Folks to Watch in 2016

We're just a day or two away from 2016, so I thought I would round up my predictions and some of the folks that I'm keeping a close eye on in 2016.

The WordPress ecosystem continues to evolve

Here's what I can tell you. Nothing is standing still.

When I was a kid I would head down to San Diego (from Orange County) and camp at this quaint little spot called CampLand. It was basically an RV lot with a beach on San Diego's Mission Bay, and it had a few grass plots where you could  drop a tent.

Some 12 years later, I went back (took friends even) to spend a Spring Break there. I was so excited to show off this awesome place. And you know what had happened?

The beach shrunk.

Not really. The reality is that the beach was huge for an 8 year old. For someone in their 20's, this place was not how I remembered it. At all.

Well the same thing goes for WordPress.

You remember the good old days. Well, remember them all you like. This isn't that. Things are changing. And you'll need to keep a close eye on all the things that change and how you'll have to change with it.

In 2016 Marketing will take off

It won't be enough to just help businesses by creating and spinning up their website. You won't be able to give them just tips on blogging and hope that Google will bring them traffic.

You're going to need to learn and know more about the marketing side of things. And if you're deep in technology and light on business, you'll want to learn from people who are out in front of you.

What I'm saying is that the “Marketing” in “Content Marketing” is going to be the emphasis.

Pay attention to the Rainmaker Platform

Yes, these are the folks that were formerly called Copyblogger. So you know they understand marketing. But that's not my point. My point is that they're evolving their platform.

  • It already does memberships.
  • It already does online courses.
  • And now it's doing automated marketing.
  • And will all improve it in 2016.

So pay attention to Rainmaker.

Pay attention to ConvertKit

The folks behind Drip are awesome and have pushed heavily into marketing automation. So you could see even more from them in this next year. I don't know. But you could.

What I do know is that Nathan Barry and ConvertKit are driving hard into the specific space where bloggers, writers, public speakers and folks that create online courses live. And he and his team are creating a powerful solution that is easy and fast to use. It's not better than MailChimp in a feature by feature comparison yet, but in terms of a SaaS that has demonstrated a commitment to growth and feature development over the past year, few folks beat Nathan and his team's focus right now.

So watch ConvertKit.

Pay attention to Agile CRM

I know, you're going to tell me that you can't possibly figure out how to use Rainmaker, ConvertKit, and Agile CRM all at the same time. And I get that. Except that I'm doing it. And liking it.

There's still more to refine, but if you're looking for a CRM that is priced well and does a whole lot, you're going to want to see what they're up to.

And pay attention to them.

As you look at all of this, you're likely thinking – wait, none of this is WordPress. And yet, all of it touches and integrates with it. And to your customers, this is the stuff that makes that investment in their site worthwhile. Without it, who cares.

So it's time to focus on the marketing side of things.

Hosting innovation isn't done yet

You gotta love Josh Strebel and Pagely. They consistently push into the next space, and a year or two ago they did it by moving their entire infrastructure onto Amazon.

Of course, like when they started the Managed WordPress Hosting space years ago, folks won't let them take that corner all alone.

So watch for companies that will announce their own offerings of Managed WordPress Hosting on top of Amazon. Soon you'll have several to choose from, if I'm right.

And that isn't the only thing going on in hosting.

Containers, Docker, and more. It's all happening around us and 2016 will be the year to watch the incumbents and the new players alike.

What I can say for sure is that WP Engine continues to impress me. In the last few months I've worked with them very closely to help a beauty brand drive huge traffic and revenue to their WooCommerce site and it's been a pleasure to work with them in a collaborative way.

So keep watching WP Engine.

I also know that GoDaddy recently announced a plugin partnership program and they have all sorts of folks paying attention to their weekly plugin stats. These guys have not stopped working to deliver value to the WordPress ecosystem in the last couple years and I don't think they're stopping in 2016.

So keep watching GoDaddy. (Particularly their Managed PRO offering)

People and Plugins to Watch

I can't end this post without calling out a few key folks that I think are worth watching in 2016.

First is Daniel Bachhuber. He raised some funds recently to connect two recent WordPress efforts: WP CLI and the REST-based API. I can't wait to see what comes of his work, and how people will use it.

Then there's Jennifer Bourn. I'll admit it: I'm the president of her fan club. But when she hints at a new site coming out this next year, you should be paying attention. Because whatever she touches is useful, valuable and gold.

You can never take your eyes off Syed Balkhi. He just announced that he's pushing forward on new features for Envira Gallery and you know that will be huge. If you don't know his story with OptinMonster, then you don't know what to expect with Envira. But trust me—it will be awesome.

I don't think I've mentioned Ninja Forms yet. They have a new version coming out. One that has specifically been focused on the user experience. I'm not telling you anything more than, pay attention to them this next year.

Wait, here's two bonus folks to watch

As if the list above wouldn't keep you busy enough, there are two more folks I want you to watch this next year. I don't care that they're not WordPress people. They're too important for you to not have them on your radar.

Lisa Larter

Seriously, if you skip past all the rest, and only read this, then read this. Buy everything she offers (it's always priced too low). Read everything she writes. This is a woman who not only knows what she's talking about but can share it in the most encouraging way. When I grow up, I want to be her. She's awesome.

Mitch Jackson

He's a lawyer. But that's not giving him enough credit. He's a public speaker. An educator. A guy who dabbles with technology not just to have fun and be cool, but to find ways to leverage it for business. And maybe that's the best way to think of Mitch—he's a businessman who has figured out how to leverage technology to meet his own ends, not the technology. Spend time watching and reading his stuff, you'll thank me later.

I'm sure there's more…

I'm sure I've missed someone or something. But that's why the comments are open. Let me know who you think are the folks to watch in 2016 and I'll add them to my list.