A Reading List for Marketing Strategists

Are you reading enough? Are you reading the right things?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but marketing is changing fast. Like, really fast. It means that, as marketers, we must stay ahead of the curve — understanding the concepts behind new strategies, wrapping our brains around the larger business context, and keeping track of the cool stuff others are doing.

To make sure we’re up to speed on the latest thinking and ideas, we read a whole lot here at Scribewise. And to help you get an idea of what we consider important, here’s a list of what we read, from the daily stuff that drives our office conversation to the bigger picture sources and books that inform our thinking and approach.

Here’s our list, starting with the easier-to-consume daily information we’re reading.

Daily

We generally hit the ground running each morning. By 8:20, we’re usually engrossed in a pretty robust conversation about the news of the day, including the news that every good marketer should know. Here are the outlets that fuel that conversation.

  • New York Times — We’re newshounds so we’re on the Times every day.
  • Wall Street Journal — Ditto.
  • Digiday — The best in digital marketing.
  • Next Draft — Dave Pell, the self-proclaimed Managing Editor of the Internet, does a great job wrapping up the best content from around the web on a daily basis in this email newsletter. It’s kinda like the old afternoon newspaper, but way more fun.
  • Philly.com –The website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the two big, slowly failing newspapers in town.
  • Technically Philly — Cheerleadery local business blog. They also run Philly Tech Week.
  • Philly Startup Leaders listserv — Great email listserv (old school!) that brings together Philadelphia’s startup tech community. People share ideas, seek assistance and generally and genuinely are helpful to others in the startup biz community.
  • Billy Penn — Mobile-first news for millennials here in Philadelphia.
  • Marketing Insider Group — I have no idea how MIG CEO Michael Brenner creates as much content as he does. He may not sleep. Anyway, he’s very smart, very accomplished and very prolific. Also, I consider him a friend so there could be some bias here.
  • Assorted vertical industry media outlets and blogs in our various clients’ industries.

Weekly / Frequently

Some of these media outlets don’t publish every day; some do but we just don’t get around to them as often as we should.

  • Philadelphia Business Journal — Again, we’re in Philly. The PBJ keeps us up to speed on the local business climate.
  • Content Marketing Institute — This is pretty much Ground Zero for content marketing. A lot of the blog posts at CMI can seem aimed at beginners, which is fine, but not overly interesting because we’re doing this every day (Yes, we should still be reading this and reminding ourselves as much as we can). Bonus — Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose’s podcast “This Old Marketing” is entertaining, informative and thought-provoking. Yup, all three.
  • The Content Strategist — Contently’s blog, which will dive into conceptual thought leadership and great examples of companies with smart, successful content strategies.
  • Hubspot’s Blog — Most of the content here is aimed at more junior marketers — they bill it as “where marketers go to grow.”
  • eMarketer — Great data-based information.
  • Aberdeen’s CMO Essentials Newsletter — Good info sent out on Friday afternoons. I usually find myself engrossed in one of their articles on Saturday morning.

Books

We’ve grabbed much of the philosophy for how we run Scribewise and how we work with our clients from a variety of books we’ve read through the years. Here are some of our favorites, starting with general business books and then segueing to books that are focused on marketing, including marketing psychology.

Our favorite business books

These are books we like that help us run the agency.

  • Good to Great — The Jim Collins classic. Figuring out your “flywheel” and how to get it turning faster and faster should be the goal of every business. And, always remember — good is the enemy of great.
  • Mavericks at Work — Published way back in 2006, written by William Taylor and Polly LaBarre. I’ve always loved this book, which highlights companies that have had success by doing things differently. Good takeaway — companies with the smartest customers win.
  • Simply Brilliant — This came out in 2016, kind of a follow up to Mavericks at Work, and is also written by Taylor. Similarly, it looks at organizations that have turned mundane industries on their heads by doing things differently — and succeeding wildly. Key takeaway for us: If all you ever do is follow best practices, you’ll never be the leader.
  • Originals — By Adam Grant. Key takeaway: The most successful people are those who don’t accept the default settings.
  • Smartcuts — By Shane Snow, also the founder of Contently. Can you take something you’ve learned in one field of endeavor and apply it to another? Yes, you can. Snow uses a number of examples of how successful people have “switched lanes” and found success in some new vertical industry… like say a real estate developer who becomes President.
  • Blue Ocean Strategy — Companies tell us all the time that they’re “the only ones who do what they do” but rarely is it actually true. Yes, they do things a bit differently, but their clients likely view them and their competition as different flavors of the same thing. Blue Ocean Strategy profiles companies that actually bring a unique twist to an existing industry. If you totally change something about your offering, do you create a niche category unto yourself?
  • Rework — Traditional work is dead. Don’t get trapped in following what others tell you is the blueprint, because odds are there is a simpler, more agile way to conduct business.
  • The Hard Thing About the Hard Things — Founding and running a business is hard. Even seemingly easy decisions can become difficult. This book acknowledges that; it’s a must-read for any entrepreneur.

Our favorite marketing books

  • Content Inc. — The lesson of Joe Pulizzi’s fourth book is clear — build an audience first, and only then try to sell them something. Content Inc. is a how-to guide for companies that want to flip the standard build-something-then-sell-something model on its head. And, it works. One caveat: If it takes six to 12 months to build that audience, you’re going to have to figure out where the money is coming from.
  • Youtility — By Jay Bear. This book embodies the content marketing mindset — marketing today is about help, not hype.
  • Everybody Writes — I once worked with a woman who prefaced every conversation about messaging with “I’m not a writer, but I think….” It made me insane. It would also make author Ann Handley insane. Because everybody writes. This book tells you how to do it well.
  • Zero Moment of Truth — This is a quick little eBook from Google that examines the new Buyer’s Journey. You better understand this if you work in marketing.
  • Contagious — What makes things go viral? Why do some marketing efforts take off and others … just lay there? Takeaways: People will share your product, service or content if it makes them look good, and if you can build in a “trigger” that reminds them to buy, you’ll have more success.
  • Made to Stick — Contagious follows in the footsteps of Made to Stick, which examines the psychology of why some ideas stick with us and others just fade away.
  • The Power of Habit — Why do you eat junk food every night when you sit down to watch TV? Is it because you’re hungry? Or is it because you sat in the same chair you always sit in when you eat junk food? (Okay, that scenario might be personal.) The same psychology applies to how you market products — can you create customer habits that make sales unavoidable?

There are plenty of other books and sources we pay attention to, but these are our go-tos. And, frankly, there are some books and media outlets that we would definitely recommend that you avoid. So consider this a start … with much more to come.

A version of this post was originally published on Scribewise.com.