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8 Best Marketing Books for Small Business Owners to Read

From newcomers to contemporary classics, here’s a mix of book titles that put names to the phenomenons affecting your business. All are great choices for small business owners to read if they are prepared to act and improve.

Bigger Than This: How to Turn Any Venture Into an Admired Brand

Paperback, $13.46; e-book, $9.95; Audiobook, free with Amazon Audible trial

Summary: In this new book from the bestselling author of How to Launch a Brand, Fabian Geyrhalter shows businesses why they should create story-based brands. He emphasizes how important storytelling is and says brands need to adopt eight traits — story, belief, cause, heritage, delight, transparency, solidarity and individuality. Geyrhalter encourages companies to share personal, honest, stories that consumers can relate to, which he says creates a loyal brand following.

Highlights: Reviewers appreciate Geyrhalter’s practical advice, funny and direct tone and knowledge regarding turning a business into a brand.

Who is it best for? This book will appeal to businesses that sell a commodity and want to add an authentic brand story that connects.

How Customers Buy … and Why They Don’t: Mapping and Managing the Buying Journey DNA

Hardcover, $23.47; e-book, $9.99

Summary: As small businesses navigate the waters of a new, largely digital marketplace, it’s no longer about how they sell. Today, companies must focus on how their customers buy. This “radical refocus” is the premise of a guidebook from Martyn R. Lewis, a 20-year, corporate marketing veteran. The book goes through the six points of the “Customer Buying Journey DNA” to help business owners understand the customer experience — and it tells you how to make this new knowledge work for your company. Lewis also presents nine “Buying Concerns” that can blow a potential sale.

Highlights: This book was published in August 2018, but a first look indicates it might be just the eye-opener a startup needs to get away from focusing on making a sale and shift toward understanding the market and the customer’s motivations.

Who is it best for? For businesses large and small that depend on revenue generation and want to get better at their livelihood, this is the book to read.

Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company’s Future — and What to Do About It

Hardcover, $17.18; paperback, $16.43; e-book, $13.99; Audiobook, free with Amazon Audible trial

Summary: The market for just about everything from oral hygiene to entertainment is changing. Many Fortune 500 companies that were previously known for products are now offering services for a digitized world. The subscription model is popping up everywhere, and companies are using subscription services internally as well — think using Box instead of their own servers. In this 2018 release, Tien Tzuo, CEO of the subscription SaaS provider Zuora, along with Gabe Weisert, provides case studies that show how many kinds of businesses have shifted their modes to create ongoing customer relationships by providing continued services.

Highlights: Readers will appreciate the attention the writers give to such a widespread change to the way businesses model themselves these days. The book also offers options for diversifying your own business’ approach to growth with eight essential growth strategies.

Who is it best for? This tremendous transformation has and will continue to affect many industries, but this book might be best for those who aren’t tech savvy and need an introduction.

Non Obvious 2018: How To Predict Trends and Win The Future

Paperback, $10.53; e-book, $6.99

Summary: This is the sixth edition of the heralded Non Obvious series from Rohit Bhargava, and it highlights 15 updated trends for 2018. He founded the Non Obvious Company, which advises major brands on business, communication and innovation strategy. The categories include Culture and Consumer Behavior, Marketing and Social Media, Media and Education, Technology and Design, and Economics and Entrepreneurship, and Bhargava notes three trends for each category. One of the 2018 trends, “Brand Stand,” refers to brands that think they have to stand for something.

Highlights: Adherents of the Non Obvious’ counterintuitive trend reports have come to anticipate the new edition at the start of each year, it’s tough to find a detractor.

Who is it best for? For cynical business book readers, Bhargava starts each new edition with an honest assessment of his previous predictions to see how they have held up — and he fares rather well.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Hardcover, $15.96; Paperback, $10.92; e-book, $11.99; Audiobook, free with Amazon Audible trial; Audio CD $22.47

Summary: In what the American Marketing Association rated the best marketing book of 2014, author and Wharton School of Business marketing professor Jonah Berger studies why stories make the New York Times’ most emailed list. He reveals six factors that make an idea contagious — and it doesn’t all happen online. He provides numerous examples, illustrating how a cheesesteak saved a steakhouse and why Evian’s viral roller baby video didn’t boost slumping sales. Four years after its debut, this book remains a hit.

Highlights: Contagious is very well rated and readers praise the relatable examples. Some, however, say there’s nothing new here.

Who is it best for? For businesses that want to make something memorable and grow sales by going viral, this one is a good choice.

The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd

Paperback, $11.77

Summary: Serial entrepreneur, business coach, consultant and public speaker Allan Dib’s 2016 best seller helps you easily create an organized plan for driving business growth. The book includes strategies geared toward small- and medium-sized business getting an edge, how to successfully charge high prices and how to improve direct-response marketing results.

Highlights: Readers say the ideas in this book are useful, clear and actionable.

Who is it best for? This is geared toward small- and medium-sized businesses, professional services or any service business, really. Think using your small budget for a big impact instead of high-end branding.

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising

Paperback, $11.20; e-book, $5.99; Audiobook free with Amazon Audible trial

Summary: Ryan Holiday, the marketer behind American Apparel as well as major authors and musicians, write this 2014 hit that tracks a new landscape with new rules and draws examples from titans like Facebook, Airbnb and Twitter. Covering basics, such as product market fit and virality, it’s a crash course in contemporary marketing, especially via the internet.

Highlights: This is more of a breezy overview of major marketing examples than a tactical tome full of case studies, so those looking for introductory inspiration might take get more bang for their buck than those seeking something comprehensive.

Who is it best for? This one is aimed at businesses of all sizes, and it works to inspire newcomers to modern marketing.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarifying Your Message So Customers Will Listen

Hardcover, $20.04; paperback, $10.64; e-book, $9.99; Audiobook, free with Amazon Audible trial; MP3 CD, $16.79

Summary: Once you know seven universal story points and apply them to your brand storytelling, you can craft brand stories that resonate with all people. Then you use that messaging across social media, your business’ website and your print collateral. Author Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand, has influenced major brands’ marketing tactics. In his book, he stresses that the customer is the hero of your story, not you, and he emphasizes the role of danger in a compelling tale.

Highlights: What makes consumers pay attention in this age of digital bombardment? A captivating story. Fans praise the Miller’s straightforward prose and useful advice regarding how to craft one.

Who is it best for? Any type or size of business can relate the lessons in this book to their operation. It’s for writers, copywriters and businesses that want to create compelling stories.

 

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