I probably spend more time reading marketing books and marketing articles than I do drinking La Croix sparkling water. When my husband sees me on my phone while I’m supposedly watching TV, I’m actually probably reading an interesting article on social media marketing or branding – not just looking at dog and baby videos my friends post (though that is part of what I’m doing).
Why Non-Marketers Should Read Marketing Books, Too
Even though I’ve practiced marketing for nearly 15 years, I can’t turn off my desire to learn and find inspiration. Probably the best benefits I’ve received from reading great books on marketing is that it has helped me speak with our clients about why we do the things we do and why branding and digital marketing are important to small businesses.
Whether or not small business owners do their own marketing, it’s still beneficial to learn about marketing. It’s an essential tool for business growth and understanding just a little bit can help you make smart decisions for your business.
For small business owners, if you’re looking to understand what marketing is or why we do what we do today for businesses, this is my suggested syllabus for my pretend Small Business Marketing 101 class. Enjoy.
I read this book 10 years ago after I was hired for my first paid role as a marketing coordinator. For me, this book, so clearly describes why it’s important to find ways to stand out and be remembered. This book explains why we take the extra time to do something that looks professional and why the customer experience is so important. I started Hot Dog Marketing because I wanted to help small businesses become Purple Cows.
What it’s about: Purple Cow is about making your business something remarkable. Black and white cows are interesting if you’ve never seen one before, but soon you realize there are many. Purple cows truly stand and catch attention and amazement. For businesses to be successful in the 21st century, they don’t seek to attract the majority middle. They go after the few who are the right audience and will love their product or service. Others will follow.
On a side-note, I’ve probably purchased this book 10 times on Amazon. I continuously give it away or let people borrow it (and not have it returned to me). It’s worth it. To me, it’s the Gideon’s Bible of small business marketing books. I’ll leave it every desk drawer I come across.
Work Less Make More
This modest-looking book is for every self-employed worker looking to be an entrepreneur. It’s designed to be a piece of self-directed coaching that takes you through exercises and self-reflection.
For me, it was a launching pad to go from struggling to do everything in my business to hiring a team of experts to help me. There are exercises in this book that prompt you to remember why you do what you do and how to get back to what you love doing. It’ll help you innovate based on philosophy and vision.
Main Ideas: For entrepreneurs, calculate your effective hourly rate (EHR) and find ways to maximize it. This includes minimizing the things that don’t produce value and expanding those that do. You might even find that someone else can do a much better job of accomplishing particular tasks than you. Your time would be better spent handling your best tasks and giving the others to someone else.
The Tipping Point
By far, The Tipping Point is probably one of the most interesting books you can read about marketing in the largest sense. And, may I recommend this on audiobook? Malcolm Gladwell is a pleasure to listen to while you sit in Austin’s traffic.
In this book, you hear case studies of trends and social behavior that reach tipping points in adaptation. You learn about people who have different roles in bringing a trend from discovery to early adaption to cultural phenomenon. Small businesses definitely experience similar cycles, and you can apply many of the lessons in this book to different aspects of marketing. While this book doesn’t necessarily provide a recipe for getting over that “tipping point,” it examines how other businesses and products have done so. Additionally, Gladwell describes how to create an environment and circumstances that make it more likely for your business to blast off.
I reference The Tipping Point in this older blog about why you don’t need a lot of social media followers.
The Customer-Centered Innovation Map from On Innovation: HBR’s Best Reads
This book is full of great articles on innovation published by Harvard Business Review, but my favorite article is the Customer-Centered Innovation Map. I find this idea extremely helpful to get a client to think through marketing strategies.
Marketing strategy used to be identifying your audience and figuring out which media to use to reach them. But looking at how to innovate throughout the customer’s buying journey is the new way to market . . . from the inside out. If your business is feeling old and stale, and you’re looking for new ways to do things, I recommend reading this article. It offers an easy to follow guide on how to map your customer’s decision-making process and give prompts for how to innovate at each step.
(Feel free to get inspired by the other articles in the book as well.)
Why You Should You Read Marketing Books
There are probably some people who think marketing, as a subject, would be torture to read about. I only read up on business finance and accounting because I absolutely have to. Most business owners know a little bit of everything when it comes to their business. This is by nature, because they have often run all of those parts of the business as it has grown up. However, when it comes to marketing, many small businesses will have gotten by without a robust marketing plan. When they decide they’re ready to get a more strategic marketing plan, they become too hands-off. Learning all the different pieces of the business will always help you. I will say, because it’s applicable to my life as a business owner, learning about finance has been essential to staying in business.
If you’re a business owner uncomfortable with marketing, definitely start reading and learning! Our clients that see the most success with their marketing are ones that have done some homework.
The La Croix Sparking Water Tipping Point
Books also help me understand pop culture phenomenons as they occur (she said as she sipped her La Croix.) For example, a couple of weeks ago, my husband said to me, “First we started buying La Croix, and now the whole world seems to be drinking it.” I thought to myself, I wonder if it’s just us or if we’re witnessing a tipping point.
I started drinking La Croix earlier this year after a friend offered me one at her house. As a non-soda drinker, La Croix reminded me of the joys of carbonation. Who knew I was so bored with water. So, I bought some. And then I bought some more. Now my husband and I drink 2 cases a week. Shortly after we started buying it, I saw people on social media posting about it. I talked to friends at the office and turns out, they too started buying it this year. My husband said, just in the last month, people at his office starting bringing cases to work and leaving them in the breakroom.
I did some research and found out that sales of La Croix have tripled in the last 5 years and this year alone, La Croix has experienced a 67% increase in sales over the previous year. All of this while Coca-Cola and Pepsi sales are declining. Read More About it Here.
Read The Tipping Point. Trust me. You’ll love understanding how things like a sparkling water trend happen.
*Throws La Croix can into the recycling.*
I’m a mom, a small business owner, and I’m a marketing professional with over a decade helping businesses with their branding and online presence. When I’m not spending time with my family or on my business, I love cooking (and eating) and snuggling with my dogs while I binge on TV shows. My favorite authors are Malcolm Gladwell and Steve Martin. My favorite movies are L.A. Story, Little Mermaid, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Trainspotting.