DIY MBA: 15 Must Read Marketing Books

by Team Caffeine · 4 comments


You don’t have to go to college to be smart at business. Just ask those college dropouts Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

But you DO have to stay on top of your game, especially when it comes to marketing.

By reading the right books, you can teach yourself more about marketing than you’d ever learn in an MBA class.

Want to know where to get started? You can’t go far wrong with these 15 books.

1) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini


No list of top marketing books would be complete without “Influence”, a classic on the science of persuasion and getting people to say “yes”. Dr Cialdini breaks down marketing into 6 straight forward principles: give people gifts, use testimonials, ask your customer questions, show your audience that you know them, get experts’ reviews, make your product scarce and exciting. Read this book and you will understand why online marketing looks the way it does.

2) The Long Tail: Why the future of business is selling less of more, Chris Anderson

The Long Tail

In a world obsessed with best sellers, Anderson is looking at niche products, which show up in graphs as a “long tail”. “The Long Tail” describes the shift in this new economic model, where the internet has lowered the cost of offering limitless choice, creating a “market of multitudes”. Anderson encourages companies to “think niche”. Understand how customers behave in a market of “infinite choice”. Best quote: “Long Tail businesses treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.”

3) Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath

Make to Stick

If you want to reach your audience, you have to stay in their minds. The Heath brothers reveal the anatomy of “sticky” ideas and break the formula down to Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotional, Stories (SUCCES). Packed with success and failure stories, this book will get you thinking: how can I turn this idea into a story that people will remember?

4) FASCINATE: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, Sally Hogshead


What makes some brands fascinating? Hogshead shows that fascination isn’t unpredictable, it’s a science that can be learned and mastered. Fascination can be broken down to activating 7 universal triggers that bypass rational thinking to influence our primitive brains: passion, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, rebellion, and trust. Adding these 7 triggers to your brand’s core message will help you persuade and captivate your audience, making your products irresistible.

5) Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk

Jab Jab JAb

Vaynerchuk’s core message can be summed up in one sentence: “Give, give, give, ask”. “Jabs are the lighweight pieces of content that benefit your customers” whereas “right hooks are calls to action that benefit your business”. You should connect to your customers by producing lots of high quality bite-sized content in its appropriate social media context to create engagement and community, and you need to do that before you bring in something “promotional”.
Vaynerchuk also shows you how you can adapt your content to every social media platform. What works for Facebook won’t work for Twitter. If you need help crafting a solid social media marketing strategy for your brand, you need to read this book.

6) Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger


Berger goes to the root of what gets people talking in the offline world, to bring the same principles into the online world. “Harnessing the power of word of mouth, online or offline, requires understanding why people talk and why some things get talked about and shared more than others”, he says. His research reveals that there are six main factors that explain what gets things to spread, what he calls Six Key STEPPS 1. Social Currency; 2. Triggers; 3. Emotion; 4. Public; 5. Practical Value; and 6. Stories. With practical lessons on what spreads, how and why, this book will help you to get people talking about your brand.

7) The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (and Why No One Else Matters), Erika Napoletano

Power of Unpopular

Why bother trying to please everyone? Bold, witty, straight-talking Erika Napoletano has built her brand out of pissing plenty of people off. The premise of Unpopular is that “Being unpopular is good and being popular sucks”. Get clear on who your target audience is, and focus on make them loyal and loud advocates for your brand. Stop focusing on people who are never going to like you, your brand or your products. Being unpopular in your target market will give you an “edge”, and differentiate you from your competitors.

8) Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational

Why do we make irrational decisions? Behavioural economist Ariely shows how irrationality is often more powerful than rational thought. “Predictably Irrational” is an introduction to “behavioural economics”, where psychology and economics meet. Traditional economics assumes that human beings act rationally. Ariel argues that we are unpredictable because we are unconscious of the many influencers affecting our decision making; yet our irrational, illogical reactions can in fact be predicted. There is method to our madness. Ariely sheds light on the subtle factors that influence our decision making process, even when that process appears to be random. If you want to understand human behaviour, or you want to gain insight into how you can price and market your products, this is essential reading.

9) Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal


This book will change how you see marketing, product development and human behaviour.
Eyal delivers actionable advice on how to link your services and products to users’ daily routines. He introduces us to the “Hook Model”, a four step process designed to help you create user habits that stick. The four elements of the Hook Model, Trigger, Action, Variable Reward and Investment will guide you to create products with the ultimate goal of bringing users back again and again, without needing costly or aggressive marketing.

10) Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers, Seth Godin

permission.marketingIn his now classic book, Godin lays the distinction between “interruption marketing”, untargeted, tedious ads that bother customers, and “permission marketing”, targeted useful marketing that shows up at the right place at the right time. This book is the foundation of the school of marketing that preaches building relationships with your potential customers as a more effective marketing strategy. Here’s a single quote to sum it up: “The heart of Permission Marketing is giving the stranger a reason to pay attention”.

11) The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe, Tom Asacker

The Business of Belief

Brands and organizations need people to believe in them, choose them, support them, work with them and ultimately recommend them. Asacker argues that understanding your audience’s beliefs is key to creating loyal customers. You can’t market to your audience and persuade your customers if you can’t connect to their beliefs, and in order to do that, you have to get clear on what your own beliefs are. This will not only help you motivate your audience but motivate you as well. This thought-provoking and insightful book will give you invaluable advice on how the hidden logic of motivating people’s behaviour.

12) The Art Of The Pitch, Peter Coughter

The Art of the Pitch

Even the best ideas won’t sell themselves, so it’s essential to learn how to sell them. In “The Art of the Pitch”, Peter Coughter, famous veteran of the ad agency, shows us the key to persuading those on the other side of the table. “Everything is a Presentation”, he says. The way we say something is sometimes more important than what we say. Our favorite quote: “A presentation isn’t public speaking. It’s a conversation. Only you’re doing most of the talking.”

13) Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, CJ Hayden

Get Clients Now

The ultimate how-to guide to creating a marketing plan that works for you. With over 100 tools, exercises and examples, this book will help you pick the tactics that work for you to market your products and get more clients. Hayden shares 5 marketing strategies to choose from, and the exercises and action sheets will help you bring her ideas into actionable steps. The key, she says, is to “Choose a set of simple, effective things to do, and do them consistently”.

14) Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict The Future, Rohit Bhargava

Non Obvious

Harness the power of thinking differently. Wouldn’t it be great to predict the future in your industry? With this book, you can. Bhargava takes readers through the process of finding and describing the trends that shape future business and consumer behaviour. He shows how to become a better “trendspotter” and identify where the market is heading, so you can predict what will be important tomorrow. Non-Obvious features 15 all-new trends for 2015, so it’s best to get this book as soon as possible.

15) Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, Pamela Slim

Body of Work

Nowadays it’s rare for someone to fit into the straight career path mould of decades past. Slim argues that it’s best to think of a “body of work” instead. “Fundamentally, your body of work is everything you create, affect, and impact,” she says. Slim helps the reader find the connections between their many jobs, accomplishments and values, so they can their story and build a more wholesome brand. If you feel like your career, or your life, doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t follow a clear “path”, and you want to get better at telling your s this is the book for you.

Lori R Taylor is the founder and executive editor of Social Caffeine. In 2009 she started her own direct response focused social media agency, REV Media Marketing LLC, coining the phrase given by her young son, “You bring the rain, we’ll make it pour.” Follow Lori on Twitter.

David is our acting editor. He’s British, but we don’t hold that against him.

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