Best Marketing Books 2019

Why read books on marketing?

The lifeblood of any business is the sales that it makes. Without sales it has no reason for being. But the age-old question is where do those sales come from? How do you get people or other businesses to buy what you are selling? That is where marketing comes in.

Marketing is the art of getting people to want what you are offering and getting them to come to you to get it.

There are many aspects to marketing and any ways to try to achieve the desired result – i.e. sales. Therefore, over the years many marketing experts have committed their knowledge to print and produced books to help explain their craft. Reading these books enables us to understand marketing techniques and helps us to put them into practice.

What is the best marketing books list for?

At Motivating Words we believe in providing the means for enabling our readers to become better, in whatever way. In the field of marketing, there is every reason for reading widely in order to give yourself a wide grounding in marketing techniques. Therefore, we have produced our top 10 books on marketing.

What should you aim to get from this list?

There really should be no set agenda when viewing this list. You know the needs of your business or the areas where you need marketing help and so the wide range of books presented should be viewed until you find something suitable. The books range from those that focus on those that help you get into the mind of the buyer (The Psychology of Persuasion) to those that use that psychology to create effective adverts (Ogilvy on Advertising) to those that help you set out a full-blown marketing plan (Guerrilla Marketing).


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert B Cialdini)

Influence: The Psychology of Persuassion

Making a very worthy start to the Best Marketing Books list, written in 2003, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion was written by Robert B Cialdini a Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. A book about why people say “yes”, as its title suggests, this book is about persuasion and goes about explaining how you can use the understanding of why people say “yes” to your advantage.

Hailed as the forefather of the whole interest in self-improvement through influence and persuasion, Cialdini invested 35 years of research plus 3 years of study in the production of his book. It really is an influence and persuasion classic that is worthy of a read by anyone, in any walk of life that is keen to seek the agreement of others.

The 6 key principles of influence outlined in this book are:

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Social proof
  3. Commitment and consistency
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

Having explored these 6 key principles in the way Cialdini presents them when you’ve worked your way through this read, you’ll have the tools not only to influence others but to be on your guard against others influencing you too. It is arguably this double benefit that makes this book such a gem when it comes to change and success. It is arguably a life-skill manual that everyone should read both to propel themselves to success and to protect themselves.

Born in Milwaukee in 1945, Dr Robert B Cialdini is Regents Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State university. He has also lectured at Stanford and the University of California at Santa Cruz, so he knows what he is talking about. This is his flagship book, has sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into 30 different languages.

When you’ve read this book you’ll see your relationships with others differently. During most days at some point or another, we want someone to be influenced by us. While we mightn’t be aware beforehand, this book makes us acutely aware that we are also being influenced all the time. Both sides of this equation in everyday life will be positively affected by reading this book. Not only will you feel more empowered to influence others, you’ll be more on your guard about how you’re being influenced yourself.

Anyone who wants to understand the whys and wherefores of why people say “yes” will love this book. With the ability to impact on your personal life as well as your professional life, no matter whether you’re a corporate employee or a self-employed small business owner you’ll get a whole lot from this read. Looking at everything from giving something before expecting to get anything in return through to recognising the impact that someone’s age will have on whether or not they can be influenced, this book will leave you inspired to take your relationships to new levels across the board.

  1. It is a classic in its sphere and it will almost certainly leave you with a changed perception of why you and others say “yes”.
  2. It is based on high-level research and study yet remains accessible and understandable by all.
  3. It will give you the life skills to change how you persuade others and be guarded about how exposed you are to persuasion yourself.

Purple Cow (Seth Godin)

purple cow

The book Purple Cow was written by Seth Godin in 2003. Its focus, as the title suggests, is to help you transform your business by being remarkable. Based on the belief that advertising is outmoded because there’s simply too much of it, and consumers are wise to it, the book teaches you how to create great products and sniff out people who will become your advocates and do the selling for you.

Accepting that a great product is at the core of any great business, this book is packed with examples of champions of remarkableness from beginning to end. Full of quirky concepts and marketing ideas, Godin goes to great lengths to point out that he’s not in any way suggesting that you can succeed by copying his ideas or examples; what he is trying to instil is the ability to think outside of the box in order to find your own angle.

A highly successful book, even Purple Cow was remarkable by the way it was launched. Delivered in a milk carton and sold at a price that covered shipping and handling charges only, it created quite a stir at the time.  Highlighting companies such as Starbucks and Apple, Godin goes to great lengths to point out that with a remarkable product behind you, together with some remarkable marketing you will succeed.

Even the name of this book is remarkable – purple cow – when was the last time you saw one of those? This book is very much a challenge for marketers to look for the purple cow in whatever it is they are trying to promote.

 An American author, speaker and entrepreneur, Seth Godin is synonymous with modern day marketing. A bald, bespectacled guy, he’s known for his goofy portraits and out of the ordinary ideas. Born in New York in July 1960, Purple Cow is one of Godin’s most renowned publications. With a strong track record for business success, Godin not only knows what he’s talking about, he’s great at sharing his ideas in such a way that even non-marketing minds “get it”. 

This book leaves you in no doubt that to stand out today you simply must create something remarkable and promote it in a remarkable way. Any less and you’re doomed to failure. While this is a tough call in today’s crowded marketplace, it’s not impossible and there are plenty of people around us proving that point. The book will spark the flame of creativity and will set you on a path of ideas so you can carve your own remarkable place in the market. 

Anyone who runs a business and is focused on success would benefit from reading this book, hence it's entry into our list of best marketing books. While many of its examples relate to big corporations, there are things to be learned even at startup or founder level. The most fundamental are that it will persuade you that going the extra mile is the way to get people talking about your business and recommending it to their network.

  1. It’s an all-time classic marketing book by a guy who makes high level concepts easy to understand and apply.
  2. It will inspire you to think differently from the ‘me too’ approach that many marketers send you down.
  3. It will help you think of ways to stand out in a busy market so you get the recognition you deserve.

Ogilvy On Advertising (David Olgivy)

one of the best marketing books - ogilvy on advertisingAn absolute legend in the world of advertising, Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy on Advertising is a classic that is in equal measure coffee table candy and inspirational. A book that shares Ogilvy's significant knowledge of this industry as well as tips and tricks to make your own advertising more successful, this read is also a historic account of one of the world’s biggest industries. Spanning the 20 years leading up to its publication in 1985, it is a blockbuster that is as likely to be studied in colleges and universities as it is to be poured over by small business owners keen to reach the next level.

If you’re interested in an industry that could help you achieve success in your business, there is arguably no better source to get it from than David Ogilvy. Albeit now slightly outdated, it is still an interesting and inspiring read that is a great reminder of how life was pre-Google.

You should definitely read this book if you are on or are planning to embark on a structured marketing journey because although the images are outdated and some of the material mightn’t be suited to an internet era, there are still a host of useful facts and ideas to be gleaned. Not only that, it’ll take you on a journey back in time and let you get up close and personal with advertising’s most recognised name. 

David Mackenzie Ogilvy was born in West Horsley in England in 1911. He went to school in Edinburgh and university in Oxford before venturing to France where he (reportedly) worked tirelessly for an incredibly low wage in the kitchens of the Majestic Hotel. He then returned to England and took up a job in sales, selling Aga Stoves. This is where his talent for advertising was born. One-half of the famous Ogilvy & Mather partnership, David Ogilvy died age 88 in 1999. 

The great thing about this book is that it will change your way of thinking. Providing real insight into what are now in some respects outdated ads and campaigns, this book still has much to offer when it comes to deciding how to promote a product or service. 

Anyone who is about to start on a marketing journey for their business, or who wants to take their marketing to another level will get a whole lot from reading this book. It will leave you feeling informed, with more context around the whole subject of sales and marketing. Equally, any marketing or design students who are keen to seek inspiration from one of the greats would get a huge amount from investing a bit of time perusing this read.

  1. It is an absolute classic, written by a legend.
  2. It’ll give you a great understanding of the psychology as well as the rationale behind some of the world’s best early advertising campaigns.
  3. It’ll alter your thinking regarding marketing and advertising – in a hugely positive way.

The Long Tail (Chris Anderson)

the long tailWritten by Chris Anderson, who held the title of Editor in Chief at Wired Magazine and was a writer for The Economist, this book is quite original in its thinking. The Long Tail, which was first published in 2006 puts forward the notion that a successful business model can be created by selling a low volume of products that are in low demand. A somewhat bizarre theory, it is based on the fact that by broadening your product range to include things that sell little but consistently to a product range that sells a lot but is much narrower/short lived in terms of demand you can create a highly profitable strategy.

The book’s name comes from the part of the graph of what was traditionally considered to be failing sales ie. the long tail rather than the peak, which is what normally makes the headlines in organisations. Highlighting the likes of Ebay as a classic long-tail organisation where you can find pretty much everything and anything, no matter how much demand there is, it could at first be tough to see how you could apply this theory to your small business. However, if you have a business that is selling successfully in certain areas but you’re still failing to reach the highs you want, this approach could be the inspiration and breath of fresh air you’ve been looking for.

Starting its life as an article written for Wired, this, Anderson’s first book became a New York Times non-fiction best seller and was also shortlisted by the likes of the Financial Times for a Business Book of the Year Award. 

Born in 1961, Chris Anderson is a British-American entrepreneur, journalist and author. Starting life in London, he moved to the US at the young age of 5. An academic at heart he has spent his professional life in the likes of London, Hong Kong and New York. One of his most renowned posts was as Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, a post he held from 2001 to 2012. 

From a marketing perspective, this book encourages you to look at your business model as a way of boosting your chances of success. Albeit this approach relies on a shopfront or a distribution channel that’s relatively sizeable, there are elements of this theory that can be successfully applied equally effectively to smaller businesses.

If your business success is based on a small number of high selling products or services that are high in demand and you’re looking to scale, this book could provide the ideas and enlightenment you’ve been lacking to date. A slightly off-beam solution, it has much to add to many businesses that are frustrated because they feel as if they’re banging on the ceiling of success.

  1. It puts forward an unusual, yet credible way to take your business to new highs.
  2. It is based on much research and evidence, and is an approach that is used successfully by a number of highly profitable businesses.
  3. It is inspirational in many ways and even if you don’t adopt the method in full, it will certainly give you ideas to take your business to the next level.

Permission Marketing (Seth Godin)

permission marketingHailed as one of the major gurus of his time, in this book Seth Godin presents a really powerful way of winning over your potential buyers in a way that they’ll thank you for it. Challenging what he calls interruption marketing – where sellers railroad into their target market’s lives in the hope of getting their attention, Godin puts forward a much calmer and more credible approach.

He presents a solution that is based around incentivising potential buyers to accept your promotion. He does this by encouraging you to communicate only with people who have asked to hear from you, thus the name – permission marketing. Unlike interruption marketing, this permission-driven approach means that you can communicate with your potential buyers and give them the chance to get to know, like and trust you, all the while moving them closer to buying from you.

Although the title might put some off, implying that the book is going to suggest you start to try to sell to your friends, I’d encourage you to look beyond that if you’re serious about building a strong foundation for your business. The solution that Godin puts forward in this book is that with the agreement of the potential buyer on board, you can spend your marketing budget and effort much more effectively.

Based on the principle where you seek someone’s permission to contact them in the first place in return for something that’s useful to them and free or low cost and then build from there, this approach has been used by a whole range of successful businesses. A way of building your business that can work effectively and at low cost, this book is well worth a read. A top blogger, author and geeky marketing guru, Seth Godin is arguably one of the world’s most recognised authors, entrepreneur and public speakers. His funky styling, specs and bald head (NOTE: I have absolutely nothing against bald heads) makes him immediately recognisable and accessible.

The main takeaway from this book is that shouting randomly into a crowd of potential buyers no longer works. What is more likely to work is figuring out who your best customer is and targeting them to accept your communication in return for something that’s of value to them. Following the suggestions in this book is a great way to build a valuable list and to steadily grow your business through upselling,

Any business owner who is keen to develop a solid foundation for their business growth would benefit from the ideas put forward in this book. The system proposed is tried and tested and is being used to great effect by companies big and small, the world over. Add to this the clout that Seth Godin has in this industry and you can be sure that when you read this book, you’re tapping into the thoughts of a very, very clever marketer and entrepreneur.

  1. If you’ve been using bombarding marketing techniques that haven’t worked, you’ll find this book a breath of fresh air.
  2. If you want to grow a solid business that’s well set up for the long-term, this book will give you the foundations to do that.
  3. The solutions put forward by this book can be put into place cheaply and easily by even the least technically astute or marketing aware business owner.

Guerrilla Marketing (Jay Conrad Levinson)

guerrilla marketingThis book advocates that you can make big profits from your small business at little or no cost if you know what to do. Putting marketing forward as every bit of contact you have with everyone outside of your business, Levinson takes you through everything from what you should call your business, to what you should sell, to branding, email signatures, sales training, problem solving and asking for referrals – plus a whole lot of other activities that you can do simply and cheaply to improve your success.

Quite rightly pointing out that marketing is a way of getting people to decide to work with you or buy from you, or to continue to work with you or buy from you, Levinson is very clear when he says that everything you do in your business affects that outcome. A real advocate of walking the walk and not just talking the talk, Levinson makes it clear that success comes about due to hard work and effort, not just a wave of a magic wand. That said, in this book, he gives you all the tools you could ask for to get you well under way to finding the success you want.

Unlike many other books of its kind, this book does not promise overnight success in 4 hours a week. The approach put forward by Levinson is one that if you follow it to the letter will stand you in good stead for building a strong foundation for your business. Encouraging a goal of reaching the point where your business is growing through word of mouth, he shares real life accounts of business owners who have used his methodology to great effect and at incredibly low cost.

You too can become a guerrilla marketer with the inside knowledge that Levinson shares.

Jay Conrad Levinson is author and co-author of a huge range of Guerilla Marketing books. Born in 1933 in Detroit, he died in 2013 having studied psychology, worked in ad agencies and coined the phrase Guerrilla Marketing.

The main things you’ll take away from this entry in our list of best marketing books is that you don’t need an expensive marketing agency on-side to grow your business. It also points out that big visitor hits on a website don’t necessarily mean profitability. It brings marketing down to a level we can all understand and encourages us to get into a mindset that we need to “do it” day in and day out.

Anyone who is starting a business or looking to grow an existing business to the next level who isn’t afraid of hard work and wants a holistic approach would benefit from reading this book. A book that cleverly dispels the longstanding myths that marketing must be complicated or costly to be effective, you should definitely read this book if you’re serious about building a solid foundation on which to grow your business.

  1. It will empower you to feel confident that you can conquer your marketing journey alone.
  2. It will dispel a whole lot of myths that might have been holding you back from success.
  3. It will help you build a strong marketing foundation on which you can grow your business.

Trust Me, I'm Lying (Ryan Holiday)

trust me im lyingThis best-seller tells the inside story of Ryan Holiday, marketer, PR director and media strategist’s time working with the likes of Tucker Max, Robert Greene and Dov Charney. A man who created great success due to his great stories, in this book, Holiday shows us how online journalism can cause peaks and troughs as well as successes and failures in alarming quantities, simply at the press of a button.

In the first part of the book, Holiday explores blogging and its power. In the second, his focus is on the outcomes and impact of what can seem like trivial blog entries. In today’s world of fast, on-demand news and everyone and their dog having the ability to tell news stories here and now, Holiday extols the virtues of this immediate information system and the downsides. He also shares real insight into how today’s journalism system works and how the quality of our news is affected.

A book that is described as informative, timely and provocative, it enabled me to make better sense of online reality. A book that has gained much interest, it is well worth a read if you’re interested in online communication or marketing. It is equally worth a read if you think that everything you read online is as good as it seems.

Born in 1987, Ryan Holiday is a well-known author, marketer and entrepreneur. With a whole string of important posts behind him already in his young life, he is inspirational, particularly bearing in mind that he dropped out of college. Unphased by controversy, he works directly with or in an advisory role for some big names such as Max Greene, Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins and Vani Hari, so is certainly esteemed by some of the stars.

This book exposes the blogs that are actually driving media in today’s society. Driven by money, technology and deadlines, bloggers will do anything to achieve their goals. Sometimes the outcome is good, sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes there is no outcome at all because the story is a flop, but the main takeaway is that this manipulation of our perception and our behaviour is at play 24/7 throughout the world. While we are all a tiny bit cynical of the accuracy of some of what we find online, this book will open up a whole can of worms regarding accuracy, purpose and motive.

If you’re someone who turns to Uncle Google to find solutions to every problem from achy limbs to what to do with sausages that are past their best, this book is a must read. It will expose you to what you probably suspect is true already – not everything that you read online is produced by an expert nor is it factually correct. Equally, if you’re looking to use the online system to grow your business or influence people, it will give you a clearer understanding of how things work.

  1. It will help you get your head around one of the world’s most powerful machines today – the internet.
  2. If you’re not already, it will make you wary of trusting what you read online and more discerning in how you allow news of any form to alter your behavior.
  3. It’s a really topical, interesting and accessible read that’s exciting and scary in equal measure.

You Should Test That (Chris Goward)

you should test thatIn a world where getting buyers’ attention and converting them into paying customers is getting tougher and tougher, this book is a breath of fresh air. The perfect partner for startup and small business owners alike, this read focuses on the art and science of taking website visitors and converting them into valuable business assets. Focusing every aspect of your website, from images to words, through navigation, colours and buttons, this book puts your visitor in the hot seat and helps you make sure you maximise the chances of them taking the action you want them to.

A book that goes a whole lot further than design and page layout, it demonstrates techniques you can test and try to help you continually improve your online performance. Zoning in on maximising conversion through testing and analysis, tips and tricks and learning through exercises and case studies it really is a step-by-step revelation to what you need to do to succeed online.

This book was written by an advisor to a range of Fortune 500 clients so it lets you get up close and personal with a consultant that would otherwise cost you a fortune.

Chris Goward’s client list includes the likes of Google, Electronic Arts, SAP, Shutterfly and, so when you pick up his book, you know you’re in good company. A highly rated, global speaker and influencer, he is at the top of his game when it comes to online and offline conversion. A businessman at heart, he has hands on experience of his techniques in action and is completely obsessed with consistent conversion improvement.

This book will leave you brimming with ideas for what you should do to increase your online conversion by double or triple-digit percentages. A real step by step guide, the great news is that, unlike some similar books, it won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed. It will leave you with a clear path to a strategy that you can test and try to see what works best for your business. A book that you’ll go back to time after time, the money you spend on this book is a true investment in your own success.

For any business owner who knows they have a great product or service but who is struggling to get the most from their website, this book is a must read. Although business owners who have a web presence that’s been put together almost as an after-thought will benefit most from it, there is much to be gained even by successful businesses who want to break through the glass ceiling of success.

  1. It’ll help you take your web success to a completely different level.
  2. It’ll show you exactly what you need to do to convert your online visitors into valuable customers.
  3. It’ll inspire you to develop your website into a real asset for your business without leaving you feeling out of your depth or overwhelmed.

Epic Content Marketing (Joe Pulizzi)

epic content marketingGone are the days where you put a good looking website online and laughed all the way to the bank. Not only are the search engines becoming more and more of a challenge to get on-side, but consumers are becoming more and more discerning too. What this means is that every business owner is having to work harder and harder to reach out and convert their target customers.

This book shows you how you can create targeted content strategies that will help you gain a competitive edge, no matter what industry or sector you’re in. A book that demonstrates how to create messages and stories that are interesting, engaging and shareable, when you’ve read this, you’ll be buzzing with ideas. The end result is that you’ll be creating content that your customers can relate to and engage with and will want to share on the social media.

It’s every small business and startup owner’s dream that their business ‘goes viral’ and having read this book, you’re sure to have ideas that will get you on your way. This read will give you practical, easy to apply help to market yourself and your business better by ticking all your potential customer’s boxes. A really accessible read, no matter whether you’re at the start of a content marketing journey, or you’re already quite experienced. Either way, it will take you to the next level and beyond.

Joe Pulizzi is a content marketing expert. He plans strategies for some of the world's most successful companies and founded the Content Marketing Institute, so he truly lives and breathes content that works.

This book will expose you to 6 pearls of wisdom regarding effective content marketing and they are:

  1. It has to be needs driven.
  2. It must be consistent.
  3. It needs to be delivered in your own, unique voice.
  4. It should express a point of view.
  5. Its goal isn’t selling.
  6. It’s valued.

Once you can get your head around producing and distributing high quality content in this way, you’ll be well on your way to content marketing success and to achieving your business goals.

Any business owner who is already interested in content marketing or involved in producing content will find this book enlightening. Its simple, non-jargon approach will inspire you to either develop your first content marketing strategy or take your existing one to a whole new level. It truly is a great answer when it comes to helping your business stand out in today’s crowded market.

  1. Content is the here and now of marketing.
  2. It simplifies what is sometimes seen as a complex and overwhelming way of promoting your business.
  3. It will leave you with a clear strategy of how to use content to grow your business and succeed in a highly manageable way.

How To Win Friends & Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

how to win friendsA classic book, thanks to the fact that it was one of the first of its kind, How to Win Friends & Influence People is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1936. A book that is reported to have sold over 30 million copies across the globe, there is no contesting its popularity. In fact, as recently as 2011 it was still being hailed as one of the top 20 most influential books by Time Magazine.

A book that is instrumental in changing how you engage with people in order to achieve your goals, it is an easy to follow guide that has been regularly updated over the years and now has a sister version which is called “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age”.

With a highly structured layout, it is a book that is as easy to navigate as it is to follow. Covering how to handle people; how to make people like you; convert people to your way of thinking; change people; letter writing and being happy at home, it started out as a face-to-face training course.

Its advice is easy to put into practice and has been adopted by successful people the world over. Having stood the test of time, there is no getting away from the fact that Carnegie’s approach works and has never gone out of date.

Born in November 1888, Dale Carnegie died in 1955 leaving a legacy of self-help material behind him. A highly successful sales person in his early days, Dale Carnegie gave up his sales role to teach public speaking, earning him significant money at a relatively young age. It was when he was presenting one of his courses that a scribe asked if he could note the contents of the course and this is what gave birth to this, his first book.

This book goes to prove that with the right approach and the right attitude you can easily grow your circle of friends and acquaintances. Dale Carnegie is well known as saying “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” In many ways, this is what this book is all about and it achieves its purpose beautifully and timelessly.

Anyone who is keen to make moves up the success ladder will find this book useful, interesting and inspiring. No matter whether you’re facing your first corporate position or have recently been plunged into a business role that you’re finding overwhelming, this book will support and guide you. Reportedly even having had an impact on Warren Buffett, this book arguably has something for everyone. If you’ve read it already and are feeling you could do with a refresher, you should consider popping it on your re-read list and if you’ve never read it, it truly is a classic must read in the self-help/success sector.

  1. It is a self-help classic that has truly stood the test of time.
  2. Being liked is a fundamental human need and while we mightn’t all admit it all the time, we all need some help from time to time.
  3. It is an inspirational and interesting read that everyone will get something from.