Marketing in the digital age does not come from theory. In fact, marketing theory is in a state of transition. The old “rules” do not apply any longer, and developing marketing campaigns that work takes a lot of trial and error, a lot of assessment, and continual changes. One thing for sure. Today’s market is customer-driven, and that customer is a lot smarter and a lot more demanding than ever before. We are no longer selling; we are providing experiences for consumers who want to be courted, educated, entertained, and inspired. And doing that means getting the advice and then practicing. Here are 10 marketing books with the right advice for marketing in this new environment.
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
Words are powerful – they say a lot about us as we use them. People who read our words will see us as entertaining or boring, smart or dumb, warm or cold, suspicious or trustworthy, steady or flaky. And the digital content we create will mean the difference between achieving engagement and driving audiences away. According to Handley, every piece of content must appeal in a real way by focusing on what the customer wants and needs, not the marketer. In this really practical book, Handley devotes sections to writing better, mastering easy grammar rules, telling stories well, creating trustworthy content, and using the techniques of journalism. Whether you write lengthy blog posts or tweets, you are engaged in writing, and you need to do it really well. This book will show you how.
- Youtility by Jay Baer
The point of Baer’s book is that we must stop selling and start being useful to customers. When we do this, we make more than just a single sale, we have a customer for life. The book is full of examples of companies that have adopted this marketing strategy – companies that he has actually helped develop a relationship-based, helpful, approach to customers.
Baer has this customer-centered content marketing thing down, and this book teaches all businesses, large or small, how to transform their entire concept of marketing into one that will meet with success. Today’s customer is a different “animal,” and businesses must embrace this reality.
Great case studies of businesses of every size and niche – you’ll find just what you need to market to this new customer.
- The Power of Visual Storytelling by Ekaterina Walter
Human attention spans are becoming shorter. In fact, if you have not engaged a reader within the first 6 seconds, you have lost him. Based upon some pretty amazing statistics (e.g., posts with visuals achieve up to 180% more engagement)
This book is especially useful for beginners in this whole content marketing world, for it shows, with great examples, how photos, images, infographics, slides, and video will not just engage viewers, but keep them on your content longer, while you promote your brand, entertain, educate and inspire. Telling a story through pictures worked for cavemen; it has always worked for young children; and now it works for hurried and impatient consumers.
- The Passion Conversation by Phillips, Church, Cordell, & Moore
Word of mouth marketing has been around for eons. Happy customers told other potential customers about their happiness and recommended products, services and companies. This was done face-to-face, by phone, and then by email. Today, it is accomplished on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other social media outlet. But that is not what this book is about. This book is about generating passion on the part of your audience – passion for you, your brand, and your business.
When there is passion, people talk. And when people talk, you have word of mouth marketing – marketing that is done for you, not by you. Your job is to instill enough passion in enough people that they spread your brand within their communities, and your business thus grows.
These authors spend some time on the research, and that is important for the reader to understand. The research is what convinces the reader that generating passion generates business.
From the research, the reader is taken through the steps to generate passion and thus conversation. Great examples of how businesses ae actually doing this round out this “how-to” book. An essential read for any marketer.
- Welcome to the Funnel by Jason Miller
Focusing on content and social media, Miller gives completely practical tactics and strategies for integrating the two. First, he says, stop focusing on more content and create, instead, more relevant content. And the reader will find three methods for doing just that. The second section of the book provides methods for using social far better than you may be today, to build trust and drive traffic. Miller then dives into the future a bit and predicts what the future for marketers will hold. Finally, you will get really practical advice on the resources, tactics, and strategies that will keep you in front of your competitors. A no frills book to be sure.
- Optimize by Lee Odden
As CEO of Top Rank Marketing, Odden has a strong history as a consultant in content marketing strategies – specifically, integrating SEO, content and social media to provide customers with experiences they won’t forget. And those experiences mean traffic and sales.
Focusing on three things – relevance, visibility, and engaging customers – will boost any business, whether startup or enterprise.
Learn how to optimize your content, get found by your potential customer, court that customer with the right tactics, and create experiences that will keep that customer for life.
- What’s the Future of Business by Brian Solis
Another book on the importance of creating user experiences, but an essential one for the marketer who is looking to be on the cutting edge of what the future holds for digital marketing. According to Solis, experience is simply everything and will continue to be. Learning how to create customer experiences that “blow you competition away” will be how businesses grow, especially in a consumer environment that demands relevancy, relationships, and trust.
Practical advice for changing business and marketing models for the new consumerism from an author who is recognized as the “guru” of customer engagement.
- Content Rules by C.C. Chapman
This book is clearly the “bible” of content creation and should be the first read of anyone just moving into the world of digital marketing. Chapman provides the essential guidelines for creating content that will spread, including posts that will engage, storytelling, media use, and that will develop a fan base from which relationships and loyalty will be built and maintained. Five steps that every content marketer must take include the following:
- Know your customer and find your “voice” that speaks to that customer passionately and compels him/her to share your voice.
- Promote your content through social media for maximum distribution
- Communicate with powerful messages, using all of the tools that are available to you
- Make your online presence broad and deep
Through examples and case studies, even a novice content marketer will learn how the “pros” operate and be able to model content strategies after those that are proven successes.
- Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
Why is it that TV commercials that the “big boys” now run are all story-based? Think of Geico’s lizard, Progressive’s Flo, and the Aflac duck. It’s because today’s consumer wants a good story, not a sales pitch. And digital marketing is no different.
If you need a step-by-step guide for creating content for today’s consumer, this book will be a reference tool that you will keep close. Learn how to draw customers in while they don’t even realize they are being drawn in. They are engaging because they are excited by the content you have created.
Pulizzi is above all a practical person. He demonstrates how to find your audience and then how to create “epic content” specifically suited to that audience, by informing and entertaining with great stories – stories that make you the expert in your industry niche.
You will find case studies of such giants as Lego and Coca-Cola, but the principles behind the marketing strategies are the same for Fortune 500 companies as they are for the new startup. Using them will grow your business and develop a loyal following that will in turn spread your content to others who also become loyal. This is the new word-of-mouth advertising of the 21st century, and smart marketers will set digital marketing as the highest priority.
Pulizzi does not claim to have “invented” anything new in content marketing. But he has taken the best of strategies and tactics and synthesized them into a total marketing plan that anyone can use.
10. Audience by Jeff Rohrs
The best content is wasted if there is no one to view it. But you already know that. Rohrs’ premise in this key book is that companies are not treating their audiences as the assets they are – in fact their most important assets.
If we look at our customers and potential customers as assets, Rohr states, we will nurture them, we will seek to keep them maintained well, and we will grow them just as we would any other business asset we possess. Assets are long-term investments, and they are meant to last.
Rohr does not just pontificate. He provides very practical steps to build your most important asset through content and social media engagement. Nurturing that asset and causing that asset to bring in more assets is the key to business growth.
A Final Thought
Walk into any bookstore in America. There, carefully categorized, are books being touted as “must-reads” for students, housewives, career professionals, entrepreneurs, parents, and more. Wading through all of the shelves to find books that “work” for you can be a monumental task. Hopefully, this list will narrow down your search and you will find what you need at this point in your marketing sojourn.