11 Startup Marketing Books You Should Get for Christmas This Year

December 3, 2020

For everyone who knows me, this blog post does not come as a surprise. I'm absolutely obsessed with books. I'm not kidding, when I tell you that the only things on my husband's and my Christmas wish list this year are books and an animal shelter donation.

That being said, over the course of my studies and additional 6 years in marketing at startups, I've collected a sizable pile of marketing-related books. Today, I'll share the creme de la creme with you: I've selected 10 marketing books every founder or business owner should read at least once. There'll be a few 'obvious' choices, but also a few less famous, but nonetheless awesome and actionable books. I hope after this read your Christmas wish list will look a lot like ours 😛

11 awesome books every founder and business owner must read

The order in which I present the books is not prioritized. I can't say which one of them is the best. Okay, maybe I can, but it's completely subjective. I'll write a few words  about each book. If you've read them or once you did read them, let me know what you think. I'm always up for discussing books!


1. Positioning - Al Ries & Jack Trout

Published 20 years ago, one might think of this book as outdated, but it is everything but that. Apart from a ton of examples, Ries & Trout explain what it means to get into the mind of people. Their position is: If you want to be successful, be the first to occupy the mind of the audience for that particular product or service. If you're not the first, don't go head to head, but find an angle that isn't yet occupied.


2. Contagious - Dr. Jonah Berger

It's been a while since I've read the book, but I was so impressed by it and in general by the research Dr. Berger does at Wharton, that I did a little analysis of his personal brand recently. In Contagious, Dr. Berger sheds a light on what makes an idea, business or product go viral and how word-of-mouth works. For example, he's talking about social currency and how we tend to share things that makes us look good. Are you writing content that makes other people look good?


3. Pretty Much Everything - Draplin Design Co.

If you don't know Aaron Draplin yet, please take a look at this book. It's like his design memoir. It's not directly related to marketing, but he shares so many insights about the way he grew his business and what makes good logos and branding that absolutely everyone should read this book once. He is not just inspiring, but really sparked creativity in me and motivated me to look at logo design from a different angle.


4. Made to Stick - Chip Heath

Heath's book is really a manifesto on how to create marketing assets that drive results. He developed a concept called SUCCES – or communicating ideas that are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and use storytelling. I love this book, because - similar to Ries' "Positioning" - it gives actionable advice on how to overcome competition and noise.


5. Never Split the Difference - Chris Voss

This book was recently suggested to me in a networking event and I was totally blown away by it. Chris Voss was a hostage negotiator at the FBI and shares his experience and knowledge about negotiating skills. What really stuck with me was the mirroring tactic. In this tactic you repeat the last three words or the most important three words of what your conversation partner said. Also try to adjust the speed and pitch of your voice to theirs and adapt similar mimics and gestures. The purpose of it? It makes people feel more at ease in your environment. The book is not directly linked to marketing, but learning the art of negotiation (and in that sense pursuation) is a skill that goes a long way, especially in advertising and content marketing.


6. Growth Hacker Marketing - Ryan Holiday

To be honest, I missed a little depth and actionable items in the book. Nevertheless, if you're just starting out and haven't heard of growth hacking, this book gives you a good first overview of what's possible. It talks about some of the famous growth hacking examples by Dropbox and Apple's "Sent from my iPhone".


7. Traction - Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares

For everyone who's not a marketer and wants to learn more about it, this book is gold. Weinberg and Mares offer great insights into what "traction" means and then share a long list of different marketing and traction channels with examples of how they can be used best to make a product and business stand out. Traction, Positioning and Made to Stick are the three books you need to read to understand how to market a product effectively.


8. The Narcissism Epidemic - Jean Twenge & Keith Campbell

This is again a book that is not directly linked to marketing advice, but nonetheless I think it's a crucial book for everyone building products for millenials. Twenge and Campbell are THE expert voices on millenials and their digital behavior. Based on a ton of research, they shed a light on the me generation and the 'obsessive need' for self-actualization (their words!). It's a great book to understand the desires, needs and struggles of this generation.


9. On Writing Well - William Zinsser

There's a common believe that everyone can be a content writer. Well, yes everyone CAN be, but not everyone is a good one. That's why I recommend every startup to take a look at this book. If you're planning to embark on a content marketing journey, learn how to write well. William Zinsser's book is really a marketing classic and the bible for content writing advice.


10. How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

This book is my all-time favourite. The reason I suggest this as a must-read marketing book is because Carnegie describes the best and most effective ways of influencing people without manipulating them. These techniques can be used in 1:1 conversations, but just as much in your sales and marketing strategies. One of his techniques is: Make people feel important. Like Dr. Berger mentioned in "Contagious", if you can create marketing assets that make others look good or important, you're creating marketing assets that will work.


11. Unique - Melanie Goel

A little self promotion here, but if you're a founder, Indiehacker or someone with a great idea, don't overlook to position yourself as an expert as well. I wrote a guide for all hustlers with actionable advice and exercises which will help you highlight your strenghts, skills and idea strategically in the right way to the people who matter.

So, this was my list of 10 marketing books every entrepreneur should have read once in their lives. Obviously the list is so much longer, but if I'd write about all of them here it would be after Christmas until I'm done. However, for everyone who still has some room for more books on their Christmas wish list, check out these one's too:

Start With Why

1-Page Marketing Plan

Purple Cow


Hey Whipple, Squeeze This

If you like the list, show some love on Twitter, LinkedIn or any other platform 😛


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