There’s an abundance of pop-marketing texts out there–tactically-focused books that promise great ROI if readers just deploy some basic techniques.
Most of them are quite useful for specific businesses facing specific challenges, but it’s difficult to cultivate the right techniques if you don’t know the underlying principles of marketing. More importantly, most techniques are much easier to learn and make successful when they’re grounded in the principles of marketing.
So, rather than compile another list of tactical “how-to” marketing texts, here’s a list of books I highly recommend for anyone looking to become a master marketing strategist.
A Strategic Marketing Reading List
- Breakthrough Marketing Plans, by Tim Calkins
If you think the purpose of a marketing plan is to outline a concise and compelling path to growth, this book is for you. Calkins shows how to develop a brief (10-15 slide) and focused marketing plan that aligns your organization and drives you towards financial goals. Plus, you may find yourself frequently referencing Calkins’ list of strategic initiatives, each mapping to different go-to-market objectives.
- Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, by Geoffrey Moore
You’d be hard pressed to sit through ten marketing meetings in Silicon Valley and not hear someone allude to Crossing the Chasm. The differences between early adopters and the early majority–and how to bridge the gap between the two–is an enduring discussion among marketers. But don’t just leverage second-hand knowledge; take the time to read the book. Many marketing leaders maintain fairly significant misunderstandings of Moore’s work and how to apply it to their own go-to-market strategies.
- Kellogg on Marketing, by Bobby J. Calder and Alice M. Tybout
Written by the faculty of one of the world’s strongest marketing departments, Kellogg on Marketing covers all the fundamentals that strategic marketers need to master, from understanding new markets to capturing market share with effective advertising that reinforces brand positioning.
- Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance, by Paul W. Farris, Neil T. Bendle, Phillip E. Pfeifer and David J. Reibstein
Whenever someone says marketing can’t be measured, pull out this book. An invaluable resource for marketers who want to know the impact of their work and demonstrate that their efforts are quantifiable, Marketing Metrics covers everything from measuring brand awareness to customer lifetime value to return on incremental marketing investment.
- Marketing that Works: How Entrepreneurial Marketing Can Add Sustainable Value to Any Sized Company, by Leonard Lodish, Ph.D., Howard L. Morgan, and Shellye Archambeau
Wharton Professor Leonard Lodish and his co-authors developed a simultaneously pragmatic and academic book with Marketing that Works. While some of the examples contained in the book are outdated, the principles they demonstrate aren’t. This is a highly recommended read for anyone who wants to learn how to develop new ideas, test new concepts, intelligently scale a sales organization and manage a go-to-market launch.
- Marketing Communications: A Brand Narrative Approach, by Micael Dahlen, Fredrik Lange, and Terry Smith
This wonky marcom book is not for the faint of heart. With section titles like, “Changing Category Perceptions” and “Appealing to Informational and Transformational Needs,” Marketing Communications offers an in-depth exploration of perception, the role of narrative structures in consumer behavior and the deeper themes that most appeal to buyers.
- Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Positioning is a controversial book in some circles, but it’s difficult to deny its influence in modern marketing and its rightful place on a strategic marketing reading list. And, if you read carefully, you’ll realize that most of the criticisms leveraged against Positioning rest on misreadings of the text. All that aside, Ries and Trout’s classic book hammers home an important message: that positioning takes place in the mind of a target audience member, not “in the market.”
- The Product Manager’s Handbook, by Linda Gorchels
For anyone who owns the success of (or wields significant influence over) a product, this guide is for you. Rather than being a workbook on technical product management, The Product Manager’s Handbook conceives of the product manager as business unit owner. That’s a useful perspective for readers thinking broadly about how to create and capture markets.
- The Copywriter’s Handbook, by Robert Bly
Though it focuses on a tactical topic, The Copywriter’s Handbook is a guide to understanding and communicating to your target audience. In fact, I’d recommend this book to anyone in communications, having found it useful for everything from increasing advertising engagement to email click-throughs and product downloads.
- Startup CEO’s Marketing Manual, by Guy Smith
Don’t let the title fool you; this isn’t another pop startup guide. Startup CEO’s Marketing Manual is one of the most comprehensive guides on end-to-end marketing strategy, addressing topics like segmentation, crafting a whole product definition and developing a positioning map.
- Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy
Given this post’s hero image, you had to know this one was coming. Ogilvy on Advertising is a classic, but you’ll misread it if you think it’s just about advertising. Ogilvy’s essential strength was understanding what makes people tick and what makes customers want your offering. These lessons will impact your entire go-to-market strategy, from product development to messaging strategy.
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