This article took me 9 months to write.
I talked to dozens of CMOs and VPs of Marketing.
I consulted with several companies regarding their marketing efforts.
I read job description after job description to figure out what marketing roles companies specifically needed.
And above all…
As someone who runs a marketing blog and newsletter, I have to constantly keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in marketing. My life depends on it, literally.
So it’s not that this marketing trends article physically took me 9 months to type out. In fact, it just took me a few hours to sit down and write this.
But the 23 trends we are about to go through took 9 months to think through, organize, and put together.
I actually have not read a single generic article about the “top marketing trends” from any other blogs because I didn’t want it to influence the real-world issues I saw companies going through this past year.
So, hopefully, by this point, I have your attention.
Because I want to make sure this article is a serious one and not just some rehashed generic garbage.
But before we get into these trends, please note that these are not hard facts. These are my own predictions and opinions based on what I’ve personally seen. Take everything with a grain of salt and do your own research. This is for entertainment purposes only.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get into it.
Here are top marketing trends I believe we’ll see in 2023:
- A journey to $0 CAC
- Top marketing talent moving away from full-time roles
- A focus on organic growth
- AI and ChatGPT
- Better web design
- Tech companies acquiring media companies
- Tech companies becoming media companies
- More care and focus on affiliate programs
- A stronger focus on retargeting ads
- Marketing efforts tied to revenue
- YouTube & TikTok SEO
- Co-marketing campaigns
- Brand marketing
- Growth loops > marketing funnels
- CEO personal brands
- Distribution before creation
- SMS automation
- Native newsletter ads
- Podcast advertising will continue to grow
- Less emphasis on social media
- Short-form videos will continue to grow
- Webinars and event marketing
Let’s dive a bit deeper into each one.
1. A journey to $0 CAC
One of the biggest things I’ve noticed towards the end of 2022, compared to previous years, is that many companies are trying to rely less on paid advertising to grow.
Essentially, the goal is to bring down the cost of acquiring a customer to nearly zero.
Companies, especially small startups, are starting to realize how expensive previous methods of advertising (like Google and Facebook ads) are becoming.
And many of them are trying to save as much cash to create an 18-24 month runway to withstand a potential economic disaster in 2023.
The sad reality is that the companies that win at paid advertising are the ones that spend the most money.
Don’t believe me?
Next time you come across a YouTube ad or a Google ad, specifically from a tech company, go to Google and search that company’s name, followed by the word “crunchbase.”
Crunchbase shows how much money a startup has raised, and what you’ll notice is that many companies scaling their paid ad efforts have usually raised well over +$10M.
My point is, many companies investing in ads are backed by VCs and have a lot of capital to deploy. Smaller companies don’t have this luxury.
So startups in 2023 will start to invest more in organic content, email, PR stunts, product growth loops, and anything that can help them acquire customers without having to rely on paid ads. Some of these strategies are also other marketing trends on this list, so strap in.
2. Top marketing talent moving away from full-time roles
It’s no doubt that the past couple of years has caused a collective awakening in people, especially for “knowledge workers” — those who sit behind a computer all day to make a living.
What remote work has shown many, myself included, is that the traditional 9-5 is starting to fall apart. You don’t need to sit 8 hours behind a computer to be productive. In fact, it’s almost counterproductive.
There can be some serious diminishing returns in productivity after like 4 hours of deep work.
And this is starting to affect more senior and experienced marketers.
Marketers straight out of college are just glad to have a job, I know I was when I took a $55k/year job at a marketing agency when I was 22.
But as you become more experienced, what happens is you’re almost punished for getting too good at what you do.
What may take you 8 hours to do in your first year as a marketing manager will probably only take you 3 hours after 5 years of experience.
And now those extra 5 hours are filled with new initiatives that companies throw on you. Your plate get’s full. And if you’re lucky, you might get a promotion each year that barely meets the inflation level for that year.
What we’re seeing now is the rise of the fractional CMO or the “interim marketer.”
Top marketing talent may close deals with a company to come in for a set period of time, be it 3 months or 6 months, and help set the company up for success for years to come.
In return, marketers are rewarded with a fat check, equity, or both.
And some startups are even noticing this shift. For example, Worksome raised over $22M to help companies easily “plug in” these external consultants into their existing in-house workflows.
But to make this work for you, you have to be really good at what you do.
Whether it’s SEO (search engine optimization), email marketing, advertising, or you know how to build a marketing team, you need to have valuable skills to make this work.
3. A focus on organic growth
From 2015-2017, we saw the rise of “growth hacking.”
From 2018-2021, we saw the rise of “growth marketing.”
And in 2022-2023, we are going to see the rise of “organic growth marketing.”
Just another fancy buzzword.
But what this era of marketing represents is what our first trend was — relying less on paid ads to drive growth.
You can spend $1M a month on ads and drive 1,000 customers (hypothetical numbers). The moment you stop spending $1M a month is the moment you drop to 0 customers.
But you can spend $1M a month on SEO and drive a few customers your first month (if you’re lucky). But give it 6 months, and you’ll reach that same 1,000 customer number.
Except for this time, when you stop spending the $1M a month after some time, your 1,000 customers will still continue to come from organic search.
This is why organic growth is so powerful.
But the word “organic” is not to be confused with any sort of “free” marketing. In fact, if you want to have a successful organic growth strategy, you want to invest the same amount of money as you would have on ads.
But in this way, you’re building a valuable MOAT — an asset that will make you defensible from competitors.
It’s easy to replicate someone's ad strategy if you have the capital. It’s very hard to replicate someone’s SEO strategy if they’re investing heavily in it.
So in 2023, we’ll continue to see startups investing more in SEO and other methods of growth that don’t create a situation where, when you stop spending money, your customer acquisition stops.
4. AI and ChatGPT
You knew this one was coming. Everyone’s talking about it.
In 2023, we’ll continue to see bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, and your neighbor's dog preach that ChatGPT is going to change the world in the 2020s.
Don’t get me wrong, I think AI is going to drastically change how we interact with the digital and physical world.
I just think it’s going to be a little overhyped in 2023, at least when it comes to marketing.
ChatGPT is definitely going to change the way developers create software (making it quicker and more accurate). And there are for sure going to be other amazing consumer use cases for it.
But we still have a long way to go before AI will create compelling content (here come the hate emails). Storytelling is a big part of marketing. Knowing your target audience, and knowing how to strike the right emotions at the right time, is a very creative endeavor. One that humans are the best equipped to do.
Without content written by humans first, ChatGPT would not be able to write up the things it is today.
There will always be a place for original, opinionated content that has not existed on the web before. Only a human can do that (at the moment).
But when it comes to marketing, I predict that marketers, if they haven’t already, will start to dabble with AI tools in their marketing stack.
I personally used ChatGPT to help write a blog post once (not on this blog), but I ended up having to rewrite about 50% of it — not too bad.
But, Google has mentioned it is against AI-generated content and will punish websites that are clearly SEO spam.
So while we will see a trend in artificial intelligence and ChatGPT, both from new marketing tools emerging and people talking about it, I would proceed with caution.
Not always, but in a lot of cases, when something sounds too good to be true it’s because it is.
5. Better web design
The stereotype among marketers is that we suck at design, especially web design.
When I worked on the marketing team at Webflow, I noticed a trend in more thoughtfully designed websites. A website’s first impression is everything. And a good UI and design can be a deciding factor in someone wanting to go with you instead of a competitor.
Good design makes it feel more legit.
I know for me personally, when I come across a site that looks like it was designed in 2008 I bounce. Their homepage can have good copy, but a terribly designed page ruins that first impression for me.
With Webflow emerging in the past few years, it’s quickly become the WordPress alternative for many startups. Just look at all the new YC-backed startups. Literally all of them have beautifully designed websites built in Webflow.
So, in 2023, I predict that marketers will pay more attention to web design. It’s just another component of creating a great customer experience.
Us marketers want to make our products and services look premium and appealing. And a modern web design is one of the easiest ways to accomplish that.
6. Tech companies acquiring media companies
Given the rise of organic growth and companies creating more content, what a lot of larger startups will do is simply acquire existing media companies.
Instead of it taking 12-18 months to grow to 100k visitors a month from SEO, startups with capital are going to fast-track that into just a couple of weeks by acquiring an existing website that gets that kind of attention.
And not just with SEO content. We’re going to see it more with newsletters, podcasts, and even YouTube channels.
In 2022, HubSpot purchased the famous newsletter The Hustle.
Zapier purchased Makerpad.
Stripe purchased IndieHackers.
Startups are realizing that they can purchase the attention their looking for. And with 2023 showing signs of more economic downturn, it may be a good time to purchase a media company at a discounted price.
It’s all about underpriced attention, baby!
7. Tech companies becoming media companies
On the flip side, companies that can’t afford to purchase a big media company are going to try to create their own.
In 2023, we’ll see the role of content marketing expand to more than just writing blog posts and sending emails.
Creating YouTube videos, starting a newsletter, and creating a podcast will become more appealing to startups, and marketing teams are going to turn into media teams.
Sustainable startups will be conservative, have a clear content strategy, and make sure that each piece of content has a purpose.
The opportunists are going to chase trends and try to go “viral.”
8. More care and focus on affiliate programs
If there’s one form of paid marketing that’s actually somewhat predictable, it’s affiliate marketing.
In 2023, we’re going to see more startups leverage an affiliate program to acquire customers. The great thing about an affiliate program is that startups get to pick the rules, not ad platforms.
At any given moment, Google or Facebook can decide to increase ad costs. But with an affiliate program, you set the rules for how much you’re willing to pay to acquire a customer.
The only downside is that it’s very hard to scale an affiliate program — especially if you don’t have a strong brand or great product.
This is where the word “care” from the title comes into play.
The best affiliate programs are going to have affiliate managers that work with affiliates to help them be as successful as possible. From giving them insights into what’s converting from their in-house marketing efforts to doing affiliate challenges and events, startups are going to put more thought into their affiliate programs in the coming year.
9. A stronger focus on retargeting ads
It’s no doubt that ad costs keep getting expensive. But the most efficient ads are retargeting ads.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the companies trying to achieve “$0 CAC” will only turn on retargeting ads for their entire ad budget.
I know this from being inside ad accounts of large companies this year.
Retargeting ad campaigns always crush in terms of CAC compared to prospecting ad campaigns.
The only issue is that to make retargeting ads work well, you need a lot of attention to your site (i.e. you need a large pool of people you can retarget).
So, in combination with organic growth efforts and some other digital marketing trends we have yet to talk about, stacking retargeting ads is a no-brainer to acquire customers at a relatively “lower” cost in 2023.
10. Marketing efforts tied to revenue
This is a huge one, and just knowing this trend can make you an extremely valuable marketer in 2023.
A CEO decides to invest in marketing because they believe it will grow their business. And you grow a business by acquiring more (or better) customers. Without revenue, a business will eventually run out of money and go bye-bye.
Gone are the days when marketers just sit around and create memes on social media all day. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a place for that. But the closer you can get yourself to the money, the better off you’ll be in your marketing career.
Quarterly OKRs will be laser-focused on revenue.
Any non-revenue generating activities in a business will start to get cut. And, unfortunately, this sometimes means lowering headcount.
This is why, if you haven’t already, you must focus on gaining revenue-generating marketing skills.
SEO, paid ads, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, partnerships, lifecycle marketing, and developing in-product growth loops — these are all revenue-generating marketing skills.
11. YouTube & TikTok SEO
“Google is dead.”
“Gen Z searches more on TikTok instead of Google.”
How many times have you seen someone say this in a Twitter or LinkedIn mega thread? No, Google is not dead. And it probably will continue to grow even more in 2023.
And Google is actually sourcing TikTok videos (over its own YouTube Shorts!) in its search engine — smart move Google.
So, in 2023, we’ll probably see startups take advantage of this opportunity and start investing in SEO on TikTok. “How to” keywords and list-type videos will be a gold mine for a lot of startups.
It may not make sense for every niche, but TikTok is still an open sea ready to be sailed (is that even a saying?).
However, I’m also conflicted about this trend because there have been talks about TikTok getting banned in the US. But we’ve been hearing this for like 2 years now, so it’s hard to tell if it will actually come to fruition in 2023.
So while I do think TikTok SEO is going to continue to be a trend in 2023, I caution startups to think this one through. If you decide to invest in TikTok SEO in 2023, I highly recommend also investing heavily in YouTube Shorts, just in case.
This way, if TikTok is a goner, you’ll at least be leveraging YouTube SEO as well.
12. Co-marketing campaigns
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
This trend pretty much falls into the $0 CAC initiative that we mentioned as the first trend. Co-marketing campaigns will continue to be a powerful digital marketing strategy for teams in 2023.
What better and faster way to grow than tapping into the audience of another company?
To do this trend right, startups need to find companies in their industry that complement each other. For example, when I was at Webflow, we did a co-marketing campaign with Typeform.
Both Webflow and Typeform can be appealing products to marketers. You can also embed typeforms into Webflow websites — making it a perfect opportunity to do some sort of marketing stunt.
If you’re a SaaS company, a great way to find a company to do a co-marketing campaign with is to ask your customers what other SaaS tools they are subscribed to. Chances are, those are the good ones to try to partner up with.
The idea of a co-marketing campaign is to share each other’s audience, so chances of success will be higher if you really know your customers' tech stack.
And when you do find a good prospect, you need to focus on creating a win-win situation. Often, if you can actually make the other company win a little more, they will be more inclined to work with you.
Here’s how not to approach a co-marketing campaign: “Can we get a post from your blog and we’ll pay you for it?”
Here’s how to approach a co-marketing campaign: “Do you want to do a newsletter swap? We mention your newsletter in ours, and you mention our newsletter in yours?”
Piggy-back off each other.
YouTubers and influencers have been doing this for years to grow quickly. And now larger companies are catching on to how effective it is and trying to do it themselves.
13. Brand marketing
Everything in 2023 seems to be tied back to $0 CAC initiatives. What better way to lower your cost to acquire a customer than creating such a strong brand that it starts to grow by word of mouth?
In 2022, Airbnb showed many companies that investing in brand awareness can be just as, if not more, powerful than investing in ads and SEO.
In fact, the stronger your brand is, the easier all your other marketing initiatives will be. Other companies will want to work with you, you’ll live rent-free in consumers' minds, and it will make everything in your business more efficient.
But, what is “brand?”
There are a lot of definitions. But to me, brand is how you make others feel. And a good brand makes others feel safe and happy.
Brand can also be described by how others talk about you when you’re not in the room.
However, building a strong brand isn’t something that can happen overnight. It’s a collection of everyone’s effort in a company — from leadership teams, product teams, design teams, marketing teams, development teams, and customer support teams.
Here’s a quick personal story: one of my favorite brands of all time is Virgin.
And the main reason why I love it so much is because of the impact it had on me when I was 7 years old.
I vividly remember flying economy class on Virgin Atlantic when I was a kid and was amazed that they had a little TV on the back of each seat — they were the first to do it.
And you know what that TV had? Games. And not just any game. They had Super Mario Bros — my favorite game as a kid.
7 year old me was ecstatic. And that simple moment, something I still remember decades later, is what leads me to say “Virgin Atlantic is the best airline” any time someone asks me what’s the best airline (which is not often lol, but you get the point).
It’s so powerful that I just spent 10 minutes writing about that story.
So in 2023, focus on creating user experiences that delight your users and customers. Under-promise and over-deliver. Make them happy. Make them feel safe. And above all, make them feel heard.
14. Growth loops > marketing funnels
Brian Balfour, CEO of Reforge (a top marketing course) and ex-VP of Growth at HubSpot, famously said, “retention breeds acquisition, not the other way around.”
This simple sentence has rewired the way companies, especially those in Silicon Valley, think about growth.
In marketing, when we think about driving MQLs and leads, we see growth as this linear pattern. 100% of people see our ad, 10% click on our ad, 1% sign up after clicking, and 0.1% become paying customers.
It’s a traditional marketing funnel.
But what companies are starting to realize is that in order to make this funnel work, they need to keep pouring attention at the top. More ads, more content, and more resources to fill the bucket of potential customers.
But what Brian Balfour opened a lot of marketers’ eyes to is that retention is what leads to exponential growth.
The longer someone uses your product, the more likely they are to recommend it to others.
So smart marketers today are focused on thinking about things in terms of growth loops. And the more loops you have, the more opportunities you have to grow.
I’m not going to go too in-depth on this concept because you can literally write a marketing book on this subject alone. If you want to learn more about growth loops, be sure to check out the Reforge blog.
Community has always been a powerful marketing force. Earlier this year, I talked to a lot of founders and they all wanted to create a community of some sort.
But I don’t think they understood the true definition.
A community doesn’t have to be a Slack channel, Facebook group, or Discord server.
A newsletter can be a community. A subscriber base on YouTube can be a community. A community is a list of people that believe in what you’re doing.
So in 2023, we’ll see more companies investing in community marketing efforts. In other words, we’ll see startups be more conscious about creating a “list.”
A list that they can tap into. Money is in the list!
16. CEO personal brands
This trend is apparent on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. CEOs and founders of companies are building their own media companies centered around themselves to grow their brand.
You probably already see this all over LinkedIn and Twitter. But someone absolutely crushing this on YouTube is John Coogan, Co-founder of Soylent and Lucy.
John creates super entertaining content on YouTube, telling stories about companies and brands.
And while not much of his content is specifically about the companies he runs, he does occasionally mention it in his videos and includes his company’s websites in the description of each of his videos.
So the idea is that, over time, as John’s community on YouTube grows, some of those people will become super-fans of John and want to support the companies he runs.
This one is a very long-term play. Still, it can be very lucrative.
There’s also a different way to approach this, although it might not be of much value to a marketer. And that way is to create a personal brand first, then create a company. This often yields massive success if you have a large personal brand. Just look at Mr. Beast’s MrBeast Burger, or Logan Paul and KSI’s Prime Hydration drink.
17. Distribution before content creation
This one is an interesting trend and one that can be confusing.
But I added this to the list because I’m seeing a trend in marketers planning out their distribution strategy before they even create content.
Traditional marketing says to create content and then distribute it on various channels. But the real distribution happens before the creation.
Smart marketers understand that each marketing channel is different and it’s not one size fits all.
For example, having knowledge about SEO will allow you to create a keyword research strategy that fuels your content strategy. On the same token, many are studying how the YouTube algorithm works well before they even hit the record button.
I think this will be a new trend because many companies look at distribution as an afterthought. They’ll create a webinar and then say to themselves, “we should publish this on YouTube!” And then they wonder why their video only got 37 views (and 35 of them were from their marketing team).
The idea of this trend is that you should master a channel and specifically create for that channel. This article would not do well if I posted it on Twitter (it’s way too long). But because I know how to write for SEO, I predict it will do fairly well on Google search.
Bottomline, know the channel you’re creating for and don’t just blindly repurpose content.
18. SMS marketing & automation
One of the coolest companies in the marketing automation space right now, IMO, is Attentive. They’ve raised almost $1B, and it’s for good reason.
SMS marketing and personalization are going to be key for companies in 2023, especially ecommerce companies.
Many brands are going to realize that creating a list is key to their business growth. And adding on a new marketing channel can open a whole new door of opportunities to reach customers.
SMS marketing and personalized chatbots will continue to rise in 2023, so definitely look into this as a marketing tactic if it makes sense for your company.
19. Native newsletter ads
Google and Facebook ads are getting expensive, but some companies still want to invest in ads. So in 2023, we’ll see companies looking for alternative ways to spend their ad dollars.
One of those alternatives is native newsletter ads. Platforms like Paved are making it possible for brands to advertising on a bunch of newsletters — automatically.
I’m not talking about doing a one-time newsletter sponsorship. I’m talking about programmatic newsletter advertising.
Just like PPC ads, many companies are going to set a budget, CPC target, or CPA goal and let newsletter ad networks decide what newsletters their ads should go live on.
It’s just like native ads on Taboola or Outbrain, except now we are seeing them embedded inside of newsletters — a really cool concept.
So in 2023, I predict that more companies will start to experiment with this new format of advertising.
20. Podcast advertising will continue to grow
Just like the newsletter native ads, more companies in 2023 are going to invest in podcast ads as a way to diversify their advertising spend.
The great thing about podcast ads is that you don’t need to design a creative or spend any time making a video ad. All you need is a script. Better yet, you partner with a podcast that already loves your product and you let them to the talking.
I don’t know about you, but any time I step outside I notice that everyone has these little white things in their ears — especially younger people.
We used to measure market share based on “share of voice,” but I think many brands should start considering how they’re going to increase their “share of ear.”
Podcasts are the only type of content where someone will listen to it for hours at a time. Ain’t no one going to watch a 2-hour webinar. But people will gladly listen to a 3 hour Joe Rogan podcast episode.
What I can see happening is that brands will start to invest in micro-influencers with podcasts as a cost effective way to increase their share of ear. And it could be a fruitful endeavor given the type of podcast you go after.
21. Less emphasis on social media
This one is controversial. And as I mentioned earlier in this article, these trends are not facts. They are simply predictions. In fact, don’t even take my word on anything I’ve said in this article.
But in all honesty, I have a feeling that social media marketing efforts will slow down in 2023. I predict this mainly because brands will start to cut non-revenue-generating initiatives. And i’m not saying that social media can’t drive revenue. In fact, many companies have grown because of social media platforms.
But, because attribution can be tricky with social media and issues with third-party cookies, what I can see happening is more CFOs telling marketing departments to move money away from social and towards more predictable marketing channels.
So in 2023, I can see a trend of brands investing their money in other places outside of social.
22. Short-form videos will continue to grow
I’m sure this one is no surprise to any marketer. Short-form video content is starting to be the go-to version of video marketing.
Just this past month, I was on the New York City subway. I looked around at all the people on their phones, and you know what they were all doing?
Flicking their thumbs in an upward motion every 5-10 seconds.
TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels — this is where the attention is going when it comes to video marketing.
In 2023, I wouldn’t be surprised if more brands doubled down on short-form video over long-form video. Or, for companies already producing long-form content, we’ll see them repurposing and cutting things down into short-form videos.
23. Webinars and event marketing
Marketers have been leveraging webinars and events for some time now. And I can see this continuing to be a trend in 2023.
A webinar is a great way to educate potential customers and give you an opportunity to sell at scale.
I can see enterprise companies starting to leverage this more to help with their go-to-market and sales motion.
The key to success here is to have a sales team that can help marketers understand the pain points potential customers have.
Marketers can then go and create webinars, sometimes hosting them with actual sales leaders, and help close deals at scale.
In other words, this trend could also be called “sales + marketing = success.”
Platforms like Welcome and Hopin are making this possible for large enterprise companies, and it’s going to be a valuable strategy for demand generation teams in 2023.
Okay, that’s it!
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