Best 15 Marketing Books to Read in 2020

The 15 Best Marketing Books to Read in 2021

Best 15 Marketing Books to Read in 2020

As marketers, we tend to be busy people. Between social media, emails, Slack conversations, internal as well as client meetings, phone calls, webinars, conferences, and on top of that creating the latest, greatest ad campaign ever takes up a lot of time. But what about continued learning in our field? If we don’t keep track of the latest trends, we’re liable to lose whatever competitive edge we might’ve had in the past. Eventually clients or other operations staff at the firm will ask us questions we don’t know the answer to, and struggle to find the answer to. So, with our time being so precious, what can we read that will keep our knowledge up-to-date? Here are some excellent, if not the best marketing books that you should read this year, at least if you haven’t already.

For those who think that blogs and podcasts are enough, yes, reading and listening to those are critical to our keeping up to date as well. But authors invest the time into their books to create structure, explanation, and depth that you simply can’t get in a single podcast or blog post. That’s why I’m an avid reader of books, and I hope you are and become one too!

While I have a sister best social media books blog post, I wanted to write a post about the best marketing books regardless of social network. As social media changes, these books and their perspectives provide us a guiding light. I plan to keep updating this list as well as new recommendable books get published, so make sure you bookmark this page and come back for more recommendations!

Andy Crestodina – Content Chemistry, 5th Edition (2018)

Originally published in 2012, Andy Crestodina’s classic Content Chemistry is now in its 5th edition. According to him, it is the result of over a decade of research into marketing techniques and consumer psychology. Since the original publication, Andy has carefully revised the text to include the latest research, emerging techniques, and new standards. In other words, it’s intended to be a primer for those who are new to the field of marketing, as well as those hoping to learn what’s new. Even better, the workbook format makes it a great textbook for trainings, and helps you put insights into practice.

Several Amazon reviewers say it’s among the best books they’ve read. Beyond traditional marketing practitioners, content creators say that it’s a great book for those hoping to make their content more relevant to today’s market. In other words, influencers who collaborate with various companies can get a lot out of this book too.

On that topic, I actually had a great interview with Andy all about influencer marketing on an SEMrush video series that you can check out below:

Brian Solis – Lifescale (2019)

Brian Solis is better known for his thought leadership in marketing, but for those that know him or have read of his books, you are the target audience for his newest book which is equally a must read.

Do you struggle with the distraction of shiny objects and constant social media? Brian went through that, and it’s the reason he wrote Lifescale.  Instead of being mainly a marketing theory book, Brian gives us a life management text. In fact, his goal in the book is to teach us how to reclaim our time from the “endless scroll.” His theory is simple: if we can learn to manage our time, then we’ll have more leisure opportunities, spend more time with our families, and overall be happier. In other words, spending time on the computer or social media isn’t everything. We need to be able to turn it off. This is especially true of us marketers, because we spend our careers bombarding people with marketing messages. We busy people sometimes need other people to help us think about how we spend our time, and reader after reader finds Brians’ insights valuable for reclaiming their lives from work.

I have been a fan of Brian ever since I first saw him speak locally here in Orange County about a decade ago. He’s also one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Here is a snapshot with him when I caught him leaving a conference as I was arriving!

Christopher Penn – AI for Marketers, 2nd Edition (2019)

Christopher Penn was the keynote speaker for one of the Social Tools Summit conferences I ran a few years ago. I had known about Christopher and was a subscriber to his email newsletter for some time, but I was literally blown away by his intelligence, experience, and ability to transform the audience with his speaking. Now he finally has a book to share with us!

Want to know how AI is transforming the world of marketing? As an expert and trainer in AI-related marketing topics, Christopher has a lot to say. His book goes through and talks about all the latest trends in machine learning, and how marketers can use this emerging technology for their benefit. For example, did you know that YouTube suggestions, which are based on your prior views and searches, are AI-based? However, the modern use of AI in marketing has gone much further than that nowadays. In addition to describing the newest trends, Christopher also gives us actionable advice on cutting through the mumbo-jumbo to find out who’s qualified in AI, and who isn’t. Sure saves time in hiring, doesn’t it?

While his speech at the Social Tools Summit wasn’t about AI because it was too early for it, I think you’ll enjoy what he has to share for all marketers:

By the way, Christopher’s a really funny guy, too. Here’s our “DEVO selfie” taken after his keynote ;-)

 
 
 
 
 
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I feel like I’m in a DEVO photo shoot when I take a #selfie with @cspenn #socialtools16

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Dan Gingiss – Winning at Social Customer Care (2017)

Need help learning how to engage with customers on social media? Dan will teach you how to turn your potential PR nightmares into customer care wins-and profit as a result. Especially if you need to build a social media-based customer-care team, this book will walk you through all the steps. That includes how to train your staff, choose technology providers that can deliver for your business, and develop an appropriate philosophy for this type of customer service.

Best of all, Dan breaks his recommendations down into 8 easy steps, and walks you through each of them. These steps are intended to be scalable for business of all sizes, and designed to help existing programs, as well.

If you think this book is just about customer care and not social media, think again. Check out Dan’s presentation from Social Media Marketing World on “How to Get People Talking Positively About Your Brand on Social Media.”

Dave Kerpen – Likeable Social Media, 3rd Edition (2019)

Need to read up on the newer social media networks? With 3 Billion people now on social media, Dave contends that every business should have a comprehensive social media marketing strategy. Now in its third edition, Likeable Social Media is considered a classic marketing tome. Originally, it was written before newer social media platforms like Snapchat were invented, but with the 3rd edition these are discussed in addition to the traditional networks.

In this book, Dave talks about what makes customers “like” and otherwise engage with your content. It isn’t as simple as putting out announcements about sales and product rollouts, because you have to get a customer to care. Most reviewers point out that the real-world examples and case studies are especially helpful. After all, what good are principles if you can’t put them into practice?

By the way, Dave as a person is just as Likeable as the concepts he preaches! Here’s a pic of us together when he keynoted my first Social Tools Summit many moons ago…

 
 
 
 
 
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#selfie time with our lunch keynote Mr. #likeable @DaveKerpen ! #SocialTools15

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David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott – Fanocracy (2020)

How does turning everyday customers into fans, and fans into your brand’s best marketing assets? The unique father and daughter combination of marketing author David Meerman Scott and neuroscientist daughter Reiko Scott will tell you how to do that in his brand-new book Fanocracy. The basic premise is that there’s one way in which business never changes, even in this connected world: It’s all about relationships. Treat customers well, give them great value for their money, and let them know it’s all about them. Don’t be superficial in business, but be genuine. The father-daughter combination will teach you how to do this in a digitized world, and then watch your business grow.

What is really fascinating about this book are the unique perspectives that Reiko provides as a neuroscientist. What is taught in the book is actually backed by neuroscience facts that Reiko informs the reader about in this book. The author of the book that has sold more than 400,000 copies, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, I can’t think of a more authoritative marketing author on this list, and in David’s words, “It was essential to be inclusive of a wide variety of ideas of fandom so my co-author @allison_reiko, a millennial woman neuroscientist, is the reason our book rocks.”

If you want to learn more about Fanocracy, listen to this podcast episode where I had a chance to interview David about his new c0-authored book where we also talk about Reiko’s involvement in the writing:

Jay Baer – Talk Triggers (2018)

Did you know that almost 20% of sales result from customer word-of-mouth? Or that 90% of sales have been influenced by the “chatter” about your business? Especially if you do business in a local setting, having customers refer their friends is critical to business growth. To help you prosper through referrals, Jay Baer gives actionable tips to encourage customers to talk. In essence, the trick is to do something extraordinary for your customers, or to have some kind of customer-centered signature. Specific examples are given, as well as ways to design your own customer calling card. Best of all, these insights are built on research in addition to anecdotal evidence.

I didn’t have a chance to interview Jay about this book, but check out the interview I did with him about one of this other classic books, Youtility:

Joe Pulizzi – Killing Marketing (2017)

Everyone agrees that marketing costs money. However, Joe Pulizzi is out to show us marketers that the costs of marketing can actually be profitable for us. Certainly we’re still spending money to make money, but as any content marketer knows the right content can prompt potential customers to purchase from us. Yet Joe goes further than most content marketers: he advocates for the owned-media approach. In this case, you’re actually making money on the content you distribute, which in turn makes more money when customers buy other products and services. This allows you to recover your investment, and not just get a return on it. How’s that for an approach?

Joe is obviously most famous for being the godfather of content marketing, so if you’re still on the fence about buying this book, check out his presentation from Content Marketing World, an event he founded as well!

John Jantsch – The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur (2019)

Especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur, it can be hard to slow down and reflect. As a business coach, John Jantsch is familiar with the problem: overworked entrepreneurs who lose their focus and quality of life through all the busyness. To help others, he wrote a different type of business book, The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur, which is a collection of inspirational reflections and quotes. There’s one for every day of the year, including on leap year. In addition to his own thoughts, John borrows heavily from the Transcendentalists of 200 years ago, people he sees as displaying the modern entrepreneurial spirit before its time. Best of all, the topics are generally not business-related, even though they’re geared towards entrepreneurs and other busy professionals. Overall, the goal is to help you sit down and reflect on your own emotional needs so you can trust yourself again, one day at a time. Most marketers I meet are entrepreneurs or have an entrepreneurial spirit in their work. and thus I included this book on the list.

Check out John’s inspirational TedX speech to get a deeper feel for his views on entrepreneurship:

John Lee Dumas – The 100-Day Goal Journal (2018)

Heard of the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast? That’s John Lee Dumas. I was honored to be interviewed on his show shortly after I published Maximize Your Social. Check it out here: Episode 615!

Why is a journal included on this list? Marketers often buy or download planners for blogging or Pinterest or social media, so we are used to using these tools to make us more efficient. This journal is written by a marketer and entrepreneur and can be used for tasks beyond mere marketing.

So, for those of us who sometimes need a little “push” to achieve our goals, John offers The 100-Day Goal Journal. Not simply a business book, the approach John uses can be adapted to students, beginning budgeters, and even dieters. In short, think of this as a self-help book geared mainly towards people who want to be successful in their everyday lives, and not just at work. Besides the clear discussions of basic principles, John includes worksheets and “10-day checkups” to keep yourself accountable. Overall, a great resource if you need to retain focus on what’s important to you, and then have a record of the great progress you’ve made.

John is one of the most passionate entrepreneurs I know – if you haven’t heard his podcast yet or don’t know his story, check it out here:

Marcus Sheridan – They Ask, You Answer, 2nd Edition (2019)

Rather than being just a marketing professional, Marcus Sheridan is a business owner who was able to grow his pool installation business in spite of the 2008 housing crash. Leveraging that experience, Marcus explains that the traditional sales funnel is incomplete. In order to be successful, he explains, you need to answer the questions your potential customers are asking. Generally speaking, one of the best solutions to this problem is content marketing, especially where it involves consumer education in the relevant field. To leverage this trend, it is essential to have an effective content strategy, including SEO-friendly blog posts and articles. After that, you need to effectively manage your inbound marketing and sales: customer loyalty and referrals that lead to further sales, customer service, and consultations.

Here is a preview of Marcus speaking about some of the topics from his book live in front of an audience, which should give you a good feel for the content in his book:

Mark Schaefer – Marketing Rebellion (2019)

Let’s face it, marketing isn’t what it used to be. A few years ago, it was possible to throw up advertisements in the traditional media and get loyal customers for life. Not anymore. Now, people want to see a “human face” behind companies. They demand social responsibility, personalized customer service, and a good deal on top of it. Mark Schaefer examines this trend in his book, and tells us how to deal with the problem of declining customer loyalty: in short, you need to take care of your customers. He’ll also tell you how to leverage recent trends in marketing to increase customer engagement. Bottom line: the days of ignoring customers or throwing small consolation their way when things go wrong are over. People want deeper customer satisfaction.

By the way, I often get asked, but Mark is my “social media” cousin, not my real one ;-) Even though we are not relatives, our paths sure do seem to cross. Here’s one pic of us together:

Martin Lindstrom – The Ministry of Common Sense (2020)

Lindstrom has taught us a lot about the branding and marketing side of business through his previous works Small Data, Brandwashed, and Buyology. In his upcoming book The Ministry of Common Sense, he teaches us how to fight red tape, endless excuses, and the nonsensical corporate turf-guarding that drives us all insane. While this isn’t the typical marketing book, it definitely is designed to make everyone in the corporate world think about what we’re doing. Maybe, it’s time to use some common sense in our operations so everyone can be more productive. Sometimes, we need to learn to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.

Martin is a truly unique, shining, and brilliant force in the marketing world. I have had the honor to meet him in person, and if you haven’t seen him speak, check out this video from a recent talk he did in his native Denmark:

Shama Hyder – Momentum (2018)

Tired of working hard at marketing, yet spinning your wheels? Maybe it’s because you aren’t taking the right approach. Drawing on her years of experience as a marketer, Shama Hyder gives us an effective recipe for building business momentum through effective marketing. In a nutshell, Shama advocates five parts to a comprehensive marketing plan. These include the use of analytics, customer focus, integration, content, and cross-pollination. She will teach you how to implement each of these steps effectively, and in turn achieve a better ROI from your marketing spend. Best of all, her approach is scalable to businesses of any size.

Shama is also the author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and has been offering invaluable and tactical marketing advice for almost a decade. To get a feel for her content, check out this educational video of hers:

Neal Schaffer – The Age of Influence (2020)

Influencer marketing is something that any business of any size and industry can leverage, but marketers have misunderstood the potential impact it can have for a lot of reasons. I wanted to set the record straight so that no company misses out on the opportunities that influencer marketing has, so I decided to write a book explaining the why, how, and what’s next. In essence, it is the influencer marketing playbook that simply didn’t exist before. Yes, this is my book, but I wouldn’t write and publish it if I didn’t think it was recommendable!

Listen to my podcast episode below or read this blog post to get a broad preview to the book:

What’s your favorite from this list of best marketing books? Any that are missing from this list? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Looking to stay ahead of your competition? These are the 15 best marketing books you should be reading in 2021 to learn and implement from.
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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4 Comments

  1. Great post. I have read Dave Kerpen – Likeable Social Media, and its probably in my own top 10 marketing books. Will b checking out the others! Cheers.

  2. Thanks so much Neal. My co-author (and daughter) Reiko Scott was very important to our book.

    • Thank YOU David – and I have made the revisions to make everything clearer! Appreciate your comment and support!

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