We all have that pile of books sitting near our bedside table that we keep meaning to read. Or there are the suggestions from friends and family on social media, or the books they give us as gifts. When you’re running a marketing department, however, the volume of potentially promising books -- and the feeling of obligation to learn from them -- increases by an order of magnitude.
Part of this is because marketing, more than almost any other function within an organization, touches on so many different disciplines. Marketing leaders can benefit from a knowledge of social sciences, for instance, a grounding in economics or sales strategy, an understanding of creative processes based on studying the arts, and so on.
Unfortunately, it’s challenging for most marketers to achieve this kind of Renaissance-level sophistication while actually doing their day-to-day jobs. Even if they don’t become published authors themselves, for example, marketers are often directly overseeing the creation of content such as blog posts, eBooks, infographics or podcasts. They need to review and approve online ads. They are the key stakeholders working behind the scenes to pull off major events. They may be agile leaders, but when are they supposed to find the time to read on top of all of this?
The answer, of course, is that marketing leaders don’t necessarily have to read the equivalent of a local library to get ahead. They can start with a handful of books at a time, looking for potential insights that they can apply to marketing and sales strategy as needed when the opportunity presents itself.
What follows is a sample reading list of books that may kick-start that process. Some of them were only released this year. Others have stood the test of time and should be revisited, even if they were suggested long ago. All of them, however, have something to say about what it means to act as a marketer in 2018, and maybe even about what that role might look like tomorrow.
First published in 2011, Kahneman’s investigation into the various cognitive biases that guide our decision-making seems more relevant than ever in an era of “fake news” and questions about absolute truths.
Besides offering a highly accessible, almost conversational look at the inner reasons we tend to make snap judgements or assumptions with little verifiable evidence, for example, Kahneman shows how those biases lead to errors. This is relevant for marketers because they have more sources of information than ever before, and need to make increasingly complex decisions based on synthesizing data in meaningful ways. Each chapter ends with hypothetical dialogue between colleagues around a water cooler using some of the key terminology behind the psychology. It will literally change the way you talk about everything from conceiving a marketing campaign to evaluating the results.
There have been lots of books that examined the disruption of financial services, transportation and retail, but New Yorker writer Auletta may be the first to provide such a comprehensive look at the challenges technology and data have brought to traditional forms of marketing. He doesn’t stop there, though. By profiling key players across a dizzying range of companies, Auletta shows how marketers need to collaborate or compete (and sometimes do both) with social networks, tech companies and many other kinds of organizations.
Auletta’s book is also helpful in providing several stories that show how brands are beginning to take content marketing services in-house in some cases, and how the expectations of consumers and other target audiences are changing. If you want an up-to-the-minute map of the global marketing ecosystem, this is it.
We all know that there’s nothing more persuasive than getting referred to a product or service by someone we trust. The authors of this book point out, however, that very few firms have a formal strategy in place to stimulate word of mouth among their customers and prospects.
A talk trigger is something that creates surprise and delight, is repeatable, and differentiates a firm against the rest of the market. Examples include the chocolate-chip cookies given to guests at Doubletree hotels, or the free trip to the zoo anyone attending a conference at Flanders Convention Center in Belgium gets to enjoy.
Baer has been giving keynotes about talk triggers for more than a year but the formal approach has only recently been published in book form. Read this to start figuring out your own talk trigger, which may also help organize a lot of the content marketing and advertising efforts you’ll likely need to build around it.
This year Handley, the chief content officer of Marketing Sherpa, was chosen as the first inductee into the Content Marketing Hall of Fame, and no wonder. Her book acknowledges the increased onus to create original insights that’s being put on everyone from product managers to CEOs. Lots of people, however, don’t consider themselves inherently capable of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and producing something compelling.
Read Handley’s book to help figure out the best way to coach, cajole, nudge and nurture internal subject matter experts to play a more active role in your brand’s storytelling efforts, no matter what the marketing channel.
Not every great book needs to be read cover-to-cover right away, or ever. Some are just good reference guides to dip into as the need for inspiration and assistance arises. Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Work Week, has interviewed hundreds of guests on his top-rated podcast. Tools Of Titans revisits those experts on their best strategies for getting things done, for learning on the go and essentially how they became a top-performer in their field.
Flip through this book to get a sense of how to continue pursuing your own self-development as a marketer, and for getting a better picture of what the best and brightest of your target audience might look like. As a bonus, each expert is asked to name their own favourite book or books -- which means you can continue building your essential reading library for a long time to come.