Quick fixes do not make for successful marketing. Countless influencers think marketing is something you just pick up overnight and that it doesn’t require any study. These claims are usually made by people who have had some success in the field, but they often forget to mention those who failed due to their inadequate knowledge.
There are many reasons someone may not be able to study at university, whether it’s the cost, time limitations, or other personal reasons. This is where books come in handy – they have a lot to offer (providing you find the right books), and they are much cheaper than formal education.
There are some fantastic books out there that shaped my perception of marketing and helped inspire my own writing – below are a few recommendations.
1. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? – by Seth Godin
“Change is powerful but change always comes with the possibility of failure as its partner. “This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you must seek out.”
Seth Godin’s message in the Icarus Deception reminds us of the importance of taking risks and embracing change, despite the discomfort it can bring. As an analogy, he takes us back to Greek mythology and the story of Icarus. Icarus’s father, Daedalus, tells him not to fly too close to the sun, but Icarus was a rebellious child – he ignored his father’s advice and fell to his doom. Seth argues that flying too close to the sun is better than flying too low or playing it safe. He suggests removing that safety net and soaring high in the sky.
Take Away: As marketers, we need to be cautious for sure, but there is a lot of risk-taking in this field. Playing it safe might afford you some success, but it limits you. If you keep playing it safe, how are you ever going to change the game? Instead of always doing the same as everyone else, take steps that help you stand out.
2. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions – by Dr. Dan Ariely
“We usually think of ourselves as sitting in the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires – with how we want to view ourselves – than with reality.”
Dr. Dan Ariely is one of the world’s top behavioural psychologists. Predictably Irrational explains the psychology behind our decisions which, as you know, is a crucial aspect of marketing. It’s easy to assume that people are unpredictable and make decisions irrationally, but Ariely challenges these notions. He states that all decisions are driven by various psychological metrics, even when they might seem irrational – making us humans predictably irrational.
Take Away: As marketers, our sole aim is to gently push people’s decisions in the right direction i.e., towards our clients. So, understanding how people make decisions is fundamental. To give a specific example, Ariely tells us to understand the power of the word “FREE”. He says that hesitancy to buy can be combatted with the prospect of something that is “free”. It’s a tried and tested way to encourage sales.
3. Digital Marketing Strategy 3rd Edition – by Simon Kingsnorth
“No marketing channel has ever worked truly independently of the others, but now the effect is highly scientific.”
I want to share some exciting news with you – we’ve launched the 3rd edition of DMS worldwide! In this edition, I talk more about e-commerce and affiliate marketing. E-commerce has become extremely popular, so I dedicated a chapter to it, and I’ve added more on affiliate marketing since it has the potential to add great value to businesses. I’ve also updated everything that I talked about in the previous edition.
The book also talks about marketing as an ecosystem. As marketers, it’s critical that we understand digital marketing as an ecosystem made up of different elements interacting together and affecting the growth of a brand and/or product. I like to think that my book Digital Marketing Strategy does a good job of integrating the various aspects of the marketing ecosystem.
Take Away: You must consider your goals and how best to apply those across a fully integrated strategy for the best results. Use the structures and models in the book to deliver your campaigns with the best possible results.
4. Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World – by Rand Fishkin
“Growth hacks alone can’t solve all your marketing problems, but the right ones may add immense value to an already humming marketing flywheel.”
Rand Fishkin is co-founder of Moz, an essential SEO and data management tool. Lost and Founder is not your regular handbook that teaches all things marketing. It’s a guide to building your future as an entrepreneur, as it encapsulates his journey creating one of the world’s top SEO tools. For people looking to market in the tech industry, this book is essential as it provides solid advice on how to do exactly that.
Take Away: Fishkin offers a raw perspective into how a SaaS business is operated and expanded. He reminds us that being CEO of a startup is neither easy nor fun: “Unless what you love is managing people, handling crises, delegating, holding people responsible, recruiting, setting, then constantly amplifying and repeating the company’s mission, vision, strategy, and values, being a startup CEO may not provide you with the work you love to do.” Finally, it’s helpful to know the story behind the software we use. Knowing why tools like Moz and HubSpot were developed brings insight that might one day help us become inventors over users.
5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – by Nir Eyal
“So why haven’t more Google users switched to Bing? Habits keep users loyal. If a user is familiar with the Google interface, switching to Bing requires cognitive effort. Although many aspects of Bing are similar to Google, adapting to the differences in the Bing interface is what actually slows down regular Google users and makes Bing feel inferior, not the technology itself.”
There are so many products that we don’t really need, but they have become part of our lives through habit. For example, TikTok – we can survive without it, but I dare you to uninstall TikTok from a teenager’s phone.
The Hooked Model consists of four stages: trigger, action, variable rewards, and investment. Triggers are what make people buy your product and prompt them to continue using it. Action is about how the customer responds to triggers i.e., carrying out the behaviour you prompted them to do. Variable rewards provide positive reinforcement, making the customer want to continue using the product. They should be unpredictable in terms of timing and what they actually are – hence the term, “variable”. Finally, investment is when the customer takes some kind of action that makes them feel more invested in continuing to use the product (such as getting a membership). Nir Eyal teaches us how to take the customer through these four stages so that product-use becomes habitual.
Take Away: Learning how to create habit-forming products is something that every marketer should aspire to. The initial sale is just the first step and to ensure a good Customer Lifetime Value, customers need to interact with the business again and again. So, think about how the long-term funnel helps you retain customers. Learning the Hooked Model is a great place to start.
6. Sustainable Marketing: How to Drive Profits with Purpose – by Michelle Carvill, Gemma Butler, and Geraint Evans
“There is no one better place to effect change, align with and influence customers and drive hope for a better more sustainable future that an ‘educated and aware’ responsible marketer.”
This book makes me realise how much we can use marketing to make the world a more sustainable place. We sometimes feel helpless when it comes to being more environmentally conscious, but this book gives practical advice on how we can create positive change.
Take Away: We need to take steps to promote sustainability today, before it’s too late. Marketers have the power to change the world in so many aspects, so take pride in developing a sustainable strategy for all your endeavours.
7. Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers – by Matt Reynolds and Tim Hughes
“How does someone who has never met you and lives thousands of miles away come to entrust you, a stranger, with one of their most prized possessions? The answer might be obvious — social media.”
This book shows us how to develop a strategy for social influence when selling in the digital world. Tim Hughes and Matt Reynolds are both at the top of their fields and it is a privilege to be able to benefit from their insights. The book launched back in 2016 when social media was still relatively new and traditional marketers were trying to understand the developments in their industry. However, it is just as relevant today because it lays down the fundamental rules of selling digitally.
Take Away: You have to build a community online to be able to sell effectively. You need a community that will follow you in order to stay relevant despite all the changes in the world.
I hope all of these books help you in your career. My new book The Digital Marketing Handbook is also out now and you can get that on Amazon or in many other book stores worldwide.