Endeavor Creative Blog

Website Empowerment, Digital Entrepreneurship, & The Power of Design

Marketing Predictions for Digital Entrepreneurs & Web Designers in 2017

‘Tis the season to think about what’s next in the online universe for the year ahead. I’ve looked at others’ predictions and polls — but rather than regurgitate* all I’ve learned (more on that later), I’m in the mood to just riff about what I’ve personally observed this last year and what I’m predicting for the year ahead.

(And in 2016 we learned how reliable polls are anyway… am I right? 😉 )

2016 was the year of the digital entrepreneur

This year, you couldn’t go five minutes on the internet without being asked to sign up for a free checklist, participate in a webinar, take a 30-day email challenge, or join a Facebook group. We were asked to buy Gumroad eBooks, courses and trainings and coaching packages, to outsource our daily tasks to a VA (this is part of our lexicon now, we don’t even bother with all the other letters in “virual assistant”), and were warned that there may be affiliate links.

And I think that’s utterly fantastic.

(Admit it, you were expecting me to be cynical, weren’t you? 😉 )

This isn’t new, but people are entering the digital space as entrepreneurs like never before. It’s transforming lives. Think about it: anyone with a skill or knowledge who is capable of solving problems for others can now quickly and inexpensively start an online business with a myriad of income models to choose from — from services to more passive income streams like courses, tech trainings, and blog monetization.

And all the amazing tools and resources you need to develop professionally and create an online business is out there now too, and it wasn’t always that way.

Communities of digital entrepreneurs are buzzing and smart, mastermind groups are popping up everywhere, and podcasts are back in vogue in a big way — because they’re efficient, effective, and people can listen to them while they’re away from the desk… everybody’s on, everybody’s hustlin’.

How it will evolve in 2017 + opportunities 

This explosion of digital entrepreneurship will only grow, I don’t see any evidence of people slowing down — I only see people planning, plotting, and preparing. I believe the opportunity lies in serving the digital entrepreneur in the coming year, or becoming one yourself.

2016 was the year of the DIY website (and soul-searching for web designers)

Part of the massive growth in digital entrepreneurship is thanks to the improvement of website templates and plug-ins.

In the past, web designers could quite easily demonstrate our value over turnkey website solutions: our designs were more beautiful and conceptual, our code was better and required advanced technical skills, and templates, quite frankly… sucked. We were needed.

This year we finally realized that many WordPress multi-purpose themes, incredible and affordable plug-ins that provide the kind of functionality that was once very expensive to develop, and even plug-and-play services like Squarespace, are actually pretty darned good now. And conceptual websites are being replaced by more streamlined interfaces designed for mobile first.

I began using some of these tools myself and it meant shaving off thousands in proposed budgets in some cases with even better results. (If it’s a win for my client, I’m doing it.) But it meant no more daily Skype calls with my developer — things got quiet, and we mourned our old processes.

Our value, our roles, needed re-thinking; just knowing how to design a website doesn’t guarantee people banging down our doors anymore. This was a tough year for a lot of web designers and developers. I know some incredibly skilled and talented people exiting the game altogether.

Others have re-tooled, re-positioned, and thought deeper about where their skills and talents can be best applied in this new landscape. Strategy, branding, optimization, training the DIYers… even other services in related niches like social media and photography; some are even training other web designers how to be more strategic and specialized.

Crazy times. 

How it will evolve in 2017 + opportunities 

2017 will be the year of the web designer who’s game to adapt and apply their value in new ways, and DIYers are going to run into trouble spots as their digital empires grow.

I’m talking about veteran web designers, or trained designers, not the new breed of “I built my website with Squarespace and have good taste in fonts so now I am a web designer” designers. No offense y’all, I got nothin’ but love for ya! There’s a place for you too and I respect that. 

I’m talking about people who’ve stayed up all night long troubleshooting code pulling their hair out, who have the experience of taking clients from their initial budding ideas and guiding them to a fully fledged brand and business come to life online. Those who understand things from a technical perspective as well as marketing — all the digital dots, all the available choices, and knowing which solutions are best suited for each situation.

We’ve always been problem solvers, expected to understand a vast range things — moving targets no less! —  both on the site and off to get results for our clients. Now? Confused about how that value even applies anymore, but I don’t think it’s going to stay that way…

Here’s the danger with DIY: Even though website templates are much more elegant and allow drag-and-drop design without any technical skills, knowing the principles of good design is still the same, and it’s more than replacing icons and lorem ipsum text and choosing a font all your friends think is super-boss. It’s understanding user expectations, consumer behavior, and how visual hierarchy and information architecture support user and business goals. I could go on. *3 snaps in a Z*

They are fine as a starting point, and really — that’s all they’re meant to be. At a certain point in the evolution of an online business, troubles are likely to emerge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a website built with a template that I know is going to suffer from real problems with conversion due to off-target branding, credibility fails, or technical performance and on and on and on.

DIYers who come to understand how to analyze their visitors critically — what a bounce rate is, what quality traffic is (and how costly it is to get it), etc.– will reach a point where they’ll need help understanding how their website is letting them down. They’ll see it’s not their traffic, it’s not their engagement, it’s not their offer… it’s their template.

Enter web designers who understand how to diagnose and fix it.

We may be doing things a little differently than our old processes, but there’ll be tremendous opportunity to jump in and solve problems here. We may not be able to kick back and wait for clients to come to us the way we used to, we’ll have to get visible, demonstrate the value we bring like we haven’t really had to before, and as a colleague and dear friend of mine is wont to say, “toot our own horn.” There’s still a place for us and it’s an important one.

Besides, there will always be people who want it all done for them by a professional, knowing it will be done right, from big picture strategy to submitting XML site maps.

Hang in there dudes.

2016 was the year of step-by-step “follow what I did to make $$$” systems and tactical advice

Okay this one’s not new either, but WOW the explosive growth, am I right? It’s because of the massive influx of new entrepreneurs on the scene, y’all. People are desperate for the knowledge and guidance they need to launch and grow.

Let me just say before I get all ranty that I love systems, I love tactics, and I love following certain successful people and have implemented their advice with tremendous results. I’m grateful. I’m grateful there’s so much good stuff out there and that so much of it is free. Thank you.

But here’s what I’m noticing: a lot of people are getting frustrated by buying into big promises, spending their precious time and money, and not getting the results promised.

When you have a problem (e.g. “How do I build my mailing list?” “How do I get blog traffic?”)  and go looking for the answer online, you’ll likely get one of the following responses:

1. “This is what I did…”
2. “I’m an expert, this is what you need to do…”
3. “It depends…(insert follow up questions here)”

(If you know me at all you know that I’m all about #3, y’all. Annoying, I know.)

I understand the temptation to follow somebody else’s step-by-step system of success, or take an expert’s advice — “I’m so overwhelmed and lost, just tell me what I need to do already!” — but business solutions are rarely one-size-fits-all, and everybody’s an expert these days.

Timing plays a role — Here’s an example: a couple of years go some people got EXPLOSIVE growth when they put email opt-in pop-ups on their websites. But now users are suffering from extreme tactic fatigue, and Google doesn’t like them either. If you’re just now starting, and following somebody else’s system that’s been in place for the last few years, you aren’t as likely to see the same kind of results with the same tactics. It depends. Where are users now in relation to the system or tactic? Is it shiny and new? Or are they so over it?

Context plays a role — If somebody tells you they’re a guru and the definitive way to get massive results, e.g.  “You need to do XYZ to drive traffic” or “You need to email every single day if you want to grow your list” (or even “The money’s in the list!” —rarely questioned these days) — it might be wildly successful for one business, but unrealistic, inappropriate, or even outrageously harmful for others. It depends. What is your business model? What resources are you working with? Who is your customer, what works for them?

How it will evolve in 2017 + opportunities 

In 2017, systems and businesses that revolve around giving tactical advice will only expand, and overall I think that’s great! I’m constantly following systems collecting tricks. But I’m skeptical, and I think most people are these days.

If you want to make money selling a system or tactical advice, be prepared that people are going to vet you much more discerningly in the coming year. People are going to expect real authority, real credibility, real value and connection. They’ll be mistrusting, so focus on establishing trust, and do good work, and everything will shake out like it’s supposed to.

And now, a year in review and predictions post wouldn’t be complete without an IN/OUT list whoop whoop!

Claiming authority without the credentials and proof to back it up
Throwing together a quickie download and expecting quality leads to opt-in (push harder, give us something real — we’re tired of being tricked with regurgitated checklists)
Automation with no human follow-through
Pop-ups, countdown clocks and other “everybody else is doing it because it works” tricks … people are getting numb to it
*Regurgitating what literaly everybody else is saying and simply re-packaging it (we’re over it dudes!)
Clunky, slow-loading websites with too many bells and whistles… slideshows, javascript that takes forever to load, etc.

IN: Back to basics y’all
Lightening fast websites delivering super valuable content on-the-go (mobile)
Putting the user and customer first.
Exceptional service (If you’re a digital/solo professional and want longevity, it’s going to take more than tricks. You’ll need raving fans.)
Value — dig deeper
Vulnerability — ALL DAY LONG
Originality — Please. PLEASE?!
Humans actually responding
Bravery — get in the arena and get your ass kicked, we need you.

What do you think? Agree/disagree? Have any insights about the past year or year ahead? I’d love to hear in comments!

Have a super holiday season (or just survive lol) and I’ll see you in 2017 — it’s gonna rock!

  • Nick Colakovic

    I must agree with you that digital entrepreneurship is flourishing and that train shouldn’t be missed, whatever role you want to take.