The Zen of Being Ahead: 2017 Marketing Trends No One Else Has Mentioned

Your 2017 marketing playbook is here.

It’s that time of year again — when every industry expert and their mother puts on their fortune teller hat and begins predicting the future of [insert industry here].

This year, I’m joining the festivities. But only because I’m sick of reading uninspiring predictions that aren’t very forward-thinking. In fact, a few are even just downright wrong.

So what makes my predictions better? Well, for starters, I’ve yet to see anyone else publish the majority of my predictions for 2017, and I’m certain it’s not because I’m wrong.

Spotting trends is both a science and an art.

While anyone can become extremely knowledgable on an array of various subjects, (science), not everyone gets that “I just know” feeling in their guts (art).

Not only do I have great intuition, but I also live on the Internet — I scour all types of forums; I’m a voracious reader; and I‘ve worked with a wide-array of top companies and influencers. So while I may not have quantitative data to compel you to trust me, I do have a lot of anecdotal evidence.

Intrigued? Keep reading if you want to learn the underground marketing trends you should jump on in 2017 before they become mainstream.

A higher bar for content will lead to two things: Side-project marketing and editorial-like marketing teams.

Side-project marketing

As I’m writing this, at 10 a.m. EST, nearly two million blog posts have already been published today.

How the hell do you stand out with all that noise?

My answer (and Moz’s): Create 10x content — content that’s 10 times better than everything else out there.

A side-project is a prime example of 10x content that can quickly drive a ton of traffic to your site.

While most businesses — nearly 40 percent — use blogging to provide value to its prospects and customers, the tactic is becoming less effective unless your blog posts are really, really, really remarkable.

Side-project marketing is simply giving something valuable away for free that is related to your core business. For example, HubSpot’s core offering is marketing automation software for inbound marketers. What else do inbound marketers need to do? Well, they need to complete buyer personas; therefore, HubSpot created a free tool, called Make My Persona.

TLDR: Side-projects help you grow your core business. If you want to read more, visit this post.

Editorial-like teams

Nearly 40 percent of businesses qualify their content marketing strategies as relatively immature — and only 11 percent of those businesses find their content marketing to be effective. Long story short: Businesses aren’t creating the kind of content that consumers will trust and love.

Why? Because traditional marketers and their team structures don’t support the creation of that content.

In order to succeed in content, marketing orgs need to take lessons from publishers. When brands begin to catch on, they’ll reinvent their marketing departments as lean, mean multimedia editorial teams that are agile enough to restructure on an as-needed basis.

TLDR: Hire a journalist with a marketing mindset to run your content marketing operations.

Distribution will become much more than just Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat.

Mainstream social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are too noisy to have any meaningful side-effects (unless you spend a boatload of money on ads). This is why I’ve been spending more time on other sites to promote my content.

Here’s where I think marketers should spend more time in 2017.


Pocket is the wildly addicting read-it-later app that has more than 22 million registered users, who have read more than two billion articles.

Not only does Pocket allow users to save articles, but it also curates really good content from around the web and shares them with users in its “Recommended” and “Explore” sections.

I love the “Explore” feature because it allows you to see how many people saved your article to Pocket, if you can find it.

Every time I write a new post, I make sure to save it to Pocket and then recommend it to my followers.

Yes, I have a Pocket profile with followers, which makes me believe that Pocket is going to be more like a social network for reading in the not-so-distant future.

TLDR: Read-it-later app, Pocket, is a hidden gem. Encourage readers to save your content to Pocket.


Niche-communities and forums will become increasingly vital in 2017.

“In search of meaningful and personalized engagement, consumers are now slowly moving away from the main feeds of major social networks and toward smaller, more intimate and engaged micro-communities.” (source)

No one expects to go to Facebook, and find a phenomenal article to read. Instead, they visit interest-specific forums and communities, such as Hacker News (for developers), Designer News (for designers), and Product Hunt (for entrepreneurs).

Some of these communities may even be invite-only (Quibb) and/or paid (WeWork).

Here’s a list of places to get you started.

You wouldn’t notice at first glance, but a handful of these communities were founded by companies. Hacker News was created by Y Combinator, for instance. And was founded by HubSpot CTO Dharmesh Shah.

You may be scratching your head, wondering: Why would a company waste its time building a community — shouldn’t it be focused on growing its core business?

By creating a niche, online community around their respective industries, these companies are ahead of the game. What they’re essentially doing is building a moat around their companies by growing a peer army.

Remember those side-projects I mentioned earlier? An online community is just one type of side-project. So if you don’t see a community/forum in your industry yet, really consider being the thought leader who does.

TLDR: Micro-communities are important for getting more eyeballs on your content. Consider creating your own as a side-project.

Curated newsletters

People are signing up left and right for industry-specific newsletters, curated by a variety of influencers.

If your posts are featured in one of these weekly newsletters, it can drive a ton of traffic to your site. But again, your content will have to be really, really good to get featured because obviously subscribers only sign-up to read the best of the best each week.

A lot of these newsletters also have a sponsored link or two in each one. The prices, aren’t bad either. You can usually get a link in a big newsletter for anywhere between $200-$1000 per link.

Aside from scouring newsletter databases, you can also Google and browse Syndicate Ads to find more.

TLDR: Micr0-influencers are the new gatekeepers.

In 2017, there will be no more debate about “owning” vs. “renting” online.

Medium is winning the war on publishing, as I predicted earlier this year.

More and more big names have created publications on Medium, including The Economist and Fortune.

Why? Because they’ve learned what HubSpot did:

“You do not own your audience. Regular monthly visitors, big subscriber lists, well-trodden conversion paths give us the illusion that we own the attention of our audience — but it is only an illusion. Attention is fleeting, and must constantly be earned.” (source)

TLDR: Go where your audience is. For now, that’s Medium. Get on there before everyone else does.

The content gates will come down, next year.

Smart companies, like Drift, are removing their content gates, meaning they’re not making visitors subscribe to their email list in order to get an ebook.

Here’s five reasons why marketers should stop gating their content:

  1. Gating content is risky. What if people think it sucks?
  2. Gating content gives off a “me-first” mentality.
  3. Gating content gets you a bunch of bad leads.
  4. Gating content is bad for SEO.
  5. Gating content doesn’t allow you to track readers’ experience with your content.

TLDR: Stop gating your content. Find an alternative way to secure leads.

Agile marketing teams will become the rule, not the exception.

“More of the world is headed in this direction, focusing less on traditional employment arrangements and more on talent however it is best found and arranged.”

Agile talent is sort-of like a utility supply. The goal is to temporarily use the best of something in order to take your idea or business to the next level. Temporary could mean anything from a week to a few months or even years.

Consumers have high expectations in today’s on-demand, always-on economy. The need for speed has never been greater, forcing leaders to assess whether traditional, full-time, onsite employees are still the optimal — or only — route to injecting creativity and speed into their organizations.

This is one of the reasons why I created Freelanship, which offers 31 pre-packaged, marketing-related gigs (some recurring and others one-time).

Need keyword research done? Outsource it. Need a writer to weave your words into a compelling blog post bi-weekly? Done.

Don’t be afraid to try something different.

Companies that jump on these underground trends before they go mainstream will have an early adopter’s advantage. If you wait until everyone else is already doing it, then you’re already too late.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Some experiments will fail, but that doesn’t mean all your experiments or tactics will.

In the words of Michael Jordan:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”