5 digital marketers talk about the state of online marketing

digital marketers, head image

In today’s digital world if you’re not online, you don’t exist. I think it was Winston Churchill who said that — yes, it was probably him.

Anyway, digital marketing is today more relevant than ever. According to a recent study, 64% of consumers say that watching a video on social media influenced them to make a purchase. I know I’m being Mr Obvious here but I think it’s worth highlighting the fact that that’s more than half!

In the current market, whoever is not on top of digital marketing is going to be missing on some big opportunities. So how do you stay updated and where do you start?

In order to get some answers, we got in touch with five leading digital marketers based in the UK to discuss some of the most pressing issues in the industry today.


ian anderson gray, digital marketers

Ian Anderson Gray

Gray is known as The Tools Guy in marketing circles due to his knowledge of social media and marketing, well, tools. As he puts it himself, his mission is to translate techno-babble of social media, marketing, and the internet into plain English

Find out more about The Tools Guy here.


joe murfin, digital marketers

Joe Murfin

Murfin is the owner of Prime Eight Digital and growthhackersslack.com. He mostly works on marketing international festivals and consulting other marketing agencies. Clients include Secret Solstice festival and Ministry of Sound.

You can buy him a coffee here.


lilach bullock, digital marketers

Lilach Bullock

Bullock is not only a marketer, she’s also a coach, a speaker and even a published author. Forbes listed her as one of the ‘Top 20 Women Social Media Influencers’ and was also named the Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle.

Don’t forget to follow Bullock’s latest news on her website.


lukasz zelezny, digital marketers

Lukasz Zelezny

Zelezny has worked for names such as HomeAway, Thompson Reuters, and The Digital Property group, among others. He has spoken at several conferences including ClickZ Shanghai China, ClickZ Jakarta Indonesia, SiMGA Malta and SES London.

To find out about his latest appearances, check out his website.


paul suggitt, digital marketers

Paul Suggitt

Suggitt is a Top 50 Digital Marketing Influencer and award-winning web and app developer, specialising in all forms of Digital Marketing, Search Marketing, Search Optimisation, Social Media and Content Marketing. Having the unique talent of developing industry leading websites from the ground up, he can then apply best practice when it comes to Digital Marketing to ensure a website’s success online.

Suggitt has consulted for businesses of all sizes to help them with their website and digital transformation strategies. Follow him here.

digital marjeters, laptop and coffee

Some digital marketers are saying ‘personalised experiences in real time’ are the next frontier when it comes to digital marketing. Do you agree? If so, how would that look like?

JOE: Looking at the way companies like Amazon and Netflix are using personalisation their experience this is already happening. I’m sure there’ll be a tool coming out soon that will allow marketers to show different content on their website depending on what actions users have taken. Heard something about this recently on the Perpetual Traffic podcast. Worth listening too.

Is it the next frontier? I don’t think so., but I may be wrong.

PAUL: Real-time personalisation isn’t a new thing and has actually been around for some time. The reality is companies and brands are just starting to see the huge benefit of connecting with their customers on a personal level. Brands already embracing personalisation across their channels have reported increased sales and revenue, conversion rates online lifting significantly and ultimately this has also seen a boost in loyalty to the brand.

Real-time personalised experiences allow a two-way connection between the brand and the customer. Conversation is the key to driving interaction and this must be done across multiple devices as the consumer of today is engaging on mobile while out and about, hitting the desktop whilst at work and tablet at home when relaxing so it is important to ‘connect.’

If you imagine going to a shop every day on your way to work and the shopkeeper behaving like they have never spoken to you before, you would eventually find another shop to visit that actually values you as a customer. This is where brands and retailers can fall down. By visiting a platform and the brand not remembering anything about a customer can lead to lost loyalty, sales, and the customer connecting with someone who ‘values’ them. The customer doesn’t want to just feel like one of the crowd.

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According to you, what’s the number one mistake SME’s make with their digital marketing?

IAN: The biggest mistake is not listening or engaging. It’s all too easy for us to become one-way communication machines. Sharing OUR content, OUR views and OUR products. But we need to engage with and listen to our audience. We need to take an interest in them and grow a passionate community of super fans. Woo and take an interest in them, and they’ll end up becoming our biggest advocates!

Some content here, a few posts on social media, a little SEO, and so on – it’s not enough and it’s not a strategy that will stand the test of time.

LILACH: This is a difficult one to answer; SMEs are constricted by their budgets and resources and they try to do so much themselves that mistakes are quite understandable. But I think when it comes to digital marketing, one of the biggest mistakes I noticed working with business owners, is that they’re not thinking strategically.

Some content here, a few posts on social media, a little SEO, and so on – it’s not enough and it’s not a strategy that will stand the test of time. SMEs need to spend some time putting together a strong strategy – and that means knowing who forms their audience, where they spend their time online, what kind of content they prefer and so on. A good strategy also needs constant monitoring; you need to check what works and what doesn’t and optimise your strategy based on your findings.

LUKASZ: The number one mistake I see is SMEs not understanding who their audience is. If you don’t know who your products or services are for, there is no way that you can create an effective marketing plan. And, targeting a large sector of people is never going to produce the same results that targeting a more niche, an interested group would.

Let’s take a look at social media marketing as just one example. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook enable you to direct your campaigns to people of a certain age, gender and location. You can also target people who work in a specific industry or people who have specific interests. When you know who your audience is, you can not only create a marketing campaign that will gain their attention, but you can direct your ads directly to them. The SMEs who neglect to do this are often those who are left behind.

digital marketers, working on a laptop

According to a new study by PrizeOlogy, 71% of customers in the UK ignore the regulations regarding influencer marketing. Do you think platforms like YouTube and Instagram should take measures to educate their users on such regulations?

Go here to see the study.

JOE: I don’t think the responsibility should be on the platforms. People saying that youtube or Facebook should effectively police the internet seems silly and disconnected to me. They should police their platform if they wish. But generally shouldn’t be spending any time on educating people on how to stay within their local laws when it comes to influencer marketing. Seems like a waste of time and resources.

I think this mainly comes from a lack of understanding from governments on how to actually police the internet.

PAUL: Since the regulations on influencer marketing/affiliate schemes have come into force there has been a slow take up in influencers identifying the fact they are being paid to talk about a product in their posts.Talking to influencers I know, the reason behind this is they are not wanting to be seen to be paid to discuss a product and they are trying to keep things as natural looking as possible to their followers whilst earning sums of money for promotion.

Influencers do have a responsibility to their followers and as such, they should be disclosing if they are being paid to talk about a product or service. After all, an influencer is exactly that, a person or persons who have attained a level of recognition in their field that can influence the behaviour and decisions of a person following them.

Equally the platforms themselves have a responsibility to ensure their users are adhering to the guidelines/laws set out and enforcing them where necessary. The birth of the influencer and micro-influencer has seen a rise in pay for promotions in posts and revenues for brands wanting to reach a wider audience.

Note: Learn how to find the best influencer to promote your brand here.

Thanks to a study by livestream.com, we now know that 80% of users would rather see a video than read a blog post. Does this mean that blogs are going to become obsolete in the near future? Or is there still a place for them?

Go here to see the study.

IAN: Definitely not! While I totally see the value of live video (it’s at the core of my business), blogs are still amazingly powerful. Search engines can’t yet easily index video content. Most blog traffic comes from search engine referrals and that will continue for a long while. My blog changed my life and enabled me to speak around the world at conferences and grow my business. But, it’s not either/or! Why not do both? Write highly valuable blog posts that people want to see and search engines want to index AND embed video content as well!

LILACH: No, I don’t think blogging is dying in the near future. Its death has been ‘predicted’ so many times by so many different people, but yet it still keeps working – kind of like social networks and email marketing, both of which are constantly being dubbed as ‘dead’. There’s no denying that more people prefer video, but that doesn’t mean that articles and blogs won’t continue to exist and have their audience.

In fact, I’d argue that 20% of all Internet users is still quite a lot of people – and even out of those who prefer video, I’m sure they still also read articles as well. I think it’s mostly a question of knowing your particular audience; some have audiences that prefer reading an article, and some have audiences that would abandon them if they stopped using video to tell their story.

…when you add in things like video and photos, you begin to convey emotions which is what people are looking for in 2018.

LUKASZ: This is a question I see a lot. Blogging isn’t dead, but it is changing. The whole concept of blogging has evolved. While in the past, people would populate their blogs purely with written content, they are now using a variety of media to get their messages across. Bloggers nowadays need to create a story and evoke emotion in their readers. This isn’t that easy to do purely with the written word, but when you add in things like video and photos, you begin to convey emotions which is what people are looking for in 2018.

In the future, I still don’t think blogs will become obsolete. They still offer a great way for the writer to connect with the reader and vice versa. People enjoy reading blogs because they provide an easy way to connect with a brand or an individual, and those who read blogs regularly begin to develop a deep connection with the authors. That won’t change.

digital marketers, laptop 2

Due to recent hacks at top companies, security and privacy are at the top of the consumer’s mind. As digital marketers, how do we deal with these fears?

IAN: I think it’s important to have some level of knowledge of the risks. We can never be 100% secure, but we can take precautions. It’s important to only share information with companies that we feel comfortable with. Also, having a different and complicated password for all the sites we log in to. For that, a password manager is a must. My view is, that if we can remember our passwords, they’re not secure enough, and a hacker could easily gain access. Using a password manager to securely store all our passwords is an easy and secure way to become more secure. As digital marketers, we then need to spread the word – and help others understand how to become more secure.

JOE: A lot of the new EU GDPR rules will help with this. Most companies are on the back-foot with security. I think as more computer literate people join the workforce this will get better. Lots of the issues with the NHS and the WannaCry ransomware attack was due to not keeping the computers updated. Simple stuff really. (Perhaps down to the NHS being criminally underfunded by the UK government). I’ve got a friend who works in internet security and he’s told me many times they’ll always be some loophole or bug that can be exploited to attack computers.

So back to the question of How do I deal with these fears?… I generally don’t.

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Marketers that are not up-to-date with the latest trends risk being left behind. But with the speed current technology gets developed, how do we stay on top?

JOE: You can join the growth hackers slack group here growthhackersslack.com (shameless plug for my slack group). I’ll also leave you with the three best books I’ve ever read on marketing to get you up to speed, DotComSecrets, Secret Sauce, The Boron Letters and Zest is good too.

LUKASZ: There are lots of ways that you can stay on top of marketing trends, most of which you can do on your daily commute to work. First of all, subscribe to the websites of industry leaders. Publications like Brand Republic, Marketing Week and EConsultancy publish reliable news stories as well as tip- style articles that can help you improve your current strategies. In addition, subscribe to blogs like those of Ann Handley and Darren Rowse.

Second, I recommend using social media networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter enables you to follow industry leaders and find out the latest updates as they happen in real time. LinkedIn enables you to connect with other professionals in your industry, and LinkedIn Pulse is a great network that gives you access to the news that you’re interested in. Of course, attending trade shows, exhibitions and other networking events should also be encouraged.

PAUL: Marketing is one of the fastest and consistently changing landscapes and it is vitally important for a marketer to be at the top of their game or risk being left behind. Missing a trend means missing out on huge business opportunities. Whilst continually going on training courses is one option, it isn’t practical to be spending one week a month on new courses just to keep abreast of changes in the marketing space.

As marketers, there are numerous means at our disposal to ensure we are consistently on top of our game. Networking and outreaching with other marketers can help you share knowledge, ideas, pick up on new trends and more. Going beyond your own industry allows for more connections as these marketers don’t see you as a direct threat in your marketplace and will be more willing to share knowledge and interact more with you.

Social media is a great place to connect with marketers in your industry. Twitter is a great platform to connect with people, helps you create a list of influencers in your industry and keep up to date with what they are tweeting about. This is a great way to find emerging trends and information as it is starting to happen.

You can also use Twitter to keep an eye on the competition and learn from what they are doing. Subscribing to blog sites in your industry is another great way to keep abreast of industry changes. Most blog sites of interest allow you to subscribe to their news feeds without having to register. You would simply look for the RSS icon and subscribe via that, then simply sit back and wait for the updates to come through to you.

Tip: Subscribe to active sites in your industry. RSS alerts are alerts of the blog posts the company put out and you can check the frequency of these.

Look for companies and people who blog out at least once a week. Check these people out though as they may be more active on Twitter than they are at blogging and if that is the case, ensure they make it onto your twitter lists.

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