Reading a marketing book can be a daunting task, what with all the problems in the world—it's hard to know when you have time to sit down and read. But I think it's worth it! And that's why I wrote this blog post: so you could get some book recommendations from us and make more time for reading (or at least skimming).
The books listed below are ones that we've read, loved, and think are fantastic for product marketers. So if you've been looking for ways to improve your knowledge of marketing, or just want some great new reads, keep reading!
There are so many great books out there on marketing, but these 15 stood out as being especially helpful to product marketers. Many of them focus on helping you build a better connection with your customers and understand them better. Others discuss how to find success in the current environment and help you stay competitive. Regardless of your situation or where you're coming from in your career, these books will give you some valuable tips for growing your product and becoming more successful.
Your marketing efforts will be most effective when they're targeted to the needs and preferences of a specific audience. In the case of product marketing, that audience is your buyers. Unfortunately, you can't get inside their heads to make sure you're meeting their needs. You need to do some research.
Creating buyer personas can help you get into the minds of your buyers by basing them on actual data about who your customers are and what they care about. Then, you can use those personas in developing content and messaging for product launches, sales pitches, PR campaigns, customer support processes, and more. By doing so, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are relevant and well-tailored to your target audiences' needs.
Creating these customer profiles isn't just an exercise in theoretical value; it also has a tangible impact on your bottom line: According to one report from SiriusDecisions, organizations using persona-based content marketing strategies see increased conversion rates across all channels — particularly email (which saw a 9% increase in open rates). They also saw increases of 3% in clickthroughs, 6% in average order value, and 7% higher conversion rates than those who don't use buyer personas as part of their content strategy.
Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth
Traction is about one thing: how to achieve explosive customer growth. In this book, Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares reveal the 19 traction channels you can use to build a customer base, explain how to pick the right channel for your business, and show you how they've used these channels at companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, and Eventbrite.
The book is structured into three sections:
- Part 1: How do I get traction? This section focuses on your options across the different traction channels--you'll learn what works, what doesn't work, and why.
- Part 2: What's my next step? This section includes actionable advice on getting started with each traction channel.
- Part 3: How do I evaluate my traction results? This section is about building repeatable systems for managing your marketing efforts across all channels to optimize your growth strategies over time.
Building a StoryBrand
Building a StoryBrand is an easy-to-digest book that will help you build a messaging framework, write copy that connects with customers, and craft a brand that people love.
The book describes a framework that you can follow:
- A Character (who your customer is)
- Has a Problem (what problem does your customer have?)
- And Meets a Guide (who are you?)
- Who Gives Them a Plan (what’s the plan to solve their problem?)
- That Helps Them Avoid Failure (what bad things will happen if they don’t solve their problem?)
- And Ends in Success (what will life be like for them when their problem is solved? How can you help paint this picture for them?)
Creativity, Inc. is an inspiring story about how Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs built one of the greatest animation studios of all time. Creativity, Inc. is a must-read for product marketers who want to build a great team from scratch.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in the garage of Steve's parent's house with little more than a few pieces of electronic equipment and some money that Wozniak had earned designing calculators for Hewlett-Packard.
When it comes to marketing their products, many companies spend too much time figuring out how to be creative on the cheap or how to get others to do it for free. But if you create something amazing, people will pay for it—whether it's a piece of software or an app that lets you order food from your favorite restaurant with just the click of a button.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
Al Ries and Laura Ries argue that "brand equity" is the most important asset you can create. The authors examine brand building from a historical perspective, tracing the evolution of branding over hundreds of years while also covering all the essential aspects of creating and maintaining a successful brand in today’s market.
Contagious: Why Things Catch On
Regardless of where you are in your marketing career, everyone can benefit from understanding the science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. After reading this book, you'll understand the secret to making your product ideas catch on and how to leverage them for your business.
Contagious explains six principles that make content go viral: Social Currency (the desire to feel like an insider), Triggers (visible reminders of a brand), Emotion (the most contagious element), Public (the desire to share credentials with others), Practical Value (sharable content that solves problems), and Stories (sharing information about ourselves).
You'll also learn about Jonah Berger's 7 steps for creating contagious content:
Step 1 is Get Attention;
Step 2 is Trigger Emotion;
Step 3 is Push Forward;
Step 4 is Make It Easy;
Step 5 is Build Networks;
Step 6 is Tell Stories; and finally,
Step 7 is Test And Learn.
Purple Cow, New Edition
How do you create a product that stands out from the crowd? How do you create a product that people can't help but talk about and tell their friends about? Purple Cow is based on the idea of being remarkable or creating something worth remarking about. The goal is to differentiate yourself from the rest of the herd.
Seth Godin uses examples of remarkable products (and companies) to illustrate how to create a great product. He doesn't just focus on big brands like Starbucks and Nike but also on independent stores, restaurants, and other small businesses.
Purple Cow is an especially great book for those starting as marketers or building new businesses because it focuses on how you can be remarkable without spending a lot of money.
The Product Manager's Survival Guide
Although not a product marketer book specifically, the Product Manager's Survival Guide is a must-read for any product manager.
This book examines how to build products that customers want and be a strong product leader. It includes examples of challenging situations and offers advice on how to handle them. It also covers some product management mistakes to avoid and gives tips on being a good product manager and building a solid product.
In this book written by the COO of Facebook, Sandberg explains how women can succeed in the workplace by taking the initiative and accepting more responsibility. She discusses how women are often held back by their self-doubt and tendencies to be too quiet. Men can also find value in this book since it advises on how they can support women in the workplace. For example, men should be aware of the “likeability trap,” which occurs when assertive professional qualities make them unlikeable as a person. Women should avoid this negative association at all costs, although they should not sacrifice their family lives while doing so.
The Challenger Sale
Your sales team may have heard of The Challenger Sale, but you haven’t figured out how to integrate the Challenger mindset into your marketing yet. This book will make that easier. The author, Brent Adamson, has a post that summarizes the core ideas of his book and what it means to be a challenger rep.
Adamson explains: "When making sales calls, those reps with a challenger profile start by developing deep customer insights. They then use these insights to reframe the customer’s thinking about their business problems." Challenger reps take control of the sale by being teachers first and salespeople second.
Adamson provides five discovery questions that help you develop deep customer insights. He suggests five teaching questions that you can use to reframe your customers' thinking about business problems, solutions, or solutions providers (like your company). And he lists three types of Challenger reps: challengers, relationship builders, and hard workers (which he groups together as “relationship builders”).
Wondering what those questions are? Get the book already.
Marketing in the Round
For a long time, marketers have been working in silos. Marketing in the Round by Gail F. Goodman aims to change that by showing how you can use technology to connect with people who aren’t just customers but also potential partners, employees, and even competitors.
Marketing in the Round is excellent for product marketers who want to learn how to tackle the new marketing ecosystem, which includes social media and other platforms that need multi-channel marketing strategies. The book also helps marketers understand the difference between traditional and digital media campaigns and why they should adopt agile marketing instead of sticking only with conventional project management methods.
The Lean Startup
The Lean Startup is about how to build a business quickly and effectively. Specifically, it’s about failing fast and iterating, building products that customers love; testing hypotheses before investing time and money, and being agile. This book will help you adjust your mindset to align with the rest of the organization so that they can support you in your efforts to evangelize products.
Hacking Growth: How Today's Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success
The authors define growth hacking as rapid experimentation across the marketing funnel, product development, sales segments, and other business areas to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. Often this is done through what they call “growth loops”—a cycle in which there is a lead that turns into an opportunity and then becomes either a customer or an up-sell. By identifying these loops, companies can create new channels for growth.
The authors address the difference between growth hacking and growth marketing head-on: “Growth hacking has become a buzzword. But we think it’s more than that…we believe that while all marketing is about growth, growth hacking is just marketing. It’s smarter, faster, and more aggressive by nature, and it’s also data-driven and technology-enabled.”
Growth Hacker Marketing
A growth hacker has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, and scalable. Instead of commercials, publicity, and money, their tools are emails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs. While their marketing brethren chase vague notions like “branding” and “mind share," growth hackers relentlessly pursue users and growth--and when they do it right, those users beget more users who beget more users. If you want to learn how you can grow your product or business through growth hacking techniques, this book is a must-read.
Positioning The Battle For Your Mind
This book is about positioning your product or service in the market. It covers what a positioning statement is, what a brand position is, how to develop a brand position, and how to write a positioning statement. This book will be perfect if you want to learn more about writing or testing your positioning statement. It contains everything you need to know about creating the ideal positioning statement for your product or service.
How can you write a great positioning statement? You need two things: A strong understanding of yourself and your customers. Who are they? What do they want? Most importantly: How can you meet their needs better than anyone else? This isn't easy work, but writing that perfect branding message will be like child's play once you've figured it out!
The books we've listed here have all been excellent additions to our libraries. They are both engaging and informative, with valuable takeaways that can easily be applied to your marketing strategy.
We heartily recommend them to any marketers or product marketers who are interested in expanding their skills and knowledge base.