Your Summer Reading List: 25 Must-Read Marketing Books
June 19, 2017
When summer rolls around, we are all looking for an excuse to sit out under the sun. What better than reading a book that pulls you in and won’t let go?
And, if you happen to be absorbing information and insights that expand your horizons professionally, so much the better.
Sometimes educational reading can be dry and dull. With so many activities competing for your attention during the lengthy daylight of July and August, it takes a truly compelling page-turner to ward off distractions and commit to a relaxing read.
Our summer reading list has plenty to offer in that regard. We picked 12 of our favorites, with a heavy focus on breaking through and capturing attention in today’s cluttered environment. Then, we asked the authors to recommend books that have inspired and influenced them along the way.
The result is a collection of top-notch modern marketing books that will perfectly complement a day at the beach, or in the backyard hammock. Think of it as leisurely learning: laying out and soaking in rays has never been so productive!
1. Jonah Berger
Jonah’s Book: Contagious: Why Things Catch On
Attempting to manufacture viral content is a chronically recurring folly in marketing. Without a true understanding of what drives social influence and word-of-mouth, you’re not likely to find success. Berger spent more than a decade rigorously researching these very subjects, and he lays out his findings in this entertaining read full of examples and case studies.
Robert’s Book: Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence & Persuade
It has been more than 30 years since Cialdini first taught us the Psychology of Persuasion in his classic work, Influence. Now, he takes a different angle, explaining how the crux of a successful persuasive message is actually in the moments before you deliver it. By priming the recipient just so, you can pre-suade, setting the stage for a true change in mindset and perspective. It’s great stuff from our generation’s defining voice in social psychology.
Barry’s Book: The Road to Recognition
From A to Z, Feldman and Seth Price walk you through the tenets of personal branding, an imperative we as marketers too often overlook while focusing on our jobs and our clients. As Feldman puts it in prefacing the collection: “Today is the best day to develop your personal brand. Not tomorrow. Today.” Well, then, there is no time to waste. Luckily, this is a fairly quick and digestible read, so that shouldn’t be a concern.
Barry Recommends: Inbound Marketing, by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
“This was the primer, the eye-opener that inspired me to sign up for social media channels, get a WordPress site and start blogging. Inbound Marketing simplified the whole thing, said “this is how it works now, we used to interrupt people and push messages, people now don’t dig that.” It was a real eye-opener. I still recommend it to people just getting started.”
4. John Hall
John’s Book: Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence
How can your company become the first that comes to mind when a person thinks of your industry or specialization? This is the formula that Hall seeks to unlock in his examination of best practices for developing a top-of-mind strategy — specifically through digital content. The insights are particularly relevant in our shifting hyper-competitive landscape, which he addresses head-on in the early chapters.
John Recommends: Self-Employed: 50 Signs That You Might Be an Entrepreneur, by Joel Comm and John Rampton
“Thinking more entrepreneurial has been one of the best things that has happened in my life, and I think this book encompasses the way entrepreneurs think and obtain success. Whether you are just being entrepreneurial within a larger company or starting a company this knowledge can be valuable.”
Relatively speaking, starting a company is easy. The true challenge is in scaling up, and building the type of sustainable growth model that transforms a modest business into a juggernaut. This is where Harnish sets his sights in the follow-up to his best-selling 2002 guide, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. He organizes this series of tools and tips around four key decision areas: People, Strategy, Execution, Cash. If you shy away from big blocks of text, you’ll enjoy the format of this book, which includes plenty of lists, graphics, and charts.
Verne Recommends: The New Rules of Marketing & PR, by David Meerman Scott
“David Meerman Scott, the author of 10 books in the sales and marketing space, lays out how marketing is done right in the 21st Century, where customers don’t want to be sold but educated. It was just one idea of many that helped us increase revenue by 60% the first year we implemented it.”
6. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers
Don and Martha’s Book: Extreme Trust: Turning Proactive Honesty and Flawless Execution into Long-Term Profits
In today’s connected world, customers value trust more than ever before, holding the companies they buy from to a higher standard. For those most-trustable businesses that proactively protect their customers’ interests, from Amazon and Ally Bank to USAA and Zappos, the rewards are immense, and long-term. Extreme Trust highlights success stories from companies that get it, and provides a blueprint for developing that kind of trust with your customers.
Don Recommends: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari
“Both of Harari’s books are well worth reading. But in his second one, Homo Deus, Harari explores the future of mankind as we become more immersed in our computers and begin to merge with them into nearly god-like, all-knowing, and highly capable but still organic creatures. And to accompany this tour of our likely future, Harari’s thought-provoking questions are deeply philosophical: Is secular humanism just another religion, every bit as unscientific as any traditional religion based on mysticism? And if so, then what is the ultimate “good” and where can it be found? In pure rationality? In new information and learning? Or something else?”
Martha Recommends: Suggestible You, by Erik Vance
“The single biggest hurdle to overcome in many – perhaps most – tests of new drugs and medical treatments is the placebo effect – the purely psychological benefit many people receive by merely thinking that they are being healed. Somehow, just thinking it can often make it so. Vance explores why some people are more susceptible than others to the placebo effect (and its twin, the nocebo effect). Sometimes, even when people are explicitly told that they’re being given a placebo, it still has a positive physical effect. But one problem is that because placebos involve no expensive chemicals or patented formulas, there’s no money to be made from learning how to use them even more productively.”
Marcus’s Book: They Ask You Answer
Using the story of how he turned his failing pool installation company into a sales powerhouse, Sheridan highlights the value of becoming an indispensable online resource for customers and prospects. By formulating your content strategy around anticipating questions from potential buyers, and having the right answers, you can become their go-to authority and preferred brand.
Marcus Recommends: Steal the Show, by Michael Port
“We're entering the video age. Every company and brand is going to have to learn how to "show" their story. In doing this, more and more individuals from organizations are going to be asked to get on camera and essentially "perform" for their audience via this critical medium. I have found that, with a little training, a large portion of people can be good on camera. The beauty behind Michael's book is that it teaches the elements of great communication, regardless of setting, something we all need more and more of in 2017 and beyond.”
8. Chris Smith
Chris’s Book: The Conversion Code
“The Conversion Code is a new blueprint for marketers and salespeople that shows you how to capture and convert Internet leads into closed sales at the highest rate possible.” The first sentence of Smith’s book pretty much says it all. Within, he lays out in detail the tactics required to generate leads and integrate technological solutions for a robust and fruitful pipeline.
Chris Recommends: The Method Method, by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry
“If you think growing a business is hard, imagine trying to go up against Procter and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson and Unilever. This book provides tactical advice on how to run a business that thrives, even if you are up against the status quo.”
Samantha’s Book: Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook that Drives Sales
The alignment of sales and marketing departments is a primary directive across many companies these days, and Samantha makes this a central theme. The pages are filled with advice that is not only inspirational but also applicable, backed by statistics and data. Samantha (along with co-author Katie Martell) challenges us to rethink many of the existing paradigms in B2B marketing.
Samantha Recommends: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
“It's incredibly valuable for those marketers leading change in complex organizations. So much of what we do requires support from across the company. Switch is an excellent resource for change agents who want to understand how to effect organizational change in and outside of marketing.”
10. John Warrillow
John’s Book: The Automatic Customer
We are all familiar with the truism that it’s far easier and less expensive to retain customers than to acquire new ones. Warrillow zeroes in on the concept of a subscription economy with this universal guide to generating repeat business in virtually any industry or vertical. He covers nine subscription models and serves up numerous real-life examples of companies innovatively implementing recurring revenue systems.
11. Nick Webb
Nick’s Book: What Customers Crave
Webb starts out with the premise that “today, most customer experience programs are a disaster,” then goes about constructing a roadmap for businesses to change that. This manual covers each touchpoint in the customer journey and the steps brands can take to create happier customers — as well as higher profits — throughout.
Nick Recommends: Get Scrappy, by Nick Westergaard
“The author does a great job of helping organizations gain insights about the kinds of activities that actually drive results. Today, marketers are inundated with tools, systems, processes, and technologies that are designed to drive organizational growth and profit. The problem is there are so many options it's hard to know how to build a hierarchy of what systems really work and how to leverage the best resources. This book is easy to read, powerful, and most importantly actionable.”
Kathy’s Book: Stop Boring Me!
What is the No. 1 problem with most B2B marketing content? It’s too dull! In order to engage a reader, you need to capture their attention and interest. This can be challenging, and today the same old drab lifeless copy no longer cuts it with so much competing noise on the Web. Kathy explains how to give your content a shot of “creativity, humanity, and fun” by applying the playful fundamentals of improv. Storytelling is her specialty and she spins some great yarns within the pages of this amusing and important work.
Kathy Recommends: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
“Every marketer should read Essentialism by Greg McKeown. We’re all dealing with constraints in time and resources in a world with so much complexity, data, and noise. And there’s pressure to do more with less. This book gives some great tips for how to simplify your goals, eliminate distractions (say no to things that don’t serve you and say yes to things that do!) and get down to the heart of what really matters in your business and personal lives. By saying yes to the right stuff (and no to the rest), you can simplify your life tremendously and truthfully. Learning to say no to the wrong stuff is huge!”