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21 of the best books marketing leaders should read today

Lisa Bodell Worldwide Speakers Group
Thought Leader: Lisa Bodell
February 25, 2020
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There are tons of business and marketing books available today via Amazon or at your local bookstore marketing leaders should read. The question becomes:

To save you time, I compile a list of the best books for marketing leader that cover the most critical issues today. These books should help you with useful business and marketing tips and best practices that will enable you to help you grow your company through digital marketing and traditional marketing efforts.

Best books for marketing leaders to read

Here is a list of 21 of the best books that marketing leaders should read today.

1. Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions 

Author: John Kotter

Why should you read this book? This fable illustrates the eight-step process of change. It is an easy-to-read story about penguins that realize their iceberg is melting and go about making the necessary changes to improve their situation.

The characters in the story are like people you can recognize at your company. Their tale is one of resistance to change and courageous actions for dealing with those challenges. The penguins offer an inspiring model as we all struggle to adapt to change. This book provides a simple and relatable story about overcoming the stress and uncertainty of rapid and constant change. Based on the award-winning work of Harvard Business School’s John Kotter, this book can show you and your company how to thrive during tough times. This book provides the process for how to manage change and produce positive outcomes.

2. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

Author: Robert Cialdini

Why should you read this book? The author of the bestselling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini explains the secret to persuasion. Hint: persuasion doesn’t lie in the actual message but in the moment before that message is delivered.

In this book, the author shows how you can take advantage of the critical time before you deliver an important message. To change the minds of people, a “pre-suader” must also change their state of mind. Using extensive experience and research, the author shows you how you can become a master persuader. The book shows you how the diversion of attention can lead to successful pre-suasion and get your targeted audience to say yes to your desired outcome.

3. The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies

Author: Chet Holmes

Why should you read this book? The author of this book, Chet Holmes, has been called “one of the top 20 change experts in the country.” Too many leaders jump on every new trend, but don’t stick with any of them.

The book shows you how to tune up every part of your business by spending just an hour per week on each impact area you want to improve. The author’s advice starts with one simple concept: focus. Instead of trying to master thousand of strategies to improve your business, it is important to hone in on essential skill areas that will make the biggest difference. This book shows you that you should teach your people how to work smarter, not harder.

4. The Four Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

Authors: Sean CoveyChris McChesney, and Jim Huling

Why should you read this book? This book was written by bestselling author Sean Covey and the FranklinCovey organization based on their work with hundreds of thousands of employees and companies.

This book reveals the essential disciplines that help companies and employees realize their most important goals.  The 4 Disciplines of Execution (also known as 4DX) is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing your most important and strategic goals. The 4 disciplines are 1) focus on the wildly important; 2) act on lead measures; 3) keep a compelling scoreboard; and 4) create a cadence of accountability. This book shows leaders how they can produce results when the strategy requires a significant change in behavior.

5. The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader: How to Succeed by Building Customer and Company Value

Authors: Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise

Why should you read this book? This book is written by former McKinsey partner Thomas Barta and senior London Business School professor Patrick Barwise.

According to Seth Godin, author of All Marketers Are Liars, this book is “the essential leadership playbook for the CMO of the future.” This book is one of the first research-based leadership books for marketers. This book identifies the 12 specific behaviors (or powers) that help marketers increase their business impact and create a successful career. After reading this book, you’ll know how to make an impact at the highest levels, align marketing with your company’s priorities, l inspire your non-marketing colleagues, build a successful marketing team and focus on the right goals to benefit your customers.

6. What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint

Author: Nicholas J. Webb

Why should you read this book? This book discusses how to treat customers and create exceptional customer experiences.

The author examines how today’s digital age is changing consumer expectations and what companies should do to stay on top. It boils down to two key questions: 1) What do your customers love? and 2) What do they hate? If your organization answers these two questions well, it will be successful. This book will provide you with invaluable insights into what customers crave, what they care about, and how to create relevant yet memorable experiences at every touchpoint.

7. Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change

Author: Bharat Anand

Why should you read this book? Bharat Anand, a Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor of Strategy, discusses HBS’ innovative approach to digital transformation. Simply: foster connectivity over focusing on content.

Organizations are facing two big challenges today: how to get noticed and how to make money. To overcome these obstacles, this book examines companies who are doing it right and companies doing it wrong. These successes and pitfalls show you that you don’t need to make the best content but produce content that enables connectivity. Bharat demonstrates that choices are part of a larger and interconnected strategy. This book is a modern playbook for how organizations can navigate digital change and leaders can transform their company.

8. Bold Leadership for Organizational Acceleration

Author: Jim A. Tompkins

Why should you read this book? This book emphasizes the importance of maintaining your relationships, energy, and enthusiasm. Everyone today suffers from being overwhelmed. The world has morphed into a global village where things must be done right away without sacrificing excellence.

Our hectic business and personal lives leave us feeling as if there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. There is a remedy: Bold Leadership. In this book, the author shows you how to become a leader and how to encourage others to lead. This book will help you get your life out of overload mode, both professionally and personally. The author outlines what inspirational leadership looks like, how to define your company’s core competencies, and how to respond to constant changes. The author also provides case studies about organizations such as Google, Wal-Mart, and IBM.

9. How to Win Friends and Influence Others

Author: Dale Carnegie

Why should you read this book? This books will show you that you can go after the job you want (and get it), You can take the job you have (and improve it), and you can take any situation (and make it work for you).

The author’s time-tested advice has helped countless of people move up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. One of the most groundbreaking and timeless bestsellers of all time, How to Win Friends and Influence People will teach how to make people like you, how to win people to your way of thinking, and how to change people without arousing resentment. This book is a must-read in the 21st century and fulfills the promise of “the only book you need to lead you to success.”

10. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Author: Charles Duhigg

Why should you read this book? This book explains that success is largely a matter of creating successful habits. In this book, Charles Duhigg (an award-winning business reporter and author of this book) explains why habits exist and how they can be changed.

Utilizing vast amounts of information, the author creates narratives ranging from Procter & Gamble to the NFL. The author outlines how we should understand human nature and its potential. At its core, the book contains an compelling argument: the key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As the author shows that habits can help us transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

11. The 1-Page Marketing Plan

Author: Allan Dib

Why should you read this book? To build a successful business, you should avoid “random acts of marketing” and follow a strategic marketing plan.

Traditionally, it has been hard to create a marketing plan. It is a time-consuming process,. This is why marketing plans are not written down on paper. In this book, Allan Dib (a serial entrepreneur and rebellious marketer) shows us how to create a marketing plan that is simple and fast. It’s literally a single page. The page is divided up into nine squares. This book helps you create a marketing plan that will help you get new customers without being pushy, needy, or obnoxious. Discover how to  create a

12. Digital Sense: The Common Sense Approach to Effectively Blending Social Business Strategy, Marketing Technology, and Customer Experience

Authors: Travis Wright and Chris Snook

Why should you read this book? The authors realize that today’s marketing is all about customer service. Today, we live in an age of opportunity. That is why it is to important to create a more engaged customer experience strategy.

This book explores the frameworks for implementing a new marketing operating system and how to optimize the customer experience for a competitive advantage. This book explores how organizations can best compete in today’s market by meeting customers where they are and how to engage them in an effective way.

13. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Authors: Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Why should you read this book? This national bestseller and the award-winning book discusses the importance of focusing on one thing at a time. Just one thing!

People are using this simple and powerful concept to focus on what matters most in their personal and work lives. After reading this book, you will focus your energy on that one thing. It will help you achieve better results in less time, reach your goals, lower your stress, increase your energy, and master what matters you the most. What’s your one thing that you are focusing on right now? Are focusing on multiple things or just one thing?

14. They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer 

Author: Marcus Sheridan

Why should you read this book? This book shows you how to develop your content marketing strategy. It is simple: answer your customer and prospect questions with content.

In this book, Marcus Sheridan shows you how this simple strategy can work for your organization and been proven to drive sales and business growth. When people use the Internet, they use a search engine (aka Google) to find their answers. By answering people’s questions and providing answers via your content, your organization will be able on page one of Google’s search results and be seen. This book examines how this straightforward approach to content marketing is a great way to structure an effective content marketing strategy. This strategy works regardless of industry or sector.

15. Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You

Author: John Hall

Why should you read this book? This book sheds light on how you and your company can stay “top of mind” with your audience. The author explains how he built both his brand and his business relationships through helpful and engaging content.

The book provides tips on how to earn trust with your audience with digital marketing so that you become the first choice for your audience. Successful businesses and leaders have one thing in common: their names come top of mind when people think about their particular industries. Learn how to use content to unleash your influence and engage with people who matter the most to you. Are you staying top of mind?

16. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Author: Jim Collins

Why should you read this book? Drawing upon many years of research at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, authors James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras examined companies who have been in business for awhile and studied their top competitors.

They researched the companies from their very beginnings to the present day. The followed them through their lifecycle from being a scrappy start-up to becoming a large corporation. Throughout, the authors asked: “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?” This book includes many specific examples to help you build a master blueprint for growing your organization in the 21st century and beyond.

17. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Author: Simon Sinek

Why should you read this book? In 2009, author Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work. Since then, a lot of people have been touched by the power of his ideas.

Sinek starts with a simple yet fundamental question: “Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others?” He examines why some companies gain greater loyalty from customers and employees. Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common. However, they all had one thing in common. They answered the question: why? They realized that people need to understand the why before they become loyal. This book provides a framework for leaders to inspire everyone to take action. Start with the why.

18. Double Digit Growth: How Great Companies Achieve It, No Matter What

Author: Michael Treacy

Why should you read this book? In their 1995 blockbuster The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema explained how great companies dominated their markets with strong value propositions.

In this book, Michael Treacy shows how successful companies achieve double digital growth each year and how your company can identify and exploit opportunities for increased revenues, margins, and profits. The author’s message is simple: great companies know how to do it and your company can too. Using case studies from Dell, Home Depot, and GE, the author shows the steps that a company should take to achieve double-digital growth. Find out how to keep the growth you have earned, look for new growth and take business from your competitors. After reading this book, you will have the tools to achieve your double digital growth goal and maintain your success.

19. The New Rules of Marketing and PR

Author: David Meerman Scott

Why should you read this book? This books is an international bestseller because it helps us understand the future of marketing and public relations (PR).

This book provides you with a step-by-step action plan for gaining attention for your company and your ideas. It will show you how to “get the right information to the right people at the right time.” The Internet has changed the way we communicate and interact so it is important to really understand the tried-and-true rules to help you stay ahead of the curve. This book will help “cut through the online clutter” so your messages are seen and heard. This book provides a wealth of compelling case studies and real-world examples to help you understand the new rules of marketing and PR.

20. Why Simple Wins: Escape the Complexity Trap and Get to Work That Matters

Author: Lisa Bodell

Why should you read this book? Today’s complexity is hurting our ability to innovate and adapt. The reality of life today is that we spend a lot of our days drowning in mundane tasks such as meetings, emails, and reports that prevent us from getting meaningful work done.  As a result, simplicity has become the new competitive advantage.

This book helps leaders create a culture that eliminates redundancies and makes simplification a habit. The author’s main message: simplification is a skill that very few leaders use but should. This book explains that simplification improves employee and customer engagement and overall productivity. The author explains that when we keep it simple, we win.

21. Context Marketing Revolution: How to Motivate Buyers in the Age of Infinite Media

Author: Mathew Sweezey

Why should you read this book? In this book, you’ll learn the power of context and how it can help you break through to your customers.

The author points out that we are in the middle of a big media revolution where people have the ability to develop, share, and consume content immediately from anywhere on any device. As a result, it has created a lot of “noise” that makes traditional marketing models obsolete. However, numerous organizations and marketing departments use the traditional model to sway customers and it isn’t working.

Using new research and insights into current consumer psychology, the author defines the key elements of context: availability, permission, personalization, authenticity, and purpose. Using examples to highlight the new marketing model of successful companies using context marketing, you’ll change your mind on how to practice of marketing.

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