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7 Marketing Heavies Weigh in on The State of Marketing

Over the 16 years we’ve been doing this, I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing marketers. I’ve learned so much from all of them but there are 6 that are my consistent go-tos.

So, when it came time to write a post about what to expect in 2019, I knew going to this group would not disappoint. Let’s meet them now (in no particular order)…

  1. Gini Dietrich – I consider Gini a friend even though we’ve never met IRL. She is the owner and resident PR and marketing badass at Arment Dietrich. She’s also written two of my favorite books, Marketing in the Round and Spin Sucks. She also created the blog of the same name, Spin Sucks. Follow this blog if you want consistently excellent marketing, PR, and business information. And if you ever have a chance to see her speak, go!
  2. Ann Handley – I love me some Ann Handley. She is the author of two of my favorite and most recommended books for marketers, Content Rules and Everybody Writes. She is one of the nicest and accessible badasses I know. Read her books, her blog posts, and go to her events!
  3. Andy Crestodina – I found out about Andy through Gini (this is also the case for many other marketers I know). Andy is one of the best at breaking down complex marketing techniques and strategies into easy-to-understand posts on his Orbit blog. He is also the author of Content Chemistry, currently in its 5th edition. If I could ever do a mind meld with someone (other than Danny Carey from Tool), it would be with Andy (picture Neo saying “I know Crestodina”).
  4. Christopher S. Penn – I’ve known Chris for years now. I even got him to speak at a local conference years back (not sure how we pulled that off). Chris is the marketer’s marketer. He makes everyone’s list of must reads. His newsletter is a must for marketers and so are his blog posts and book.  He is the cofounder and Chief Innovator at Trust Insights.
  5. Shonali Burke – I had to get at least one DC local. I met Shonali at an event that she put together with Geoff Livingston and Patrick Ashmala called xPotomac. We were chatting “backstage” and she mentioned she was very nervous about presenting. Well, she crushed it! She is always showing up on top women in marketing lists (should just be top marketers, period. She’s the me behind the we at Shonali Burke Consulting).
  6. Mark W. SchaeferMark is quite possibly one of the nicest people I know. The first time I ever met him in real life, he gave me a big hug. Mark has the enviable skill of explaining marketing in a fun and easy to understand way. His books are bestsellers. Personally, I always recommend the Content Code and Known. I’m really excited to read Marketing Rebellion too!
  7. Michael Barber – Last but certainly not least is the ultimate road warrior, Michael Barber! Michael is the SVP and Chief Creative Officer at Godfrey and one of Marketo’s 50 Fearless Marketing Leaders. I met Michael at a speaker’s dinner at the Digital Summit in Philadelphia a few years back. The man knows him some food! He’s also an amazing speaker. If you have a chance, check him out for sure!

OK, now we know the players, let the games begin. Pretty simple, I will post each of the three questions I asked them and then each of their responses below. There is some great stuff in here and I know you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Question One – Marketing Trends for 2019

What, if any, will be the number one, “blow your socks off,” marketing trend for 2019? If nothing comes to mind, what existing technology or tactic will see major growth in 2019?

Gini Dietrich

I’m not sure there is a blow your socks off trend forthcoming, but artificial intelligence continues to improve and permeate both our personal and professional lives. I always joke that it makes us crazy lazy: “Alexa, turn the kitchen lights on. Alexa, buy my groceries.” But it’s also incredibly useful.

One of our big goals in 2019 is to use AI to build internal training videos that don’t require us to do all of the work (and training). I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.

Ann Handley

In 2019, I believe the biggest marketing trend is the email newsletter.

“Hold up,” you’re thinking. “EMAIL? Is this 1999 or 2019? Isn’t this the age of AI and Facebook Live and video?”

Here’s why I believe in the power of email newsletters even more strongly today, in 2019:

  • An email newsletter is the only place where individuals—not algorithms—are in control. So what if marketing leaned into that inherently personal space?
  • Most companies today use their email newsletter as a distribution. What if we focused not on the news but on the letter?

Last year I relaunched my personal newsletter as a way to talk directly to my audience. It’s taught me a lot about what works and what doesn’t in content and in marketing. Because I think the best email newsletters are also a kind of proxy for the best marketing in 2019, period.

In 2019, the kind of marketing that blows my shoes and socks straight off of my feet continues to be marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing, content that doesn’t feel like content, and automation that doesn’t feel like automation. In other words, it’s marketing that feels valuable, authentic, and human.

All of those words have earned plaques in the Marketing Buzzword Hall of Fame, because they are used and abused. But the best marketing still comes from that honestly empathetic place of value, authentic, human.

Andy Crestodina

Lead generation chat bots on websites will get huge results in 2019. Especially for B2B companies and especially when they let the visitor schedule a call (check out Drift). These chatbots solve three problems at the same time.

Visitors want to interact immediately. Visitors who fill out contact forms don’t know if or when they’ll hear back. Businesses can’t staff a chat tool all the time.

These chatbots are very simple: they give the visitor a few multiple choice questions. Depending on the answers, the visitor is qualified or not. If they are qualified, they get a little scheduling widget. Bang! They’re on the calendar of a sales associate. If not, they are directed toward content or maybe the contact form.

If the goal is more leads and more qualified leads, these little guys deliver.

Christopher S. Penn

Read the new trust insights 2019 key marketing trends report. Influencer marketing is going to eat everything, but read that report.

Shonali Burke

I think we are going to see increased interest in AR/VR, but people will keep bumbling around it/them, because it’s very much the Wild West out there. So while there will be interest, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of cool stuff happening unless it comes from large companies who are willing to invest in using AR/VR for marketing (because let’s face it, it’s not cheap).

So: what *will* marketers actually do? In my opinion, we’ll see continued growth in influencer marketing, particularly micro-influencers, because now it’s becoming mainstream. We’ll also see continued and greater acknowledgement of how important community building is, and a greater emphasis on integrated Social PR programs… I didn’t create that phrase/niche/training for nothing!

Mark W. Schaefer

A few days ago, an agency called Giant Spoon was named breakout agency of the year by AdWeek magazine. Their internal motto is that they are an ad agency that aspires to never make an ad. Isn’t that very strange? An agency that doesn’t make ads was named ad agency of the year! This points to a very significant trend for all of us.

We are entering the post-advertising, post-loyalty era. For more than a century advertising was the best way to get the word out about our products and services but in this new era, we must find new, more human-centered approaches to telling our tales.

Giant Spoon creates fun, immersive brand experiences. We’ll see a renewal of interest in word of mouth marketing, we’ll see marketing that is more local — I’d even call it artisanal — and of course this explains why influencer marketing is so hot.

The hottest marketing technology will be no marketing technology.

Michael Barber

For me, the answer to this question largely depends on your audience. For consumer brands, it is experience and price above all. People value experience (and they’ll pay for it) and price (and they’ll be ruthless about pricing decisions).

The brands that win will this year and beyond will focus less on the blow your socks off tactics or trends and focus more on creating long-term results developed via a healthy balance of ridiculous customer-first interactions, competitive and targeted pricing at the optimal point of purchase, and continue to build brands that are aspirational.

For companies focused on other businesses, I’d focus your 2019 on less marketing trends and more focus on pricing. Capital and expense budgets are going to get interesting this year. Price could easily be a determining factor in so many business decisions.

I’m not discounting experience or brand for those companies focused on selling to other businesses, just saying that pricing decisions will trump all in some cases.

Question Two – Outdated Marketing

What marketing trend, tactic, or idea is going to fade away in the coming year?

Gini Dietrich

Donald Trump? (In my dreams.)

I don’t necessarily think Facebook is going to fade away, but they’re in a lot of trouble. You know when entire governments are banding together to get your attention and show up for a hearing, you aren’t going to reach your 2019 business goals.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens, both from a business perspective and a user perspective.

Ann Handley

Automated sales email sequences. This is likely wishful thinking. But what’s a new year without an aspirational wish…?

Andy Crestodina

The marketers of the world are slowing deciding that “at least 1000 words” is a new standard for content length.

Personally, I don’t believe that there is an ideal length for an article. The length should be driven by the topic, right? [good, because this post is pretty dang long (but worth it)!]

I’ve read brilliant 400 word posts by Doug Kessler that changed how I think about marketing. But these are becoming more rare as more marketers conclude that length is some kind of virtue.

Christopher S. Penn

Now this is an important one because it’s not in the trends report. According to our data, we’re looking at a couple of big things that are likely to drop…

  1. Snapchat: stick a fork in it because it appears to seriously be done in terms of things that people just are not going to be searching for as much. Not because they’re at saturation like Facebook but because Instagram pretty much ate their lunch.
  2. The app kick also is on the ropes. Not doing so hot there.
  3. Google has done a good job of rebranding the marketing suite, which is now called Google Marketing Platform. It used to be called Analytics 360.

Shonali Burke

I wish I could say “bad measurement,” but unfortunately that would be a lie (like zombies, it will NEVER go away, #sadface).

I think we’ll see less resistance to integrating paid media into overall strategies (PR pros don’t like to pay for anything, let’s be honest) – it’s just how it is these days, and I think more people are beginning to accept that.

Mark W. Schaefer

Tom Webster and I recently named Facebook “worst company of the year” in our Marketing Companion podcast. They are not going to be able to solve their problems because they have no moral compass.

They have breached the trust of their customers, advertisers and employees and Facebook will continue to decline unless there is a change at the top of the company.

Michael Barber

Let’s hope it is this ridiculous notion that companies should behave as people and people should behave like companies. It’s total nonsense that needs to fade away now.

Question Three – 2019 Must Read Marketing (and other) Books

What book(s) or blogs would you say will be must reads to stay competitive in 2019?

Gini Dietrich

I will tell you what’s on my reading list for 2019. Fair? [yup] Radical CandorBuilding a StoryBrand10% Happier, and Lost and Founder.

Ann Handley

Books: I enjoyed Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing. It’s not a how-to. But it’s required reading for anyone who values Seth’s long-term perspective on how marketing has and needs to evolve.

Also: Read books. Any books. Whatever you love. But read them like a communicator and like a writer: What works here? What doesn’t? Read with a pen in your hand and make notes in the margins, so you remember later. It’s the best way to train yourself to become a sharper communicator.

Blogs: MarketingProfs should be your go-to source for what matters in marketing. (Of course!)

Andy Crestodina

Marketers who read books about sales will be better marketers in the new year. Any book that explains buyer psychology is good for marketers. I recommend Three Value Conversations by Tim Riesterer and the team at Corporate Visions. So much in there is relevant to B2B marketers.

Christopher S. Penn

There are a bunch of books that have been very useful. [there is a lot in this answer but, trust me, skip none of it!]

Talk Triggers

One that I really liked, that was a good read, was Jay Baer’s Talk Triggers. It’s not just a book, it’s also got a workbook and a framework in it of stuff that you should do. It’s a six step process. And if you follow that, if we actually do the framework, it’s a really good book.

Art of War

But the one I think that is undersold and people have forgotten about how to apply the lessons of is not a business book at all, it is this one. This is Sun Tzu’s Art of War. I like the query edition because in the query addition you’ll get the individual text and then you’ll get a bunch of commentary by other contemporaries.

For example, there’s a whole section in here on doing battle. It says “those who use the military skillfully do not raise troops twice and do not provide food three times.”

Then the commentary essentially says “if you’re really bad at war then you’re going to have to to raise a whole bunch of resources that you didn’t need or you didn’t need to expand.” Traditionally when you when you raise troops, your conscripting them from the population. When you send food, every ounce of food that you send the military is taken away from the rest of your population. Now this was written in ancient China.

When you apply that lesson to your marketing or to your business, you need to be really smart and really good about what it is that you do with your marketing. The equivalent of raising troops and sending food is hiring and consuming budget, right? You only have so much budget to work with. And if you are bad at marketing, you’re going to expend the whole bunch of that budget in ways that are not efficient.

That requires a lot of strategic decisions like testing stuff. Should we attempt this avenue in the same way that you would do so in a military campaign where you would, instead of just randomly committing to one action and hope it works out for the best, you would use…

  • Scouting
  • Espionage
  • Surveillance to determine the strength of the enemy and what they’re likely to do
  • The knowledge of the enemy general and what personality weaknesses they have that might to get them to to make a poor choice. Doing so gives you a strategic advantage that you could use.

It as a way to to save your troops, save your budget, save your resources, and be able to win the war. Now, these are not one to one comparisons. For example, in a war people die. In failed marketing campaigns, nobody dies.

You may not do well as a company, but from a strategic perspective, classics like the art of war are really important reads and the reads that people have not done. They are reads that people have skipped over or maybe read them once in business school and have long forgotten the lessons in them.

My friend Scott Monty calls this timeless wisdom. There is an art and a science to reading it to be able to see how these lessons apply to the modern day and to translate them and to know which ones don’t apply.

But I would emphasize that in 2019, you get back to the basics. As we have seen over the last 10 years, especially in SEO, but now in social media with all the algorithm changes, every algorithm change that happens does more to take away the easy tricks and the ways to hack the system. This forces us all as marketers and as people to do it the right way.

If you go back to the the timeless wisdom section of your bookshelf, look at the lessons that we should be adhering to that have worked and will continue to work as long as people don’t change all that much. And that’s where I think there’s some opportunities for marketers in 2019 or frankly in any year to get competitive and stay competitive.

Figure out how people work because behind all the technology, at least for now, there’s still a human being a good chunk of the time. So, figuring out how the people work will let you take advantage of hacking the wet wear in the brain rather than trying to hack the mobile experience.

Study up on those classics. Study up on the things that help you understand why people make the decisions they make and keep an eye on those trends.

Shonali Burke

To me, staying competitive isn’t about beating everyone else; it’s about being the best that *you* can be. That means coming up with your own parameters and yardstick for personal wellbeing, and making sure your professional life supports that, as opposed to being a stressor.

So, rather than push yet another business book, I recommend people read (or re-read) any/all of the below:

  • Any/all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books – he wrote about influencer marketing without calling it that, waaay before it was a “thing”
  • The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer – it will remind you of what’s important in life, which is how you operate from a place of sanity and serenity, which is how you stay *most* competitive (according to me and my definition :)).

Mark W. Schaefer

I read a lot but I have to say there has not been many business books that blew me away in the last year or so. I liked The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. They take a data-based approach to reveal new insights into customer experience. 

Michael Barber

I do like me some Josh Bernoff Without Bullshit and Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing.


There you have it. Some truly amazing words of wisdom from some of my absolute favorite marketers/people. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as I did. And please, read their books, subscribe to their newsletters, and read their blogs. Lots of great stuff that you cannot afford to miss!


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