When figuring out which marketing books to read, it’s important to remember the big picture. Yes, the world has changed drastically even in the last ten years. Yes, there are new technologies and channels that did not exist 50 years ago. And yes, customers are smarter than they used to be.
But with all this aside, humans still have the same genetic makeup. We have the same brains, the same eyes, and the same tendencies. We react to certain things the same way as we did 20, 30, 40, even 50 years ago. The difference is, we see the things we react to in different places.
So, do you see why it’s important to read the old marketing books and the new? Learn from the legends who started marketing by reading the old, and apply it to the world we live in today by reading the new.
Here are 10 Marketing Books for Ongoing Success:
1. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Charles MaCkay, 1841)
Psychologist Charles MaCkay shows us just how powerful of a force popular opinion is on people. His book illustrates how illogically we act because of popular opinion and how it can be related to anything from witch hunts in the 1700s to stock market bubbles and crashes. Ever wanted to know why people sleep outside of Apple stores waiting for iPhones when they can simply walk in and buy them a few weeks later? Read this book.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” – Charles MaCkay
2. Tested Advertising Methods (John Caples, 1931)
Sometimes called “The Bible of Advertising,” this book by the famous copywriter, John Caples, brings home the relevance of human nature throughout time. Although the book is creeping close to being a century old, the fact of the matter is that human beings remain the same. Although mediums and channels may have changed, Tested Advertising Methods shows us that the thought process behind advertising and marketing hasn’t.
3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D., 1984)
Robert Cialdini teaches us how to be the ultimate charmer in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This book dives into the art of (somewhat) manipulating people into deciding to do what you want them to do. For example, people like to feel like they have control over a decision even if they don’t. Psychology goes hand-in-hand when it comes to marketing and selling any product or service, and Robert Cialdini will teach you how to use that to your advantage (hopefully ethically) in this book.
“Often we don’t realize that our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.” – Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D.
4. Marketing Warfare (Al Ries & Jack Trout, 1997)
Marketing Warfare is The Art of War by Sun Tzu of marketing books. Ries and Trout bring marketing to the context of war and strategy by stating the most important factor of marketing success as knowing exactly what competitors are going to do and how you will beat them at it. They illustrate how marketing is about having an end goal, attributing the same goal to your competitors, and figuring out how they will try to reach that goal so you can use their own moves against them. They state that marketing may not even be about the consumer or buyer as much as putting your company in the lead against competitors. This book includes in-depth analyses of some of the biggest successes and failures of companies such as Coca-Cola, Sony and McDonald’s.
5. Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing (Harry Beckwith, 1997)
Harry Beckwith dives into the meaning of selling and marketing the intangible: services. In short (less than a page long) snippets, Beckwith discusses strategies to win. He covers anything from why focus groups and being the best usually fail, the role of stereotypes, and the emotions of prospects. This book boils service marketing down to the foundation: providing a good service. Beckwith takes the reader on a journey from, as stated, making sure your service is good to building a long-term relationship with prospects to sell more. Being that services are such a huge part of the business and technological world; Selling the Invisible continues to be a highly relevant and influential book.
“In most professional services, you are not selling expertise – because your expertise is assumed, and because your prospect cannot intelligently evaluate your expertise anyway. Instead, you are selling a relationship. And in most cases, that is where you need the most work.” – Harry Beckwith
6. Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking (Andy Sernovitz, 2006)
Marketing is worthless if it isn’t perceived well by customers. Any Sernovitz tackles why multi-million dollar advertising campaigns end up being total flops while certain products aren’t advertised at all and everyone knows about it. Word of Mouth Marketing gives you the essential steps to make word of mouth marketing work for your company. Sernovitz tells you how to use blogs, communities, viral emails, evangelists, and buzz to your advantage. Honest marketing pays: get your customers to trust you and they will spread the word (kind of like what I’m doing with this blog post about marketing books).
“To do these things really well, always remember the three reasons people talk. They want to feel good, they want to help others, and they want to belong to a group.” – Andy Sernovitz
7. eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale (Ardath Albee, 2011)
Ardath Albee highlights the importance of storytelling, the buyer journey, and lead nurturing for B2B sales and marketing. She streamlines complex selling into a simple strategy for sales and marketing within an organization. As marketing works to generate content to serve up better leads to sales, the buying and selling process shortens. Efficiency and optimization within the firm will lead to an increase in revenue in a shorter amount of time.
8. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly (David Meerman Scott, 2015)
Traditional marketing is dominated by digital marketing, and digital marketing is constantly changing. David Meerman Scott takes us through the importance of using digital marketing in relation to traditional as well as using it to reach out to consumers directly. He discusses how to use social media tools to find your niche market and mission and how to generate content to do so. Understanding the Internet’s many communication channels and applying unique content to this understanding will set you apart from your competition, and according to David, lead your company to success.
9. Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers (Jay Baer, 2016)
Hug Your Haters not only highlights the importance of customer service; it points out the discrepancy between a company’s belief of their customer service verses the customer’s belief of their customer service. Baer breaks “haters” into two categories: offstage and onstage haters. The first type of hater simply wants their problem fixed and will seek out direct communication with the company to do so. The latter type will paint the town red with complaints and bad reviews and comments to rally an audience of other disgruntled customers. Using case studies and research, Hug Your Haters maps out specific strategies to use with both types of customers.
“In today’s world, meaningful differences between businesses are rarely rooted in price or product, but instead in customer experience.” – Jay Baer
10. What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint (Nicholas Webb, 2017)
Today’s marketers must always be thinking above and beyond the expectations of customers. Nicholas Webb discusses the importance of striving for something beyond great customer service: great customer experiences. Webb discusses his five-point touch process for the best quality customer experience: pre-touch, first-touch, core-touch, last-touch, and in-touch. Content building and customer experience is at the heart of modern-day marketing and is essential for your business’s success.
Do you see why it’s important to read both the old and new marketing books? While marketing theories about fads and trends and human behavior have not changed, channels and platforms have. It’s important to stay as up to date as you can on the fleeting aspects of digital marketing, while also holding onto the original, psychological theory behind marketing.