10 essential marketing books for small businesses and freelancers

When you work for yourself, you have to learn many different skills to survive. Marketing is probably the most critical discipline of all. Without getting your brand out there, how can you even attract clients?

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

With so much information at your fingertips, there is no excuse not to learn everything you can about PR and marketing. There's the classic Lynda.com for helpful video tutorials. Or insightful blogs like Copyblogger and 99u for further tips and tricks.

But if you want to get ahead in the game, then you must consider the following ten essential books – yes, books – which will help you get to grips with marketing.

1. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Nir Eyal

Why do some products capture our attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain things out of sheer habit? Is there an underlying pattern of how technologies hook us? Nir Eyal answers these questions (and many more) with the Hook Model - a four-step process that, when embedded into products, subtly encourages customer behaviour. Through consecutive "hook cycles," these products bring people back again and again without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging. Eyal provides you with practical insights to create user habits that stick; actionable steps for building products people love; and exciting examples from the iPhone to Twitter, Pinterest and the Bible App.

Hooked is based on Eyal's years of research, consulting, and practical experience. He wrote the book he wished had been available to him as a start-up founder - not abstract theory, but a how-to guide for building better products. Hooked is written for product managers, designers, marketers, start-up founders, and anyone who seeks to understand how products influence our behaviour.

2. Selling the Invisible – Harry Beckwith

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith is a concise and often entertaining look at the unique characteristics of services and their prospects, and how any service, from a home-based consultancy to a multinational brokerage, can turn more prospects into clients and keep them. Covering service marketing from start to finish and filled with incredible insights, written in a roll-up-your-sleeves, jargon-free, accessible style.

3. Guerrilla Marketing – Jay Conrad Levinson

First published in 1983, Jay Levinson's Guerrilla Marketing has become a classic in the field of business, revolutionising marketing for small businesses all over the world and creating a new way to understand market share and how to gain it. It's a book that aims to be the entrepreneur's marketing bible for the twenty-first century.

4. The New Rules of Marketing & PR – David Meerman Scott

This book is the fifth edition of the pioneering guide to the future of marketing. The New Rules of Marketing & PR is an international bestseller with more than 350,000 copies sold in over twenty–five languages. It offers a step–by–step action plan for harnessing the power of modern marketing and PR to communicate with buyers directly, raise visibility, and increase sales.

5. The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book – Dee Blick

The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book is written for you if you want to get to grips with your marketing, but you need a helping hand. It's packed with powerful tips, proven tools and many real-life examples and case studies. If you're looking for common sense marketing advice that you can implement immediately, you'll find it on every page. You'll learn how to: plan and review your marketing activities, write brilliant copy that generates sales, write sales letters that sell, effectively troubleshoot when your marketing is not delivering, make your website a magnet for visitors and loads more.

6. The PR Masterclass – Alex Singleton

The PR Masterclass is written by the former newspaper, magazine and digital journalist Alex Singleton, who is now a prominent PR trainer and consultant. It reveals the secrets of effective PR and shows how to put in place a practical, reliable and successful media strategy for your product, business or activity – one that delivers the greatest results. Through the book, you get to discover how to develop and pitch effective newsworthy material, regardless of your budget. The PR Masterclass is aimed at PR professionals as well as small business owners and entrepreneurs implementing a PR strategy.

7. Permission Marketing – Seth Godin

Whether it's the TV commercial that breaks into our favourite programme or the telemarketing phone call that disrupts a family meal, traditional advertising is based on the hope of snaring our attention away from whatever we are doing. Seth Godin calls this Interruption Marketing, and, as companies are discovering, it no longer works. Instead of annoying potential customers by interrupting their most coveted commodity, time, Permission Marketing offers consumers incentives to voluntarily accept advertising.

Now the Internet pioneer who has dramatically improved marketing effectiveness in media introduces a fundamentally different way of thinking about advertising products and services. By reaching out to only those individuals who have expressed an interest in learning more about a product, Permission Marketing enables companies to develop long-term relationships with customers, create trust, build brand awareness, and significantly improve the chances of making a sale.

8. Oversubscribed: How to Get People Lining Up to Do Business with You – Daniel Priestley

Have you ever queued for a restaurant? Pre-ordered something months in advance? Fought for tickets that sell out in a day? Had a hairdresser with a six–month waiting list? Some people don′t chase clients, clients chase them. In a world of endless choices, why does this happen? Why do people queue up? Why do they pay more? Why will they book months in advance? Why are these people and products in such high demand? And how can you get a slice of that action?

In Oversubscribed, entrepreneur and bestselling author Daniel Priestley explains why and, most importantly, how. This book is a recipe for ensuring demand outstrips supply for your product or service, and you have scores of customers lining up to give you money.

9. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing and Advertising – Ryan Holiday

Your new business went online yesterday, and you've got a marketing budget of zero. How are you supposed to create a movement around your product? How can you get to your first thousand - or million - customers? Starting from zero, it feels impossible.

Enter the growth hacker. You may not have heard of growth hacking yet, but you've certainly used the billion-dollar brands built by it: Hotmail, AirBnB, Facebook, Dropbox, amongst many others.

Growth hackers thrive on doing what traditional businessmen would consider impossible: creating something from nothing. They 'hack' their company's growth to create a narrative of sensational success, turning excited media, users and social media into a viral marketing force that will help their business grow exponentially.

Silicon Valley has realised that growth hacking - not television commercials and billboards - is the successful start-up's secret weapon. Now growth hacker extraordinaire Ryan Holiday is ready to share his experience, teaching you how to harness the power of growth to propel you to success. Featuring insights from leading growth hackers, Growth Hacker Marketing is the essential guide to the revolutionary new approach to growing your business.

10. Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age – Jonah Berger

Why are some products and ideas talked about more than others? Why do some articles make the most emailed list? Why do some YouTube videos go viral? Word-of-mouth. Whether through face-to-face conversations, emails from friends, or online product reviews, the information and opinions we get from others have a substantial impact on our behaviour. Indeed, word-of-mouth generates more than two times the sales of paid advertising and is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. It's between 8.5 and 30 times more effective than traditional media.

But want to know the best thing about word-of-mouth? It's available to everyone. Whether you're a Fortune 500 company trying to increase sales, a corner restaurant trying to raise awareness, a non-profit trying to fight obesity, or a newbie politician running for city council, word-of-mouth can help you succeed. And you don't have to have millions of dollars to spend on an advertising budget. You have to get people to talk. The challenge, though, is how to do that. Contagious will show you how.


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