It’s a new year. And as new years often are, it’s brimming with the excitement of new plans, new hopes, and the possibility of making your business dreams a reality.
But a new year also ushers in a touch of trepidation to go with all that excitement.
The online marketing landscape changes so fast it can make your head spin. (Not to mention the many shady and annoying marketing tactics we’re bombarded with every day.)
We’re in the midst of some big changes. And these changes provide exciting opportunities for some while presenting very big challenges for others.
Several bad trends are reaching the tipping point of unsustainability. This is bad news for online businesses who are married to those types of tactics. They can expect to go down like the Titanic.
But for people like us—who strive to do business right—there’s a huge opportunity to thrive and be very successful helping other people do the same.
I am excited about the trends on the horizon… and you should be as well.
3 Online Marketing Trends Shaping Online Business in 2016
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.
At the same time, online education—programs offering fully-supported, multi-week courses 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 will be the first year where we see 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 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.
I published Teach and Grow Rich in September at the same time we launched the Course Builder’s Laboratory. A big part of why it did so well is directly tied into where the market is going—education and support.
This leads me to the next big business influence: how you communicate with your audience.
2. Right message, right person, 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 in 2016 and beyond is more 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 still many employing the “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 disappearance of the mass market joint venture launch model
The last trend for 2016 I want to discuss: the decline of the mass market joint venture launches.
The glory days of giant product launches are behind us.
I’m talking about those huge launches where dozens of joint venture partners send basically identical emails and offer everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink bonuses to readers—as in, “Please buy this thing, and I’ll throw in a house and a helicopter to boot.”
These launches exploded in growth 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.
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 for 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 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 a transaction happens between two people: the seller and the buyer.
Not between 101 people—the seller and a hundred buyers—but, again, 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 in your messages and emails and online interactions you make it 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, 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 is “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, the person just getting started today can’t compete.
So what does this mean for the beginning entrepreneur? Simply put, you need to be different, meaningfully different.
Everyone’s looking at how they can scale up.
Paid traffic, especially on Facebook over the last year, for example has been a really big thing. Also more people are implementing marketing funnels.
And then there’s the “write epic” strategy.
But there’s a red queen evolutionary effect when people talk about creating epic content. 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.
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 really targeted and customized to the people you’re serving.
I think 2016 is going to be a year where there’s a huge amount of opportunity when your focus is on 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 the online platforms they hang out on. I mean you have to understand them.
Small businesses often stress about being everywhere on social media, encouraging sharing, encouraging blog comments, etc.
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 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 and social media has evolved and continues to evolve significantly. 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, building engagement, 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 need when they need it, you will thrive.
So in 2016, keep those fundamentals in mind.
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!