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

As we approach the middle of 2017, now is a good time to think about your 2017 marketing reading progress and list. Here are our suggestions for the must-read marketing books this year.

8 great marketing books for 2017

best marketing books 2017

From new takes on influence to effective multi-channel marketing and mastering big data to getting down to basics with ridiculously good writing and content, these six 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 are 2 free bonus reads: 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.

Test your digital marketing skills with the BrightEdge digital marketing quiz.

Learn how to create content that performs and drives better results online with four proven steps to digital marketing success. Or if you are interested in competitive analysis, download our 4 Proven Steps to Competitive Analysis.

Read how voice recognition technology is dramatically impacting marketing, search, and SEO in this data-packed and insightful free voice search booklet.

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.

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.

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. Read more on Ann Handley’s site.

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.

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
  6. 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. Read more on the Content Marketing Institute’s site.

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 latest in social media, including Periscope, Meerkat and Snapchat.

Excellent introduction to the role of social media for marketing and PR. 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. Defining niche and mission, providing information and targeted content, thinking about virtual audience, and dialog with members and related organizations. He covers the implications for web site content as well.

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 dialog 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. See more at David Meerman’s site.

5. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2007Best Marketing Books | Made to Stick
4.6 rating on Amazon, #2,108 on Amazon

This is by far the oldest book on the list and one that has become a classic resource over the  last 10 years. Maybe because of this book, good storytelling is more  in vogue than ever. From the board room to the chat room, marketers have come to see the value of strong openers and sticky stories to assist the messages getting traction.

When it comes to urban legends or conspiracy theories, it is amazing how quickly ideas can catch on and spread. At the same time, however, there are great ideas that have died a quick death, getting lost in the shuffle until they are forgotten. This book explores what makes some ideas memorable and others short-lived.

Authors Chip and Dan Heath developed a proven approach that transforms how people communicate ideas. Using success stories to show what can be accomplished with sticky messaging, this book beautifully illustrates the power of good communication.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results

By Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, Nick Toman, 2015Challenger Customer, Best B2B Marketing Books, BrightEdge
4.6 rating on Amazon
#16,817 on Amazon

The name on this one is a bit deceptive. This book is the sequel to the immensely popular and interesting Challenger Sale. The Challenger Sale used research to show that the most successful sales people are the ones who sell with knowledge and value add with education. In the Challenger Customer, the authors go deep into the mind and the context of the buyer commission to prove how vital information and education are to helping them make the case for your product.

A key statistic they share is that purchase intent drops directly with the number of people involved in the decision, from 81% with 1 person to 45% with 5.4 people. The odds are against the solution seller because solutions are usually bought by groups not individuals.

By now everyone in B2B marketing and sales is familiar with the concept of securing a champion on the customer side to help shepherd the order over the line. The challenger authors determined that there are an average of 5.4 people involved in each deal in a B2B sale. Therefore, it is not just a single champion you need, but a challenger champion who can effectively persuade the other 4.4 people to buy your solution.

Chapter 10 is my favorite as it details the impact of this approach on demand generation. In short, their advice is to shift from qualifying leads generally, like in a BANT (budget, need, authority, timing) model, to qualify leads according to your unique differentiators and criteria. Don’t generate demand; mobilize the right demand. Create content paths that confront and connect to your differentiators. Adjust lead scoring criteria to reflect confrontation and connection. Nurture leads explicitly for commercial insight.

You can tell from the words in this quick summary that the concepts are fresh, original, and insightful. That is why The Challenger Customer is my #1 business book I read in 2016 and the #1 pick for my best B2B marketing books list.

This set of marketing books will set you up to move your audiences with pre-suasive insights, well-written copy, content to build a business around, modern PR and communication, sticky stories, and the big data to build and track it.

Read how voice recognition technology is dramatically impacting marketing, search, and SEO in this data-packed and insightful free voice search booklet.

You can also find a list of recommended SEO books and top B2B marketing books in these posts.

Again 2 free bonus reads: 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. Or if you are interested in competitive analysis, download our 4 Proven Steps to Competitive Analysis.

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