Best Marketing Books 2017: Titles Every Marketer Should Read — Updated

As we begin the second half of 2017 now is a good time to think about your 2017 marketing reading progress and list. Lawyers, doctors, engineers, and architects are all required to do ongoing education to maintain their licenses. Marketers have no license so must tackle the task of self-educating. Serious marketers should read the equivalent of 10 educational and industry books per year (2500 pages) to maintain and expand skills and knowledge. Here are our suggestions for the must-read marketing books this year. Start by testing your digital marketing skills with the BrightEdge digital marketing quiz.

Great marketing books for 2017

best marketing books 2017

From new takes on influence to effective multi-channel marketing and to getting down to basics with ridiculously good writing and content, these marketing must-reads are likely to boost your marketing results in 2017.

marketing books new era of content 2017

Before you look at the list, here is  free bonus read: A New Era of Content, based on industry research by BrightEdge and iProspect, packs a slew of the latest content and online marketing best practices into 20 short pages. Learn how to create content that performs and drives better results online with four proven steps to digital marketing success. Also see our list of best digital marketing books.


1. PRE-SUASION: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

by Robert Cialdini, 2016
4.6 rating on Amazon, #768 on Amazon

Cialdini wrote the seminal work on Influence in 1984; Pre-Suasion is the long-awaited sequel, and it delivers. Both books belong on a marketer’s bookshelf because marketers work to influence people to take particular actions.

In Pre-Suasion Cialdini goes deeper into the subtleties of persuasion, covering privileged moments, attention and importance, focus and causality, identity, place, crowds, and shared action. The book seemed particularly insightful and relevant after watching the momentous 2016 US presidential election. Watch a webinar on persuading your organization to support SEO.

These insights help a marketer in two primary areas: 1) persuading internal colleagues and executives to support the marketing plan and its initiatives, 2) persuading the consumers to take appropriate action.

Though the book is primarily sociological and psychological, Cialdini does give examples of how to influence purchase behavior and willingness to spend more. He cites studies that showed how free gifts increase tips dramatically, that people are pre-suaded to purchase by commonalities and getting compliments, and how social proof works. A compelling read.

Best Marketing Books | Everybody Writes2. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

by Ann Handley, 2014
4.7 rating on Amazon, #6102 on Amazon

Marketing is driven by content, so our second pick on the list of the best marketing books is about content creation. To create really good content, you need the writing skills to make your ideas come alive in an engaging way.

In this book, marketing guru Ann Handley gives insightful guidance that everyone can use to uplevel skills, write like a pro and develop high-quality content that gets results. The book covers all things writing, from grammar and organizing ideas to creating a compelling brand story. Read the free ebook on content marketing success.

From the author: “That means you’ve got to choose words well, and write with economy and the style and honest empathy for your customers. And it means you put a new value on an often-overlooked skill in content marketing: How to write, and how to tell a true story really, really well. That’s true whether you’re writing a listicle or the words on a Slideshare deck or the words you’re reading right here, right now. And so being able to communicate well in writing isn’t just nice; it’s necessity. And it’s also the oft-overlooked cornerstone of nearly all our content marketing.”

This book has dozens of useful insights for how to produce really good writing content. Highly recommended for all the marketers who write or  edit content.

Best Marketing Books | Content Inc.3. Content Inc: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses

By Joe Pulizzi, 2014
4.8 rating on Amazon, #18,096 on Amazon

Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute walks readers through his process of creating great content. He believes that when brands take the time to find an audience, and develop products that address their hard-hitting problems, the company will have an easier time finding success. Learn how to run successful integrated campaigns and achieve content marketing success.

Pulizzi discusses the power of content in a world where marketers still hold fast to traditional models that often no longer work. In Content Inc., he breaks down the business-startup process into six steps, making it simple for you to visualize, launch, and monetize your own content business. These steps are:

1. The “Sweet Spot”: Identify the intersection of your unique competency and your personal passion 2. Content Tilting: Determine how you can “tilt” your sweet spot to find a place where little or no competition exists. 3. Building the Base: Establish your number-one channel for disseminating content (blog, podcast, YouTube, etc.). 4. Harvesting Audience: Use social-media and SEO to convert one-time visitors into long-term subscribers. 5. Diversification: Grow your business by expanding into multiple delivery channels. 5. Monetization: Now that your expertise is established, you can begin charging money for your products or services.

The book is organized to explore the above points and includes recommendations for content planning and staffing. The book is big on how to build a content business but light on takeaways for using content to market products or services.

BrightEdge Best Marketing Books | The New Rules of Marketing and PR4. 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

by David Meerman Scott, 2015
4.5 rating on Amazon, #9,430 on Amazon

The rules of digital marketing are constantly changing. Using case studies and real-life examples, David Meerman Scott explores the latest best practices that lead to marketing success. Updated in 2015, Scott’s book also delves into the current social media trends, including Periscope, Meerkat and Snapchat 2 of which are already dead. Things move fast on the Internet.

The  book is a good introduction to the role of social media for marketing and PR. The first part is an argument why organizations, especially smaller businesses and nonprofits, should emphasize social media and how the efficient use of social media depends on a different way of thinking compared to traditional media. The second part discusses the different tools of social media and how they could be used to support marketing and PR. He goes on to define niche and mission, providing information and targeted content, thinking about virtual audience, and dialogue with members and related organizations. He covers the implications for web site content as well. See how to succeed with Facebook and Twitter.

Scott’s essential message is that you can now bypass the traditional marketing channels and reach out directly to customers, provided you have a worthwhile offering and message. To do this, you must philosophically move from monologue to dialogue and from propaganda to participation. These necessary changes in marketing approach are the result of the Internet’s expansion of communication channels from one-to-many . . . to many-to-one . . . to many-to-many . . . to one-to-one. These four communication modalities combined with the ability to bypass land-based distribution channels and transact commerce online represents a sea change in marketing.

5. The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences

by Matt Watkinson, 2013
4.6 rating and #309,508 on Amazon (a hidden gem)

Watkinson is a designer and consultant who helps businesses get their customer experience right, and he brings a product and service design perspective to customer experience.

Midway through the book he recommends to “start at the start and end at the end” in other words really understand the customer experience in step-by-step detail and as a whole flow. He explains that setting and exceeding expectations are critical to managing the customers’ reaction to the experiences provided. He brackets the situations into Dissonance, or not matching, Absence, or no expectation exists, and Inference, or the customers’ expectations are being set elsewhere.

Great customer experiences are effortless — for the customer. He outlines 3 areas to address: 1) Time on task, 2) Convenience, 3) Simplicity. Companies often lose track of this principle as they evolve and update their products and services. Less is usually more if you deeply understand what is most important to your customer and what they value most from you. Organize information in predictable ways: 1) category, 2) time,  3) location, 4) alphabet, and 5) continuum. In the stress principle, Watkinson covers proper error handling and recovery. The book is an excellent read on design and customer delight which leads to better customer retention with many practical tips and takeaways.

6. What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint

by Nicholas Webb 2017Crave Best Marketing Books BrightEdge List
4.9 rating and #90,238 on Amazon

Like Watkinson in the previously reviewed book, Webb advances the discussion of how to treat customers and move beyond customer service to creating exceptional customer experiences. He recommends starting with an audit by an outside provider to properly allocate time and resources to establishing a benchmark and finding problems. Instead of simple personas, Webb advises to frame up what your customers love and hate. He defines a model for customer typing based on ESP, Expectation Sensory Experience and Price/Value.

The heart of his customer experience analysis are the 5 touchpoint moments: pre-touch, first-touch, core-touch, last-touch, and in-touch. The in-touch element is about building a relationship with the customer based on personal, relevant, and valuable exchanges and content, somewhat like the Challenger model. This is the heart of modern content marketing and why this new book makes a great addition to my recommended marketing reading list.

7. Digital Marketing for Dummies

By Ryan Deiss and Russ Hennesberry, 2017best digital marketing books all channels
4.6 rating on Amazon, #53 in web marketing

Digital Marketing for Dummies is published by Wiley, a BrightEdge customer. This book is an excellent reference, and it includes many practical, specific, and current details, insights, and advice.

It’s a very readable 300 pages and covers the customer journey, marketing planning, landing pages, blogging, SEO, SEM, social, paid display, email, and data and analytics.

I like the focus on landing pages, which often get lost in the shuffle of channel and media planning as a high-leverage link in the funnel chain. They also reiterate the importance of the offer and revisiting and tuning the offer regularly. They provide 57 blog category ideas, including List, How-To, Research, Stat Roundup, People to Follow, Parody, Issue, Comparison, What-If, Challenge, and Products Tips to name just 11.

On email, they recommend writing to answer the four questions: Why now? Who cares? Why should they care? Can you prove it?

They also introduce for visual reporting.

Chapter 14 is The Ten Most Common Digital Marketing Mistakes and includes ten classic errors to avoid, like being product-centric, not aligning Marketing’s goals with Sales’, and the distraction of shiny objects. They also add information on marketing jobs and resume building. Overall, it is an extremely useful and valuable marketing book.

Lastly, traditional publishers like Wiley add the editors and designers to the writers to make a polished product that defines a classic book and provides the value most people seek from an educational book. Highly recommended.

Read a list of recommended SEO books and top B2B marketing books in these posts.

Free bonus read: A New Era of Content, based on industry research by BrightEdge and iProspect, packs a slew of the latest content and online marketing best practices into 20 short pages. Learn how to create content that performs and drives better results online with four proven steps to digital marketing success.

Do you want to see a demo of the BrightEdge platform? 

BrightEdge demo