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on December 23, 2019 (last modified on October 13, 2022) • 50 minute read
It isn’t a field you spend 4 years studying in college and you’re set for an entire career—it’s a practice that requires constant learning.
So how do marketers continuously learn more about their field? We posed that question to 159 experienced marketers, and nearly 30% said they take advantage of books on the topic.
Books are a particularly good way to learn about marketing because marketers need to understand the origins and underlying theory as well as keeping up with new trends and channels. Books on marketing offer the opportunity to learn about both of those things.
In light of that, we wanted to learn about the specific books—both the old stand-bys and newer releases—that our friends recommend to marketers experienced and beginner. Here, we’re sharing the 88 books they told us all marketers should read.
That’s a lot of books, so we also broke it down to the top 10 books recommended for beginners and the top 10 for more experienced marketing managers.
For beginner marketers who haven’t built up years or even decades of experience, our respondents recommended these top 10 books:
For the more experienced crowd, respondents to our survey recommended the following 10 books as must-reads:
Without further ado, here it is—the big list of 88 must-read marketing books, recommended for marketers young and old, experienced and green.
“Even though it’s a bit of a cliché—most marketers have probably read it by now—it demonstrates some important strategies and philosophies that can improve your marketing in a big way,” Bram Vergouwen of Vergouwen Media said. “It’s also more strategic than tactical which is something that I really like. It’s also something that’s often forgotten since everything is so fast-paced these days.”
“Seth breaks marketing down into its most philosophical and psychological elements and then communicates it in a way that’s easy to read and understand,” said Corey Haines of Hey Marketers.
“Our CEO actually included this book in the surprise welcome package for me and other new employees. It is essential reading for new and seasoned marketers alike, business owners, and many other professions who need to know how to reach the right people with their messages, products, and services,” Jen Bergren of Chief Martech Officer told us.
Tamas Torok of Growth Advisor said “It’s a great summary of all the marketing wisdom he’s published in the last 20 years. This book goes into the fundamentals of marketing—a mindset refresher that will help you reframe your marketing strategy.”
This classic came recommended by Ryan Klein of Market My Market. Klein said, “ I don’t think it’s necessarily a marketing book, but since marketing is so psychological, it gives insight into how people react to very nuanced differences in how you present information: ad copy, succinct messaging in marketing materials and website taglines, imagery, and user experience.”
“The book is consistently thought-provoking and without a doubt will assist in your assessment on how your process works for presenting your marketing to consumers,” Klein added.
“Understanding how the mind works is essential for understanding how marketing works. Marketing methods may change, but in the end, you’re always marketing to a human person with a human mind,” said Luke Nicholson of Exposure Ninja.
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Paul Farmer of Riverwood Cabins recommended a book that isn’t as marketing-centric as most of the others on our list—but vital nonetheless.
“There comes a point in every marketer’s life when you’re completely out of ideas and it’s your lack of creativity holding you back,” Farmer explained.
“This book is a magic pill that’ll get all sorts of self-doubt and artistic blocks out of your head—so you’ll be spilling out marketing copy and campaign ideas by the bucket-load. It’s structured as a several month-long course and is full of exercises that’ll get your creative juices flowing.”
Fleur Brown of Launch Group recommended The Business of Being You, saying, “Marketers understand the rise in personal brand better than most—most marketing is now digital and digital is driven by social and personal brand. But do they apply the principles to their own career?”
“This book goes well beyond the ‘influencer’ phenomenon to take a look at how all professionals now need to develop and grow their personal profile to survive the workplace shifts,” Brown added.
Melanie Musson of ExpertInsuranceReviews.com recommended a book that returns marketing to the name of the game: serving clients and customers.
“This book gets to the heart of marketing: client service. With technology ever-changing, the main point remains the same,” Musson pointed out.
“I recommend this book because it is the clearest, easiest read for marketers and teams on any level,” said Chris Biscuiti of Minuteman Press International. “Allan lays out a clear marketing plan and emphasizes the importance of each chapter in an easily digestible way. He summarizes each chapter and then creates an action item for each. He also discusses the value and importance of tracking ROI in a way that everyone should read and pay attention to.”
“The marketing plan will break down your marketing goals into a 9 step action plan that allows you to focus and target your marketing efforts,” Tino Jaimes of Sunrise House Buyers TX added. “The marketing plan takes you through the 3 marketing phases, 1. Before (Prospecting) 2. During (Lead) and 3. After (Customer) and provides valuable insights to stand out from your competition at each step of the way.”
“It’s packed with practical, useful, easy to implement strategies,” Jacob Landis-Eigsti said.
“It covers finding the right customer, reaching and connecting with that customer, and how to generate referrals and repeat business. I recommend downloading the 1-Page plan and filling it out. I have my plan on my wall and I update it yearly. It’s a must-read for business owners and marketing professionals.”
Editor’s note: Looking for a better way to keep track of your marketing goals and the progress you’ve made? Download this free HubSpot Marketing template to view traffic, conversions, and return on investment KPIs all in one dashboard.
“Seth Godin books are exceptional in their ability to survive the tests of time,” said Maddy Osman of The Blogsmith. That explains why so many of Godin’s books ended up on our list here. In this case, Permission Marketing.
“His marketing advice isn’t based on passing whims or trends—it’s more about good, old fashioned strategy,” Osman added. “My favorite Seth Godin book is Permission Marketing. It’s an especially timely topic in light of new data protection laws being introduced across the world.”
Another Godin masterpiece our marketers recommended was Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.
Bradley Thompson of Living the Canadian Dream said, “If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd you need to think differently. In this book, Seth Godin will show you how you can be effective when marketing your business or brand by being different. Don’t go with the status quo, be memorable.”
One of the newer books we heard about, Alex Hamilton of Morley Canvas recommends Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by the founder and former CEO of Moz.
“While not being specifically about marketing, the book walks you through Rand’s life in the startup world and holds nothing back,” Hamilton said.
“As many people are in the freelance marketing world, this book opens up your mind to the possibilities brought on by hard work, risk-taking and dedication. Moz is one of the leading online marketing tools in the world, so it’s a book about someone many people in the online marketing industry can get around.”
“It’s a great intro to the power and value of good storytelling.” – Michael Korch, Full Circle Insights.
The next Seth Godin book we heard about was All Marketers are Liars, and it was one of the most common responses we got.
Tony Rindsberg of Thankful AI said, “It’s a great read for those in creative marketing roles, BUT it is also critical for non-creative marketers to read to truly understand that every brand is telling a story or making a promise to customers—and it’s critical to keep that promise.”
“Even though it’s not the newest book in the space, the message is impactful and helps marketers take a step back to look at the big picture—something marketers rarely do,” Pope added.
“I read this one right after I started my own online business, and it completely shifted the way I thought about marketing,” said Connie Heintz of DIYoffer. “In reading it, I realized that instead of thinking about marketing as a way to ‘lure’ customers in, I should be using it to find the people I can help.”
“As a skeptic, this short book really changed my mind,” Craig Anderson of Appliance Analysts told us. “It’s a must-read for understanding our role as marketers, the impact of the stories we tell through our work, and how to use this to enhance our products (and results).”
Simon Nowak of 3 Credit Scores recommended one of the more unique books we heard from respondents about: Digital Marketing for Dummies. Explaining, Nowak said, “Digital Marketing is vital these days and this 2019 release provides the most current techniques in the dynamic world of digital marketing.”
“It’s an absolute classic, and the Bible when it comes to positioning books.” – Andrew Bernstein, Sparxoo.
“If you haven’t read ‘Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind’ yet, I would place it at the top of your 2020 reading list,” said Drew Beechler of High Alpha.
“Positioning and messaging are some of the foundational marketing elements of any business, yet most marketers and businesses spend the least amount of time thinking about and working on those aspects of their marketing strategy.”
“Lots of great advice on making your business stand out against the competition in a market where you’re not the dominant player and carving out your own niches that you can dominate,” added Anne-Marie Hays of Best Company.
“A rallying call to marketers to think outside the box and look for ways to do things differently, with some really interesting and inspiring case studies.” – Fleur Tucker, citrusHR
“The author does a great job of cutting through all of the marketing jargon and getting down to a core issue all marketers face: how do you create compelling attention for your audience that has a real impact?” said Andrew Clark of Duckpin.
“Additionally, Jay’s critique of the cult of best practice is filled with wit and illuminates how we often use best practices as an out for not really thinking critically about our work. If you want a book that’ll push you to grow in your professional role, ‘Break the Wheel’ is for you.”
“One marketing book I recommend is actually an entrepreneurship book,” said Ellen Crnko Shout it Out Design.
“Oftentimes, marketers become extremely pigeonholed in their role in business and forget that they are just a piece of the puzzle. By having a strong understanding of all facets of the business and how decisions are made, I find it is much easier to converse with leadership and other departments.”
Nikola Baldikov of Brosix loves biographies. Korch told us, “There’s a lot you can learn from successful people’s stories—the visions they created, the challenges they faced. and how they overcame them.”
“As Amazon continues to grow, there’s no more relevant business person at the moment than Jeff Bezos, and 2020 is a great time to learn from his story.”
“In marketing, you need to tell stories,” said Raul Tiru of Global Owls. That’s why Shahwan recommended Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.
“‘Talk Like TED’ explains how great stories need to be told,” Tiru explained. “Stop marketing product features and tell stories.”
A cult classic, Dotcom Secrets was one of the most cited books in our survey.
Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers said, “‘Dotcom Secrets’ is an awesome book for experienced marketers. It gives you very detailed tactics, tools, templates, and processes to build high-converting sales funnels. You don’t just want to drive traffic to your site, what you want is to generate leads and increase your revenue while automating your processes. This book shows you exactly how to do so with detailed step-by-step guides.”
John Donnachie of Clyde Bank Media said the book “offers an excellent perspective on direct response marketing. There is a tremendous wealth of direct marketing value included within the pages. Brunson expands on these concepts in ‘Expert Secrets.’”
“Russell takes you through the creation of numerous customer sales funnels so you maximize each and every visit to your site,” Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles said. “It provides some excellent insights and ideas for all levels of experience. And with the forward being written by one of the marketing industry’s true gurus, Dan Kennedy, you know you’re in good hands.”
“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in affiliate marketing and online marketing as a whole was from this book,” Khris Steven Khrisdigital said. “It taught me how to create an attractive character as a marketer and use that as leverage in building loyal fans/customers. Then selling my products to them is easy.”
“This book is great to learn about storytelling and understand the structure of a good story.” – Anand Iyer.
“In this book,” Thomas R. Harris of The Exceptional Skills explained, “Miller discusses how to market clearly and simply to your customers by making them the hero, and you the guide, to their story. Too often we complicate, are unclear, and confuse our customers. This book is great because it teaches us how to simplify and to tell a story that will resonate with our customers.”
Heather Wilson-Hooker of Marketing Maven said, “It is hands down the book that verifies everything Corporate Filming stands for which is storytelling for marketing! Learning to speak in storytelling allows marketing to do that hard part which is allowing emotion to connect to your prospective customers. The level of trust and connection means customers are ready to buy your brand.”
“If I could only recommend one marketing book to marketers looking to build their reading list for 2020, I would recommend ‘Building a StoryBrand’ by Donald Miller,” said Morgan Lathaen of Thumbprint.
“This book teaches marketers seven universal elements of stories to teach readers how to improve their connection with their customers and how to grow their business. With that, this book teaches marketers how to simplify their message so everybody can understand. This read can transform the way you market your business.”
Glenn Allen told us, “Many of the clients I work with make the mistake of making themselves the hero of their branding story instead of their customer. This book helps you craft a brand story and apply it across your marketing in a practical way that lets customers know who you are and how you can help them in a way that positions you as the trusted guide on their hero’s journey.”
Alex Cascio of Vibrant Media Productions also recommended the 2019 SEO (No Bullsh*t) Strategy by Casey Leigh Henry. “It’s a solid and to the point read that is excellent for people who are new to SEO and launching their site for their business. It’s very organized and helps you develop your approach.”
Editor’s note: Need a reporting solution to track performance for your new search engine optimization efforts? Download this free Google Search Console Basics dashboard to see search visibility, which pages are driving organic traffic, and more.
“It’s a phenomenal read for anyone new or old to marketing,” said Aditya Sheth of Venngage, “because it walks you through how companies like Mint, Dropbox, Spotify, etc achieved breakout success through a growth mindset and rapid experimentation. I’ve read it a few times already and it’s one of the few books to be always beside my bedside.”
Laura Gonzalez of Audi Las Vegas agreed, saying, “It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the word of growth hacking marketing.”
“Six years in, and it’s still relevant. Like many other books by Holiday, it provides insight, a good read, and a to-do list. A must for expanding your marketing arsenal,” said Ron Zed of Seeking Alpha.
Another top recommendation from the marketers we heard from was Dale Carnegia’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. PaigeArnof-Fenn Mavens & Moguls said, “It is a classic with timeless advice on manners and people/human nature. You cannot go wrong with this one.”
“The one book I would recommend to marketers in 2020 is the same book I would have recommended to marketers in 1937 and the same I will recommend in 3020,” said Richard Garvey of Acer Marketing. “Marketing is about understanding human behavior and speaking to your audience in a way that will resonate with them across various platforms. There is no better book to teach you how to influence people than this one.”
Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging said, “Carnegie’s book enables marketers to shift their perspectives from an I-centered approach to what’s best for the customer. This perspective makes the marketer helpful for the consumer and successful.”
According to her, Carnegie’s classic is evergreen. “With insights on manners and people/human nature, you cannot go wrong with this one. He gives great advice no matter what area you are in these nuggets have withstood the test of time and will make you more successful.”
“Truly an oldie by goodie,” said Karol Nowacki of ResumeLab. “The explanation of the principles we’re all prewired to abide by goes beyond marketing but even more so into the core of human psychology and what makes us tick and say yes.”
“This is canon and an indispensable part of any marketer worth his/her salt.”
Frank Corso said, “Out of all the marketing books I have read, ‘Influence’ is the one that has helped me the most to improve my marketing campaigns both in quality and number of conversions.”
“Once you understand what makes people tick (both online, and offline), you can start to craft your marketing message and funnel, and move your ideal clients into repeat customers,” said Callum Mundine of One Egg. “When designing marketing funnels for our clients, we always refer back to Cialdini’s core principles of persuasion and ask ourselves, ‘Is this going to move the user closer to a client?’”
According to Wes Marsh of BCA Technologies, “Marketers must understand the hidden factors that drive decisions in our audiences. The better we can understand the reasons why certain tactics work well while others don’t, the more likely we are to be able to repeat and scale our successes.”
“Pulizzi lays out the goals, principles, and basic strategies of the content marketing field in a way that is simple to apply while being inspiring, and entertaining.” – Dario Sipos
“This book lays out the ways to find the best topics and literally grab a reader’s attention,” said Alexandra Zamolo of Beekeeper. “Plus, content marketing is one of the least expensive ways to get new leads AND give your customers a reason to return to your website.”
Danish Maniyar added, “It shows you how to position yourself as a market leader within your chosen niche and develop content that delivers results.”
According to Daniel Cooper of Lolly, “The one book often overlooked by marketers is ‘High Output Management’ by Andrew Grove.”
“Seen as a bible my many hugely successful entrepreneurs, Andrews take on dual reporting is directly applicable to the measurement of all marketing campaigns. Measuring incoming traffic alone from a marketing campaign won’t give you the lessons you need unless you dual report this against conversions.”
Editor’s note: Need marketing reporting software to track performance for your marketing campaigns? Databox allows you to build stories around data with live reports, automates your processes, and levels up your marketing teams.
“In the internet age, getting in front of people is easy. The challenge is sticking around in their minds after they continue on your way. This is why I think ‘Made To Stick’ is such a critical read for modern marketers,” explained Jacob McMillen.
“It focuses on what makes ideas stick, and the applications are present within every branch of marketing. Whether you’re just entering the field or have 20 years behind your belt, creating sticky marketing remains an equally essential and elusive goal, and this is the type of book you’ll refer back to again and again and again.”
Danny Starr of Cyan Solutions agreed, saying, “‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath is an essential book for any marketer to read. In the end, we’re all trying to create and communicate messages that ‘stick’ and this book uses powerful success stories to illustrate it’s main points and provides marketers with actionable advice they can start using right away.”
Nikola Baldikov of Brosix said, ‘Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited’ by Steve Krug is focused on website design and usability, but the principles that are broken down can really apply to any aspect of marketing.”
Baldikov added, “I love this book because it focuses on the basics of human behavior and how to effectively market to people by focusing on their needs, versus how marketers tend to approach things.”
“‘Unlocking the Customer Value Chain’ by Thales S. Teixeira has hit on as grand a theory as any book I’ve read over the last many years,” said Norhanie Pangulima of SIA Enterprises.
“The book presents a new strategy for the digital division. One rooted not in a study of technology or business strategy regularly, but in the methods of marketing and customer reaction.”
“For many of us who majored in marketing or branding in college, there are these tried-and-true lessons that were ingrained in us on what counts as good marketing. The digital age totally flipped all of that on its head and changed the rules of the game,” Lauren Pope of G2 explained.
“Unbranding is a modern look at how to get over your own ego and market for the customer. It’s a no-nonsense, tough as nails look at how you’re doing things wrong and what you can do to fix it. Scott and Alison don’t hold any punches and basically, give you the keys to the kingdom if you’re willing to learn.”
“Written by a well-known and highly respected expert on Google Adwords, this book should be your Google Ads bible,” said Alice Bedward of Flyparks.
“All digital marketers should take to heart the lessons about the value of testing, testing, and then testing some more. For those new to Google Ads, the book serves as a good primer, giving you enough to get started and optimize your campaigns.”
According to Casey Bryan of Grand Cru Digital “‘Turning Customers into Advocates’ by Amanda Stevens is a fantastic read for all marketers.”
“I read the book in just a couple of days and loved it,” Bryan said. “It focuses on the power of Customer Centricity and gives you actionable tips on how you can start turning your customers into walking advertisements for your business.”
Norhanie Pangulima of SIA Enterprises recommended Mares and Wienberg’s Traction, saying, “‘Traction’ examines every channel a company can use to grow. The book also analyzes the incentives and drivers in each channel.
“I recommend this book to all business people, especially marketers. I reread this book every time I am trying to grow a new venture. It’s a great springboard for creating a wildly successful marketing strategy. All omnichannel marketers should read this book because it will help them fill in their blind spots.”
“I think this book is crucial for all marketers as it really helps you understand the philosophy behind marketing,” said Brian Shahwan of CORE.
“How one, seemingly small, thing can influence an entire campaign or re-brand of a company. I think most consumers don’t realize all of the subliminal Easter Eggs products put in their campaigns to get them to think a certain way or be influenced and this book is a great resource with many examples.”
Peter Strohkorb says Strohkorb’s The OneTEAM Method “addresses the elephant in the room of why marketing is under-appreciated by salespeople and their leaders.” According to Allen, Strohkorb’s book can help marketers and salespeople work better together—and produce better results for both teams.
“The one marketing book I’d recommend for marketers to read in 2020 is ‘Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do,’” said Tony Mastri of MARION Marketing Agency.
“This book is filled with data and insights from psychological and sociological studies that can have a profound impact on the way you create brand messaging, sales copy, content, etc. It brings up several high-impact ideas that you may not have considered using in your marketing, and will bring clarity to your existing ideas and processes.”
Of The Greatest Salesman in the World, Lisamarie Monaco said, “It is an inspiring book that motivates you to implement every marketing idea plan of action to be a success in life and in business.”
“This book helps you form good strong habits and focus on any business venture,” Monaco added. “It will help you overcome your fears. It should be mandatory in grade school to read this book!”
“This book is hot off the presses and a must-read.” – Ben Packard of Thrifty Points
According to Packard, The Jackass Whisperer by Scott and Alison Stratten “provides a smart, funny, and insightful look at dealing with the people in your life who cause aggravation. It’s a great look at the power of letting things go, rather than letting them build up.”
Michael Alexis told us, “The books I recommend to everyone, including marketers, is ‘Asimov’s Chronology of the World’ and its companion ‘Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery.’”
As Alexis explained, “These books are nonfiction and are essentially encyclopedias of the major events that happened between the dawn of time straight through to the 1980s.”
“While the content is not directly related to marketing,” Alexis said, “I’ve found that it inspires better marketing in many ways. For example, the breadth of knowledge will improve your content, and the birds-eye view of human history gives you insights into behavior like the nature of cycles. These insights can be much more effective and lucrative than anyone marketing tactic.”
“The book I would recommend above all else is ‘Magnetic Marketing’ by Dan Kennedy,” said James Pollard The Advisor Coach. “I recommend this book because it is an excellent refresher on the principles of direct-response marketing.”
“In today’s world,” Pollard said, “some people have gotten so caught up in social media and ‘branding’ that they’ve forgotten that marketing is about acquiring and serving a customer. Old-school direct response principles still work. In fact, I would argue that they work better than ever before because they allow you to break through all the noise.”
This book featured on both of our top 10 lists—for marketing beginners and managers—and for good reason, according to the marketers who recommended it.
Andrew Connelly of Aberdeen said, “Whether new to marketing or a veteran, the voice of a brand and it’s positioning can make or break its success. This book uses very clear examples of real brands that create new categories and attributes, and the success they see as a result.”
“The book also showcases the value of being first in a new category and how difficult it is to overcome the leader when you are second. First to market may not have a better product, but will win simply for being first. Coke before Pepsi, McDonald’s before Burger King, etc.”
Sam White of New Dimension Marketing & Research added, “As we all look at new technologies like AR and machine learning, it’s easy to forget the core principles that connect customers to the brand, product, or service. ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’ breaks down the rules of marketing down into digestible chunks of wisdom.”
As Stefan Cordova FriendWithA explained, “It’s easy to buy into the hype of the latest marketing fad to get on to a specific platform, tool, etc. But this book looks at what’s tried, tested, and true and how to incorporate those concepts into your business for long-lasting success.”
“‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek details out the foundations of a truly inspirational business that accumulates loyal customers and fans—starting with WHY as opposed to WHAT,” said Christina Hunt of Haus von Albe.” This is an easy concept to bring into marketing as well. Marketing is constantly changing, and books and publishing can’t keep up. But if you have a solid conceptual foundation, you can apply it to all facets of marketing.”
“Whatever your marketing approach,” Matt Erickson of National Positions added, “this book will only make it better and help you achieve more powerful results.”
“The buyer journey has been transformed by the web,” said Mike Lieberman of Square 2. “This book shows readers how to rethink marketing strategy, tactics, analytics and technology around the new Cyclonic Buyer Journey.”
According to Nathan Binford of Inbound Marketing Best Practices, “Since modern marketers spend so much time in data, this book helps balance a ‘big data mindset’ by opening our minds to the many insights we can discover from small sample sets and individual behaviors. It’s important to remember that our data comes from human customers.”
Hayley Robertson of My Client Strategy said She Means Business by Carrie Green is “a terrific read for anyone wanting to start an online business.”
“Carrie has built an incredibly successful online business community for female entrepreneurs around the world and shares her advice on how to understand your ideal clients, building communities that put clients first, and having the right mindset to visualize, build and grow your business”
“This book may have been originally published in 1923, but it is still (in my opinion) the advertising bible for marketers,” said Josh Barney of Einstein Marketer.
“Hopkins walks marketers through tons of advertising tactics that most modern advertisers don’t even discover until late in their careers. The book may have been written long before the digital age, but it made a massive difference in my understanding of advertising and how to make a positive ad return in the digital age.”
As Ben Arndt of DUNK Basketball told us, “Primarily written for the food and beverage industry, there are actionable takeaways in ‘Raise the Bar’ that can be used by anyone from a wide range of fields.”
“The best learning is that you want to give your client the best purchasing experience possible—this comes not just from providing an excellent product, but the manner in which it was delivered to a client that shows you’ve taken their business seriously and have ‘gone the extra yard’ to cater to their satisfaction,” Somal added.
“This book helped me refocus on what matters when assembling a marketing team and building a company,” said Jennifer Lux of LyntonWeb.
Lux said Powerful “offered a contrarian perspective on managing a business and creating a remarkable culture. It challenged traditional approaches for marketing teams, like establishing processes and focusing on accountability for growth, and instead put emphasis on innovation and testing new ideas.”
“This book is a tour de force in proven copywriting tactics,” said Adam Thompson of ReliaSite.
“Most marketing rises or falls based (at least in part) on copywriting. Grabbing attention, stoking desire, building interest, and calling users to action are all functions of copywriting. With good persuasive copywriting, your ad campaigns, websites, blog posts, and emails will all be more effective.”
“If you’re only going to read one book this year, make it this one.” – Alexander Porter of Search It Local.
Though not officially a marketing-forward book, Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes was an oft-cited go-to among the marketers we spoke with.
“Today every marketer needs to understand how to communicate to their audience,” said Fara Rosenzweig of ManyChat. “‘Everybody Writes’ by Ann Hadley helps marketers understand how to write, feel comfortable, and get you to think differently when it comes to pen to paper.
BrittanyBerger said, “I’ve read it multiple times and still skim through it or my notes from it at least once a year. I think it’s as close to a manual for marketing writing as we can get, and writing is an amplifier. It’s one of those skills that, when you improve, it touches every area of your work. By improving your writing, you improve your landing pages, emails, ads, blog posts, web copy… pretty much any element of your marketing.”
According to Catherine Way of Prime Plus Mortgages, Everybody Writes “helps break the white page cycle and gets you proactive and productive with your writing.”
“Ann’s book melds both the craft and business of writing into applicable takeaways that any marketer needs to know and can use,” said Elisa Doucette of Craft Your Content.
As Porter added, “Marketing books are a dime a dozen, but the skills you learn reading this book will underpin almost EVERYTHING you do as a marketer.”
“You need to understand how people think if you want to sell things to them,” said Patrick Antinozzi of RapidWebLaunch.
“Chris Voss shares the knowledge and experience he’s acquired after working for decades as one of the FBI’s top negotiators, and there are way more common denominators than you think. Because, really, negotiating the release of hostages being held at gunpoint in an armored fortress is not that different from selling SaaS that helps retailers sell more smartphone data plans.”
“For marketing, we are focused on selling, selling, selling. However, we lose sight of the fact that a customer signing a contract is really only the first of many steps in that relationship,” said Nathan Maxwell of CCI.
Recommending Coleman’s Never Lose a Customer, Maxwell added, “A huge blind spot in many business operations is what happens as the ink dries. How smooth is the process of welcoming that customer to the family? How this is handled will greatly influence the longevity of that business relationship.”
“Marketing Warfare by Ries and Trout nails down principles that have stood the test of time for B2C Brands,” said Jim Knapp of JK Strategies LLC.
“Generals on the battlefield don’t try to attack on all fronts. They choose to narrow their attack where the enemy (competitor) is weak or complacent and surprise. This is my favorite framework today as it helps me advise clients on marketing tactics to use depending on their stage and, really important, their level of ambition and size of addressable market.”
“To be able to convince people and make them trust you is very essential for every marketer,” said Sameer Somal of Blue Ocean Global Tech. “As outlined in the book, ‘Trust will enable you to move the fulcrum over and create incredible leverage so that you get things done with greater speed and lower cost.’”
“This book is not super recent,” Larissa Murillo of Marketgoo admitted, “but it does contain timeless lessons. It’s not only about A/B testing but covers good copywriting, a structured approach to CRO, and generally becoming more data-driven about the work you do as a marketer.”
“Conversational Marketing has been the secret behind many companies out there like Marketo, Ellie Mae, RapidMiner, and many more to increase their sales pipelines. Using the power of bots, these companies have fought the biggest hurdle in business today: how to generate more qualified leads for your company and actually convert them to clients,” explained Marcos Ortiz of Grupo Intercorp.
“David and Dave gave a quick take on how to take advantage of bots to actually beat your sales expectations.”
“The book provides insights about what it takes to create, nurture, and sustain a brand that lasts in today’s short-term economy,” Illia Termeno of Extrabrains Marketing Agency told us.
“It’s based on real-world examples of successful brands that value legacy over immediacy. The authors explain how innovative marketing strategies can help in creating a lasting legacy for an organization. The book helps us realize that we don’t have to be geniuses to succeed in building a brand—we just need to be passionate about our goals, committed to what we do, and are not afraid to take risks.”
“All of the data points to influencers going nowhere in 2020,” Amber Faust of Faust Island Family Blog pointed out. “But many studies point to brands increasing their influencer budgets.”
Sound like an oxymoron? Faust says Hennessy’s book helps make sense of the seemingly conflicting data on a poorly understood segment of marketing. “This book will help you understand how the influencer industry works.”
“In terms of understanding the broad strategic concepts behind marketing, there is no better book than ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying’ by Ryan Holiday,” said Jonathan Chan of Insane Growth.“This is the book that I would credit with kick-starting my current career and I regularly refer back to it to this day.”
“Holiday goes in-depth about what it means to connect with audiences on a truly emotional level, the role of PR in the modern marketing world, as well as an incredibly honest insight into what it means to be a modern marketer.”
“In marketing,” Rick Ramos of Health Joy pointed out, “you need to work with visual design frequently, either by creating your own materials or working with a designer.”
“This book will help you present data as information in your own work. It will also quickly improve the feedback you give to graphic designers. Work only gets better with explicit feedback and this will teach you how to do it. It’s a pretty quick read, so you’ll look at the visual world differently, the very next day,” Ramos added.
“If I could have my team read-only one marketing book,” Kathe Kline of MedicareQuick told us, “it would be an old one from Chet Holmes—’The Ultimate Sales Machine.’”
“The reason I like this book,” Kline explained, is that even though it’s targeted at sales and not marketing, the concept is the same. Basically it teaches you to think in terms of systems that can be set up and managed.”
According to Tommy Landry of Return On Now, Neuromarketing “remains one of the most important books for understanding the physiological and psychological triggers that drive customer action.”
“This book is outstanding. It covers everything from tapping into the reactive ‘lizard’ brain that drives gut decisions to how you can effectively message customers in a way that drives conversion and sales. A must-read for anyone who wants to up their marketing game in short order,” Landry concluded.
Another work from Russell Brunson made our list—Expert Secrets. Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation recommended it, saying the book is “a tactical deep dive into sales and marketing and how to present your offer in a compelling and psychologically attractive way.”
Loper added, “The ideas and strategies here can apply to a wide range of different businesses, both online and offline.”
Sergio Guillén of Accelingo recommended Content – The Atomic Particle of Marketing by authors Jaimy Szymanski and Rebecca Lieb. According to Daly, “It’s an incredibly useful book for content marketers, as it clearly shows you how to build and implement a successful campaign.”
“If you’re wondering how you can develop and execute a content strategy while getting the rest of your organization on board, this is your book. And those looking for ways to measure success effectively will find truly actionable tips as well.”
“I would recommend Suzanne Chadwick’s ‘Play Big, Brand Bold,’” said Julia Ferrracane of Saint Copy PR. “This book is a game-changer for women in business who want to build a standout brand, design the work-life they have always dreamed of and take their business from basic to next-level standard.”
Alex Panagis of ScaleMath recommended a book that calls into question much of the growth-at-all-costs mindset plaguing marketing and entrepreneurship today.
“I truly think this is a great book for anyone running their own business or working for themselves as a consultant (or even a freelancer),” Panagis said. “Above all, the way Paul puts the traditional concept of scaling and growing at all costs (even at the detriment of clients) into question is a hard truth I think every marketer needs to read and come to terms with.”
“The book introduces and links the practice of Agile to how marketing teams can collaborate, plan, launch, measure and adjust all their marketing deliverables,” explained Todd Laire of Laire Group. “‘Hacking Marketing’ provides excellent resources for facilitating the Agile methodology in your marketing team and corresponding activities.”
“I would actually recommend ‘The ONE Thing,’” said Dan Rice.
“The biggest problem people have in trying to get into marketing is that they try to be all things to all people. This is a great model for focusing more on the right activity to push your business forward.”
“I whole-heartedly recommend ‘Distribution Channels: Understanding and Managing Sales and Marketing Channels To Market’ by Julian Dent,” said Jean-Marc Saint Laurent of Saint313 Limited.
“This is a classic book about understanding the heart of marketing—distribution in order to guide a product or service to market,” Laurent explained. “While other marketing books tend to focus on the shiny whats: software, hacks, etc., this book brings you back to the critical why.”
The second Gladwell work on our list, Outliers came recommended by Carla Williams Johnson of Carli Communications —who also threw praise at The Tipping Point.
Speaking about both of Gladwell’s works, Johnson said, “They were so informative and really gave a unique perspective on how things can really move from the ordinary to the extraordinary when all the right components are in place. In my opinion, both books speak of knowing what to look for and what needs to be in place to increase your odds for success.”
“I think every marketer would benefit greatly from studying behavioral economics, and my favorite author from that field is Francesca Gino, a researcher and professor from Harvard Business School,” said Yaniv Masjedi of Nextiva.
“I recommend her book ‘Sidetracked’ because it gives a thorough overview of why and how people make decisions. It’s a great foundation for those of us seeking to help people purchase our products. It has also been a great resource for me for making improvements in my own life,” Masjedi added.
Brittney Ihrig of Interceptd recommended a book that might seem a bit removed from marketing—but it rings true of this particular era of digital marketing.
“I think all marketers that work for companies and brands that use digital marketing as part of their advertising matrix should read ‘Fraud Prevention in Online Digital Advertising,’” Ihrig said.
“Often marketers are surprised by the extent, breadth, and commonality of ad fraud. In the first half of 2019, the drum estimates that advertisers had already lost $2.3 billion to ad fraud. If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, considering ad fraud consumes roughly 30% of mobile ad traffic, a good tactic would be to get a handle on your fraudulent traffic.”
“The blue ocean strategy is a paradigm shift that isn’t based on what competition is doing but based on how to increase the market size by making noncustomers your customers. A must-read book for every marketer.” – Shabbir Bhimani, Web Turtles
Speaking about Kim and Mauborgne’s The Blue Ocean Strategy, Kristie Holden of Marketcircle said “It’s an oldie but a goodie. It’s ideal for making sure all the activities and initiatives you’re doing are in line with an overall strategy that’s setting you up for success long-term.”
“It has changed my view about how I look at a business opportunity now,” said Holden. “The book makes marketers aware of the competition to offer customers something unique. Moreover, it also focuses on how to use the feedback from non-customers to create a completely new playing field for the business.”
Andy Hoek of Invalshoek recommended The Marketing Agency Blueprint by Paul Roetzer.
“It’s not about marketing by itself, but how to build a successful marketing agency,” Hoek explained. “It covers subjects like marketing and selling your services, hiring a great team, finance, working with customers and running operations. This book will give your agency a system for becoming successful.”
“I also think it’s interesting for in-house marketers that want to know how the agency they work with work, or how to select an agency to work with for their brand,” Hoek added.
“I can’t say enough good things about the book ‘Work Clean,’” Juli Durante of Impulse Creative told us.
“The author, Dan Charnas, took a bit of an anthropological approach to the art of getting things done and shadowed professional chefs, line cooks, and culinary students to discover how the culinary principle of mise en place translates to productivity both personally and professionally.”
“It’s not a marketing book at all,” Durante admitted, “but has radically changed the way I approach getting things done: organizing my time, planning my day, moving from task to task, eliminating the wasted time of ‘What’s next?’”
“I would suggest adding ‘Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success’ to your reading list,” said Nikola Baldikov of Brosix.
“While it’s not directly related to marketing, it’s a great book full of insight on becoming a spark within your company. And really, that’s what marketing comes down to—being a spark inside and outside of your company.”
“This book will teach you the ins and outs of how to write a creative brief that is simple yet sophisticated,” explained Doug Stewart of Appleton Creative. “It explains how to say a lot by writing a little and arms you with skills you can utilize to educate your creative team, enabling them to create more impactful content.
Jeremy Cross of Corporate Events NYC recommended Extreme Revenue Growth by Victor Cheng.
“The book deals not just with marketing, but also cross-functional disciplines like sales and operations. I’ve found that marketers with this extended knowledge are able to better leverage the resources available to them and also make sure their most effective work impacts the bottom line,” Cross said.
“For example, there is no point in generating more leads if your sales team is not able to handle them and convert the leads into deals.”
“Everyone should read ‘Crucial Conversations’ by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler,” Beth Carter of Clariant Creative Agency said.
“This book is a people book, not a marketing book. If you’re a marketer, you’re probably working closely with other people in some capacity, and when you’re working with other people, issues can arise. ‘Crucial Conversations’ offers a thoughtful process for navigating the people issues in a way that helps everyone win.”
“It’s been a game-changer for me,” Silvermand added. “And frankly, when we relate with other people better, we become better marketers, too.
Andrea Loubier of Mailbird recommended this pick, saying, “As the founder of Mailbird, I believe that email can be the answer to just about anything, including marketing.”
“This book explains how simple email marketing strategies can be and how to best implement them,” Louber explained.
In Elements of a Successful Website, “Edgar discusses how making your website a success isn’t as difficult as you may at first think,” said Gabriella Sannino of Level343, LLC.
“Edgar explains that by making simple changes—one step at a time—you can create a website that attracts visitors, fosters engagement, and drives results. By reading this book I was given an accessible and actionable approach to improving my website through five simple yet effective themes that even a small business like mine could apply easily.”
“Dr. Diane Hamilton’s book, ‘Cracking the Curiosity Code,’ is an excellent book for marketers and managers,” said Osiris Parikh of Summit Mindfulness. “Dr. Hamilton draws on research and her personal experience to understand the power of curiosity, and the need to cultivate it in the workforce.”
“In this book, marketing expert Wided Batat offers an insightful and comprehensive analysis of how successful luxury companies have integrated digital technologies into their marketing strategies,” explained Justin Hawes of K&N Sales.
“The author emphasizes the importance of focusing on the customer experience when building the digital ecosystem because luxury consumers want to, not just buy products or services, but live luxury experiences. The book features compelling case studies from international luxury sectors.”
“I recommend this book,” Hawes said, “because it provides a holistic perspective on marketing and offers useful, practical advice for marketing professionals and CEOs.”
“This is both a marketing and innovation book and it forces you to think about ‘demand’ in a different way,” David Peterson of HealthMarkets said.
“The author discusses how one can imagine a product or service that people don’t even know they want—and then seeing through the creation of that by thinking through concepts and seeing issues through the eyes of your customers.”
“‘Content Chemistry’ by Andy Crestodina covers the ins and outs of content marketing,” said Ana Cvetkovic of BLOOM Digital Marketing. “It’s useful both as an introduction to content marketing if you’re a novice, and as a reference guide if you’re an SEO pro who just needs a refresher on certain topics.”
“A really easy to understand book that breaks down the core components of why some marketing is successful.” – Alice Corner, Venngage
Chris Hutty of Jellyfish Training is just one of the marketers we spoke with who recommended Jonah Berger’s Contagious. “‘Contagious’ is an essential read for anybody interested in marketing, but particularly if you’re involved in social media or content marketing.”
“‘Contagious’ is the result of years of research by Berger, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, into why certain ideas, campaigns, or social phenomenon catch on and ‘go viral,’” Hutty explained.
“It helped me understand the common characteristics that can help trigger engagement with an audience, and even helped me to understand my own behavior online.”
“As marketers,” said Jonatahn Chan of Insane Growth, “when we understand the people we seek to influence, we can more effectively spread the word and do more effective, meaningful work.”
Kyle Smith of Brand Extractk said of Berger’s work, “It’s a fascinating insight into human psychology and it outlines specific strategies for more effectively sharing ideas and making a product or service popular.”
“We have discussed human behavior and how it can be tapped into buying and doing a variety of things on your website,” said Gabriella Sannino of Level343, LLC. “Martin Lindstorm analyzes what behaviors or factors can be employed to identify and affect buyers decisions.”
Recommending The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, Illia Termeno of Extrabrains Marketing Agency said, “This book is a must-read for every marketer who is interested in building, growing and leading a great company.”
“It is an amazingly valuable resource as well as a funny and insightful read.”
“This is one of the best books if you want to learn how to increase user engagement for your product or service,” said Hyfa Ahmad of Times World “It has a scientific explanation as to what keeps the user coming back to a particular app or a website.”
“The book also clearly explains how companies like Facebook exploit human psychology to keep users hooked to their platform. It is a must-read if you are an aspiring entrepreneur looking forward to building your own products where user engagement is crucial for success.”
This book recommendation comes courtesy of John Thomas Lang of G2. Lang explained the importance of understanding how to properly test, saying, “As marketers, we can all improve our experimentation methodology. ‘Testing Business Ideas’ is the latest in Strategyzer’s series of books that I highly recommend.”
“The book provides tangible experimentation examples that your company can implement, learn and iterate on quickly. It truly is a field guide for business experimentation and a must-read for 2020.”
As we head into the holidays and the upcoming new year, it’s a perfect time to start building and combing through your 2020 reading list. And you can’t go wrong choosing from the comprehensive list our marketer friends helped us pull together.
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