Over the years, I’ve gone through bookshelves’ worth of marketing and PR books. After a few dozen, some of the books’ messages begin to blend together, but there are five I’ve read that have stood out to me—and even informed much of my own approach to marketing.
Whether you’re interested in breaking into the marketing industry, advancing your current marketing career, looking for practical ways to market yourself, or digging into the neuroscience behind what motivates us to make the purchasing decisions we do, here five marketing books to get your hands on:
1. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
Seth Godin makes my marketing heart flutter. In All Marketers Are Liars, Godin makes the argument that fact-based marketing doesn’t work anymore; in order to be a great marketer, you now need to tell your clients real, authentic stories.
In Godin’s words: “Here are the questions I hope you’ll ask (your boss, your colleagues, and your clients) after you’ve read this book: ‘What’s your story?’ ‘Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?’ ‘Is it true?’”
Packed with examples from real brands and advice on how to weave storytelling into marketing, this is my number one recommendation for anyone who wants to market his or her brand smarter and more authentically.
If you’re fascinated with what makes us humans tick, you’ll love this book (and him!).
2. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
As marketers and brand leaders, it’s easy to get consumed with how to convey our messaging and what it should include—but your most compelling marketing message? Your why.
As Sinek explains, “‘Why’ is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us.”
In Start With Why, Sinek explains how the leaders and brands that inspire us the most—essentially, those that have the most powerful marketing platforms—all communicate the same way: They start with why. He goes on to explain why we, as humans, are so drawn to a person or brand’s why, how to find your own, and how to craft your messaging around that why.
And while the book itself is marketed toward leaders, there isn’t a chapter that’s not packed with juicy advice for anyone—at any level—who’s looking for marketing and PR inspiration.
3. Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to Your Customers by Bernadette Jiwa
This book has a permanent place on my desk because I reference it so much.
A compilation of Jiwa’s best posts from her award-winning blog, TheStoryofTelling.com, Marketing: A Love Story teaches marketers how to matter to their customers. (Hint: Stop focusing on promotion, and start focusing on how to help people solve real problems.)
Throughout the book, Jiwa combines tangible tips with compelling anecdotes and stories. The end result? A whole lot of marketing advice with a whole lot of heart.
I had my hesitations about this book, especially when I read the summary: “100 ways to persuade and convince customers with neuromarketing.”
Sounds like the kind of creepy, bogus marketing you should probably stay away from, right?
But I was intrigued by the brain drawing on the cover, so I read it—and I found it absolutely fascinating. The book covers everything from how the brain processes different price points to the effect of body language on purchasing decisions. For example, research that found that when it comes to pricing, people aren’t necessarily more inclined to buy a product at $19.97 vs. $20 because it’s cheaper, but because of “the apparent precision” of the lower number. In other words, customers are more likely to believe it’s worth $19.97 because it’s such a specific number, rather than a round $20.
All in all, this book has tons of interesting tidbits that are helpful for any marketer to keep in his or her back pocket. And bonus: It’s written in a way that this non-neuroscientist could easily digest and understand.
5. What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story by Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan
While the title may feel a little like a snooze-fest, it’s anything but. It’s absolutely jam-packed with interesting marketing advice.
Above all, it emphasizes creating an emotional connection with clients and offers advice for how to do that. One of my favorite tips: Remember that “your clients are not thinking machines. [They] are feeling machines who think.”
It also includes research around the importance of storytelling in marketing, as well as some fantastic brand examples.
While each author’s point of view, anecdotes, research, and advice varies, at the core, these five books teach us the same three important things: why our approach to marketing needs to be more authentic than it’s traditionally been, how to figure out our most human, relatable brand stories, and how to use those stories as the foundation of our marketing.