The online marketing landscape changes so fast that your head is spinning.
And the many shady and annoying marketing tactics you’re bombarded with every day only make it worse.
The constant changes provide exciting opportunities for some while presenting very big challenges for others.
What do they mean for you?
Several bad trends are reaching the tipping point of becoming unsustainable. This is bad news for online businesses who are married to those types of tactics. They can expect to sink like the Titanic.
But for people like us—who strive to do business with integrity—there’s a huge opportunity to thrive and be very successful helping other people do the same.
I am excited about the trends that are already taking place today.
3 Online Marketing Trends Shaping Online Business in 2016 and Beyond
1. Education will dominate.
The demand for information products like ebooks, DVDs, and audio programs are on the decline. “Information products” is a broad term, but at its heart it means giving buyers the “what” aspect of the “how, what, and why?” of reaching their goals.In other words, information products tell people what to do, but don't support them to actually do it.Click To Tweet
At the same time, online education—programs offering multi-week training with differing levels of personal support—are rapidly gaining popularity. Online education not only tells students how to reach their particular goals, it also personally guides them through the process.
While we’ve seen this trend rising with the popularity of Udemy and other online education platforms, 2016 is the first year we’re seeing some serious momentum with education rising in importance and information falling off.
It’s already been getting harder and harder to sell information, especially at premium prices.
Forbes estimated the online education market at $107 billion for 2015. While that’s huge, the market is still growing, and there’s still a great deal of untapped potential.
Year over year growth in global eLearning has been compounding at more than 9 percent. And the market size tripled since 2010 showing no signs of slowing down.
Mirasee changed the game in September 2015 with the Course Builder’s Laboratory launch. We added a level of support for our students that is pretty much unprecedented in our industry.
And you’ll see more programs like this in 2016, not because others are parroting Mirasee, but because they see that the approach makes sense.
This is what it takes to help people today. This is what you have to put on the table to earn people’s hard-earned dollars.
This leads me to the next big business influence: how you communicate with your audience.
2. Send the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
Moving forward, expect to see a lot more emphasis on market segmentation and personalization.
This is known as behavior-based marketing. It sounds fancy and complicated, but it’s not.
Put simply, it’s paying attention to your audience.
As marketers, we track simple behavioral triggers, like knowing if and when someone opens an email and clicks a link. Once armed with this information, we know they’re interested in our offer, and to follow up.
As you start collecting more data about what your readers are interested or not interested in, you can not only segment your list accordingly, you also have the ability to tailor what you continue to send them based on the data.
Suddenly your messages are more personal and relevant. And as a result, your readers grow more engaged and excited because you keep giving them more of what they care about.
It’s a win-win situation.
The key to success from 2016 onwards is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
Online marketing is already moving in that direction, especially with some of the more savvy marketers, but there’s many are still employing “spray and pray” tactics in an attempt to mass market to everybody.
However, those types of mass marketing will quickly lose their effectiveness until they eventually fade away.
Knowing your audience better is more important than ever—especially if you plan to launch products in the future.
3. The mass market joint venture launch model is weakening.
The glory days of giant product launches are behind us.
I’m talking about those huge launches where dozens of joint venture partners send identical emails and offer everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink bonuses to readers: “Please buy this thing, and I’ll throw in a house and a helicopter to boot!”
These launches exploded in growth in the last several years. And I believe that in 2015, we got close to the tipping point and have reached the level where diminishing returns will kick in (if we haven’t already).
So for those who continue to offer everything AND the kitchen sink, expect to see worse and worse results. But on the upside, here lies an opportunity to innovate and find ways of doing things differently.
But on the upside, here lies an opportunity to innovate and find ways of doing things differently.
To be clear, I’m not the only one who’s noticed these trends. I’m not saying anything revolutionary here. I’m just articulating what few other people can, but most people can feel:
- Everyone is fed up with spending thousands of dollars for a bunch of videos and a membership site that doesn’t really do anything for them.
- Everyone is frustrated with getting identical emails from 14 marketers about some product that you weren’t interested in buying in the first place.
- Everyone is tired of messages that are clearly not targeted at them and don’t show any understanding of what they want, need, or think.
These three trends together are enough to do major damage to any business in our space, if they keep doing what they’ve been doing.
But business doesn’t have to be that way. And when it’s not… everyone benefits.
Because these same trends also mean tremendous opportunities to dramatically grow and increase your ability to reach people, to serve them, and to do it very profitably.
What it comes down to is where you focus and where your priorities lie. Are you going to take advantage of these changes? Or will you sit back and let them happen to you?
I’m guessing you prefer the first option.
So how do you go about it?
How to Ride the Tides of Change
1. Go back to Business 101.
Remember the basic marketing truism that a transaction happens between two people: the seller and the buyer.
Not between 101 people—the seller and a hundred buyers—but between two people.
- If you stay focused on how to create the best outcome for each person you interact with rather than a mass of people as a whole, you’ll do fine.
- If you make your messages, emails, and online interactions about individuals as opposed to writing one-size-fits-all blasts, you’ll do fine.
- And if you stay ahead in the sense of doing what is right and what makes sense, then you have enormous competitive advantages.
I’ve said this for years: being a decent person is a rare competitive advantage.
The specifics of what that means may change, but the sentiment hasn’t.
When you take care of each person you interact with individually, put their needs first, and do well by them, you will do well. Because, let’s face it, most people are not.
Caring sets you apart from the crowd.
2. Sidestep the noise.
There’s a lot more noise online these days.
For the last several years, maybe even close to a decade, the solution to too much noise was to “be louder than everybody else.”
Be more present on Twitter. Be more active on Facebook. It’s very much an arms race of more, more, more: more content, more activity, more stuff.
We are finally reaching the point where, if that’s the game you’re playing, and you’re just getting started today, then you can’t compete.
So what does this mean for the beginning entrepreneur? Simply put, you need to be different, meaningfully different.2016 is the year where standing out means you have to be different, not just “better' or 'more.'Click To Tweet
Everyone’s looking at how they can scale up.
Paid traffic, especially on Facebook over the last year, for example, has been big. Also, more people are implementing marketing funnels. And then there’s the “write epic shit” strategy.
But there’s a red queen evolutionary effect in content marketing. To keep up, your content has to be more and more “epic” which, to date, means longer and longer and bigger and bigger.
A good illustration of this is what Brian Dean calls the skyscraper technique. You find the search term you want to rank for (this is not strictly an SEO thing, it just illustrates the idea). You Google your term and find the top posts out there, and then write a post that’s bigger and better.
At some point, when the biggest and best post is tens of thousands of words long, the bigger and better tactic becomes impossible.
Not to mention, the big brands are spending significant amounts of money on substantial editorial departments to create great content.
These days at Mirasee, we have a full-time blog editor with several people supporting her work. We’ve got a full-time podcast producer, plus my own time that goes into all those things.
This means if you try to compete on quantity and production value, you’re probably going to fail.
So instead, I suggest, when you Google your chosen topic, ask yourself, from what perspective are these posts written? And if I looked at all those perspectives, what might I still not know? What’s missing? You have to keep trying to find the perspective that has not been addressed.
You have to find the perspective that has not been addressed and create content on that.
For all of these things—epic content, more paid ads, marketing funnels—there’s an early window of opportunity where you get in when it’s cheap, easy, and seems to work like magic.
Then it gets saturated and more difficult. And all these activities involve a lot of overhead in terms of your time, energy, and money.
With everyone chasing this giant scale, they’ve forgotten what’s important. What’s getting lost in all this pursuit of scale is that you can do very well without needing a lot of people or a lot of work, if what you’re doing is exceptionally great and targeted and customized to the people you’re serving.
2016 onwards is when there’s a huge amount of opportunity by starting small and doing it right.
And that requires empathy.
3. Meet your audience where they are.
You must meet your people where they are right now, today. And I don’t mean just by being on the online platforms they hang out on.
You also have to understand them.
Small businesses often stress about being everywhere on social media, encouraging sharing, encouraging blog comments, and so on.
But when you look at blog comments versus blog posts versus Twitter versus social media versus communities versus whatever—those are all mechanisms. What’s best for you will depend to a certain extent on who you’re trying to reach and where they hang out.
What determines whether or not you’ll be successful in that mechanism is how much you genuinely care, not by paying lip service.
If you take a real interest in the people you’re trying to serve, it’s not that hard to find them and engage with them.
But keep in mind. No matter what you do, you have to legitimately care, not just pretend to care or do it because that’s what a trends article told you to do.
The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same
The world of online marketing, content marketing, and social media continues to evolve. Many processes and systems are becoming more saturated and more sophisticated.
But it’s because of all these changes that the fundamentals—building real relationships, engaging with authenticity, and serving your audience in a meaningful way—are more important than ever.
In fact, if you review the three trends in this post, you’ll notice they all stem from the fundamentals.
When you connect and engage with people as individuals, you build real relationships with the people you’re looking to serve.
And that’s what becomes the differentiating factor. Great news for you!
Because no matter what’s going on around you, if you focus on understanding your audience, serving them, and giving them what they want when they want it, you will thrive.
So starting today, keep those fundamentals in mind. They will never go out of style.
Over to you. Have you noticed these trends? How do you think you’ll respond to these changes this year? Let us know in the comments below!
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