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25 Books Digital Marketers Need to Read
Have you ever read a book that changed the way you thought about your work?
These 25 must-reads for digital marketers, will get you excited and give you clear direction for how you can get better at implementing strategies for both you, your agency and your clients. These books encompass disciplines from Social Media Marketing, strategic website growth and effective design principles, focusing on how to get and retain customers and the best, most specific strategies for productivity and cultivating effective client relationships.
Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith
Since we’ve moved to a less manufacturing centered economy, it’s made it hard for some of us to explain our jobs in a quick way to people. In Selling The Invisible, Harry Beckwith dives into how people make decisions around buying a service, where the end product is effectively invisible. For instance, if you’re a marketing consultant; more people will judge you by the few things they can see; i.e. your appearance, your print materials, and your website. Harry suggests you need to make these things they can see count, and focus on the emotional benefit you’ll be providing with a service and trying to demonstrate that with the things they can see.
Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
While some of the information about social media is basic, this book is great for pumping you up if you need some motivation to hustle. Key takeaways include: own your brand on as many social channels as possible, as well as insight into how to leverage storytelling online, and how to turn attention into money.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
If you find that the psychology of crowds, social movements and how trends get started is interesting to you, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point has several big interesting insights into how these things happen and the anatomy of social trends. A couple key points is that there are always ‘early adopters’ that spread the fire to a broader range of influencers who spread ideas and trends to the general public; ‘stickiness factors‘ such as association and aesthetics help things gain traction; and that context is key if something is going to catch on – it has to come at the right time and place.
The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line by David Horsager
This book talks about the great cost of losing trust, and how much of a difference it makes when a company can maintain trust with clients and customers by making sure that expectations are matched to what the outcome will be. Honesty is a major advantage in business and marketing because people respect commitment and competency over fluff and over-promising.
Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends by Tim Sanders
A huge takeaway in this book is that connectors win. Sanders refers to people that connect people to other people and big ideas, even when it’s of no obvious value to them, as ‘lovecats.’ By doing this, and sharing any and all value that you find you demonstrate your own value, and you’ll receive exceptional feedback and an association with the positive effects they received from the connection or information you shared. An example of this is sharing the big ideas of your favorite books.
Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson
Don’t let your imaginative ideas about how to get the word out about a product or service be limited simply by what everyone else is doing for marketing tactics. Give yourself permission to try out of the box strategies. Examples include; ‘green graffiti’ where brands have pressure washed their message into dirty sidewalks, and Unicef’s (who helps people in third world countries get clean water) idea to sell bottles of ‘dirty water’ from a vending machine. Whether you’re just looking for some examples to get your mind moving, or specific tactics, Guerilla Marketing may help you knock the dust off of your creative thinking hat.
Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port
If you’re an entrepreneur who offers a service, it’s important to keep your pipeline of new clients stocked. Book Yourself Solid challenges you to get out your fears on paper, really identify your ideal types of clients and hone in on what value you really bring to them so that you can be laser-focused in finding the right types of work for you. The more you’re equipped to identify ideal clients, the more it will really click when you find them.
Convert!: Designing Websites For Traffic and Conversions by Ben Hunt
This book is stocked full of tips to create high-converting websites that bring people in from Google and sell people on products and services. A couple keys to increasing traffic and conversions off of your website? Make sure your site is built to have an ever-increasing net of content, and make sure you have a clear next action on every page.
You’re My Favorite Client by Mike Monteiro
Monteiro goes into detail about what a client’s expectations should be around a digital marketing project – specifically web design and development – and how to get the most out of your web design team when you work with one. An in-depth review identifies a key point in this book being that “your personal tastes are not a success metric,” and you should be careful about pushing projects way over budget by becoming very detail-oriented on things that won’t change how effective the website is in the end.
The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
What do you do when all of your hard work and hustle has built you into a position where you don’t have any time for life? Even though the title is click-bait, The 4 Hour Workweek is incredibly insightful with its intelligent tips for automating, outsourcing, and living cheaply.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
This book well deserves a place on every digital marketer’s bookshelf as it dives deep into how to better prepare your business to run on it’s own, without your constant intervention. You write down a contract for every position in the company (even if you play them all right now,) and sign your name by each until you can hand them off one by one. The ‘Entrepreneur Myth’ just means that in this country we glorify the sole business owner who can heroically go it alone, but the truth is unless you successfully prepare a team and a process to ensure quality, you’ll forever be doomed to artificially keeping your companies growth ceiling low and taking back control from the people hired to do the work. In this way, your company won’t be able to serve all the customers and clients that would benefit from your process that could if only the company processes were clearly and intelligibly laid out so each employee could implement it at a high level.
Gerber proposes you think of your company as a franchise model. What would you need to do to lay out all of the company’s processes, to allow a reproducible, turn-key result, if another location of the business was started? You may not actually want to franchise, but thinking of it this way can help you clarify what processes you need get clear and simple so that employees and they can do their job effectively without constant oversight or problems with quality.
Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
In the context of social media and digital marketing, a ‘jab’ according to Gary is a gift of value to your audience, so creating content on your website or sharing relevant info or entertaining, funny, or heart-warming content is a jab. A ‘right hook’ is ‘the big ask,’ and you have to ask for business, or for the sale directly on social media and your website to fully capitalize on the other hard work you do on there to provide value.
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim
Competition is not competition if you add something so different from your competitors that it puts you in a new segment altogether. One example Kim provides in this brilliant book is of movie theaters in Europe that have started offering childcare while parents watch a movie. This entertainment + childcare setup is totally different than the competitors and thus puts the theater chain implementing it in a different realm than other theaters. What can you add to your current offering that will totally change the way you’re perceived in contrast with the competition?
Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
The old world of marketing was dominated by interruption, like ads thrown at you in the middle of your T.V. show. That whole approach is being totally disrupted by the ideal of giving away value and wrapping your product up in the middle of it. Things like content marketing through valuable articles related to your niche, YouTube shows, and podcasts allow your product to be featured at the heart of valuable content. When you don’t interrupt, but are invited into people’s lives through this kind of content the advertising is seen in a different way and can reach the eyes and ears of customers or clients in a much more positive light and more easily be seen as a solution rather than an interruption.
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
This book has many similarities to Seth Godin’s books and also is like a deep dive into Malcolm Gladwell’s “stickiness factors.” Two key principles that stick out are that people will share your content if it makes them look good and that if you build your product or service around a ‘trigger,’ you’ll receive a bump in traffic and/or sales every time they encounter that trigger. A terribly effective reminder is Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” which gets a bump in traffic on a certain day of the week, every week years after its initial release.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
The larger than life Apple CEO demonstrated more than just ornery brilliance, and extremely quotable career moments. What’s great about this book from a practical perspective is it shares key moments in which Jobs persisted, specific situations where he blew it and his tenacity to get back up again and do something amazing again. You’ve likely heard the story, but Isaacson’s in-depth look shares a ton of insights other shorter biographies and documentaries don’t.
Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
There’s something about reading books that has stood the test of time. In this marketing classic, Hopkins exposes the world to the idea that there are two veins of thought in marketing. The one he espouses and assures us is attainable, is quantifiable return on investment. Since the days of coupons, marketers have been using numbers to figure out whether their campaigns were effective. He shares with us ways to help your audience see the benefits more quickly such as using numbers and research, and making more specific claims over general ones in headlines, amongst other nuggets of advertising insight that stand the test of time.
Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
Don’t get caught up in making everything perfect before showing it to the world. Your audience likely includes other people in your line of work and even those that aren’t can appreciate the process of your work. Share it with the world, and cultivate a tribe online to leverage what Brian Eno referred to as a “Scenius”; a group of intelligent people who are all more like geniuses because of their involvement in the group.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Nothing is exactly right the first time and one assumption digital marketers often make is that they need to get the perfect product, service or process before offering it to the world. This mentality is shifting partly because of Reis’ book and the popularization of the concept of the ‘lean’ startup, derived from ‘lean manufacturing.’ A ‘lean’ startup means you create a minimum viable product for an idea first, and then test with real people once you truly have a small-scale version of the proposed ideal product, service, website etc. This allows you to pivot based on feedback from people and scale up the features that people seem to really appreciate, rather than scale up features that no-one cared about.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Many books focus on self-help aspects of productivity, but no book I’ve read has given as many clear strategies and tools as this productivity classic. Any digital marketer should read this at least once and try out the system David suggests. The premise is that our minds are much less cluttered and way more effective if we have a real system for getting things out of our mind and into a system, and paper is still ideal for many things as it’s quick and we don’t get bogged down in the features of a digital tool rather than the items to be sorted.
A huge takeaway message is the suggestions to get all of your projects down on a list, write down what a successful completion looks like, and what the exact next step is for each project – even if that next step is “send 5-minute e-mail.” Simplifying down into a very specific next step for each of your main projects is incredibly gratifying and freeing.
Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal by Oren Klaff
The author uses his real-life stories of pitches he’s done as the framework for how to pitch well. Framing the conversation is super important whether in sales or on your website. Frame the conversation in a way that makes you the prize, that shows your value. A deep-dive into this book applies its principles to web marketing, and reveals that explaining everything about your product or service when you have a client or customer’s attention is counter-intuitively less effective than keeping it simple but compelling. By keeping it simple and not using technical jargon, you avoid activating the scrutinizing part of the brain and allow the client or website visitor to relax into the narrative you’re presenting about your product or service and what it will do for them.
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
How do you become indispensable for an organization? By doing the things that no-one else wants to be done and that need to be done. So many people come to the table looking for a company to feed them, but if you come to an organization looking to add value at every turn, you’ll be the one they can’t lose; you’ll be the linchpin of the company.
Mastery by Robert Greene
What do we want in this day and age? Instant gratification. That might be why ‘time, patience, and steady plodding growth towards a goal,’ may seem like a magic ingredient to success. But in ‘Mastery’, Robert Greene gives stories about some of the most brilliant minds of the past 500 years and why their slow trek toward amazing discoveries and creative work was about simply applying the magic of patience and time and not because of some super-heroic effort.
Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!): How To Unleash Your Creative Potential by America’s Master Communicator by George Lois
Created by the guy that inspired Mad Men and its character Don Draper, coined the phrase “If you got it, flaunt it,” and named the brand Lean Cuisine. Although George professes his strong dislike of the way that he’s characterized in Mad Men, his character in real life has a larger than life aspect to it – albeit one with a more moral element as he has fought for social causes like ending racism since the 60’s. George lays it out for new and emerging marketers with short poignant anecdotes that inspire one to take the bull by the horns and do the best possible work for clients. He suggests that you trusts your gut, and not give up on great ideas you believe in; and story after story of successful ad campaigns inspire and suggest in a very acute way that the author knows what he’s talking about.
Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less by Joe Pulizzi
If you were to read one book out of all these I would suggest this one. The author goes deep into how important content marketing is now, and how you can use it to get more customers and clients. Joe suggests we’re all publishers now, explains how he leverages content for high-profile clients, and suggests that one of the best things a company can do right now is to acquire a media company. Overall the take-away here is to write! Write, provide as strategy for your employees and co-workers to write, and to create powerful things of high-value to share the story of your company and provide value around the products and service you offer with intention and a call-to-action to make sure your content does the work for you.
Nothing beats a good book, and when it comes to digital marketing a solid strategy-oriented book can energize, invigorate and possible even help make you your next $10, 000. The collection of expertise, richness of ideas, and effectiveness of the strategies outlined in the books above literally could help you significantly change the trajectory of your business or career.
Do you have the guts to read 5 of them that you haven’t yet read this year? Do you care enough about the people that follow you on social media to share these brief overviews and the insight this article contains? Do it now, and get excited about your growth this year.
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