The Most Influential Thought Leaders in the Digital Marketing Industry

by Mark Bailey

Every year in the digital marketing industry we gather in order to bear witness to the most influential thought leaders. These wise people put forward their inspiration and ideas for those businesses and individuals seeking insight and knowledge, which they can apply to their next digital marketing campaign.

Well, all right, we all get together in a big hall to listen to someone who really knows what he or she is doing, while using a microphone and Powerpoint presentation to convey their message, explaining the next step in the development of digital marketing.

However, for some businesses these experiences can be life changing and if you’re looking to learn from the experts events such as MozCon, C3, The Digital Marketing Show and SearchLove are ideal.

Speaking of experts, actually we’ve been in touch with a number of industry thought leaders, asking them to tell us more about the speaker sessions they have attended throughout their careers and which one of them they think was the best one.

These could be sessions which took a different approach to discussing a well-researched topic, which they thought particularly useful for businesses and which inspired them, because let’s be honest here, with the Internet and the increasing use of mobile media at our disposal, we all consider ourselves as being experts at something related to online media.

Dr Peter Meyers, Moz

With the start of our poll, we spoke with Dr Peter Meyers, a well-known expert and face at Moz, who told us a little bit more about the speaker session he feels is the best one he has ever attended. He told us that it’s not easy for him to define “best”, but the one session that really had an impact on him was the SEO presentation of Michael Dorausch a few years back.

The reason why this particular session stood out for him was because a few days before the sessions, Michael Dorausch touched down and almost immediately began taking pictures of local places of interest and from them he built his deck.

Within just a few days, Michael showed how to create content by capturing the local flavor if you put in the effort and be passionate about what you do. People who complained that they couldn’t create content and their niche was boring, were the ones who were influenced the most by his session.

Phil Nottingham, Distilled

We also got in touch with Phil Nottingham, who is Video Strategist and Senior Consultant at Distilled, to tell us more about the most influential speaker sessions which he has attended.

At events such as Mozcon, Phil is a regular speaker, primarily speaking about video strategy when the topic is about digital marketing and by making fun videos he is encouraging businesses to put to good use their dusty and neglected cameras.

He told us that he was most impressed with a speaker called Nathalie Nahai and more specifically her speaker session last year at SearchLove London, explaining how principles of psychology play a big part in CRO, UX and design.

He added that when he first saw her speak was at MozCon 2013, where she spoke about culturability and he turned to his boss Will after the session and told him that in just half an hour the approach which Distilled use for international marketing was revitalized. And from there his approach to marketing has gone up, because of her influence.

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot

According to Kieran Flanagan, who is Marketing Director at Hubspot, it’s difficult for him to answer when asked about the most influential speaker session he attended. However, in the end he settled on the presentation of Simon Sinek at Inbound held this year.

Flanagan said that for him Simon is one of the best storytellers who have the ability to command your attention. His speaker session about the help we get from the chemicals in our body help us manage in pretty difficult times and it also built cooperation and trust. For anyone who is striving to lead a company or team, it was a terrific presentation.

It is of great importance to interact with the receiver, when it comes to content creation. Just follow the approach that is used by big brands. Let’s take Compare the Market as an instance. Due to its funny way of speaking, the brand has become a household name and everyone attempted to imitate the accent once the advert came out.

Bas van den Beld, State of Digital

The next expert we got in touch with was Bas van den Beld. He is the founder of State of Digital, seasoned speaker, trainer and also online marketing specialist. He also found it quite difficult to name the one presentation that really made an impact on him.

The reason for this is that for different reasons there are many presentations. Of course, he mentioned his conversation with Steve Jobs and he was also very pleased to have held talks with Dave Naylor.

However, there were two other people who made a serious impact on his style of speaking and he wanted to highlight their effort- Dick Hardt and Hans Rosling.

In Paris, at LeWeb in 2006, was the first time when he saw Hans Rosling speak. At that time, his talk about statistics was great and it really opened his eyes.

He would always remember another talk that was from Dick Hardt in Amsterdam at “The Next Web” Conference. In a huge tempo, slide after slide, his style was never seen before.

Dave Chaffey,

Dave Chaffey is the Co-Founder and CEO of, which is an online marketing advice publisher. He also took some time and shared with us his most memorable presentation that he attended.

He said that if he had to choose one it would definitely be Craig Sullivan. He added that apart from their event, Sullivan speaks at a lot of other different events and for him, Sullivan is one of the most practical and passionate speakers he knew. The main focus of the speaker session of Craig was the A/B testing and the reason why so many businesses are doing it wrong.

That speaker session was great and useful for those businesses which had undertaken A/B testing but there weren’t any actual results and they couldn’t figure out the reason for that. There’s a good chance that you might be the problem for lack of results from the A/B testing.

Samuel Scott, The Cline Group          

Finally, we talked to Samuel Scott, who is Senior Director of Digital Marketing at the Cline Group and he shared with us his favorite speaker session. He said that he had attended a lot of presentations, but the one that really stood out was the presentation of Jeffrey K. Rohr’s presentation earlier this year at SMX West.

One of the points he discussed was about how marketing is seen as a cost center by a lot of businesses but now in the modern digital age the role is taken up by the assets-generating department. Social media followers, e-mail lists and RSS subscribers are actually the assets that grow with the help of marketing.

He added that those audiences are owned and earned over time and they can be leveraged, if you treat them right. He has provided a clear and simple response with just one sentence to those marketers who are constantly complaining about the amount of money they have spent on marketing.

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