If there’s one constant in marketing, it’s change. Still, there are some marketing fundamentals that stand the test of time.
A well-rounded marketer understands the fundamentals of the field and keeps an ear to the ground to listen for emerging trends and opportunities to break new ground and get a first-mover advantage. And we never forget that marketing is about storytelling as much as it’s about strategy.
With all that in mind, here are 10 essential marketing books, offering a mix of valuable insight, proven strategy, and ideas that might just change even a seasoned marketer’s mindset.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert Cialdini
About: Outlines the principles of persuasion and how they can be used ethically to influence people’s decisions.
- People are more likely to comply with a request if they have already agreed to a smaller, related request (the “foot-in-the-door” technique)
- Discusses the principles of scarcity, where people place a higher value on things that are less available
- Social proof, which is the idea that people often need to see someone else doing something before they’d consider doing it themselves.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By Malcolm Gladwell
About: Examines the factors that contribute to the spread of ideas and trends, including the concept of “tipping points.”
- Social epidemics are driven by a few key individuals who spread ideas or products through their networks
- The Law of the Few states that social epidemics are driven by connectors, mavens, and salespeople
- Ideas or products must reach a critical mass of people before they become a social epidemic
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
By Chip Heath and Dan Heath
About: Provides a framework for creating ideas and messages that are memorable and impactful.
- Ideas that are simple, unexpected, and concrete are more likely to stick in people’s minds
- Emotion is a powerful tool for making ideas memorable
- Stories are an effective way to convey ideas and make them more memorable
Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers
By Geoffrey A. Moore
About: Details the process and pitfalls of marketing innovative products to mainstream customers, with “innovators” and “early adopters” as the narrow end of the wedge.
- The technology adoption lifecycle is made up of five different groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards
- The early majority is the largest group and is more risk-averse than the early adopters, so they need more proof that a technology works before adopting it
- To cross the chasm between early adopters and early majority, companies must focus on a specific, compelling use case that will appeal to mainstream customers
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
By Eric Ries
About: Advocates for a lean and agile approach to product development and business growth.
- Posits that startups should focus on creating a minimum viable product (MVP) that they can use to test their business assumptions
- The build-measure-learn feedback loop is an essential component of the lean startup approach
- Startups should pivot or persevere based on the feedback they receive from customers and the data they collect
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
By Al Ries and Jack Trout
About: Emphasizes the importance of positioning a product in the consumer’s mind to differentiate it from competitors.
- The most effective way to differentiate a product is to focus on a specific, narrow attribute or benefit that is important to customers
- The best positioning strategies are simple and easy to communicate
- The first brand to own a particular position in the customer’s mind is usually the most successful
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
By Seth Godin
About: Urges businesses to stand out by offering unique and remarkable products and services.
- In today’s crowded marketplace, businesses must create remarkable products that stand out from the competition
- Marketing is about creating a story that resonates with customers, not just promoting a product
- Safe, average products and marketing are no longer effective in today’s marketplace
Contagious: Why Things Catch On
By Jonah Berger
About: Explores why certain ideas and products become viral through word-of-mouth and social sharing.
- Products or ideas that are easy to remember and talk about are more likely to be shared
- People are more likely to share things that make them look good to others (i.e., increase social currency)
- Stories that are interesting, emotional, or surprising are more likely to be shared
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
By Nir Eyal
About: A guide for designing products that create habits with a four-step model: trigger, action, variable reward, and investment.
- Habit-forming products create internal triggers that prompt users to take action without conscious thought
- The Hook Model is a framework for building habit-forming products that consists of four stages: trigger, action, reward, and investment
- Building a habit-forming product requires a deep understanding of the user’s needs and desires
- The ethical implications of creating habit-forming products should be carefully considered
The Art of SEO
By Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie C. Stricchiola
About: Provides a comprehensive guide to search engine optimization (SEO) techniques and best practices.
- SEO involves optimizing not just content but also site, structure, responsiveness, links, and other factors to improve its visibility in search engine results pages
- Keyword research is a crucial first step in any SEO strategy
- On-page optimization, including title tags, meta descriptions, and internal links, is essential for improving a website’s search engine visibility
- Building high-quality backlinks to a website is a key factor in improving its search engine ranking, but it requires a strategic and ethical approach.