After speaking about the future of marketing at Dreamforce in 2015, I walked off the stage to a line of people with questions.
As I worked my way through the line, the most frequently asked question was, “Who else should I follow?” I cited a lot of thought leaders in my speech, many of whom were new to the audience. They hadn’t realized there were so many amazing thought leaders. It wasn’t for a lack of people claiming to be thought leaders, but rather that the genuine ones are hard to find.
It is hard to find the few among the many. A search for “marketing thought leader” on LinkedIn returns thousands of names. Plenty of people claim to be a thought leader, yet few are. Anyone can cite a data point, but genuine thought leaders can help you understand what to do with the information.Anyone can cite a data point. Genuine thought leaders help you understand what to do w/ the info. @msweezey Click To Tweet
Another challenge in finding authentic thought leaders is the generalization of “marketing” thought leaders. Marketing isn’t one thing. It is a mix of many things – SEO, content, email, etc. You really need to follow a large mix of people focused on specific topics. Finally, another problem in finding thought leaders is we often mistakenly confuse “online personality” with “thought leader.”People often confuse “online personality” with “thought leader,” says @msweezey. Click To Tweet
To help address those challenges, I created a list – but not just any list. It was put together with help from genuine thought leaders. The criteria included a unique perspective, topic expertise, and foresight. The list is broken down by categories – art and copy, B2B marketing, brand and advertising, bold new ideas, digital marketing, fresh perspectives on content, and growth and conversion. Originally published in 2016, I thought it needed to be updated given how much has changed in the marketing industry.
The 103 names include many you may know, like Ann Handley and Seth Godin, and many less-familiar faces. Many of these newer thought leaders have smaller followings but are as insightful. You can find the complete list embedded at the end of the article, but for now let’s focus on 24 genuine thought leaders you may have missed.
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Aaron is one of a kind in the world of design. He’s a Midwest native with a rock ‘n’ roll soul. His approach and style have made him an icon of design, and his work is sought by everybody from Nike to Barack Obama. Aaron also created Field Notes, a modern take on the Moleskine notebook. Give him a follow for fresh ideas on visual design.
Chief content officer at Copyblogger Media, Sonia is one of the elite copywriters and she’s backed up by the Copyblogger team. Her unique set of skills and team members put her at the epicenter of copy..@SoniaSimone’s unique set of skills makes her the epicenter of copy, says @msweezey. Click To Tweet
Author of Digital Relevance and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, Ardath is a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of personas, lead nurturing, and all things B2B. Her presentations at marketing conferences are standing-room-only because people flock to the wisdom she shares.
Megan is head of SiriusDecisions’ research team of B2B analysts. Her data-driven approach to customer experience, demand generation, and measurement has been put to work by venture-backed startups and at Fortune 500 companies. Her passion is to use data for B2B leaders to help put best practices to work to grow their businesses faster and more efficiently
A passionate and vocal advocate for conversational marketing, David leads marketing for one of the hottest startups. His new book, Conversational Marketing, was a No. 1 new release on Amazon. Dave is a pioneer of video, chatbots, and podcasting. Watch what he does because it is working.Watch what @davegerhardt does in conversational marketing because it’s working, says @msweezey. Click To Tweet
An award-winning marketer, Katie leads a team of three in Nielsen’s corporate marketing group. She is well versed in social, demand generation, and marketing technology. She likes to say #MarTechStackAllDayEveryDay. She is also a judge for the New York On Tech’s Innovators & Disruptors Awards.
Bold new ideas
Steven is an international keynote speaker and marketing leader. He wrote four best-selling books on customer experience. His latest book, Customers the Day After Tomorrow: How to Attract Customers in a World of AIs, Bots, and Automation, gives a clear and scary look at the consumer we are selling to. Steve’s ideas are bold and expertly presented and backed up by lots of data. He is not a big name in the United States but he should be.
CEO of Never Stop Marketing and former vice president of marketing at Srinklr, he is a leading speaker and writer on the topic of blockchain-driven marketing. Jeremy is a frequent contributor to VentureBeat, Bitcoin Magazine, and Distributed Magazine, as well as a regular guest on the Bitcoin Podcast. If you want to know about blockchain and how it will affect marketing, he is the guy.If you want to know about blockchain and #marketing, follow @jer979, says @msweezey. Click To Tweet
If you love data, then you’ll love Danah. She serves as the principal researcher at Microsoft Research and is a social media scholar and author. Her work is often focused on technology and its effect on individuals, specifically teens. She also founded Data and Society to better understand how data-driven technologies shape broader social issues.
Brand and advertising
Boz is chief marketing officer of Endeavor. Most recently, Boz was the head of brand at Uber, and before that was head of consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes. BuzzFeed called her the “coolest person to ever go on stage at an Apple event.” She is in touch with what modern consumers want and knows how to deliver..@badassboz is in touch with what modern consumers want and knows how to deliver, says @msweezey. Click To Tweet
Tom makes the list for his honesty, provocative style, and accurate view of the future. He is head of innovation for Zenith New York and author of Digital Darwinism. He is helping to lead brands out of the dark ages and is focused on the future of brand and advertising.
Jeremy is the chief customer officer at IBM iX. He is former head of digital marketing for Salesforce EMEA and head of social strategy at Adobe. His unique perspective as a marketer for some of the most progressive marketing technologies in the world easily places him on this list.
Geoff is head of Microsoft Advertising’s Brand Studio, author of the hot book Disruptive Marketing, and host of the Disruptive FM podcast – and he’s won a Cannes Lion. He knows a thing or two.
The green-haired brand expert inspires many to up their personal branding game or to use social media to grow a deeply engaged audience. Goldie focuses on personal brands, but her tactics can be applied to any content marketing strategy.
A pioneer of digital marketing, Vanessa is the author of Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy IS Your Business Strategy – described as “first must-read-to-survive business book of the 21st century.” She also created what is now Google’s Webmaster Central, a set of tools and community designed to help web marketing professionals.
Peg is the author of The Art of Social Media, and her feed is beautiful and informative. Her knowledge and curated feed make it a must for this list. She also used to run content and visibility strategy for Guy Kawasaki.
Part keynote speaker, part message strategist, and part executive producer of TEDx Cambridge, Tamsen is in the middle of it all. She has led digital teams, mastered content activation and digital strategy, and now focuses on helping brands tell better stories.
Fresh perspectives on content
Jay is an amazing keynote speaker, author of Break the Wheel, and a former Google digital media strategist, head of content at HubSpot, and vice president of brand at the venture capital firm NextView. Now he spends his time creating amazing content and showing brands a new way to reach their audience via podcasting.
Joe is a mastermind of content, technology, and future trends. He doesn’t fit well into a box, as his tattoos may suggest. He was one of the brains behind HubSpot’s content success and is a practicing marketer to this day. Currently, he’s the vice president of marketing at Pendo.io.
Doug is co-founder of Velocity partners, one of the top agencies for B2B marketing. A trailblazer among his peers, he brings a creative talent and vision often only found on Madison Avenue to B2B brands. Doug is constantly pushing the boundaries for his clients and inspiring other marketers to demand more from content.A trailblazer, @dougkessler brings vision often only found on Madison Avenue to B2B brands, says @msweezey. Click To Tweet
Growth and conversion
Charlene is the author of five books – including The New York Times best-seller, Open Leadership – and co-author of the critically acclaimed Groundswell. Her ideas on a new model of growth from the ground up was a revolution for many, and her work continues to inspire leaders to find new ways to break through.
Few marketers or speakers can deliver like Angie. Her deep love and passion for consumer behavior and the fine art of conversion are a bright light in the digital darkness. She likes to say, “Respect the hair.” I like to say, “Listen to everything she says.” Angie is one of the brightest and most technical conversion rate optimization experts.One of the brightest & most technical CRO experts, @aschottmuller is one to follow, says @msweezey. Click To Tweet
One of the best minds in growth, Morgan co-authored Hacking Growth with Sean Ellis. His work and exploration on modern ways for businesses to grow via growth teams and agile methods landed him a product lead role at Facebook. Morgan is an amazing speaker, brilliant mind, and remains a public voice in marketing and growth.
Ryan has a long history of leading thoughts at breakout companies and publications. Currently focused on growth and consumer reviews in the B2B space, Ryan is chief marketing officer at G2.com.
These 24 marketing thought leaders are a varied bunch of practitioners, researchers, visionaries, and rebels. Each is a true master in his or her field and someone who you can honestly learn from. Are there other authentic thought leaders you can learn from? Yes. This list isn’t the end. It is a good starting point to guide you to genuine thought leaders at the top of their fields. Follow them then notice who they follow, who they engage with, and cultivate your own knowledge network.
Want to know all 103 genuine marketing thought leaders? Check out this deck:
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You can see, hear, and meet some of these genuine marketing thought leaders at Content Marketing World Sept. 2-6. Register today using code CMIBLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute