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Growth Marketing

The 21 Best Marketing Books Every Marketer Must Read (Updated for 2019)

Written by Ryan Scott / April 4, 2017

is the Head of Marketing at Lean Labs. His experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.

Everyone has read a business book they just couldn't put down. The kind that forces you to read it countless times because each page offers powerful insight; the kind you still refer to in all of its dog-eared glory. These are the books that often define the times and inspire change, reflection, and some pretty amazing marketing.

Marketing books are an incredible source of knowledge and inspiration. They provide the opportunity to pick the brains of leaders in the industry, those who have mastered the art of marketing, and those who have reached incredible personal success. Their anecdotes and lessons can be applied to every industry and market. 

Are any of the books below on your reading list? If not, they should be.

Here are the 14 marketing books that deserve a spot on every marketer's bookshelf.

21 Books Every Marketer Should Read

1. The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Timothy Ferriss captured the zeitgeist with The 4 Hour Workweek. His message struck a nerve with entrepreneurs and overworked employees around the world. But his dedication to personal branding, blogging, and engagement is what makes this book worthwhile for any marketer. Pick up this book if you want to learn the secret to success without sacrificing your lifestyle. Take notes on his best practices for content marketing success.

2. Blue Ocean by W. Chan Kim

Ever feel like a fisherman trying to catch a nibble in an overfished ocean? In this book, W. Chan Kim teaches the skills and tools required to create your own ocean. Instead of joining in the fight for profits in a competitive market, build a business that operates in its own.

3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

If your business was a cow, what color would it be? In this book, it should be purple. Learn how to stick out of the herd and differentiate every step of the way. Beyond just a marketing book, this read shows startups how to develop a business plan that is remarkable in each and every way.

Bonus Read: We have our own take on the themes found in Purple Cow & Blue Ocean. Take a look at our recent blog post, "Brand Voice: How to Not Sound Like Everyone Else".

4. The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World by Frans Johansson

What makes one startup successful and the other not? Is it serendipity? Luck? Or just hard work and good management? This book claims the truth is somewhere in the middle, and in fact, converges in a "click." Essentially, it states many successful ventures have had luck on their side - but their ultimate success is due to their ability to harness an opportunity and act on it.

5. THE TIPPING POINT BY MALCOLM GLADWELL

Want to create a sensation? This best seller is a great read for non-marketers and anyone with an interest in discovering just what stars align to allow an idea to become the "next big thing." It's not luck or astronomy, as it turns out, but three key factors that converge to create a moment of critical mass.

6. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

This instant classic dives into the life of the man who inspired a generation and commanded a cult-like dedication to his products. Where would we be without Steve Jobs' contribution to marketing, technology, and culture? Read up on what drove this passionate man in times of success and failure, and learn how he became an icon.

7. #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk

When a book is based on a YouTube show nearing one million views, it's probably worth a read. But of course, that's what this book is all about. In this book, the author presents ingenious solutions to a variety of marketing questions and scenarios posed to him on his show. 

Bonus Read: These marketing gurus all have one thing in common. Repeated, proven best practices that they encourage each team member to follow. Read up on best practices in our blog post, "The 8 Best Practices of Stellar Content Marketing Teams".

8. The Content Code by Mark W. Schaefer

Want true, measurable engagement with your digital audience? Start reading this book and the author will deliver practical advice and strategies for taking your digital marketing to the next level. If you've been looking for ways to get noticed in the tidal wave of content, this is the book for you.

9. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

The original inbound marketing book, Permission Marketing announced the advent of a new way of looking at marketing and advertising. This book heralded the arrival of a new way of understanding prospects and discusses the reasons why the hard sell and mass market advertising no longer achieves the results they once did. Consider this read a foundation for the way marketing is successfully executed today.

10. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising by Ryan Holiday

Want to know what the future holds? In marketing, the top brands and startups achieving major buzz and accelerated growth are already doing it. Build a killer product, an even better platform, and then build buzz in a big way. Learn how to do it with this book.

Bonus Read: At Lean-Labs, we have made a commitment to content marketing in a big way. If you want to brush up on the latest in content marketing, our blog is a wealth of knowledge.

11. Digital Influencer, A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online by John Lincoln

"Definition of a Digital Influencer: An online persona with the power to stimulate the mindset and affect the decisions of others through real or perceived authority, knowledge, position, distribution or relationships."

Achieving this level of authority is the secret ingredient in content marketing, according to John Lincoln, the author of this clever book.

In this book, you'll learn how influencers stimulate brand loyalty and evangelism, a critical component in digital marketing success.

12. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

How do some innocuous Instagram posts generate over a million likes? And why does that one "cute baby" post, out of millions of "cute baby" posts, suddenly get shared over and over? This author explains it. Learn six reasons things become overnight sensations and then benefit from actionable techniques you can apply to your own product or brand.

Bonus Read: Trying to get up to speed on social media? Get a quick course here.

13. Shareology: How Sharing Is Powering the Human Economy by Bryan J. Kramer

Technology has driven change in our world, and marketers have fully embraced the shift to inbound and digital marketing. But this book argues that the importance of culture, sharing, and the human connection will never be replaced by an inhuman digital presence. What does this mean for marketers? Companies that can recognize our need to share will have an edge when it comes to building a personal brand.

14. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

Are you in need of a wake-up call? This book calls out to anyone that has ever felt stuck or stagnant and teaches them the tools to remove the roadblocks we all face from time to time. Learn to overcome internal resistance and embrace the best version of your creative self.

Bonus Read: Everyone needs a pep talk sometimes. Here's a great one by Lean Labs and backed by science, "5 Ways to Energize You Mind".

15. DOTCOM Secrets BY Russell Brunson

Russell Brunson is a marketing guru and a webinar sales pioneer. His book DotCOM Secrets spills the beans on the strategies that helped him build one of the largest software companies in the world (ClickFunnels) without a single investor. 

This book shares some of the best strategies for building traffic, converting leads, and selling products through the medium of digital marketing. Read this book closely and put his methods into practice, and you will get results.

16. Expert Secrets By Russell Brunson

This is Russell's second book and is also worth a very close read. In this book, Brunson moves away from the digital marketing tactics and gives just as much value on becoming a respected thought leader. These two books together feature enough material that they should be considered must-reads for every digital marketer and content producer.

17. This Is Marketing By Seth Godin

I have to admit, it's hard not listing all of Seth Godin's books on this list. I mean, I have a legit action figure of the guy.

This Is Marketing is Seth's latest book, and it's a re-examination of many of the common philosophical themes you see in most of his books. And, Seth's marketing philosophies have been proven time and again to be on-point.

If you're a marketer and you haven't become a Godin fan, you need to read this book. If you're already a Godin fan... well, you've already ordered this one.

18. Principles By Ray Dalio

Some of you will scratch your head that a financial guru's book landed on this list. But, the principle of the three levels of consequences is a huge insight for, not just marketers, but everyone with a breath in their body.

Being a great marketer is about a lot more than writing a few blog posts or posting a few Facebook Ads. It's about being a consistently effective impactor of people. You can't be a leading force without principles, and you can't fake them for marketing. This book is a huge addition to a self-development library.

19. The Ultimate Sales Letter By Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is one of the best, and highest-paid, copywriters in the world - and he has been for a long time. Sales letters are considered a bygone art for most people, but the craft is just as important today, if not more. 

The skills you will learn in this book will impact your website copy, your blogging, and especially the copy of your landing pages as well. It's even impactful if you're making videos for your landing pages, often referred to as a VSL -- a Video Sales Letter... it's basically a sales letter in video format. Learning from the father of sales letters is a boon to any reading marketer.

20. The No B.S. Guide to Trust-Based Marketing By Dan Kennedy

Again, as a digital marketer, you cannot read too much Dan Kennedy. This guide will walk you through a no-nonsense method of building trust, which is huge in the age of skeptical internet audiences.

21. Crush It By Gary Vaynerchuk

I'm not a huge Gary Vee fan. His schtick on the speaking circuit is mostly repetitive - your phone is the new television, you must be posting on social nonstop, and you hustle your face off until you're old and gray so that you have no regrets. Throw in a few unnecessary curse words to get chuckles from the aging adolescents in the crowd, and that's pretty much the deal.

It's because of not being a fan (actually the opposite) that caused me NOT to read this book for a very long time. Then, I did, and I wished I had read it earlier.

This book is filled with nothing but practical digital marketing tactics. A lot of them require the Gary Vee hustle to work, but there is nothing in this book that won't work. You may have to update the platforms to be today-relevant, but the principles are the same.

Gary Vee has the ability to see a social platform, notice the features for actually getting social, and understanding how they can apply to business. Then, he exploits it like his house is on fire. That is something I have to admire. And, I have to recommend this book to anyone who gets anywhere near social media.

Which of These Books Speaks To You?

If you want to emulate the success of today's top marketers, these books are an ideal starting point.

Despite all the research, there is no proven path to success in marketing. Every business faces their own unique challenge that requires change and adjustment.

What can you do as a marketer?

Learn from those who came before you and current experts in the field. These books provide examples of failure and success that every marketer can learn from. Load up your tablet reader and get started today.

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