Leaders are readers.
Top CEOs read a book per week.
A study of 1,200 incredibly successful people showed they had one thing in common: They self-educate by reading.
When asked how he learned to build rockets, Elon Musk said, “I read books.”
Bill Gates says he learns by visiting interesting places, meeting with scientists, and watching lectures online… “But reading is still the main way that i both learn new things and test my understanding.”
You’ve heard the crazy stat about Warren Buffet, too right? The billionaire investor reads 500 pages every day.
Check this out, 42% of college grads will never read a book again after college.
So, you want a competitive advantage?
Buffet recently explained the value of reading this way: “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
World-class leaders read broadly (and often).
Marketers are no different. We’re a breed who lives in a fast-paced, rapidly-evolving, wickedly high-stress world.
If you stop growing (or even slow down) the few who apply their minds to master new skills and assimilate knowledge will outpace you.
It’s just how things work.
Since you’re reading this, I know that isn’t you.
So, if you’re the kinda’ marketer who is:
- Competitive and wants to achieve real marketing success…
- Hungry for personal and professional development…
- Ready to outpace your competition (and even yourself)…
Then I have two amazing things for you.
First, I have this curated list of the 10 best marketing books for you to read this year.
Second, I’m going to give you a shortcut in the line to your next promotion.
You can grab the first chapter of 10x Marketing Formula: Your Blueprint For Creating ‘Competition-Free Content That Stands Out And Gets Results for free!
Get Your Download Now
Plus, join our email list to stay up-to-date.
Prepping your download!
Alright, now here’s one of the wickedly cool things about working for CoSchedule, we get a sweet learning allowance every year. Which, in my case, basically means as many books as I can read.
So, to fill my shelves with the best marketing books around, I asked our entire marketing team for their most-impactful reads.
Now, find a highlighter, brew some coffee, and make room in your book budget.
10 Picks from the CoSchedule Team
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
- Content Strategy for the Web
- Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand
- UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging
- Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career<
- Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything
- Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
- 10x Marketing Formula: Your Blueprint for Creating 'Competition-Free Content' That Stands Out and Gets Results
10 Classic Books Every Marketer Should Read
- The New Rules of Marketing and PR
- Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
- Purple Cow
- Ogilvy on Advertising
- Epic Content Marketing
- Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind
- Confessions of an Advertising Man
- The Copywriter's Handbook
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook
- A Technique For Producing Ideas
The Top 10 Marketing Books on Amazon (As Of Winter 2018)
Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype
This book is the perfect way to kick off our best marketing books list.
In Youtility, Jay Baer lays the groundwork for success in content marketing. It can be summed up in this powerhouse statement: “What if — faced with more competition than ever before — you stopped trying to be amazing, and just started being useful?”
At CoSchedule, we’ve wholeheartedly embraced Jay’s Youtility framework. It lays out a path to make your marketing inherently useful, rather than inherently self-promotional.
This pick is from Eric Piela, our Head of Brand & Buzz.
“With the glut of content that organizations tend to put out - it's so easy to fall into hyping your product or service and not focusing on helping your prospective customers. It shifted the way organizations think about content and being useful - I still go back to those philosophies with every piece of content I create.”
In this book, you’ll learn:
- How to make your marketing useful and appetizing to your audience.
- A guide to cutting through the clutter: marketing that is truly, inherently useful.
- How to apply this mantra: “If you sell something, you make a customer today, but if you genuinely help someone, you create a customer for life.”
Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
You’re probably one of the 37.7 million people who have watched Sinek’s famous TED talk. But Sinek and his golden circle crystallized key principles from a few of the world’s most important leaders in recent memory.
It’s all about working from the inside out: starting with why.
According to Sinek, great leaders inspire people to take action via the same pattern. They all think, act, and communicate in the same way — and it’s exactly opposite of how everyone else does...
...everybody knows what they do.
...some know how they do it.
...few know why they do it.
This pick comes from Kathryn Nyhus, our Head of Product Marketing.
“It fundamentally changed the way I understand human emotion and clarified why people do what they do. It changed the entire way I write copy.”
Kathryn’s biggest takeaways:
- How to communicate (and be very clear on) your “why.”
- How to build your “how” and “what” based on your “why.”
- And why you should focus on the “why” and let everything else take care of itself.
Content Strategy for the Web
Next up on our best marketing books listicle is Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web.
In this book, Kristina shows that the linchpin of an effective website is meaningful content. But creating and delivering said content can feel like a black box if you’re new (or if things haven’t been going so hot).
Content Strategy for the Web explains how to create and deliver amazing content for just the right people, when and where they need it most.
It also packs the following punches:
- See content strategy (and its business value) explained in plain language
- Find out why so many web projects implode in the content development phase ... and how to avoid the associated, unnecessary costs and delays
- Learn how to audit and analyze your content
- Make smarter, achievable decisions about which content to create and how
- Find out how to maintain consistent, accurate, compelling content over time
- Get solid, practical advice on staffing for content-related roles and responsibilities
This pick comes from Leah DeKrey, our Content Marketing Strategist.
Leah says this book made a huge impression on her from the start:
“I read this book straight out of college – It was my first foray into the world of Content Strategy and its business value. For any business that is struggling to produce great content, consistently, this book is for you.”
In this book you will learn:
- What value content marketing can provide your business.
- How you can make great content a part of your ongoing digital strategy.
- And great, practical advice about how to stay the course of content marketing.
Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand
Yep, content marketing is all the rage (and has been for a number of years)...
According to Rose and Pulizzi, brands are putting money behind the trend too. In fact, they say the average brand spends over 25% of their total marketing budget on content marketing.
In their opinion, what’s missing from the success equation isn’t first dollars, it’s process.
Managing Content Marketing will teach you to:
- Build the business case for content marketing
- Develop a content marketing strategy that works for your business
- Tell a consistent story that engages your customers
- Determine the right marketing channels to implement
- Create internal and external workflows
- Measure (and prove) results to internal stakeholders
This pick comes from Nathan Ellering, our Head of Demand Generation.
“You know you need to create and publish amazing content that attracts an audience. This book lays out foundational strategy to turn ideas into actual process you can execute. It's the book that gave me the opportunity to break into content marketing.”
In this book, you’ll learn:
- If you're in an organization that needs to pitch ideas, this lays out the use case for content marketing (and beyond) so you can get the buy-in you need to change process, manage the team, and more.
- The book will help you learn all about the storyline that will best connect with your audience to guide every marketing effort.
- And lastly, it helps you break down the high-level ideas into workflow and collaborative processes that actually work.
UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging
UnMarketing makes our best marketing books list because of its emphasis on listening to your audience, engaging them in something meaningful, and then building trust that leads to a purchase.
The book puts it well:
“No one likes cold calls at dinnertime, junk mail overflowing your mailbox, and advertisements that interrupt your favorite shows. If this is ‘marketing,’ then the world would probably prefer whatever is the opposite of that.”
It’s a great primer on permission marketing rather than interruption marketing.
Scott’s advice is to, “Stop marketing. Start UnMarketing.”
This pick comes from Rachel Wiinanen, our Inbound Marketer.
“Scott unapologetically casts aside traditional marketing techniques that are outdated and disconnected from the needs of the customer. It's full of brutal honesty that slaps some sense into you accompanied with a side of humor... like Sour Patch Kids but in written form.”
In this book, you’ll learn:
- Readers will learn to question their current marketing techniques and opt for a more customer-centric approach.
- The key takeaways revolve around engagement, relationship building, and customer trust.
- Overall, a person should walk away from this book with a more genuine...even human... approach to marketing.
Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career
This pick is from Ashton Hauff, one of our Graphic Designers — and while it’s not marketing in the traditional sense, it’s packed with value on growing your skillset (and career).
Ashton counts it as essential reading for marketers because the authors push you to become better.
What does this look like? Hustle… Stepping outside of your comfort zone… Bouncing back from failure… Tapping into your true potential… And plenty more.
“The way in which they feature several different authors while having a consistent theme is great. You get different point of views with unique practical tips.”
In this book, you’ll learn:
- Anyone reading this will learn how to build new skills, learn from failure, while raising questions within their own career on how to take it up a level to get where you want to be.
- It challenges you to think about possibility and how to use creative methods to achieve your dream.
- BUT, not without emphasizing how much hustle it'll take to get there.
Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything
In content marketing, color is an emotional cue. Great design becomes part of a brand’s voice.
In Draplin Design Co., you get some of that plus a whole lot more! This book is filled with inspiring design work, case studies, inspiration, how-tos, and advice from one of the great designers of our time.
Author Aaron Draplin has worked with brands like Esquire, Ford Motors, Patagonia, Nike… The Obama Administration… And has a wealth of insight (and hilarity) to share.
Marketers and designers alike can learn from the design process that fueled projects like Field Notes.
This pick comes from Danny Kvale, one of our Graphic Designers.
“Author Aaron Draplin (one of the greatest contemporary designers) provides amazing insight for young people on how to pursue a career as a designer in a fantastic storytelling format. His ‘no BS’ tone compels the reader to get out there and start designing, despite hurdles the career has early on.”
In this book, you’ll learn:
- How design titan, Aaron Draplin, found his success.
- Being a designer is more of a lifestyle than a career.
- It's okay to not know what you're doing.
Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
As a marketer, the more you grow, the quicker you realize the best marketing books really do span disciplines.
Storytelling is an essential skill today. That’s why this pick is so important!
In Wired for Story, author Lisa Cron takes a deep dive into what keeps an audience “transfixed,” and their brains craving more.
The book is a brilliant how-to on doing what engaging copy must do: “ignite the brain's hardwired desire to learn what happens next.” With nods to the evolutionary purpose of story to electrify human curiosity, marketers will be equipped to spin yarns that drive traffic, engagement, and brand-audience relationships that drive sales.
This recommendation comes from Emma Tupa, one of our Product Marketing Specialists.
“As a copywriter, my job is write..and do it well - which is infinitely more complex than simply being ‘creative.’ It's about hooking readers from the very first sentence, and knowing how to use my words to ‘ignite the brain's hardwired desire to learn what happens next.’ And this book shows you how to do just that! It changed the game for how I think about my copy and its purpose.”
In this book, Emma says you’ll learn:
- How to construct a story and how to keep your audience engaged backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience (which is like, whoa).
- But also learn how the ideal elements of the "perfect" story have been used since the beginning of time.
- Believe me, once you finish this book, you're gonna know how to construct the kind of copy that keeps your audience entertained AND engaged (which from a marketer's perspective, is right where we want 'em before dropping a CTA).
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Essentialism is another one of our best marketing books picks that’s an outside angle for us marketing folks…
...but check out the questions author Greg McKeown asks to any would-be readers:
- Have you ever felt the urge to declutter your work life?
- Do you often find yourself stretched too thin?
- Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
- Are you frequently busy but not productive?
- Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like many a marketer I’ve met.
And unless you’re Elon Musk who can outwork a robot 🤖...sustained productivity feels like searching for a unicorn.
This book provides answers and methods collectively termed “the way of the essentialist.” In essence, it’s a systematic discipline for doing the critical “few” and pruning the chaotic “many.”
This pick comes from Ben Sailer, our Blog Manager.
“While Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less isn't a marketing book in the traditional sense, it does offer a useful method for overcoming common struggles marketers face when it comes to setting priorities and staying focused. I haven't mastered the philosophy it promotes perfectly, but I have been able to apply its lessons both at work and at home with some level of success, and it's helped refocus my priorities while cutting stress immensely.”
In this book, Ben says you’ll learn:
- How to escape feeling busy, yet unproductive.
- How to overcome this contradiction by focusing your energy exclusively on the things that matter most.
- And by applying what this book teaches, you'll actually feel more accomplished and less stressed, while working on fewer things at a time.
10x Marketing Formula: Your Blueprint for Creating 'Competition-Free Content' That Stands Out and Gets Results
Alright, while I wanted everyone else’s top picks for best marketing books to read, I’m not about to miss out on the fun…
My pick is the hot-off-the-press (and critically acclaimed best-seller) 10x Marketing Formula.
This book, by our co-founder and CEO Garrett Moon, is an absolute game changer. And I know it can feel suspect when someone is singing the praises of their own Koolaid, but here’s why this book is so dang good.
It’s the exact formula we used to grow from zero customers, no web traffic, and a non-existent audience to 8,000+ customers, 1.3M+ monthly pageviews, and 250k+ email subscribers in four years.
If content is part of your marketing program whatsoever, this book will put you lightyears ahead.
- Competition-Free Content: Competition-free content is content that adds tremendous value to your customers and audience that only you can produce. It’s content that stands out through topic, structure, or media type. And it renders competition irrelevant because this is uncontested space.
- Content Core: The content core is the quickest way to turn your content into revenue and is arguably the most important part of your marketing. It’s content that connects the dots between what your audience wants and the value your business provides. (If you only read one chapter in this book, make this the one.)
- Conversion Psychology: Understanding the psychology of why people click, try, and buy is fundamentally important to converting audience members into paying customers. And this is the whole job of marketing! This framework that Garrett offers (with the fantastic Joanna Wiebe) perfectly describes the customer’s journey from unaware of your existence to raving about your product. It’s outstanding.
But… My all-time favorite way to explain the crux of crushing your content marketing with the 10x Marketing Formula is with this lovely recipe for marketing success!
10 Classic Marketing Books Every Marketer Should Read
These books are well-loved classics packed full of knowledge any marketer can learn from.
The New Rules of Marketing and PR
This fundamental book is full of information any beginning marketer should check out. In fact, its possible your first boss may have handed you a copy. Even for those with experience, there's nothing wrong with brushing up on the basics.
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
One of the most classic tomes on copywriting ever published. If your job is to write to sell, then you need this book on your shelf.
The CoSchedule crew are big fans of Seth Godin. This book explains the importance of standing out in crowded marketplaces, like a "purple cow" might in a field of, well, ordinary cows.
Ogilvy on Advertising
No individual has had a greater impact on advertising and the art of copywriting than David Ogilvy. Ogilvy on Advertising collects his thoughts on a wide variety of aspects of the industry.
Epic Content Marketing
Joe Pulizzi knows his stuff about content marketing. As the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, there are few better authors in the business to learn from.
Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind
Getting the public to notice your brand in a cluttered media environment isn't easy. So, what's the key to cutting through? Positioning. And this book clearly illusrates exactly how to make sure you don't get lost in the noise.
Confessions of an Advertising Man
David Ogilvy is one of the most influential figures in marketing and advertising history. That much is widely-known, and at this point, doesn't need to be reiterated. This book was instrumental in cementing his place in history back when it was first published in 1963, and it's still worth reading today.
The Copywriter's Handbook
If you read just one book about copywriting, you could make a solid case for reading The Copywriter's Handbook. It's a classic guide to mastering the craft, and it deserves a place on every wordsmith's bookshelf.
The Adweek Copywriting Handbook
If anyone should know copywriting inside and out, it's the folks at Adweek. Joseph Sugarman's tome on writing marketing copy is another must-read.
A Technique for Producing Ideas
The underlying principles that drive creative thought never change. This timeless classic should be required reading for anyone tasked with being an idea person (and on some level, that's all of us as marketers).
The Top 10 Marketing Books on Amazon (As Of This Writing)
So far, the above recommendations have been based on the CoSchedule team's own opinions, and what are generally considered industry classics. But, what are the top-selling marketing books on the world's largest e-retailer for books? Take a look at this list.
This Is Marketing
This book is a #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller. An Instant New York Times Bestseller. And is so popular, it cracked the Amazon Marketing Books Top 10 three times (hardcover, kindle AND audiobook). This book covers everything from building trust with your target audience, the art of positioning, why old approaches no longer work, and more. It's one you'll want to add to your must-read list.
Exactly What To Say
Marketers know better than anyone - the words you choose to use are powerful. In Exactly What To Say, Phil shares principles and examples to help you win more business, have more influence, and grow your persuasiveness using the magic words for influence and impact.
It comes as little surprise to see Gary Vaynerchuk on this list. To call him immensely influential would be an understatement, and his latest book is a great read whether you're a long-time fan or have never picked up any of his stuff before.
The Personal MBA
Josh Kaufman's The Personal MBA, teaches the essentials of sales, marketing, negotiation, strategy, and much more - without the cost and time investment of an MBA program. It's reviewed as "a creative, breakthrough approach to business education." Read this book and learn the principles it takes most people a formal education + years of working experience to master.
Building A Brand Story
Marketers are often told storytelling is key to brand-building. But, when it comes to actually infuse their strategy with a story, things get a bit fuzzy. Donald Miller's Building a Story Brand removes that shroud of mystery.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
In Influence, Robert Cialdini provides an in-depth explanation of the principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. All marketers and sales pros can learn the strategies and techniques - backed by psychology - to convince buyers to convert.
If you're giving presentations, public speaking, or pitching to clients, Bill McGowan's book, Pitch Perfect can help you craft the right messages and deliver them with the right language every time. Ever find yourself thinking, "I wish I could have said it this way..." after a meeting - then this book is for you.
The 1-Page Marketing Plan
Marketing strategy isn't dead, but 30-page marketing plans most certainly are. In The 1-Page Marketing Plan, Allan Dib explains how to get to the point, without losing strategic substance.
The Tipping Point
How do certain ideas or products break through and spread across the public consciousness? That's exactly what Malcolm Gladwell explores in The Tipping Point.
Every marketer should understanding how sales and prospecting leads works. This guide is the perfect place to start.
You Wanna Get The Most From The Best Marketing Books Listed Above?
Alright, now that you’ve done all of this reading about reading… It’s time to go read 🤓
Go load up your Amazon account, learn to develop a daily reading habit while they’re on their way, and then let the pages flutter.
Ready for the best news of the day?!
You don’t have to wait for that lovely box of books to become a better marketer… You can start 10x-ing your results right now by nabbing the first chapter of 10x Marketing Formula on the house.
Now, read it and weep (for your competition, that is).
This post was originally published on April 12, 2018. It was updated and republished on Dec. 13, 2018.