20 Books Every Marketer Should Read in 2017

A List of Marketing Reads We Marketers Are Thankful For

November 23, 2016

As 2016 winds down, it’s time to take a moment and consider the things for which we are truly thankful. Marketers in particular have plenty of reasons to feel grateful. Social media gives us unlimited opportunities to connect. Tech is making it easier to personalize at scale. The tools at our disposal are more intuitive and powerful, helping us redefine what’s possible.

More than any of these, though, we can be thankful for a vocation that rewards constant growth. There’s always something new to learn. Every lesson learned, every new skill mastered, can translate directly to better marketing with more meaningful results.

Each of the books on this list is a teacher in your continuing marketing education. We’re thankful for each of them, and for the authors who took the time to recommend their own favorites.

1. The Content Formula: Calculate the ROI of Content Marketing & Never Waste Money Again, by Michael Brenner & Liz Bedor

Making a business case for content marketing is still a challenge for many marketers. The Content Formula shows how to build ROI measurement into the process. It’s a blueprint for creating a content marketing program that will last, earning and proving its value over and over again.

Michael Recommends: Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing by Robert Rose & Carla Johnson

“I recommend it because it helps lay out the picture of how marketing is changing dramatically from interruption and promotion to storytelling that people actually might want to read and share. And this will truly drive transformation across the entire business - from one focused on pushing products, to one focused on solving customer problems through end-to-end experiences.”

2. Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing, by Andy Crestodina

Content Chemistry is both a collection of great content marketing advice, and an example of what you can get by following that advice. Andy used the methods he outlines in this creative, engaging book to create the book itself; its success is proof positive that his advice is sound.

Andy Recommends: Google Analytics Breakthrough: From Zero to Business Impact by Feras Alhlou, Shiraz Asif & Eric Fettman

“It covers everything, including things like ’multi-channel funnel conversion segments’ ...so I'll admit, not all of it is relevant to everyone. But most of it is. This book is a goldmine of simple explanations into everything you need to know about GA. It's 600 pages so it won't fit into a stocking, but a lot of marketers, beginner and advanced, should have this on their holiday gift list.”

3. Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age, by Gini Dietrich

“Authenticity” may be the buzziest buzzword in 2016, but it’s still a challenge for many brands. Gini was ahead of the trend in 2014. She makes the simple but powerful point that people don’t like a manufactured, artificial message. Spin Sucks is an instruction manual for letting go of perfection and communicating with honesty and integrity, to form honest relationships with consumers.     

Gini Recommends: Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer

“I really didn’t think I needed to read this. It’s a customer service book and I run a PR firm with a handful of clients, all of whom we have personal relationships with and almost know what they’re thinking before they do. But a colleague recommended it for our internal monthly book club and I was pleasantly surprised at the different things my entire team took from it. If you have customers, this is a must-read.”

4. Full Funnel Marketing, by Matt Heinz

Marketing has historically been more concerned with the early stages of buying—creating awareness and generating leads. To prove our value to the C-suite, though, we need to be concerned with the entire buyer’s journey. We must know exactly how our efforts contribute to revenue, and that means owning a bigger part of the process and working more closely with sales. Matt’s book is a great primer on how to make it happen.

Matt Recommends: The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner & Nick Toman

“It’s a sequel of sorts to The Challenger Sale, and really gets into how to navigate internal buying committees at complex B2B targets. Super-important for companies selling into B2B, tackling account-based marketing, etc.”

5. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky & Braden Kowitz

Sprint isn’t a marketing book in the strictest sense. But it teaches a method of organizing work that is especially useful for marketers. Sprinting is intended to foster creativity and encourage innovation, all while keeping the focus on deliverables. It’s a model many agencies are beginning to adopt with impressive results.

Jake Recommends: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

“It’s a thoughtful examination of how to do the work that matters.”

6. Digital Influencer: A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online, by John Lincoln

Have you ever envied the people in your industry who not only have a sizable following, but can move that audience to action? If you want to develop a powerful personal brand, this book can help you get there. If you would rather stay out of the limelight, the tips found here can help you develop your corporate brand’s influence, too.

John Recommends: Winning by Jack Welch & Suzy Welch

“I was totally blown away. Although I do have an MBA and I've been working in business for quite a few years, I've never been exposed to business at the level Jack talks about in his book. Although the book talks about business in general, there's some really good insight for people in marketing. This book can teach marketers how every specific segment of business applies to the overall organization. Marketers can apply this information to their everyday tasks such as reporting, projections, marketing plans and dealing with key talent on the marketing side. I read a lot of great books on marketing but this one is unique in that it gives you that top-level business experience that you can't find anywhere else.”

7. Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business, by Adele Revella

All too often, marketers base buyer personas on intuition and guesswork instead of data. We end up creating these compelling characters that have little relationship to how people make purchasing decisions. Buyer Personas brings some much-needed discipline and science to the creation of personas, reclaiming their purpose and their usefulness.

Adele Recommends: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini

“I love this simple explanation of the science behind a persuasive argument. For marketers who believe that engagement alone is insufficient, and that we need to do more to affect our customer’s buying decision, this is a must read.”

8. Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?, by Michael Schrage

The question in this book’s title suggests a far deeper approach to understanding an audience than we’re used to. It’s not “What do you want your customer to do?” Rather, Michael asks us to consider how we are planning on changing a customer’s life.

Michael’s Recommendation: Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy—And How to Make Them Work for You by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne & Sangeet Paul Choudary

“It does an excellent job not just of synthesizing and summarizing how the underlying economics dynamics of ‘platforms’ are different than ‘service’ and/or ‘product’ businesses, but explains and explores how ‘network effects’ redefine how users can add value for other users. This is a major theme of my own research and advisory work and, indeed, one of the reasons why companies like LinkedIn, Amazon, Netflix and Uber command such marketplace premiums. The strategic/operational/cultural challenges of ‘platformizing’ one’s product/service portfolios—not merely ‘digitizing’ them—will increasingly consume more time and thought from enterprise leaderships.”

9. It’s Not Rocket Science: 7 Game-Changing Traits for Uncommon Success, by Mary Spio

Mary Spio started as a barefoot girl in Ghana and now runs a cutting-edge virtual reality company. Along the way she worked with the government and scrappy startups like Boeing. And, yes, became an actual bona-fide rocket scientist. This book is all about accomplishing extraordinary things; it’s instructive and unbelievably inspiring.

Mary’s Recommendation: Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives by Randi Zuckerberg

“I Love Dot Complicated because it’s insightful and thought provoking yet an easy read for all audiences. It’s also an inside view of Facebook’s early days from their then Director of Market Development and spokesperson – Randi Zuckerberg.”

10. Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time, by Rory Vaden

Marketers are busy people. We seldom have the luxury to put our feet up and waste time. This book isn’t about throwing away productive time, though; it’s about taking a more thoughtful approach to how we allocate effort. Some strategic procrastinating can help us prioritize tasks and ultimately get more done in a day.

Rory’s Recommendation: The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line, by David Horsager

“In this book David shares a very researched view into how much trust can be a competitive business advantage or a huge business liability. Marketers have the opportunity to instantly build or detract from the trust of their brand, so this is a must read!”

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