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20 Books You Must Read if You Want a Career in Digital Marketing

I’m often asked for reading recommendations from new marketers starting out in their careers. As the industry continues to become more competitive,  it is now necessary for a marketer demonstrate expertise in several areas of digital marketing. This reading list touches on topics such as design, copywriting, analytics, marketing metrics, landing page optimization, writing, strategy, persuasion, multi-tasking, branding, split-testing and more… 

My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising (by Claude Hopkins)

Claude Hopkins–the Godfather of Scientific Marketing! After reading this book I was so inspired I put a framed picture of Hopkins on my desk. Years later it still remains as a fervent reminder of his out-work-everyone mentality and of the kind of ad man I want to be some day.

Memorable Quotes: “Ads are not written to entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers rare little likely to be the people whom you want. This is one of the greatest advertising faults. Ad writers abandon their part. They forgot they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.”

Making Ads Pay: Timeless Tips for Successful Copywriting & Tested Advertising Methods (by John Caples)

These are two essential reads by the prolific John Caples. Caples’ advertising checklist is as follows: Get Attention. Hold Attention. Create Desire. Make it believable. Prove it’s a bargain. Make it easy to buy. Give a reason to buy now.

“Your client is not paying you to be solely an original thinker. He is paying you to make money for him–to help keep his factory going.”

Ogilvy On Advertising & Confessions of an Advertising Man (by David Ogilvy)

I have to admit I’m not an Ogilvy worshipper and never have been. I pay homage to less flashy advertising greats such as Caples and Hopkins. But anyone working in advertising must read Ogilvy’s books because they are insightful, and to fit in with the hordes of Ogilvy worshipers that do exist in the industry.

Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions (by Tim Ash, Maura Ginty, and Rich Page)

This is an amazing resource book for landing page optimization! Tim Ash humbly demystifies the concepts of multi-variant, A/B split testing, segmentation, and more. We do a lot of A/B and multi-variant testing at UE and I often use this book when training new team members.

Purple Cow (by Seth Godin)

Purple Cow urges marketers to put down the traditional 5 P’s of marketing (Product, Placement, Promotion, Pricing, and Publicity) and strive for only one P–the Purple Cow. The Purple Cow is the remarkable and unforgettable.

Memorable Quotes: “You do not equal the project. Criticism of the project is not criticism of you. The fact that we need to be reminded of this points to how unprepared we are for the era of the cow. It’s the people who have projects that are never criticized who ultimately fail.”

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day (by Todd Henry)

This is not a marketing book, however, this book revamped the way I organize and attack my work so profoundly I had to list it. In a nutshell, the book teaches methods to maximize your daily output and creativity.

How to Write a Good Advertisement: A Short Course in Copywriting (by Victor O. Schwab)

An absolute must-read for anyone who writes copy. My favorite part of the book is the chapter in which Schwab dissects the top 100 ad headlines and explains why they are so profitable.

Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance (by Paul Farris, Neil Bendle, Philip Pfeifer, and David Reibstein)

A textbook from my time at Wharton which delivers comprehensive modeling techniques for evaluating marketing metrics. The book defines every possible marketing metric from abandonment rate to year-on-year growth and walks the reader through the process of selecting the most impactful metrics for their organization.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (by Robert Cialdini)

Cialdini unpacks the 6 principles behind the science of persuasion: reciprocity, commitment, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Mastery of these principles is the career-long pursuit of all marketers.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (by Al Ries and Jack Trout)

A few of my favorite laws: “The Law of Perception: Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions. The Law of Candor: When you admit a negative the prospect will give you a positive. The Law of Failure: Failure is to be expected and accepted. The Law of Resources: Without adequate funding an idea won’t get off the ground.”

Neuro Web Design (by Susan Weinschenk)

Neuro Web Design introduces the concept of “neuro-marketing”, utilizing the science behind how the brain interprets data to design successful websites. The trick is to appeal to the brain’s “old” brain medulla oblongata, which controls our unconscious bodily functions and “new” brain (pre-frontal cortex) that houses of reason and logic.

It Only Looks Like Magic: The Power of Big Data and Customer-Centric Digital Analytics (by Jennifer Veesenmeyer)

Action-provoking book which is organized in two parts, the first part is spent clearly defining the important role of analytics, customer-segmentation, look-alikes, and real-time scoring. The second part delivers intensely specific tactics for implementing strategy based on customer-centric data points.

Bird by Bird (by Anne Lamott)

Also not a marketing book, it’s aimed at novel writers, but I so often remind myself to take a project “Bird by Bird” that I had to include it. Lamott offers sage advice about the writing process and overcoming self-doubt in this delightfully funny read.

Being Direct: Direct Marketing that Works (by Lester Wunderman)

The list wouldn’t be complete without including Les Wunderman-the Father of Direct Marketing. The book relentlessly covers the history and process of direct marketing.

Words that Sell (by Richard Bayan) & Phrases that Sell (by Edward Werz and Sally Germain)

These are must-have office companions—they will bail you out when you are stuck, I promise!

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More (by Perry Marshall and Richard Koch)

“80/20 says 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts, and 20 percent of your results come from the other 80 percent.”  

“Top performers are not twice as good as average performers. They’re more like 100 times better.”

Triggers (by Joseph Sugarman)

“As a direct marketer, I have determined that the most important thing you can do to turn a prospect into a customer is to make it incredibly easy for that prospect to commit a purchase, regardless of how small that purchase may be.”

“You are wasting your time resolving any objection unless you raise it first.”

“… keeping it simple was the best approach and that offering a customer too many choices was a very dangerous thing to do.”

 Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! (by Luke Sullivan)

The book gives me a lot of fantastic ideas for ways to cultivate creativity. Although it’s dated and skewed toward the old-school agency life, Sullivan is hilarious and gives solid advice for creating great ads.

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