Spotlight on the Elite with Bas van den Beld

Next in the spotlight is one of our favourite Digital Elites and 2015 Search Personality of the Year, Bas van den Beld.

After growing State of Digital to become a now world-renowned digital marketing platform, Bas has gone rogue with a new and exciting venture. We caught up with Bas on the purpose behind Speak with Persuasion and to find out what the ‘content king’ himself has to say about the future of search.


“We’ve heard on the grape vine that you’re something of a content king, but what do you think of the overused expression ‘content is king’? Is this true?

“Content is King” is a very dangerous quote. Even though Bill Gates was right when he first talked about it back in the 90s. He foresaw that content would be where the money is made. However, marketers have interpreted it in the wrong way. A very ‘marketing’ way: make more of it.

With the result that many are now creating content for the sake of creating content. And a lot of it is bad content. This doesn’t help. In fact, it hurts us. Because the web gets cluttered. We should be focussing on quality content, not more content.

Do you have any regrets now you have sold State of Digital?

No regrets whatsoever. It was time to move forward. I had two options: build out State of Digital by organising events or selling it. My direction is different. And the new owners can organise conferences much better than I can, so it’s a win-win.

The only thing I miss is not seeing many of my friends in the industry as much as I did. I miss them. But I don’t miss traveling! 

What is the purpose behind your new(ish) venture, Speak with Persuasion?

Through Speak with Persuasion, I want to help get people have more impact when they speak. This can be at conferences, but also at pitches, internal meetings and workshops for example. I believe that everyone can have impact and everyone can speak, as long as they have the right tools and stay close to themselves. This is what I try to accomplish: focusing on the person and showing their strengths. We’re not trying to make everyone the same speaker, we’re trying to show what makes people special and use that.

My years of speaking experience combined with my teaching genes (I come from a family of teachers) makes this the perfect job for me at this point.

What are the biggest differences between the UK and NL when it comes to digital marketing?

Both countries have a high quality group of digital marketers working in the industry. So that’s not different. Both are also eager to go forward. I do think that in the UK things are a bit further evolved. This has to do with the size of the country and the language.

The biggest differences are the cultural differences. Dutch people are much directer. They say what they don’t like. The English are, how do I put this, more ‘English’?

Bas van den Beld

How do you overcome these and similar differences when working internationally?

I remember that at first when I started working in the UK, some people were thrown back because of my Dutch approach. I took notice of that and dealt with it. Not by changing who I was, but by first winning trust and explaining them I didn’t mean harm when I was direct.

Getting different cultures working together means you need to take steps on both sides. The most important step is to understand and, even more important, respect the other culture. And then find the middle ground.

What are your predictions for the future of search in 2019 and beyond?

That’s so dangerous! This could haunt me if I get it wrong. But ok, here it goes. If you look at what’s been happening in the past years, you can see that we are moving towards a much faster and more personal world. Everything should be available, and fast. This is where search is also heading: getting the information to the searcher as fast as possible. Preferably even before they search.

That means developments like bots, actions for assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Cortana are going to play a big role.

At the same time, we’re going through a privacy phase, in which people don’t know if they want to share as much information as they are currently doing. That needs to even out in the next year or so. It’s crucial for the next steps.

Why is storytelling so important in digital marketing?

Everyone grew up listening to stories. And what we remember most, are stories. In a cluttered world like the one we are currently living in, that means we remember less and less. But a good story, we will always remember. They affect our brains. And make us love or hate characters, businesses and products. Especially in this time storytelling is therefore important.


But be careful: let’s not make the same mistake as with the content. More isn’t better. Quality is better!

What is your biggest tip for someone looking to get to the top of their game (and maybe even become a search personality of the year like you!)?

Connect with others and help others. As much as you can. You’ll learn more from helping others than you will think. So always ask yourself ‘how can I help this person’.

Why should we all go to Digital Elite Day 2019?

For all the reasons I mentioned above: because we need to understand what the right content is and we need to understand the future of search. And because you will make new friends and see old friends, with whom we’ll create new stories. And of course because there will be great speakers on stage who want to help you.”


We are looking forward to seeing Bas at Digital Elite. Book your ticket to speak with Bas and find out more about his new company.


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