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Marketing is constantly evolving in the digital age, often at a crazy pace. New tools, platforms, tactics, algorithms and apps seem to be available constantly.
As a practice, marketing encompasses both art and science and keeping up with the myriad of changes requires constant study.
While this is the case, its more important than ever to develop a solid fundamental understanding of the frameworks and strategies you'll need to be effective. If you're just starting in the field, or have already established your career, having this knowledge is crucial.
This is where reading comes in. Some of the most successful people in world adopt impressive reading habits.
For example, Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors in the world who is worth over $80 billion, said he would read between 600 and 1,000 pages each day in the beginning of his career. He still commits 80% of his day to reading.
And he’s not just an outlier. According to a study of 1,200 wealthy individuals by Steve Siebold, a professional speaker and sales management training expert, they all had one thing in common: They educate themselves through reading.
Your reading habits can directly impact your professional and financial success throughout your life. Wherever you are on your path in your marketing career, you will become a more effective marketer when you build your knowledge base by reading these top marketing books.
10 Foundational Classics For Achieving Marketing Excellence
While traditional marketing delivery methods are phasing out to make way for the new digital paradigm, the underlying strategies have not changed. Delivery methods may change, but the fundamentals never will.
Here are 10 of the best marketing books that can give you a strong background in the techniques used for effective marketing.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't
Author: Jim Collins
Amazon: $16.59 for hardcover
This book is a must read. It discusses the ways and whys of what makes a business able to make the leap from good to great.
His description of concepts like the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, The Fox and The Hedgehog, and the Flywheel will have you questioning what you're doing right and what you're doing when it comes to implementing marketing strategies to grow your client's business.
New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, Newsjacking, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly
Author: David Meerman Scott
Amazon: $16.32 for paperback
While there are tons of of great social media marketing books out there this is one of the best marketing books on the subject, and Scott got there first!
This is the seminal work on the tools, techniques and psychology behind effective social media marketing. Already in its third printing, this book remains the most influential and in depth work on the subject.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
Authors: Al Ries and Jack Trout
Amazon: $12.04 for paperback
Ries and Trout are pioneers in the industry and first developed the concept of branding. This is the first and one of the best marketing books to deal with the problems of communicating to a skeptical, media-weary consumer.
It develops the revolutionary approach to creating a position in a customer's mind through sharing information as opposed to selling – the earliest references to what has since become content marketing.
The book deals with the concepts of branding, thought leadership, and follow-up products in order to build a reputation for your business that can keep you top of mind with consumers. This classic is a must read!
Kotler On Marketing: How to Create, Win, and Dominate
Author: Philip Kotler
Amazon: $17.99 for paperback
Kotler's name is synonymous with marketing. He is one of the most influential marketing professors in academia and a professor at the Kellogg School of Management.
This is one of the best marketing books dealing with the essentials of marketing that should be read by everyone – from beginners to experts. It covers the basics in an in-depth, yet easy to understand way that will make you better at what you do.
Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers
Author: Geoffrey Moore
Amazon: $12.48 for paperback
Yet another classic! The fundamental concepts of this book are critical if you work with technology-based businesses.
It explains how products are adopted and what the behaviors of customers are in the different stages of the adoptive curve. If you build conversion strategies and engage in content marketing or other long-tail engagement strategies, this book can give you psychological insight into the behaviors of your customers to help you build effective lead funnels.
It will help you understand why and how early adopters, futurist, mainstream, and laggard buyers make purchasing decisions, which is foundational to your marketing approach. This is another must read for every marketer!
Trout On Strategy
Author: Jack Trout
Amazon: $19.95 for paperback
Another classic by Jack Trout, this book delves into developing strategies for marketing that are effective. In fact, it's a wonderful “strategies for dummies” book that covers the topic from the basics to more complex strategic approaches.
It's an easy read, but it packs in more than a few powerful, effective concepts. Trout has written other classics, including Positioning with Al Ries (see above), Differentiate or Die, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, and The Power of Simplicity.
He is a thought leader and industry pioneer who should be in every business library.
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Author: Dan Ariely
Amazon: $16.92 for hardcover
Effective marketers know that customers often buy based on emotions and then justify their purchase decisions. This book gives you fascinating examples of our irrational behavior and critically important concepts and lessons that should guide every marketing professional.
It's a great read and a perfect introduction to behavioral economics from a psychology professor. These insights dive deep into a fascinating subject that affects every marketer and should influence every strategic marketing approach.
All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works--and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All
Author: Seth Godin
Amazon: $12.05 for paperback
Godin has written 18 international bestsellers, so it’s hard to pick just one of his books to add to this list. But this book stands out as one of the most relevant resources in today’s marketing landscape.
It’s hard to cut through all the noise in the crowded, loud world to actually make an impact on your audience. Godin shows you that the most important tool you have at your disposal is your authenticity and storytelling abilities.
As he writes, “Stories make it easier to understand the world. Stories are the only way we know to spread an idea. Marketers didn’t invent storytelling. They just perfected it.”
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
Author: Ann Handley
Amazon: $16.31 for hardcover
As marketers, we all know the integral role content plays in our overall strategy. More companies are investing heavily in content, so it can be challenging to have your content stand out.
Handley is a digital marketing pioneer and the current Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, one of the most influential educational online resources for marketers. This book is a Wall Street Journal bestseller for good reason. Handley lays out actionable solutions to help you create, produce, and publish content that actually attracts and retains your customers.
No matter your role, you will gain valuable insights on content creation that will fuel your marketing strategy and yield big results.
Contagious: Why Things Catch On
Author: Jonah Berger
Amazon: $6.77 for paperback
A world-renowned expert on social influence and word of mouth marketing and Wharton marketing professor, Berger dissects what makes certain things popular.
This New York Times bestseller sheds light on what drives word of mouth and social transmission. Learn actionable takeaways on how to take your ideas to the next level and make them become contagious.
In the world of viral hits, learning these techniques can give your brand awareness a big boost.
Marketing today is equal parts art and science. While the tools and delivery methods have changed, the fundamental practices, psychology, and strategy have not.
As consumers become more informationally based in terms of their buying process, marketers need to adapt and adopt new ways of reaching them.
These 10 books, written by some of the industry's leading thinkers, can help you to develop the basics and find strategies that help you succeed in today’s marketing landscape. They also give you plenty of insights in how to address branding, positioning, targeting, creating, and delivery of your marketing message.
As a marketing professional, you have a powerful tool -- your knowledge. Staying current on the tactics, techniques, strategies, and delivery methods for your message is key.
By developing a good foundation of the basics, you'll be able to understand the psychological and practical aspects of new delivery channels as they become available, giving you an advantage over your peers!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017. It was updated in August 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Published on August 7, 2018