The Product Marketer’s Essential Reading List

Books Every Product Marketer Should Read

I was sitting at a table with other marketing professionals at a recent event when one turned to me and said his company had just hired a junior product marketing manager and was wondering what books I would recommend this new PMM read to get started. That made me think of all the books I’ve read in my career and the ones I keep telling people about, so here you go. If you are in product marketing, especially B2B Software or SaaS product marketing these are what I would consider “essential reading” regardless of how many years of experience you have.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

The classic that has stood the test of time, you can’t do product marketing without reading Al Ries and Jack Trout primer on product positioning. Even if the examples are from the ‘old days’ before Slack, Facebook, and Tesla the principles are still the same.

Made to Stick

The Heath Brothers give you plenty of examples in this book that shows what is great messaging and how to create stories that, well, stick in people’s minds. Essential for those responsible for creating content in any format.

Content Rules

With the increasing focus on content marketing everywhere this book gives you the basics and a bit more. Here you have a good list of content types, how to create engaging content and how to think about your content marketing and content planning. Essential if content creation is a big part of your job.

Crossing the Chasm

Another classic that is a must-read for any product marketer that wants to grow. Geoffrey Moore introduced the concept of the chasm as it relates to new product launches and gives you plenty to think about as you create go-to-market strategy, segmentation, product positioning, and more. Although many examples in the book are quite dated, the same principles apply and the newest version has been edited and updated with some new content.

Trust Agents

Here’s what I like about this book, is all about building trust which is the key to being noticed and attracting a following. Although the authors focus on personal brand-building the principles are the same for companies trying to create their online reputations. As product marketer you are responsible for product and company messaging/positioning and as such you can help guide the team on improving the company’s brand persona and in earning trust.

Resonate

While Duarte’s first book, Slideology was a good intro to creating engaging presentations, product marketers also need to understand how to deliver engaging stories which is all Resonate is about. If you work with company executives on building decks for investor presentations, keynotes sessions at different events, or even an all-hands meeting you need to understand how great presentations are delivered and this book is the best starting point.

Duarte also ported the whole book into a web version that gives you a richer experience as you can interact with the many examples the book provides including videos, audio, and more. Worth checking out: http://resonate.duarte.com/#!page0

The Challenger Sale

In many companies product marketing not just creates content for demand generation like white papers it also helps with sales enablement and sales presentations and demos. If your role involves this type of stuff then the research from CEB culminating in this book is a must-read. It will make you re-think the content you have created so far and help revisit your style and how you prepare and train your sales team.

The Three Value Conversations

The company that worked with the CEB guys on the Challenger Sale research also created a book based on that material but while the CEB book focuses on the sales person, this one focuses on the message itself. It presents a great framework for you to create content that will elevate the conversation with prospects and to craft a compelling value proposition.

The Challenger Customer

The sequel to CEB’s Challenger Sale is a must-read if you like the challenger approach. While the first book was very focused on the sales process itself, this one looks at how to influence the buying cycle, how to craft a commercial insight, and different ways to use content marketing to help lead customers to your commercial insight. Extremely interesting and thought provoking.

Bonus points

After you’ve gone through the books above, the following are great additions to your library especially if you want to get a more complete perspective of product marketing within an organization.

Building Strong Brands

David Aaker is the brand guru and has written many books, but this one is one of the best primers on branding for the uninitiated giving you a great framework for coming up with brand identify, persona, and more.

Competitive Strategy

Any business school student has memorized Michael Porter’s Five Forces model so if you haven’t been through an MBA this is the book to check out. Although the writing is a bit dry the principles are timeless. If you want to learn how to create a great go-to-market plan and have a seat at the product launch table, you need to understand what makes a market attractive and Porter’s model is the gold standard.

The business model canvas

The difference between a good product marketer and a great product marketer is in how each sees the role of product marketing and in the understanding of the business they are in. Great product marketers take the time to understand how each area of the business is connected so that they can better understand how to position the company, how to message the product, and how to coordinate among different departments. The business model canvas is a good framework to help you think about the business and what makes your company tick.

What Else?

As many of you will probably point out, this is not an exhaustive list. I’m not even covering every facet of product marketing, but as I stated in the opening paragraph these are what I would suggest any product marketer, of any level, to check out. In a future post I will break down the different facets and suggest resources that you can refer to. I hope this list serves at least to get you thinking of what to read next. Cheers!