11 best marketing books to be a more informed marketer

In a snapshot:

Over the years I've read some truly terrible Marketing books that claim to "make me a better marketer". I've found the way to navigate through the noise and find a few books that are genuinely worth their weight in paper. Here's 11 of my top recommendations for marketers, along with a personal key takeaway from each one.

Stripping away the countless claims on “Best Marketing Books” out there, I’ve shortlisted the ones that actually taught me something. Heads up, they could have, but none of the books mentioned here carry any affiliate links or CTAs to buy because that’s not the point of this list.

Almost every marketing book I’ve read follows the same guidelines – Claim to be one of the “best marketing books” to solve all your problems, and then proceed to talk about arbitrary basics as “expert tips” that’re usually picked up as common sense long before starting your first job. Don’t spam your users with emails more than 50 times within a day? Thanks for letting me know. Although to be fair, someone should have told Microsoft this as well.

Source: Reddit

Or worse, they’re packed with enough fluffy BS to put North America out of business.

Over time, I’ve read a lot of marketing books, and seen almost everything they have to offer. Without really naming names (looking at you, happy) – there was one on user retention that was literally a paperback version of the ebook, where you could turn a page and come across a thumbnail of an embedded YouTube video. It’s selling on Amazon Germany for 82EUR 🤯. Even worse, the key takeaway from the book was “retention is a strong policy”, and gave a total of 0 actionable insights or context into how to achieve better retention. Thanks.

The point being, most marketing books are a complete waste of money, time, and effort, and do virtually nothing to improve your understanding of commercial B2B and B2C marketing, nor do they give enough real-world context to paraphrase into your daily operations. They’re filled with so many buzzwords, marketing fluff, and absolute BS, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a book that’s worth its price-tag. Prof. Scott Galloway had a genius theory on Yogababble recently, where he created a correlation between the amount of fluff a company has in their mission statements, v. their stock market performance a year after going public. Not really comparing apples and oranges here, but I’m sure there’s a definite correlation to how much fluff a marketing book has vs. how useful it actually is.

If you haven’t seen the TL;DR of Yogababble, watch it, its hilarious. In fact, here it is.

Source: Prof. Scott Galloway

Therefore, I’ve taken it upon myself to share the books I’ve genuinely liked and learnt from (in no particular order), and the one primary thing they taught me that made me recommend them.

If they end up being nothing but fluff to you, then, well, we gain knowledge from different things I suppose.

1. Hug Your Haters

by Jay Baer

My key takeaway: If you’re having a shitty product-market fit or negative feedback, don’t ignore the early adopters and vocal opinions. Take them into consideration with the Product team, and do more than just send a f*ng discount code after they fill your NPS. Also, stop treating Support as the punching bag for customers, and be more communicative with them directly.

2. All Marketers Are Liars

by Seth Godin

My key takeaway: Be great at content marketing. It really is the most formidable force you can have in the long term. Ad platforms come and go, CPCs rise and fall, but good content and good storytelling go much further in building brands and organic foundations.

3. Selling The Invisible

by Harry Beckwith

My key takeaway: In a product and SaaS driven world, sell value, not just features. The best way to differentiate yourself from your competition is to observe the market, look at your data, and apply that data to match the emotions of your customers. Don’t sell another “email tool“, sell “a better way to reach out to your community“.

4. Trust Me, I’m Lying

by Ryan Holiday

My key takeaway: Marketing have way too much power at their hands if let loose. Be responsible with the way you sell your product, and have some ethics. Just because you can promise and lie about your lip balm being made from 100% organic fair-trade gargoyle sweat doesn’t mean you should.

5. The Purple Cow

by Seth Godin

My key takeaway: Its bloody hard, but find a way to stand out. There’s too may companies, startups, campaigns, and people trying to choke out the last bits of everyone’s attention. You can’t afford Coke’s visibility on a hipster budget, so take time to really test and find angles that work for you to stand out.

6. The Tipping Point

by Malcolm Gladwell

My key takeaway: Marketing isn’t a blow-out PR campaign, its a step by step process into people’s wallets through testing, optimising, and analysing. Be patient and you’ll find the ideal combination of what works for you.

7. The Thank You Economy

by Gary Vaynerchuk

My key takeaway: Replace GaryVee’s podcast personality with a calm baby Yoda to take this as advice rather than a rant. Your product is worth as much as your customer values it. Take feedback seriously, don’t laugh at crappy NPS scores, and don’t start a battle every time support sends you bad feedback.

8. The Long Tail

by Chris Anderson

My key takeaway: Sell few of many, rather than trying to dominate the market with just one product. Going multi-niche helps being future proof, and helps you pivot when things go south. You’ll never take 100% of the market selling only Volkswagens, which is why you also sell Audi, Skoda, Seat, and Porsche.

9. Misbehaving

by Richard H. Thaler

My key takeaway: More of an economics book on behavioural marketing than a marketing book, but one thing that stuck was the way in which user psychology plays a strong part in buying decisions. If I’m choosing a new personalisation platform, I’d probably pick Dynamic Yield for its warm-and-fuzzy-ness over something like Trbo.

10. Contagious, Why Things Catch On

by Jonah Berger

My key takeaway: There’s six principles of contagiousness: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. My favourite is practical value, because its logic, because it makes sense, and because you can’t be launching campaigns selling a fruit basket when your only product is a banana.

11. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

by Adam Grant

My key takeaway: In a world cluttered with noise and repetition, creativity and novelty are rewarded. Its hard to find a hook or an edge, but once that comes along, there’s nothing coming in your way from building an unstoppable brand.

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About Me

I’m a digital marketer with 7+ years in commercial activities, including Marketing, Growth, Business Development, Analytics, and Data Visualisation, within several B2B and B2C organisations.

Full bio here.

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