On the 12th and final day of this Christmas series, I’m giving you my marketing predictions for 2016. Some are surprising; others are not.

Predictions in themselves are a mixed bag. Some predictions come true, such as when experts said content marketing would take over the marketing world. Others do not, such as the importance of Google Authorship (which no longer exists). It’ll be fun to compare in exactly one year how on target these are.

Still, without looking at the current landscape and the emerging trends, it’s hard to determine your path.

Here’s where marketing (not just digital or traditional) is going in 2016 (as I see it).

  1. Digital is a way of life, not a platform. Stop treating it as such.

A few days ago I touched on the importance of blending offline and online marketing. The reason? Consumer behavior shows that digital access is a way of life.

Customers driving down the road that sees a billboard will likely look up the business for more information using their smartphone.

A consumer who gets a flyer in the mail about a service will likely go online to look up reviews about the business before making a call.

Customers sitting in your office will likely check-in on Facebook or review their experience online. In either case, they’re using the Internet to share their thoughts with others.

Digital isn’t a separate channel to consider. It’s the way consumers are interacting with the world today. Your business can either dive in head first to get involved or fall behind while the rest of the world moves ahead.

  1. Content will become more about strategy.

Ann Handley said it best when she said this year, content marketing grows up. Check out her artful way of describing the transition into adulthood. If you’ve ever had a hangover (don’t lie!), you’ll be able to relate to this story.

The point is that writing and posting without strategy isn’t working. Boring content (which I’ll get to in prediction number 3) isn’t working.

To use content marketing to your advantage, you’ll need to have a solid, smart strategy behind it. This involves tapping into data and spending some well-deserved time researching keywords, competition, and your own analytics. Remember when I told you to set that up? You’re going to need it if you want your website to surge ahead in 2016.

  1. Content will also become more about having a voice. 

Your voice is equally important.

Today’s world is noisier than ever. There’s so much garbage online that consumers have fallen deaf to the same old advice. It’s a HUGE hurdle for businesses to cross through but when you do, there’s a pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.

Find your voice. Find your fight. Let people hear from the real you! It’ll pay off.

  1. Television will change.

If we’re honest, television is already changing. Netflix is taking over households. Apple TVs, Firesticks, and Rokus are replacing DVRs and cable boxes. People aren’t consuming television shows in the same way.

Treat your television advertising strategy in the same way and you’ll lose a ton of money. Shift to the new way consumers engage with businesses (see prediction #1) and you’ll win. It’s that simple.

  1. Automation will pick up.

Let’s face it. Time is your most precious asset. One of my most, most, most favorite articles on the subject is here. Read it. You won’t regret it.

Everyone’s time is valuable. If someone gives it to you, say thank you. It’s probably the greatest gift they could give.

Marketing automation companies know this better than anyone. That’s why they’re continuously developing products to help you recoup your time and refocus your energy. This year, as more people get overwhelmed with to-do lists and commitments, automation will pick up.

  1. Location based marketing will also pick up

Google is becoming smarter by the day. So are your consumers.

People want to know what’s happening around them – not what’s happening in another city. Local businesses will use iBeacon to target shoppers, local SEO tactics to reach people in their immediate vicinity, and other location based marketing strategies. Do this and you’ll get seen by the right people making your marketing spending pay off in dividends.

  1. SEO will move past Google and Bing.

What if I told you search engine optimization (SEO) has less to do with search engines as you know them? That’s not quite the case, but it is a close way of saying, SEO is changing big time.

A search engine is what a person uses to find something on the Internet or a specific website. Now, more people are moving away from using Google and Bing to do their searches. This year, more consumers will move to using Facebook or Yelp to find businesses in their area.

They already have.

Focus your SEO on social media as well as the main search engines and more people will find you. Here are a few ways to do that.

  1. Consumers will have a bigger voice.

Remember what I said in prediction #1? More people are using the Internet in their buying behavior. One important aspect of that no business should overlook – they’re using it to talk about you and to find you.

The last part of that statement is interesting.

I joke that Siri is the other woman in my marriage. I happen to believe that if data is correct, she’s the other woman in a lot of marriages. My husband loves using her as his personal assistant to look things up instead of typing in his search to Google. When he does, what he says to Siri versus what he would’ve typed are vastly different.

To get found by Siri (a whole new search engine –see prediction #7) you’ll have to tailor your content around the speech-based searches. This will have a huge impact on the keywords you should use in your content (see prediction #2)

It will also mean, having a voice will matter more than ever (see prediction #3). The more you can write and speak on your website like a human, the more likely you are to be found by humans.

  1. Goals will shift toward engagement rather than evangelism

In the past, brands wanted to get people to fall in love with them. They still do.

But now, instead of there being one big (somewhat silent) lovefest happening online, brands want to hear from their consumers more than ever. This is called engagement.

When a person engages with a business on social media or on their website, they invest a little bit of themselves into their success. The higher your engagement rates are, the more likely a person is to work with you.

  1. Metrics will play an even bigger role

No more guesswork! Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? And that’s just what will happen this year.

Data is prolific. Google analytics and Facebook ads provide you with a wealth of hidden knowledge about your customers. Tap into your customer experience metrics and you’ll have more confidence in how you move forward. Ignore it and you could be investing in marketing strategies that waste your money and never make a splash.

  1. Social media will become even more difficult in the coming year.

Have you noticed that fewer and fewer people are seeing your posts on Facebook? It’s only going to get worse from here, my friends.

Social media platforms are continuing to update their algorithms to weed out promotional posts and only show the stuff people want to see. The key to getting in front of your fans on Facebook is engagement (see prediction #9).

It’s also to stop talking about yourself so much and start talking about the things people want to hear. Sounds harsh but this is what Facebook wants you to do. I’m creating an entire course about how to do this effectively, which will launch in the Spring of 2016. Sign up for my newsletter to get your discount code when it goes live *plug, plug*.

  1. Customer engagement mapping will become more critical as processes become more complex.

If you’ve read (not skimmed) this entire post, you’ve seen me point to several predictions while talking about a separate prediction. There’s a lot of overlap here. That’s because consumer behavior is sporadic. Mapping out how a person finds you, decides they need you, and then decides to buy from you will help you bridge these gaps. It’ll also make your marketing way more effective…

… because that’s what these predictions are all about. Keeping you effective and in the game so you can dominate the New Year.

And this ends the 12 Days of Christmas series. Now, I’m going into my working hole to think about new strategies for the New Year. If you’re like most other business owners, you are too.

Use these as you plan your direction. And if you have any questions or thoughts in the process, comment here.

Happy Holidays!

9 thoughts to “2016 Marketing Predictions for Small Businesses

  • Steven Ma

    Great predictions Kimberly! #2 and #5 really resonate – especially for those who run businesses on their own, it’s important to be intentional and strategic with your time and not waste it. A prediction I’d like to add is the rise of live video. Periscope and Blab have really grown this year, and Facebook live videos are starting to become more common. I think people are seeing the difference between the impersonal recorded video and the long for the connection in real-time, raw live video.

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Great addition, Steven! I agree, personal videos (the raw, live ones) are way more attractive than the canned recorded videos.

  • Lily

    I can see #9 being a big one. The more engaging the posts, the more comment and thus the more people see it on social media. That’s a huge driver of traffic for me personally and I bet it’ll continue into next year as well. Thx for the tips!

    • Kimberly Crossland

      It definitely will continue into the New Year! Sounds like your’e doing everything right if you’re getting engagement and getting seen. Organic reach is low, low, low and it’s only going to keep going down. Keep it up, Lily!

  • Angela J. Ford

    These predictions and suggestions on how to handle these changes are excellent, especially for marketers as we re-think our strategy.

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Thanks Angela! Enjoy the planning period. This is an exciting time.

  • Mike Straus

    Love it! #3 is absolutely spot on. Too many businesses stick to the same bland, boring corporate crap because they’re afraid of creativity, not knowing that they’re killing the very thing that could be doubling their profits.

    • Kimberly Crossland


  • Martin Lindeskog

    Food for thought to chew on during the Yuletide! 😉


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