Six influential Marketing Books you should read

Everyone needs marketing. We are all marketers one way or another.

Most people seem to think that marketing is something done by a restricted group of people in a specific department of big companies, whose job consists mainly of yelling silly slogans at you, hoping they will stick, and perhaps make you stop in your tracks to buy something you don’t really need.

Marketing as a strategy, however, is something much deeper, scientific and even artistic, I should say. It’s sad that many companies and professionals fail to understand this concept. Marketing is needed to acquire, grow and maintain clients not only for companies but also for you as a professional. We are all selling something to someone: the product of the company we work for or our professional value, our time and dedication.

Nevertheless, let’s keep in mind that marketing has undergone a radical change in the past two decades. Digital marketing completely changed the landscape. I would say that it leveled the playing field for small companies and autonomous professionals, allowing both to compete worldwide with bigger corporations for an audience on the Internet. Since I have worked in this area for most of my professional life, and really love the subject,  I thought I could use this post to make a humble contribution, sharing with you the best marketing books I have ever read.


1. Marketing Management, by Philip Kotler. This is considered the bible of the field. If you take any marketing course, you will surely be referred to it. It covers the basics, and it’s an essential tool for anyone interested in the subject. It will dedicate specific chapters to each of the four traditional Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, and place), analyze consumer markets and buyer behavior, will give you tips on how to deal with the competition, discuss segmentation, etc. It is a lot of information, and some readers will complain that the topics are not exploited in depth. The text will, however, give you a general, if a bit superficial, overview of marketing as a whole.

2. Positioning,  the Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. One of the most seminal books in the area. It explains the fundamental concept of differentiation. How to plant the concept of your brand in the clients’ minds, making them see you in a specific and unique way. As a marketer, you need to look for a space that has not been occupied yet and fill it. It is necessary to make your brand mean something special to your target audience. As a private teacher of English in Brazil, for example, how do you want to position yourself? As a cool native speaker from Australia who would appeal to a young and and adventurous audience (You need to be Australian to pull that off, remember.)?  As an experienced Brazilian who had to learn the second language fluently yourself and therefore will understand the needs of your students better? Do you want to be seen as the best business English teacher available in São Paulo? These are options. Work to your strenghts and pick a suitable, convincing positioning and a niche to exploit.

3. Permission Marketing, by Seth Godin. This book will forever change your views on how to promote your product. If you are a fan of Mad Men, the famous TV show featuring these clever guys from Madison Avenue, you will understand that the way they conducted a marketing campaign back in the 60s would have very little chance to succeed today. For at least 40 years, from the time the show is set, marketing was all about interrupting people to make them listen to your call (ads broadcast through TV and radio, billboards, flashy ads in magazines…) With today’s noise, when clients are bombarded with thousands of promo messages every minute, it would be impossible to break through the clutter with traditional marketing. Ideally, customers will now come looking for you instead, if you apply the strategy suggested in the book (which is also known as inbound marketing). You will still interrupt them once, probably (maybe by luring them with a display ad on the website they’re browsing), but, then, the conversation will need to continue with their permission (or opt-in), and most certainly they will be the ones in charge.

4. The New Rules of Marketing & PR, by David Meerman Scott. This book summarizes in a very simple and direct way all the contemporary trends in marketing. It will show you the spectrum of tactics you can use to reach your client in this digital age: how to keep the conversation going with your target audience;  how to position yourself as a “thought leader” (expert) in your industry, through blogging, podcasting, video-blogging, and social media interaction; it also covers tactics on search engine marketing.  D. M. Scott explains the useful concept of buying personas, which is a method of breaking down the different segments of your market to create a clear personality for each one, so you can have a more relevant conversation with the customer, through the messages you send out and the feedback you get in response.

5. Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, by Brian Clifton. One of the most remarkable changes in marketing is the shift towards more accountability expected from practitioners. Metrics is the key word in today’s marketing. If you don’t measure and demonstrate objectively that you can improve the ROI (return on investment) of your campaigns,  you won’t keep your job for very long. Not every company has changed yet, though, and some still seem to value marketers who are famed only for their creativity, even if they do not show proven results for their interesting ideas. I firmly believe their days are numbered. Clifton’s book will teach you in a very thorough way how to operate and benefit from Google Analytics, one of the most widely used services on the Web. The book offers invaluable insights on how to crunch the numbers and improve your marketing efforts.

6. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. Since the visionary depicted in this biography is one of the most inspiring people ever in my humble opinion, I must admit to being partial including this book on the list, as it’s not really a marketing book but a book about an extremely effective and successful marketer. The main lesson here is the product is the marketing. In the words of Seth Godin, who also preached this approach, you need a PURPLE COW – a very special and original product – to win in the ultra competitive market place of today. All promotional tactics will feel gimmicky and deceitful if you can’t deliver the iPhone or iPad of your industry. Another lesson is the importance that design has acquired in the making of any product in recent years. It goes without saying that function has not lost any of its importance, but if not integrated seamlessly with extraordinary design, your product will be in trouble.

Remember that the new marketing is very dynamic: Tactics, apps, methodologies (automation) and a great variety of tools are being created every moment in the marketing landscape.  Therefore, to keep up with this ever-evolving environment, besides reading the fundamental and seminal books of the field, you are advised to sign up and follow a number of blogs on the subject. It can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but, eventually, you will learn to filter the information and focus on a couple of the best blogs in the field. I strongly recommend, for example, Occam’s Razor, by metrics evangelist Avinash Kaushik and the Hubspot blog on inbound marketing.

Now it’s your turn. Could you please recommend any good marketing books to us?

Jorge Sette.


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