh, focussed and human so it still feels very personal. It forces brands to be real. Keep an eye on Snapchat for the same reasons.

I’m also excited about the rise of niche networks that cater for distinct audiences like Strava or Fishbrain. Runners, cyclists and fishermen log their activity, compete for local records and discuss their runs, rides and catches. People form local groups and meet in the flesh too. You don’t have to be an angling or cycling brand to get involved and get socialising, but those are three biggest pastimes so it’s highly likely that that’s where you’ll find your customers’ in their happy place.

With my magic wand I’d wish that business leaders would understand that successful marketing is how you go about your business – every part of it – so you can’t outsource getting new business.”

>> Tim LeRoy is a semi-pro beach bum teaching people and companies to grow. He runs www.dirtmeetsthewater.co.uk.

Ann Handley – content marketing grows up

Ann Handley“We’ve been hearing for a while now about Content Marketing as the new and improved smarter version of marketing itself.

We’ve been hearing how Content Marketing will give small businesses the ability to own their own story, and draw people to them by creating marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing (vs. creating marketing that people actively shun/avoid/turn away from when they happen upon them in the market, in the hopes that Marketing doesn’t see them there, lingering by the greens in the produce aisle….)

So I predict 2016 will be the year that Content Marketing gets a little more strategic and real. Yes, the tools and tactics are alluring and fun. But 2016 is the year when businesses realise that Content Marketing becomes something to be proud of when it has the necessary planning, processes, frameworks, creativity, and metrics in place to show and measure actual results as the backbone to those fun tactics and tools.

What do I wish for?


Wow. I’ll wave it and elect to be 1,000-times smarter, so that my answer here is really something special.

(Actually, while I’m at it I’ll flick my wand about and order myself all the shoes on this site, too mgemi.com. Because I’m MAGICAL but also stylish so why not?)

But then I’ll say this: That I wish for businesses to embrace the power of tone of voice as a differentiator in their marketing and culture and business. Voice can be a huge asset, but it’s vastly under-used.

Small businesses actually have the advantage here, because they can more easily influence voice: they don’t have to have a cage-match throw-down with Corporate Brand Police, because typically there isn’t any Brand Police to wrestle.”

>> Ann Handley is good fairy and Head of Content at MarketingProfs; author of the WSJ bestseller, Everybody Writes: www.annhandley.com

Joe Pulizzi – less quantity, more quality content

Joe Pulizzi“2016 will be the first year where we will see significant acquisitions of media companies by brands. Every successful publisher, before entering a market, looks at the buy versus build scenario. Brands, to this point, haven’t yet done this…but I believe they will begin to – especially as many brands are flush with cash, while some niche publishers are struggling.

What do I wish for? Less quantity, more quality targeted to very specific audiences in 2016. Per CMI’s Chief Strategy Officer Robert Rose – our goal, as enterprises, is to create the minimum amount of content for the maximum amount of results.

>> Joe Pulizzi is the daddy of the content marketing movement and founder of the Content Marketing Institute

Chris Thurling – specialisation, collaboration and CRM

Chris Thurling“I think CRM is going to become much more mainstream in 2016. This will be the year when businesses and digital agencies wake up to the new reality – websites must become true lead development platforms, with CRM, marketing automation and a conversion-focused site all working together to forge connection (perfectly outlined by US web development experts Newfangled in The Future of Websites).

As for one magic wand wish – choosing the right team is the thing I’d go for. Smart business leaders won’t go to one full service agency for their web projects. Digital has become too specialised for that. They’ll assemble and orchestrate a team of the very best people in their specialised fields, a team of people who are willing and able to collaborate to get the job done well.”

>> Chris Thurling is a digital strategist, coach, mentor and our chairman here at Valuable Content christhurling.com

Fiona Campbell-Hayes – content will go long

Fiona Campbell-Howes“My big prediction for 2016 is that B2B marketing content is going to go long.

There’s so much evidence that really in-depth, well-researched content is the kind that gets read, shared, and linked to. Last year Buzzsumo studied the most-shared articles from Buzzfeed and the Guardian, and found that the ones that got the most shares tended to be over 3,000 words long. And when Hubspot analysed 6,192 of its own blog posts, it found that the “sweet spot” length to generate shares and inbound links was around 2,500 words.

Long content gets results, but only if it’s genuinely interesting and/or useful. So this year will bring success for brands that are willing to invest in producing well-researched, well-argued, interesting and original long-form pieces – whether they’re blog posts, LinkedIn articles, ebooks or something else.

Following on from the above: there’s a huge difference in the amount of work required to produce an original, compelling, feature-length blog post, compared to a quick-and-dirty 500-800 word blog post. So my wish is that clients will not only want to create longer pieces, but also that they’ll be prepared to invest the right amount of time and money in producing something really good.”

>> Fiona Campbell-Hayes is founder of award-winning, super-creative Falmouth-based B2B writing agency Radix Communications

Ian Sanders – putting the spotlight on stories

Ian Sanders“In marketing I think we’ll continue to see a welcome shift away from overtly selling products to greater customer engagement via telling stories. One way I advocate doing this is businesses shining the light on their customers, telling their customers’ stories. This is where storytelling is really powerful as it can show how a customer’s life has been transformed by their relationship with a business or brand. I’ve recently been working with a professional service firm. Telling stories around how the firm transforms clients’ fortunes is the best sales tool they have!

If I could wave a magic wand I would like my clients to be bolder! I’d like them to have the confidence to experiment and to try new things.

In an abundant market where many businesses look and feel similar, one way to stand out is to be smarter with social media or to try platforms like Medium to share their ideas.

I would also like clients to move ideas through the organisation faster. Storytelling in an organisation is like holding up a mirror: it’s a real-time marketing tool. That means clients should be faster at getting those stories out there!”

>> Ian Sanders is a storyteller and consultant who re-energises businesses by connecting them with their story and purpose iansanders.com

Doug Kessler – Account Based Marketing in B2B

Doug-Kessler-of-Velocity-Partners“In B2B, Account Based Marketing (automated marketing to support sales in target accounts) will be a huge bandwagon. Then, people will realise that it takes a hell of a lot of work, commitment and consistency to make it work — and many will fall away. Lots of vendors will call what they do ‘ABM’ even if it only contributes a tiny slice. That may ruin the term for a while. But it will survive: it’s too powerful a strategy to ignore.

I actually HAVE waved a magic wand (no way, you too? S&S) and this was my incantation: Metricatio Obligato! It means, I would love for every client to get serious about tracking their content marketing so we all can learn more about what’s working, then do a lot more of that (and a lot less of the other stuff). In Latin.”

>> Doug Kessler is founder and creative director of awesome B2B marketing agency Velocity Partners

Ernie Capbert – sexy time for customer research

ernie-capbert“It’s going to be the year of customer research. Smart online SMEs will use the data they’re sitting on to identify the customer that’s driving their business.

Far too many businesses continue to operate, without really knowing who their customers are. I’m not talking about Instagram followers, Twitter followers and Facebook followers, I’m talking about knowing quantifiably who the people are that are not only engaging with social, but following through, by actually buying things! The ones that are driving the business commercially.

If you don’t know your customer then your marketing and product departments are left to play pin the tail on the donkey with time and money. It’s nuts to sign off creative marketing budgets and design briefs, without knowing exactly who it’s all for – especially when it’s such an exciting and sexy time for customer research.

Online SME’s are sitting on all the right data – they just need to use it in the right way:

  • to pinpoint their customers and do more for them
  • to find more of them
  • to grow their businesses with hockey stick growth.

My wish? For people to realise the potential of great customer research. It has changed radically. It’s not an arduous and un-engaging process; it no longer takes 6 months of ‘focus groups’ delivered with the enthusiasm of a snail! Great customer research is powerful and uplifting. It eliminates egos, empowers whole businesses and it no longer costs a down deposit on a home to do it!

If you’re an online business owner sitting on data and you’re reporting little or no growth year on year, then stop wasting time and money. Use the data correctly and start making profitable decisions.”

>> Ernie Capbert co-founded UK surf brand Finisterre and now runs the much needed agency Who Buys Your Stuff?

James Ray – using data to drive rewarding experiences

james-Ray-Armadillo“In CRM we often see established brands using approaches that lag behind their more digital-savvy peers. Usually it’s because they’re trying to leverage conventional customer behaviour rather than looking at how things have changed in a world where people have infinite choice at their fingertips. We think 2016 will see these brands starting to catch up—by recognising that consumer journeys aren’t linear and by using data to drive engagement that rewards customers on their own terms.

If I had a magic wand I’d love to see the myth of customer loyalty laid to rest—and removed from marketing briefs for good! Becoming the brand of choice for a consumer isn’t about creating a scheme that guarantees their monogamy, it’s about being ready to make their experiences rewarding and relevant at every touchpoint—and when they choose to engage.”

>> James Ray is MD of customer relationship marketing agency Armadillo, just down the road from us in Bath

Sharon Tanton – a hype-fuelled return to interruption

Sharon-Tanton-portrait-small“My prediction is that the content marketing industry will continue to talk itself up out of all proportion. Wild promises, big claims, blah-di-blah. The hype will result in more businesses throwing money at ‘content’ without really understanding why they’re doing it, and how to do it well, then being disappointed that it doesn’t work. (Like buying a flashy car, and not learning how to drive it or knowing where to put the petrol in.) The consequence of this will be a bumpy year for content marketing, and a knee jerk reaction back towards interruption style marketing.

My idealistic wish would be that businesses find the right way to learn how to do marketing properly – just put your customers first, people, and create stuff they actually want to read and see. Do it with imagination, creativity and integrity – and make the business world a lovelier place to be!”

>> Sharon Tanton is Creative Director at Valuable Content

Sonja Jefferson – real world and digital converge

Jefferson-Sonja_Speaker-Photo_2015-Chicago-HIDC2“This will be the year that real world and digital converge. We’ll stop seeing them in silos and realise that both have validity if we want to deliver amazing customer experiences (we all want to do that right?).

Think of the book industry – physical books haven’t died with the birth of the Kindle. In music, vinyl is finding renewed popularity in the streaming era (yeah!). In education, bricks and mortar universities are developing courses whilst online schools teach via the web but bring students together in the real world too.

So it is with marketing and content too. Websites will remain the hub of our marketing activity in 2016, but my feeling is that real life events and material will play an increasingly important part in delivering stand out experiences for customers, prospects and learning communities. Smart companies see the value in the combination, with seamless links and connection between the two to add value to those they serve.

And if I could wave a magic wand? I’d bring a real customer to every marketing and content strategy meeting this year.”

>> Sonja Jefferson is MD and founder right here at Valuable Content

John Beckley – social media is finally embraced as normal business practice

john-beckley“I see inbound video marketing (including live real time video) and marketing on mobile platforms continuing to lead the way in 2016. Also look out for instant chat with customers via social media, as well as greater employee engagement and participation on social platforms. Social media will evolve at such a fast rate that it becomes the norm in business practice and just one more way of communicating. 2016 will also see the rise of the customers’ social media voice, and the way brands handle this will affect their reputation more than ever.

If I had a magic wand, I’d use it to get my clients’ employees to embrace the new ways of communicating with customers. It’s not about marketing or social media or any of that for its own sake. It’s all about communicating effectively with people. So I say bring your regular employees into the fray and make marketing part of your business workflow. Ditch protocols, procedures and policies. Instead be creative, be bold, have fun, and show your audience that you are real, caring people too.”

>>John Beckley is a Hotel Digital Marketing Consultant & the social media savvy marketing manager at Sands Beach Resort Lanzarote LinkedIn.com/in/JohnBeckley

What can we take from this?

So there you have it. Two actual magic wands and a rich and varied tapestry of observations and wishes for the year. And if we step back, a few important themes and threads to pay attention to for our businesses:

  • A drive towards smarter and more human automation – use of digital the right way, to enable real world interaction.
  • Following on from last year’s Facebook prediction – a desire to move away from big and generalist to small and personal – connecting niche communities.
  • Content evidently still matters in 2016 (brands are finally waking up to this reality says Joe), but not any old content. Our panel predicts a new drive to produce stuff that really matters – to do less but do it better and put real effort in. A call for targeted, in-depth content and stories to create more meaningful experiences for customers this year.
  • All of this change is underpinned by a need to really get to know our customers and to build businesses from the outside-in, using data and deep research, as Ernie and James explain.

We like Chris’ view on the increasing specialisation of digital talent too (Bristol Content Group debate to follow soon on this topic – it’s an important one). That chimes with us, but how about you? Do you have a prediction or wish when it comes to marketing trends this year? Have your say. We’d love to hear.

A big thank you to all our thoughtful contributors. Great opportunities lie ahead for businesses that ride the waves of change that you foresee.

No doubt about it, 2016 is going to be a fascinating one. Let’s see how it plays out.

Sonja and Sharon

Previous predictions – see if they came true

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  1. Doug Kessler

    Great predictions and hopes.
    Marketers are a bunch of optimists.

  2. Sonja Jefferson

    Ha thanks Doug. Where’s the fun in being anything else? PS – I did A-level Latin. I got a ‘U’ for useless. My optimism failed me there.
    Thanks for piling in with your prediction.

  3. Ravinder Dande

    That is really great and usefull thing for booming any business.Thanks for sharing this one with us.

  4. Sonja Jefferson

    Very glad you’ve found this year’s collection useful Ravinder. Hope 2016 is a good one for your business too.



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