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Ryan Deiss

By Ryan Deiss

Jun 7, 2018


Marketing Books
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Marketing Books

14 Essential Books To Make You a More Progressive, Future-proof Marketer

Ryan Deiss

By Ryan Deiss

Jun 7, 2018

14 Essential Books To Make You a More Progressive, Future-proof Marketer

The future of marketing is changing.

For one thing, marketing is no longer a siloed department.

In many companies, it is now part of customer service. It’s part of sales. It’s part of product development. Marketing is becoming more and more involved in other departments, as people realize the buyer’s journey never truly “ends.”

And as marketing itself changes, marketers will have to evolve their skill sets to keep up.

I believe that the days when you could be a highly successful marketing specialist are numbered. In the future, the most effective and sought-after marketers will be “full-stack marketers.”

In other words, marketers who understand the entire marketing process from beginning to end. Marketers who can do it all.

In order to become one of those “full-stack marketers” and really thrive in 2018 and beyond, you’ll need to attain a solid grasp of many different marketing topics.

These 14 books will give you the breadth of understanding you need to become a successful modern marketer.

Analytics & Data Books

There’s no getting around it: the marketer of the future absolutely must be comfortable with analytics and data.

You don’t necessarily have to be a statistician or a data scientist, but as a modern marketer, you DO have to make the best-informed decisions you can. That requires a solid understanding of how to analyze and understand data and these two books will help give you a solid foundation in how to do that.

1. Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll

Written for startups, this book will help you grow your business with data-informed decisions—without being overwhelmed with so much data you don’t know what to do with it.

That’s really the struggle for a lot of businesses, isn’t it? You want data to inform your decisions, but you don’t want to drown in it.

So, what you need is a system that can help you distill the mountain of data that’s available into just a few important metrics.

Enter Lean Analytics.

This book teaches that all startups go through five distinct phases:

  1. Empathy - Connecting with others to discover a problem you can help solve.
  2. Stickiness - Discovering a way to solve that problem in a way that’s “sticky.”
  3. Virality - Building a marketable product that people enjoy using.
  4. Revenue - Growing your company, while maintaining profitability.
  5. Scale - Expanding into new markets and growing your team.

The genius of the Lean Analytics method is that it helps you distill each stage down into the one metric that matters most.

This way you’re able to focus on the single most important task in your business at any one point in time.

2. Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb

This book teaches that as important as data is—it can’t predict everything.

There’s always a certain amount of luck and randomness in life and business, and most people have a tendency to underestimate how powerful those forces can be.

So, what does that mean for us as marketers? Does it mean we should stop trying to measure our efforts because it all comes down to luck in the end?

NO! Of course not!

Of course, we should always try our hardest to succeed, and that often means making the most of the data and analytics available to us.

But we also shouldn’t let that lure us into overconfidence.

No matter how much we analyze the data, we can never predict the future with certainty.

No matter how confident we are that a new marketing campaign will be successful, for example, there’s no way to know for sure what will happen until we let it out into the world.

For better or worse, “randomness” will always have an effect on your business. The point isn’t to get disheartened or to think of your business like a roulette table (which it definitely is NOT). The point is to be aware of the prevalence of randomness in business so you can be prepared for any possible outcome.

This book will help you do that.

Behavioral Psychology Books

You may have heard me say this before, but I’ll say it again:

B2B...B2C...all marketing is really just H2H.


No matter how complex the digital marketing landscape becomes, remember that it’s always a human being on the other side of that computer screen; Someone a lot like you, with similar worries, fears, hopes, and dreams.

So, yeah. It’s pretty much impossible to be a top marketer without understanding the psychology of why we do the things we do.

Luckily, there are some amazing books out there on this topic. Here are my top 5:

3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

This is the classic book on persuasion, and it deserves to be on every marketer’s bookshelf.

In it, Robert Cialdini describes the psychology of what makes people say “yes.” (Clearly, a useful skill for any marketer.)

He boils all of the persuasion down into six primary factors:

  1. Reciprocation - When someone does something for us, we feel obligated to reciprocate.
  2. Commitment and consistency - People like to be consistent with their own behavior, so once they have committed to something, they are more likely to stick with it.
  3. Social proof - If something appears to be popular and well-regarded by a lot of other people, it instantly becomes more attractive to us.
  4. Liking - People are much more likely to be persuaded by someone they like.
  5. Authority - We tend to trust and obey authority figures—people like doctors, judges, experts, celebrities, and so on.
  6. Scarcity - We put a high value on things that are scarce, which makes them appear more valuable.

By applying these principles to your own marketing, you’ll find that your ads and landing pages will instantly become more persuasive and effective.

4. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

Cialdini followed up Influence with Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, a fascinating study on how you can make your marketing more persuasive by strategically taking advantage of “the essential window of time before you deliver an important message.”

In other words, framing your message in the right context and asking a “pre-suasive” question can dramatically increase the odds of people being receptive to what you have to say.

Cialdini cites a 1993 study among students who were asked a simple pre-suasive question: “Are you unhappy?” Asking this causes people to start fishing for unhappiness in their life.

Whereas, “Are you happy?” makes you look for the positives.

In the 1993 study, students asked the first question were 375% times more likely to report actually being unhappy.

Bottom line: What kind of answer you get highly depends on how you ask the question.

That’s just one example of what Cialdini refers to as “pre-suasion.” As you can see from it, it’s a fascinating topic and definitely worth a read.

(Keep in mind, this book builds on some of the concepts in his first book, Influence, so I would recommend reading that one before.)

5. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition by Dr. Dan Ariely

In this NYT bestselling book, Dr. Ariely examines the cause and effect of some of our most irrational behaviors.

For example, have you ever noticed that name brand aspirin seems to work better than the generic  (even though they both contain the exact same ingredients)?

Or that people will clip coupons to save 50¢ at the grocery store and then splurge many times that amount at a restaurant?

These are the kinds of irrational behaviors that don’t make sense on the surface.

When you start to understand our irrational psychological triggers behind them, however, you’ll start to recognize them all over the place. Self-defeating behaviors, the placebo effect, the power of suggestion, the psychological effect of price anchoring; these are just some of the phenomena we see.

As a marketer, it’s critically important that you understand how and why we make such irrational behaviors. They really are “the hidden forces that shape our decisions.”

6. Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning

This book gives you a detailed explanation of your “feel-good” chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, and oxytocin.

As human beings, we’re wired to seek out things that feel good; In other words, things that stimulate those four happy chemicals in our brains, and a big part of that means we seek out things that felt good in the past.

If you, as a marketer, can deliver customer experiences that stimulate those happy chemicals, then guess what? Yep, you guessed it. Your customers will be literally hard-wired to come back to you again and again!

(Note: the book has been republished with the title, Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Endorphin Levels, which you can get here.)

7. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Nir’s illuminating product design book explains why some products (and startups) succeed and others fail.

In it, Nir concludes that the key to launching a successful product is influencing consumer behavior in a way that reinforces a habit of using your product.

Makes sense, right? But how do you actually do that?

Nir lays it out in his 4-part “Hook Method,” which he describes as a cycle of events engineered to keep consumers coming back again and again:

  1. Trigger - First, you need something to happen that will prompt the consumer to take action. This could be an external trigger (like an email) or an internal trigger (like feeling hungry).
  2. Action - Next, you need the consumer to take some sort of easy action in order to receive the reward promised by your product. (i.e. click this link, sign in to the app, etc.)
  3. Variable Reward - In order for a product to be truly habit-forming, it can’t offer the same exact reward every time. Instead, the reward has to be variable. This way, the user will never be able to fully anticipate the reward they will receive. (i.e. new updates/content every time you visit)
  4. Investment - The last step is getting the user to make a small investment in your product, helping to keep them committed to using it even more in the future. (i.e. uploading their photos into the platform, connecting with all of their friends.)

By baking these 4 steps into your own products and marketing funnels, you can start to create a customer experience that keeps your users coming.

Classic Advertising Books

All I’ve ever really done, as a digital marketer, is take the time-tested principles laid out in these advertising books and apply them to the new mediums of the internet, email, and so on.

In my opinion, these 5 books are essential for anyone who calls themselves a serious marketer.

8. Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz

You’ll probably be surprised when you find out how expensive Breakthrough Advertising is.

I’ve bought it several times (people have a tendency to borrow it, and then when they find out how good it is...somehow I never seem to get it back), probably to the tune of several thousand dollars --and I’m sure I’ll buy it again.

It’s just that good.

In this classic marketing book, Eugene Schwartz teaches that the way to sell your product isn’t to “sell” but instead to channel demand.

Think about why your product or service exists in the first place. What massive desire triggered the creation of this market?

THAT is what you need to focus on in your marketing. Not your product’s features or price-point or any of those details, but the deeper-seated value/benefit of it.

This book also teaches how to understand the state of awareness in a market.

This is vital information if you want to create advertisements that differentiate you from your competitors while also speaking to the correct level of sophistication in your prospects.

These are just a few examples of the gems hidden in this book. It’s full of high-level strategic gold. Buy it. Read it. Then, read it again.

(And be careful when you lend it out.)

9. Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples

Caples is one of the most successful copywriters and direct marketers of all time, and in this, another must-read marketing classic, he shares his secrets in detail.

This book is especially helpful for anyone who needs to learn how to write compelling copy, as Caples spends a lot of time teaching you how to write advertising copy that appeals to the right emotional hot buttons to make people take notice and buy.

He starts by teaching you how to write winning headlines by...

  • Appealing to the reader’s self-interest
  • Sharing news or information
  • Arousing a sense of curiosity
  • Focusing on a quick & easy solution to the reader’s problem

You’ll learn how to appeal to a mass market audience, how to choose a layout & illustration that attract the most attention, how to increase the selling power of your copy, and much, much more.

10. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Now, compared to Breakthrough Advertising, Scientific Advertising is a steal.

Plus, at just 88 pages long, it’s also an incredibly fast read-- but don’t let that fool you.

Scientific Advertising is one of the most influential and frequently cited marketing books in history.

David Ogilvy famously claimed that nobody should be allowed to be a marketer until he or she reads this book seven times!

It was the first one to lay out the principles of advertising using a scientific method that measures results and uses data and real-world results to improve sales over time.

(Sound familiar?)

Hopkins taught the importance of leveraging customer psychology, being specific in your ad copy, and of using your headlines to speak to your target audience.

Along the way, he also shares dozens of highly successful examples.

11. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy is another one of marketing’s founding fathers, and On Advertising is his marketing bible.

It’s a treasure trove of insights for anyone who wants to write better direct-response-style ads, covering topics like

  • The importance of research, and why it’s essential to back up your claims with facts
  • Why it’s so critical to find out what your competitors are doing
  • How to position your product to appeal to your ideal customer
  • What a brand image is, and how every part of your advertisement contributes to it

One thing I love about this book is how visual it is.

Ogilvy includes a lot of eye-catching examples from print ads, including his famous “At 60 miles an hour…” ad for Rolls-Royce.

Ogilvy covers a lot of important concepts and these examples help to really drive home the message and help you understand everything in concrete terms.

12. The Wizard of Ads by Roy Williams

I’ve written about The Wizard of Ads before.

Roy Williams was a mentor of mine and an absolute master of marketing for radio, and it turns out that radio marketing is a lot like digital marketing!

Think about it: in both mediums, you’re trying to grab the attention of a passive, highly distractible person, and unless you can do that, FAST, that person is going to move on to the next thing and forget all about you.

The technology changes, but the underlying emotions and motivations that drive us don’t.

That’s what Roy Williams was an expert on, and that’s why reading this book will pay dividends in your marketing career.

Agile Marketing

Successful marketers have to move fast. They have to be willing to test minimum viable products, offers, and funnels, and be willing to fail...learn...and try again.

With that in mind, the Agile framework is an important concept for marketers to grasp. Here are two books on the topic that I highly recommend for your bookshelf.

13. The Agile Marketer by Scott Brinker

This book by Scott Brinker operates on the principle that the most important aspect of your company’s marketing is the experience your customers have while using your product or service.

It’s based on the Agile methodology that started in the world of software development and focuses on making incremental improvements based on feedback and collaboration while remaining highly flexible and capable of making rapid changes.

The goal of all these changes is to help drive a superior customer experience that can help your company to stand apart from the competition.

(Thus the book’s sub-headline, “Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage.”)

In its pages,  you’ll learn why it’s becoming more and more important for marketing and product management to work hand-in-hand to create products customers love.

It’s essentially a system you can use to infuse marketing directly into your product or service, helping you to turn it into an offer that sells itself.

14. Hacking Marketing by Roland Smart

Like The Agile Marketer, Hacking Marketing draws insightful parallels between modern marketing and software development.

In today’s digital world, marketing is more complex than ever. It has to move fast, adapt to feedback on the fly, and deal with more touch points and marketing channels than ever before.

That might sound daunting, but in Hacking Marketing, you’ll gain a management framework you can use to help achieve those goals while staying organized and preventing chaos in your marketing department.

When you learn how to apply lean and agile management strategies to marketing, you’ll be able to leverage the five “digital dynamics”—instead of struggling against them:

  1. Speed
  2. Adaptability
  3. Adjacency
  4. Scale
  5. Precision

Leveraging these dynamics is critical to successful digital marketing today and in the future.

Never Stop Learning

I don’t want you to think that these books will teach you everything you need to know about marketing forever.

They won’t.

The field of marketing is changing so rapidly that you have to be constantly learning to keep up with the developments.

There’s always something new and exciting to discover, but these 14 books will help give you a solid foundation in some of the most important marketing topics and help you develop a future-focused mindset.

Remember, the marketer of the future is a “full-stack marketer”—someone with a solid grasp of ALL the different pillars of marketing.

So, check out these books to help make yourself a more well-rounded marketer. One positioned for success in 2018 and beyond.

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