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15 Digital Marketing Trends for 2016 That Could Destroy Your Business

digital marketing trends

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Marketing today is a new game.

The “Mad Men” of the Madison avenue era of wine, whisky and women as inspiration, are now a distant but fond memory. But as much as the new dawn of digital and the rise of the social web have changed the landscape, some things have stayed the same.

Memorable and congruent branding, creative content creation and knowing and understanding your target audience are still marketing 101. The hard nosed conversion tactics and principles of the direct mail experts from the 20th century are also a skill set worth embracing and polishing.

The social web marketing tactics, new media and digital marketing automation are all new skills, concepts and technologies that we need to understand and learn. I know that hurts. And you thought when you left college or university those exams and learning were all over.

But staying in your comfort zone is not an option in a digital world.

As marketers we need to be reinventing ourselves. It is a revolution, not an evolution and ignorance is not bliss but a road to extinction. Who thought a mobile app (Uber) would destroy the taxi industry. Or a computer company (Apple) would disrupt the music business.

We need to be nimble, agile and dedicated to a lifetime of learning and innovation. Much of the past we have to leave behind.

Why I wish I had a Neuralyzer

In the Men in Black movies, Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent Jay (Will Smith) are the guardians of all things alien. One of the tools at their disposal is the Neuralyzer. It is one of the signature tools. It is a device about the size of an average cigar tube that gives a bright flash which erases the memories of the past.

For many traditional marketers and business people there is a lot of unlearning to do. Erasing bad old habits is essential.

But for many, the old habits die hard and mass media marketing that was so effective in the past is losing its traction as the new connected generation switches off the remote and junks the letterbox contents.

They aren’t watching TV, but YouTube. No more sitting down to watch the weekly shows, but scanning Facebook on their smart phone. It is the new way to kill time!

John Maynard Keynes insight many years ago, which summed up the challenge for businesses in the 20th century, is more relevant today than when it was first uttered.

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones

It’s time to get rid of the old marketing practices that no longer work and step into the new world.

It’s time to use the Neuralyzer.

The challenges for marketers

Once you step into the digital marketing maelstrom, you will be confronted with terms and words like SEO, long tail, inbound links, list building, optimization, CRO, conversion, retargeting… and the list goes on.

You will not only need to know the “what” but the “how” for all these new marketing tactics.

But there are some other challenges. Here are 8 as ranked by Hubspot in its latest “State of Inbound Marketing 2015

marketing challenges


Technology is ranked as the third biggest challenge.  But you will also need to integrate technology into your digital marketing manager skill set. To cap it all off  you need to find someone who understands and has the capabilities.

Some more questions

So you know what is needed but now you need to find the resources that you can trust. These are some of the questions that burn in many marketers minds.

  • Who can I use that understands and executes paid Facebook advertising without wasting my limited budget.
  • Who is an SEO expert I can trust?
  • Where can I find a switched on “data scientist” that will improve my landing page conversion rate.

It used to be easy before when you just handed your marketing dollars over to the advertising agency.

The opportunities

Digital marketing is not just about challenges but opportunities. In fact, the opportunities are staggering… should you roll up your sleeves and go for it. In traditional industries the upside is huge as they are the most ripe to be disrupted by someone who “gets” digital.

So what are the advantages digital marketing can provide?

  • The ability to reach a much bigger market by moving from local thinking to global.
  • Scaling and amplifying your efforts with technology
  • Measurable results from data that reveals what works and what doesn’t
  • Free crowd sourced social media brand content that amplifies your marketing for free

These are just some of the opportunities that the mobile and the social web allow.

Some digital marketing facts

Digital marketing is many moving parts and here are some facts worth contemplating.

  • Budgets are doubling for social
  • Email with sharing buttons increases click through rates by 158%
  • Today 50% of companies have content marketing strategies

digital marketing trends

Source: Adweek.com 

The digital marketing trends

So what are the digital marketing strategies trends that could destroy your business if you don’t start now? You can be sure that your savvy competitors will be getting in on the digital action! So it’s time to beat them to the punch.

And you can’t ignore the looming reality that the new start-ups will also disrupt.

1. The focus on “Return on Investment”

The shiny new toy is just another toy.

When social media started to be recognised as not just a plaything for teenagers, the marketers started piling in. They realized that it was free marketing driven by the global online crowd. Facebook “likes” were the new gold rush. For the last 7 years the shiny new social media toy has distracted us. We have talked about trust, engagement and other fluffy metrics.

Vanity metrics blinded our common sense.

Social media is now to be treated as just another digital channel. The reality has set in and the question is being asked “What is the return on investment”. The CEO is saying “Show me the sales”.

Social media is great for traffic, brand awareness and customer engagement but as you move down the sales funnel the other digital marketing tactics are vital. Landing pages that convert and an email list that gives you control of customer contact.

No longer can you rely on Facebook to provide free traffic to your website or blog. It’s become just another paid advertising channel.

It’s time to stop chasing every new social media distraction. It’s time to get serious and focus on what matters. Moving beyond vanity metrics like traffic, likes and sharing to the sharp end of the sales funnel. Return on investment.

2. The continuing rise in the importance of digital assets

In the past advertising was just seen as an expense.

But in the new age of digital it should be seen more as an investment in the future of your online authority. It is an asset build. Advertisements that had a lifetime of 30 seconds and never to be seen again and cost hundreds of thousands are being added to and even replaced by online videos that can be viewed this year and into the future.

This new media  is indexed by Google and shared on Facebook and Twitter. They are searchable now and will be found on the web in a decade. Media creation is a digital content asset that provides brand value now and will keep giving. In 10 years the content you created today will be found in a Google search.

Digital content assets

Your website is your most important digital asset. Its the one you own and have the most control over. Google, Facebook or Twitter don’t have  control here. But a website should be a living, breathing and evolving honeypot that keeps bring people back to read and view. For most sites the blog is or should be the content hub.

Search engine assets

Below is one of my search assets. Ranking position one and two on a Google search for “social media facts”. This brings in about 30,000 visitors a month. But it does take time and persistence. Keep in mind that organic search rankings can bring in 300% more traffic than social.

That surprised you!

digital assets

The new age marketers that win will be the ones with the greatest and best content and will also know how to make it flow across the web and optimized for discovery. They will understand the power of content “marketing”.

Social media assets

Another digital asset are your tribes on social media.

You may have the content but do you have the crowd to distribute it? That is why growing and investing in your social network following is a long term game.

I have been investing in building my Twitter tribe for years!

Twitter jeffbullas

Investing in growing your digital assets is vital and content is the foundation.

The mantra of “think like a publisher” have been embraced by brands like Red Bull, Coca Cola and Lego. You need to be investing in your digital content assets and global distribution networks.

3. Thinking global instead of local

You competition is no longer just local.

Amazon is the global competitor for the corner book store and much more. Online stores that are owned by corporations in London are selling to your customers in New York, Los Angeles or even Sydney.

Small thinking needs to be discarded.

The world can now be reached with a tweet, an email or a blog post that is shared on social.

4. Crowd sourced brand content is essential

Coca Cola decided to re-invent and pivot its marketing philosophy from creative excellence to content marketing excellence when it discovered an essential truth about the digital world. That your customers and fans could create many more stories, content and conversations about your brand than they could ever hope to build or buy on their own.

Scaling content on your own is expensive and hard to do.

In some recent research Onalytica discovered that just on YouTube alone that brand fans were creating 99% of the content that mentioned the brand. Discover how to do that well and you are on your way to earning that free attention that companies crave.

At the annual Minecraft conferences the young fans are not provided free workshops on how to play Minecraft but on “Video Creation 101”.

What will they do when they go back home?

Create videos about Minecraft. Almost all the videos on YouTube about Minecraft were created by young passionate Minecraft fans.


Source: Technobuffalo.com

Minecraft hardly spends a cent on traditional advertising. But why should they when they know how the social web works. They generate 2.4 billion video views a month on YouTube with content marketing created by their fans. All they had to do was train them on video making.

5. The rise of the robots

Marketing was just an art.

Now it is being amplified and optimized by technology and science. Human intuition and creativity is being enhanced by data.  The splintering of media means that to do digital marketing at scale you need help. Digital marketing platforms provide automation tools that allow you to publish and market at scale.

  • Email: Automated email sequences can be designed to run from opt-in to purchase without human intervention.
  • Social: Tweets and Facebook posts that were all done by hand are now loaded, scheduled and automated.
  • Paid Digital Advertising: Knowing what works and what doesn’t makes sure that we are spending our Facebook marketing dollars on the right creative, approaching the correct target audiences and identifying the calls to action that work best.

Marketing effectiveness is also able to be measured for impressions, engagement and clicks. We now have the ability to measure almost any data point. The old marketing joke attributed to John Wanamaker over a century ago will become a relic of the past

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

Measurement is what the digital world excels at. But you need to know what to measure and the digital tools to do it.

6. Email is alive and kicking

Email is still a digital trend that isn’t going away.

The rise of social media and all those multiple messaging apps (Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and much more) have lead many people to question the future of email.  But it will not be going away anytime soon. It is still the default business communication tool.

Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Slack – a chatroom app for teams in workplaces says this about email.

The reason email survives – even though everyone seems to hate it – is that “email has many benefits, it’s the lowest common denominator for official communications”. To those that expect email to disappear….wait another 30 years!

For marketers, email will continue to be the key communication channel for acquiring leads and customers.

The money is indeed in the list.

7. Personalisation has arrived

Relevance is key to catching and holding attention offline and online. Delivering content that engages and sells means tagging customers interests as they discover you and subscribe to your email list.

There are now a variety of digital marketing technologies from email to marketing software that are now available that can provide personalized marketing. They are also within the resources and reach of most businesses. They will allow you to do personalisation at scale.

8. The data scientist is your next hire

In the past direct mail, print and mass media were your only option. Experience, skill and intuition were the marketers only friends to achieve optimal results. Today there is a new and vital component.


The web now provides us with the data we need to determine what works and what doesn’t. The guesswork is disappearing. A/B split testing can be automated (eg Leadpages.net allows this with their template landing pages). The new emerging media sites like Buzzfeed, Viral Nova and Upworthy’s success is not from just creative excellence  but data driven decisions.

So believe the data ….not your intuition.

9. Mobile is now your first screen

Mobile was called the second screen but that has been flipped. It is now the primary screen for most.

You only have to look at where most of Facebook’s revenue comes from (over 75% is from mobile advertising) and it becomes clear that smart phones should be a big part of the marketers focus.

Mobile raises the challenge of “less is more”. You cannot do everything on mobile so you have to do what matters. So what is that?

mobile marketing

  • Capturing email leads via mobile (see image above)
  • Easy to read and view content on mobile
  • Calls to action that are easy to use
  • Contact details that don’t require finger dancing

Keep in  mind that as you move from local to global that most of the 3 billion new internet users coming online in the next 5 years will be accessing your website via a smartphone

10. Powerful digital platforms for all business

As the cost of technology drops, the access to powerful software that was only in the past accessible by the big end of town has become a reality for all.

What are those platforms?


They are customer CRM and digital marketing automation software such as Infusionsoft, Ontraport, Hubspot and Marketo and many more. Once they have been acquired by the business the next challenge is learning how to use them.

11. The rise and rise of paid social media advertising

Social media was free.

That is what attracted me and many marketers 7 years ago. But things have changed. Facebook has wound it’s organic reach for pages back to almost zero. Want to reach your Facebook fans?

Its pay to play.

All social networks are now in this game and as social media has become just another media channel that reality is not going away. You are going to need to adapt.

Facebook makes big money from this in 2015. But if you are paying you need to make sure you are measuring the results. You don’t want to be spending $100 in advertising every day and only making $50 in profit. Don’t pay for traffic until you know what it produces.

That is why advertising on the web and a data scientist are a match made in heaven.

12. Influencer marketing takes off

Nike pays Tiger Woods and many other athletes for one thing. Helping them reach the right audience.

Online influencers and niche bloggers now offer this for brands to reach targeted global audiences. They offer not only global reach but credibility and trust. Companies are now willing to pay for that attention.

A recent report from Group High reveals that influencer marketing is no longer a freebie but often requires a paid investment.

Influencer marketing

13.  Virtual reality is real

It’s still early days but the rapid evolution of virtual reality and the big investment by players such as Google and Facebook with its Occulus Rift acquisition for $2 billion is setting the stage for immersive marketing.

Marketing webinars that educate while wearing a virtual reality headset will have incredible engagement capabilities.

virtual reality

14. Wearable technology takes its first steps

Do you wear a Apple watch? Have you been reminded to stand to reach your standing goal several times during the day as it vibrates gently on your wrist. As the web becomes noisier and more crowded the use of wearable technology by marketers will be tested.

Standing out will become even harder and marketers will need to find different ways of communicating with potential customers that work.

15. Mobile apps for all business

In the past the cost of developing an app was high.

Today the costs are plummeting as the technology has improved. The domination of the web by mobile will lead to companies realizing that an app is no longer an option but a necessity.

What about you?

What digital marketing trends have you adopted? Has it made a difference. What technology are you thinking of implementing? What do you think is the most important trend that will disrupt your industry?

Look forward to reading your insights and experiences in the comments below.

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