53 best marketing books you need to read (updated for 2021)
Best Marketing Books
- Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott
- Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
- The Visual Sale by Marcus Sheridan
- All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
- Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
- Inbound Marketing by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan
- The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Unmarketing by Scott Stratten
- They Ask, You Answer (2nd edition) by Marcus Sheridan
- Conversational Marketing by David Cancel and Dave Gerhardt
- This is Marketing by Seth Godin
- Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- Content Warfare by Ryan Hanley
- Think with Type by Ellen Lupton
- Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge
- Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead by Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott
- The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
- The New Rules of Marketing and PR (7th Edition) by David Meerman Scott
Editor's Note: This article was originally written and published by Carolyn Edgecomb in June 2017. It has since been updated to include new titles based on the latest best practices and marketing landscape.
The marketing industry is constantly evolving, which can make it difficult to stay ahead of the curve. However, with the right resources in place, you can effectively set yourself and your company up for success now and in the future.
But, which resources are best for you and in which medium?
As an avid reader, I find books to be the best way to absorb valuable information.
From topics content marketing and social media to general business tips and tricks, over the past six years, I’ve read dozens and dozens of books to help advance my career as a marketer. Getting lost in a good book is often an optimal method to improve your own personal knowledge base.
I’ve used my passion for reading and pulled together some of the best industry books (and some of my own personal top picks) you can read to amplify your marketing career this year.
Below you’ll find 53 hand-picked books from industry experts, such as Ann Handley, Marcus Sheridan, Jay Baer, Gary Vaynerchuk, and so many more! No matter the area you are looking to hone in on, there is a book (or two or three or four) to help grow or develop your skill sets. Dive into topics such as content strategy, website strategy, conversational marketing, business growth and the sales process.
Get your notepad (or Goodreads aka one of my all-time favorite apps) ready, and begin adding your favorites to your 2021 professional development reading list.
1. Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott
How do some brands attract word-of-mouth buzz and radical devotion around products as everyday as car insurance, surfboards, and underwear? They embody the most powerful marketing force in the world: die-hard fans.
In this essential book, leading business growth strategist, David Meerman Scott, and fandom expert, Reiko Scott, interview young entrepreneurs, veteran business owners, startup founders, nonprofits, and companies big and small to pinpoint which practices separate organizations that flourish from those stuck in stagnation.2. Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
You shouldn’t just focus on those customers who love your company; you also need to embrace complaints.
In Baer’s book, he talks to you about the importance of hugging your haters and how you can make every customer service interaction count.
3. The Visual Sale by Marcus Sheridan
Whether you realize it or not, video has become a critical component of the modern sales processes. While being on video doesn’t come easy to many people, consumers are demanding for more visual content than ever before.
Hot off the press in 2020, Sheridan shares step-by-step tips to build a culture of video. In it, you’ll learn how you can incorporate video in a natural way to improve your sales numbers, marketing strategy, and overall customer experience.
🎓 IMPACT+ course: Fundamentals of the Visual Sale
4. Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton
Whether you’re a designer, writer, or an editor, this book is a great resource for learning how to visualize various styles and theories when developing content.
Ellen focuses on including letters, text, and grid.
5. Hooked by Nir Eyal
How addictive is your product?
In Hooked, Nir Eyal takes a look at why we’re really drawn to certain products and services and not others, and how this “addiction” can be replicated with your product, service, or website.
💥 Related: The Manipulation Matrix: Is Your Business Improving Lives or Peddling a Product?
6. Marketing Performance Blueprint by Paul Roetzer
Trying to keep up with the rapidly evolving marketing industry can create gaps between what you know and the results you’re seeing.
Those four gaps usually appear in your talent, technology, strategy, and performance.
The Marketing Performance Blueprint outlines the fundamental mistakes businesses are making with digital marketing and provides a clear path to improving those areas.
7. They Ask, You Answer (2nd edition) by Marcus Sheridan
We're living in a culture of listeners and teachers, which is where an effective content marketing strategy comes into play.
In order for you to be effective, you can't rely on keyword stuffing and link building. You need to produce quality content.
In his book, Sheridan shows you the structure for a quality content strategy that will boost your web presence while generating trust amongst your audience by answering their questions.
The second edition, released in late 2019, was greatly expanded to include massive sections on video marketing, making the perfect inbound marketing website, and so on. Also, the new audiobook version (released on Christmas Eve 2019) is narrated by Marcus himself!
🎓IMPACT+ course: Digital Sales & Marketing Framework for Today's Modern Buyer
8. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
Finally a guide to creating and publishing the kind of content that will make your business thrive. Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer.
If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry out marketing messages. We are all writers.
9. Contagious by Jonah Berger
What makes your product or brand popular?
While many marketers believe the response is advertising, Berger challenges the notion saying people pay more attention to what their friends or family say about something rather than advertisements.
With that mindset, in this book, you’ll find 6 principles that will help make your product or service contagious.
10. Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge
While Mark Roberge was the SVP of Worldwide Sales and Services at HubSpot, he developed a sales formula that helped the organization become a 100 million dollar organization in just under seven years.
In his book, Mark outlines the four components that comprise the sales acceleration formula:
- The Sales Hiring Formula
- The Sales Training Formula
- The Sales Management Formula
- The Demand-Generation Formula
11. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
There’s no doubt social media has changed the way businesses and consumers are interacting.
While the number of social platforms continues to increase, many businesses struggle to adopt and implement.
In this book, Vaynerchuk outlines the different methods brands are using to successfully to build their social media following and earn consumers for life.
💥Related: 15 Raw Entrepreneurial Lessons from Gary Vaynerchuk
12. Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead by Brian Halligan & David Meerman Scott
The Grateful Dead is considered one of the most iconic bands of all time.
They truly understood how to attract an audience, keep their attention, and convert them into lifelong fans. Here are the two most important marketing lessons covered in the book:
- Create a new business model
- Cut out the middleman
13. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
While you might think a product's features, benefits, and price point will help it sell, that’s not true, according to Seth Godin.
In this book, Godin reveals that marketers aren’t liars, but rather they tell stories consumers choose to believe.
You’ll also learn why authenticity is the best form of marketing.
14. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
In this book, Godin outlines a set of five principles that you must follow, as a Permission Marketer, to be effective:
- As a Permission Marketer, you are a farmer and constantly need to work at harvesting your crop/customers. An Interruption Marketer is just a hunter and tries to kill something once with a single bullet.
- Permission is a process, not a single moment.
- Never breach the trust of your customer once they grant you permission to speak with them by selling their data to someone else.
- Frequency is always better than reach.
- Give a prospect a reason to pay attention –- you have to offer an explicit reward, information, education, entertainment, or even cold hard cash to get the customer to opt-in to the message.
15. Yes, And by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton
The way companies operate has shifted, especially in more recent years. This means the way people within organizations lead and prefer to be led has evolved as well.
The Second City overviews how organizations can improve speed, social communication, and decentralization based on eight principles of improvisation in the modern age.
Marketers can get hit with things they didn’t anticipate at any minute — just look at the COVID-19 pandemic. Marketers reading this book can adopt this method to help improve creativity and collaboration by staying open-minded and learning to work with what’s in front of them.
16. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
“The Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.”
Eric Riles gives us his scientific approach on how to create and successfully manage a startup that’s growing at lightning speed in this insightful read.
Bonus Book for Agencies: The Art of Client Services by Robert Solomon
While serving clients should be simple, that's not always the case.
In his book, Solomon describes what client service teams of all industries to build deeper relationships with clients and shares tips to help clients understand what they can expect and demand from their marketing agency.
17. Good to Great by Jim Collins
How can a company go from “meh” to amazing?
In his book, Jim Collins explores the study of how companies are able to defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity (or worse) into long-term superiority.
In the five year span of time when the study was conducted, Jim and his team identified these four concepts that helped good companies become great:
- Level 5 leaders
- The hedgehog concept
- A culture of discipline
- The flywheel and the doom loop
18. The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
In The Challenger Sale, Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson explain the ideas and strategies that drive the most successful sales teams in business today.
Also, in the book, you can take a closer look at the five seller profiles:
- The relationship builder
- The reactive problem solver
- The hard worker
- The lone wolf
- The challenger
19. Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
As the fathers of Inbound Marketing, their book covers everything from the differences between inbound and outbound marketing and how you can help your personas discover your brand.
This is a must-read book for anyone that’s considering implementing inbound marketing.
💥Related: How to Learn Inbound Marketing
20. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
With so much content out there, reaching your audience is hard work. One of the best and still most effective ways to do so, however, is creating epic content marketing.
To help you create epic content, Pulizzi shows you a formula broken down into six principles that attract more people, convert more customers, and grow your business faster.
21. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
In order to build a great team, you need to understand the challenges leaders face.
In his book, Lencioni outlines the five dysfunctions that can tear your team apart.
To succeed your team needs to overcome:
- The absence of trust - the unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group.
- The fear of conflict - stop seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate.
- The lack of commitment - don’t feign buy-in for group decisions which can cause ambiguity throughout the organization.
- The avoidance of accountability - don’t duck the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which can set low standards.
- The inattention of results - stop focusing on personal success, status, and ego before team success.
22. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
How do you get word of your product to spread like wildfire?
In order to get your own products to “tip,” Gladwell reviews the three basic laws of epidemics:
- The Law of the Few
- The Stickiness Factor
- The Power of Context
Using the three epidemics, he then identifies the perfect circumstances that, with the right time, place, and people, you can create a tipping point for a product.
23. Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
Growth doesn’t happen overnight. But, how does it happen?
Ellis and Brown showcase how powerhouses, such as Airbnb and Pinterest, experienced explosive growth and rose to the top. In this book, you’ll dive into the concept of “Growth Hacking” to increase your customer base and market share.
24. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
In the book, Sinek argues evolution has conditioned us to seek out very particular qualities in leaders, and the chemicals in our body are, in fact, communicating to us what those characteristics are.
The majority of this book revolves around four chemicals, how they make us tick, and their impact on leadership roles.
These four happiness chemicals are:
- Endorphin: the pain-masking chemical
- Dopamine: the goal achieving chemical
- Serotonin: the leadership chemical
- Oxytocin: the chemical of love
25. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Despite being originally published in 1936, it’s a great read that covers the subjects of communication, psychology, sales, and self-improvement.
Here are the twelve things you'll gain from this book:
- Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions.
- Enable you to make friends quickly and easily.
- Increase your popularity.
- Help you to win people to your way of thinking.
- Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.
- Enable you to win new clients and new customers.
- Increase your earning power.
- Make you a better salesman, a better executive.
- Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, keep your human contacts smooth and pleasant.
- Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist.
- Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts.
- Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates.
26. Blue Ocean Strategy by Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim
A marketing strategy developed by professors at INSEAD, The Blue Ocean Strategy focuses on companies creating “blue oceans” or new markets, untapped by their competitors.
The book offers a framework and tools to help organizations like ours create and capture these blue oceans systematically.
27. Drive by Daniel Pink
While money might be a motivating factor for some people, that’s not always the case for your employees.
In this book, Daniel Pink does a fantastic job of breaking down common misconceptions about motivation and explaining why the old strategies are failing with the new millennial workforce.
28. Snap Selling by Jill Konrath
Today, capturing your prospect’s attention is harder than it’s ever been.
In this book, Konrath introduces us to the SNAP selling formula that will allow you to get in your persona’s head and address all of their questions quickly.
SNAP is a loose acronym that’s explained as:
- S -- Keep it simple. The easier you make the decision-making process for your persona, the more successful you’ll be.
- N -- Be invaluable. There are too many similar products and services in the marketplace, what you bring to the relationship is crucial.
- A -- Always align. You have to stay relevant to what your client or customer is doing right now or they won’t want to make time for you.
- P -- Raise priorities. You have to create a sense of urgency for your product or service or your persona will keep putting it off.
29. Smartcuts by Shane Snow
Who doesn’t want to see results fast? Pretty much everyone does. However, there are often times a “path to success” which can be long. Making it difficult to see those results.
In Smartcuts, Snow outlined the idea of getting your hard work to pay off quicker, by jumping laterally to shorter ladders rather than climbing the ladder rung by rung.
These are the main principles discussed by Snow:
- Hacking the ladder
- Training with masters
- Rapid feedback
- Catching waves
30. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
In his book, Malcolm Gladwell shares valuable lessons entrepreneurs can use to help them succeed and stand out from the masses.
Gladwell covers the determining factors of becoming an “outlier” as an opportunity, timing, upbringing, effort, meaningful work, and legacy.
31. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
Based on his 2012 Tedx Talk, Kleon shows us how we can create something entirely our own while “stealing” ideas from everything around us and reinventing them.
In this book, Kleon walks us through his 10 secrets for stealing like an artist and how you can implement them into your life as a marketer, designer, writer, or creative overall.
32. Positioning by Al Ries & Jack Trout
Why should consumers choose your product over others?
It’s all about effective positioning.
If you’re having trouble positioning your product or service, it could be due to the lack of effective communication. In their book, Ries and Trout walk you through the importance of effective communication when it comes to positioning your brand and how you can use it to frame yourself in your persona’s head.
33. This is Marketing by Seth Godin
“Great marketers don't use consumers to solve their company's problem; they use marketing to solve other people's problems. Their tactics rely on empathy, connection, and emotional labor instead of attention-stealing ads and spammy email funnels.”
In this book, Godin offers ways for marketers to connect with their audiences in a more meaningful way. Learn how to build more trust, better position your company, new branding techniques, and more in his book.
34. New Sales. Simplified. by Mike Weinberg
Weinberg takes classic sales methods, such as cold calling, and adds a modern spin that makes them more effective and less abrasive. His methodology for identifying targets aligns perfectly with the inbound marketing approach to creating your buyer persona.
Learn how you can simplify your sales process just by being more selective, in this book.
35. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen
Sometimes even the biggest companies fall -- especially if they’re not disrupting their industry and embracing new technology.
Christensen believes there are ways for big companies to stay agile and compete with the up-and-comers in disruptive innovations. In fact, he argues management is the primary contributor to why many companies fail and it has nothing to do with their engineering or tech teams.
36. Unmarketing by Scott Stratten
Everyone has bad habits, even marketers.
And a bad habit many marketers have pertains to social media and focusing on growing followers and likes rather than engagement.
In order for you to unlearn all of your marketing bad habits, Stratten outlined these three lessons:
- Relationships rule marketing
- You only have to be an expert, not the expert
- Focus on your buyer persona
37. Content Rules by Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman
To succeed in content marketing, you need to create quality content guided by a comprehensive strategy that can serve multiple channels.
In this book, the duo develops a content marketing framework that works for businesses of all sizes in all industries -- and you can rest assured these Content Rules will, well, make your content rule.
38. The Persuasion Slide by Roger Dooley
What makes your prospects decide to purchase?
Whether the decision is conscious or unconscious, in his book, Dooley outlines a simple five step process of how you can build a persuasion slide with your inbound marketing.
39. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero
You Are a Badass focuses heavily on identifying and overcoming self-sabotaging beliefs and limiting behaviors that keep us feeling trapped and prevent us from chasing our dreams.
In this book, Sincero helps you embrace your challenges, instead of fearing them, so you can use them to your advantage as opportunities for learning and improvement.
40. The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkin
As the Head of Community at Airbnb, Douglas shows you how to extract the same principles of major brands, religions, and actual cults to get people excited about your brand and turn them into lifelong customers.
Reflecting on these, Atkin outlines a simple 10-step formula for elevating a brand to cult status:
- An Enemy
- Let go
41. Shareology by Bryan Kramer
Are you looking to improve the sharing of your brand?
In his book, Bryan Kramer analyzes how and why people share experiences and information, as well as what makes people share things. The goal of Shareology is to figure out how to make your brand more human and shareable.
42. Before Happiness by Shawn Achor
Many people struggle with finding happiness, no matter their age or background.
In his book, Before Happiness, Achor talks about the five hidden keys to achieving success, spreading happiness, and sustaining positive change:
- Focus on the most valuable reality.
- Map your success.
- Find the X-spot.
- Learn noise-canceling.
- Positive inception.
43. Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelley
Whether you’re a designer, artist, musician, writer, or even a marketer, you have the potential and need to be creative.
In this book, Tom and David Kelley make the strong case for this belief and provide mindset shifts and exercises anyone can use to unlock their hidden ability.
44. Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
What are you passionate about? Did you know you could use your passion to crush personal branding?
The biggest point Vaynerchuk wants you to take away from this book is the importance of building your personal brand and leveraging it in your business endeavors. -- No one knows personal branding better than Gary Vee!
45. Tribes by Seth Godin
In order for a business to grow, you need to build a tribe of like-minded individuals, consisting of your team, as well as a fan base.
And, in marketing, building a loyal tribe can be an asset for successfully building your business.
According to Godin, a tribe is a group of people who are connected to:
- Each other
- A leader
- An idea
46. Brainfluence by Roger Dooley
An important step in developing your inbound strategy is knowing who your buyers are.
Brainfluence utilizes psychology, neuroscience, and neuromarketing to better understand how consumers make decisions. And, through those practices, Dooley outlined how they could be applied to your marketing.
47. Think Do Say by Ron Tite
People today are inundated with nonstop content, broken promises, endless product extensions―and pressure from articles titled, “The 7 Things That Successful People Do Every Day.”
They don’t know where to look or who to trust. So, how do you win their time, and their confidence?
From renowned advertising creative director, Ron Tite, comes a powerful approach to cutting through the noise―three words: Think. Do. Say. Ditch the jargon, and start making good things happen for you and your organization
48. Conversational Marketing by Dave Gerhardt and David Cancel
Conversational Marketing is the definitive guide to generating better leads and closing more sales. Traditional sales and marketing methods have failed to keep pace with the way modern, internet-savvy consumers purchase goods and services.
Modern messaging apps, which allow for real-time conversations and instant feedback, have transformed the way we interact in our personal and professional lives, yet most businesses still rely on 20th century technology to communicate with 21st century customers.
Online forms, email inquiries, and follow-up sales calls don’t provide the immediacy that modern consumers expect. Conversational marketing and sales are part of a new methodology centered around real-time, one-on-one conversations with customers via chatbots and messaging.
💥Related: Hubcast 169: #INBOUND18, Conversational Marketing, & YouTube Resources
49. Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
The most innovative companies around the world have achieved remarkable marketing results by fundamentally changing their approach. By creating value for customers through, the use of owned media and the savvy use of content, these businesses have dramatically increased customer loyalty and revenue. Some of them have even taken it to the next step and developed a marketing function that actually pays for itself.
Killing Marketing explores how these companies are ending the marketing as we know it―in favor of this new, exciting model.
50. Content Warfare by Ryan Hanley
Is your company winning the content battle in your industry?
With numerous outlets and forms of content available, ensure you’re not spamming your audience, but rather telling a story and engaging with them.
In this book, Hanley shows marketers why the scammy and spammy tactics that worked in the past are no longer effective and how today's buyers value the authenticity, transparency, and honesty that comes with content marketing.
51. Traction by Gino Wickman
Having a grip on your business is important, especially when it’s regarding your vision, people, data, and processes.
In this book, Wickman shares his practical system for overcoming the most common hurdles entrepreneurs face.
Problems he tackles, include:
- Lack of control
- People problems
- Hitting the ceiling
- Nothing works
52. Youtility by Jay Baer
Youtility is all about being helpful and building long-term trust with prospects and customers.
Don’t forget that marketing today should be about positioning your company in a way your audience wants to purchase from you, without having to listen to a heavy sales pitch.
53. The New Rules of Marketing and PR (7th Edition) by David Meerman Scott
Marketing is constantly evolving, which means marketers must continuously push to keep up with the pace. This book provides tips for marketers to sort through the digital clutter and leverage technology to create success for their company.
Since being originally published in 2007, this book has been updated several times over the years to help marketers stay ahead of the curve. The latest addition includes how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can be applied to marketing strategies in the modern age.
Use this to keep up with the latest techniques and trends with David Meerman Scott on topics such as live video, social media, podcasts, and so much more.
The Power of Reading
No matter what type of marketer you are, reading should be a critical component of your professional development plan. By incorporating some of our favorites from the above list or turning to articles, you provide yourself and your company with new ways of thinking to develop fresh ideas and skillsets to fuel success in 2021 and years to come.
So, what are you waiting for?! It’s time to get lost in a great book.
Wondering where to begin?