Best Marketing Books 2017-2018

An Amazon physical bookstore opened in Santa Clara in a popular mall, called Santana Row. It seems so ironic that the business that forced so many bookstores to close would open one itself. What would they do differently as on online store reverse integrating into a physical store? The first thing I noticed is that the store was small, like a specialty clothing store. The displays are very engaging with many books flat and cover-facing-out, and there are many recommendation lists printed on paper like traditional point-of-purchase merchandizing. Every section had multiple most-popular lists, so they were able to bring the collaborative filter into the physical world. I picked out 4 books that I had never come across online at Amazon and went to check out. They asked me to login at the register using the Amazon app and a QR scan code. It was slick. I recommend you check it out if one opens in your area.

It is always a good time to think about your 2018 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 2018

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 a 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. Marketing: A Love Story, How to Matter to Your Customers

by Bernadette Jiwa
4.7 rating on Amazon, #36 in Kindle Store, Marketing on Amazon

This is the most interesting marketing read for me in 2017. Don’t get deterred by the “love” in the title; instead focus on the ultra-compelling subtitle “How to Matter to Your Customers.” Mattering to your customer requires emotional connection.

The book does not have much structure because it is adapted from a series of blog posts Jiwa wrote, but the material is so fresh and engaging and the book is so short at 81 pages that it doesn’t matter. The book will apply for entrepreneurs, B2B, and B2C marketers.

If you have been unsure about how to introduce emotion into your sales or marketing communication, this book will give you more insight, ideas, and inspiration than any other book out there. She claims you don’t sell a product, you sell a story and doing so requires both facts and feelings.

Here are some examples from the book: “One of the biggest challenges an entrepreneur or innovator has is understanding how to make his ideas resonate. We tend to have no shortage of ideas, but we struggle to tell the story of how they are going to be useful in the world and why it will matter to people.”

“The smart brands of the new millennium have thrived on this notion of building for belonging….It’s more important to create deeper connections to the right people to make your business sustainable.”

“All the marketing tactics in the world won’t save us from our own indifference [to the customers we acquire].”

“Marketing is not a department; it’s the story of how you create difference for your customers. Marketing is about becoming part of people’s stories.”

Download a Content Funnel Mapping Checklist to help you deliver your message to your prospects and customers.

Like Simon Sinek, Jiwa brings up Why questions frequently. Why is an important question that marketers fail to ask often enough. My #1 pick. Highly recommended.

2. Don’t Make Me Think Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

By Steve Krug
4.6 rating on Amazon, #1 in User Experience and Usability

Krug published the first edition in 2000, and the book has been the bible of user experience since the early 2000s. Web sites are the primary interface between most businesses and their customers. So all the great marketing campaigns in the world won’t work well unless the site is effective at handling the customers marketing brings to it.

The title is the recurring theme of the book: customers should not have to figure out or interpret your site, it should just work the way they expect. He adds his web facts of life to guide us: #1 We don’t read pages. We scan them. #2 We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice them. #3 We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through. For the most part, be conventional and don’t try to reinvent the wheel each update or release.

The book is shortish at 191 pages and uses the principles he recommends. It is colorful, uses high-contrast layout, and is very skimmable with clear headlines and subheads. Every marketer with a web site needs to read this book periodically.

3. The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

By Martin Ford
4.4 Rating on Amazon, #8,357 on Amazon

This 284-page book is one of the ones I bought that the Amazon physical store. It is written by Martin Ford, an economist, in the traditional all-text style of 20 years ago and before. I include it on my list of recommended reading because many of us marketers are in the automation and artificial intelligence space.

Ford meticulously maps the path and progress of automation and the effect it has had on jobs, wages, and society. First to go were factory line jobs. Coming soon and here now in some areas are robots that make hamburgers and pizza. Food service workers who take orders can largely be replaced by apps or tablets. Drivers will be displaced by autonomous vehicles, which will be safer. In our space, computers are competently covering sports, weather, and news. Pharmacist functions are starting to be handled by machines at the thought and operational level. University lecturers are  being displaced by online video lectures, but the performance of online students so far is quite poor. Shockingly, computers can now write original programming code using something called genetic programming that enables a computer to evolve the code in new and sometimes mutative ways. Computers can now create music and art; creating hundreds of samples in seconds. The vast majority of their creations thus far are not seen as good, but a few are indistinguishable from human work.

Jobs that computers won’t do are relationship-oriented, like applied design, marketing communities, and persuasive, interactive sales functions. And oddly, there may be a new human function collaborating with computers to solve complex problems.

4. 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 Writes5Everybody 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.6. 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 PR7. 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 maximize the SEO value of press releases with this checklist.

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.

8. 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. Download a checklist of site usability and readiness.

The book is an excellent read on design and customer delight which leads to better customer retention with many practical tips and takeaways.

9. 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.

Learn how to map to customer touchpoints with this content funnel map checklist.

This is the heart of modern content marketing and why this new book makes a great addition to my recommended marketing reading list.

10. 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. 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.

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