Go to any book store and you’ll see there are a lot of marketing books out there. Amazon currently lists over 62,000 marketing books in its marketing category.
And that’s just taking into account the books that are specifically tagged as being about marketing. That doesn’t include general business books, pyschology books or others that while not specifically marketing books, are still useful books for marketers.
I read a lot. And while I haven’t read all 62,000+ marketing books that Amazon lists, I’ve read my fair share. And of those, there are five in particular that I believe to be essential reads for any marketer.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg
Right off the bat, we have a book that’s not specifically listed as a marketing book – but is, in my opinion, probably the most important book any marketeter can read. In it, Pulitzer-Prize-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg explores just what the book says: “why we do what we do in life and in business.”
It’s a book I have asked every employee I’ve ever had to read (well, at least since it came out), as one of the most important things for any marketer to understand is how the psychology of behavior works. It’s particularly important for those of us who hope to build brand loyalty and repeat customers, as in order to do so we need to first understand what it takes to get someone to actual build a habit (i.e. repeated behavior).
There’s a lot of great information in here, and Duhigg makes this trip down the road of behavioral psychology fairly easy to follow and understand. When you’re done you’ll not only gain a greater understanding of how your customers’ minds work, but of how yours does as well. (Find it on Amazon)
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
by Chris Anderson
While it might be getting up there in years, and most of what Anderson argues here has been talked to death already, ‘The Long Tail’ still remains one of the most important books for anyone trying to do business online. It’s arguably the bible of e-commerce and even content companies at this point.
Basically, Anderson argues that with unlimited space for inventory we can offer every imaginable object under the sun. It allows niches to become goldmines, and companies like Amazon, who sell a little bit of everything, make a ton of money by just selling small numbers of a tremendous amount of different products.
It’s also how companies like iTunes and Musicnotes (where I worked for 16 years) turned existing industries on their heads. By offering every recording or piece of sheet music imaginable, with no issues of ever going out of print or even having to inventory the stuff, The Long Tail has led to huge growth in digital and e-commerce, killing a lot of the old guard along the way.
So while some of us might take the new economy for granted, Anderson’s treatise on the subject was the first time the possibilities of scale from a commerce perspective were ever seriously discussed. An absolute essential read, if for nothing other than a reminder that things haven’t always been this way – and the old way wasn’t as long ago as we might remember. (Find it on Amazon)
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
by Barry Schwartz
For a time, Chris Anderson’s book ‘The Long Tail‘ was considered a bit of a bible for how the Internet works, and in particular in how we can use the Internet to allow for an unlimited amount of choices for the customer. And while it’s still a good read, there’s a potentially more important flip-side to the equation – and that is the concept of decision paralysis.
In ‘The Paradox of Choice’ Barry Schwartz, a professor of Social Theory and Social Action, delves into the psychology of how we as humans react when presented with too many options. Basically, he argues (and backs up with research) that although we think we like the idea of having a multitude of things to choose from, the reality is that when we have too many choices we just kind of freeze up, and end up making no decision at all.
I particularly recommend reading this book so as marketers we can better understand how to present choices of different products or variants of products in our shopping experiences. In fact, it can even help you determine if you should maybe narrow your product catalog and offer less options altogether. (Find it on Amazon)
Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)
by William Poundstone
On the surface, pricing might come across as a fairly simple concept. Figure out your cost, add markup and put it out there with a price you think people will pay, and that you’d be happy with as a profit margin.
But pricing is WAY more complicated (and powerful) than that. As marketers we are often part of setting base prices for the products we sell, and even more often involved in how those prices might be displayed (or not) and put on discount / sale (or not).
This one’s essential because it is at the core of what we are dealing with as marketers – how people make a decision as to if they want to pay for something or not. And there’s a lot you can do to affect that decision, from framing your products in relation to other products, understanding customer decision break points, and even why we always end our prices in that .99 instead of an even number. (Find it on Amazon)
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions
by Dan Ariely
Now this is the book I personally find to be the most fascinating of the bunch. In particular, because in a profession where our job is to guide customer behavior we often find that customers don’t often do what we want.
When we build out our marketing plans, user experience models or prospecting funnels, we work through a series of logical steps for a customer to take. But they don’t always take those steps. Why is that? We do we not always act rationally? How can we better understand how people might defer to unknown emotional cues to make a decision that, on its face, is utterly irrational?
As far as I’m concerned, marketing is a form of behavioral science. And no book covers the weirdness of behavioral science in such an eye-opening and understand way as Ariely’s book. Absolutely read it. Some of this stuff will shock you – and you’ll also understand why, try as you might to do otherwise, you still end up making some really stupid decisions. (Find it on Amazon)
Like I said earlier, there are a lot more marketing and business books out there. Some of them are also really good (and some of them are pretty bad … but I won’t name them here). A few others you might want to check out (honorable mentions, if you will) are Made to Stick, To Sell Is Human, Contagious and Creativity Inc.
Do you have any favorite marketing books you recommend?