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21 Marketing Strategy Books That Make Great Reads for Content Marketers

Overwhelmed by the many industry-related book releases in 2019?

Your fellow marketers have your back. They’re sharing what they found to be the most helpful or inspiring (or both) books for content marketers that came out this year.

Consider this curated book list as a gift of time – to help you cut through the clutter whether buying for yourself or a peer. In this edition, Roger Parker retains the role he’s had since 2012 as CMI’s go-to guy for recommendations. This year, we also asked the content marketing community through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Help A Reporter Out for their 2019 picks.

Now, let’s dive into these 21 books debuting in 2019 in alphabetical order by title and concluding with one that launches in 2020.

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life by Rory Sutherland

The author, vice chairman of Ogilvy, shares why what’s irrational often works better than what’s considered to be rational. Rory explains we take some actions based on a psychological rather than logical level. As marketers, we should appeal to this irrational side of our thinking and try what seems to be counterintuitive or logic-defying.

Also, Rory believes marketers should let their minds wander and think about unusual concepts regarding problems and solutions. While the growth marketing field is largely experimental, Rory takes this idea to a new level, saying that the opposite of a good idea might be another good idea. Thus, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of alchemy – changing how things are viewed, presented, and perceived rather than changing things themselves. – Jakub Kliszczak, marketing specialist, CrazyCall

The opposite of a good idea might be another good idea, writes @RorySutherland in Alchemy via @kliszczakjakub via @cmicontent. #books Click To Tweet

Become a Content Brand: Build a Team, Own Your Audience, & Create Video Your Customers Will Love by Chris Carter

Because online videos are popular with consumers these days, this book is helpful for businesses that want to incorporate more video into their content marketing strategy. It covers just about everything you need to know to create effective and engaging video content for your audience. – Allison Hott, content marketer, TrustPulse

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: The 5 New Rules of Video Marketing Success

Content Marketing: Proven Strategies to Attract an Engaged Audience Online With Great Content and Social Media to Win More Customers, Build Your Brand and Boost your Business by Gavin Turner

Gavin Turner’s ‘Content Marketing’ book has been a great 2019 read for me, discussing how crucial strategic planning is to improve content marketing for your brand or product. The book is filled with useful facts to boost content recognition and gain quick wins, motivating you to see real-life (and effective) techniques to further improve creating and marketing your sales-driven content.” – Katie Derrick, senior content writer, Africa Travel

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Content Strategy: The Essential Guide

DataStory: Explain Data and Inspire Action Through Story by Nancy Duarte

One of the biggest challenges faced by content marketing today’s leaders (and aspiring leaders) is shaping data into narratives that make clear recommendations that inspire others to act. Almost every article, book, proposal, and presentation can be improved by converting data into compelling stories. While writing DataStory, Nancy curated the thousands of data slides her firm created for clients to select the best examples. Examples from technology, finance, healthcare, and consumer products are included, with concise captions. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is an academic researcher and productivity expert. His book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World debuted in 2016. Deep work soon entered today’s vocabulary, referring to tasks that require extreme focus and concentration. Digital Minimalism goes deeper into the prevalence of distraction, including the role of social media. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

#DigitalMinimalism goes deeper into the prevalence of distraction, including role of social media, says @RogerCParker via @cmicontent. #books #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

Here’s a fresh alternative to dull and prescriptive grammar books. Dreyer’s English will be appreciated by self-editing writers. When referring to the book to address a grammatical problem, readers may feel like they’ve called the author – a long-time copy editor at Random House – for the answer. A query sparks a fascinating historical or literary digression. Bonus: The hardcover binding will last several years of research. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

F#ck Content Marketing: Focus on Content Experience to Drive Demand, Revenue & Relationships by Randy Frisch

This book sent a few initial shockwaves out when it was released, but it is a great resource for both marketers in general as well as veteran content marketers. Randy isn’t saying content marketing is dead (another past shocker of a title). He emphasizes you can’t focus just on the content but rather how the content will be experienced.

Randy also points out that many journalists and writers have been trained to focus on quality content but not on how and/or when it will be distributed in the digital age. I thought it was a good book that offered a fresh and very applicable perspective on creating content that works and converts. – Holly Rollins, president, 10x digital

It’s great (despite the title) – Nat Libby, content marketing executive, Linnworks

From the first page to the last one, Randy has packed this book with all the information that a marketing person or even other organization members need to know about content marketing. What is the purpose of generating content if no one is reading it? No writing material could fit for all users. Organizing, personalizing, and hitting the right customer with the right content at the right time is a must thing that every marketer should know. – Jessica Chase, sales and marketing manager, Premier Title Loans

Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins by Mark Schaefer

I love Marketing Rebellion because it finally acknowledges that marketers no longer have control. Consumers go out of their way to avoid ads with DVRs, ad blockers, even paying a premium for services with no ads. Instead of taking that as a clear sign, marketers try to find a way past these technologies to continue to force our ads on people. Mark Schaefer is leading marketers to a more effective and human approach. Jeremy Bednarski, content and digital marketer; host of Marketing Rebellion #CMWorld Book Club

It isn’t solely about content marketing, but more of how to think of marketing as a whole and drive content from that. – Janette Conwell, social communications strategist, WorkWave

Other recommender: Bård Lerberg, marketing manager, Bisnode

Mean People Suck: How Empathy Leads to Bigger Profits and a Better Life by Michael Brenner

This book appears at a time when interest in customer experience is at an all-time high and many employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. No matter how skillful you are as a content marketer, it’s all wasted if your visitors experience negative experiences when dealing with one of your employees.

Michael shows the benefits of empathy in turning around corporations with a toxic culture. The book contains stories of corporations that were able to replace mean cultures and dissatisfied customers with superior customer experiences. Mean People Suck is an optimistic story that can be the catalyst that changes things for the better. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

.@BrennerMichael’s #MeanPeopleSuck is an optimistic story that can be the catalyst that changes things for the better, says @rogercparker via @cmicontent. #books Click To Tweet

Non-Obvious: How to Predict Trends and Win the Future with New Trends for 2019 by Rohit Bhargava

Rohit Bhargava’s 2019 edition demonstrates the benefits of serial marketing with a yearly book describing how to predict trends. Non-Obvious Trends for 2019 demonstrates the elements of a consistent format.  Each year’s edition shares his latest predictions and predictions from previous years, describes how he compiled his trends, and shows his track record of hits and misses since 2011. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding by Cynthia Johnson

A top branding expert, Cynthia describes the decisions and steps she took to differentiate herself as she worked to become a global influencer. It describes the decisions she faced, the choices she made, and the risks she took at various points on her journey to success. Her enthusiasm coupled with her commendable you-can-do-it-too attitude is refreshing. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

So You Want to Start a Podcast: Finding Your Voice. Telling Your Story and Building a Community That Will Listen. 7 Steps to Take You from Idea to Hit Show by Kristen Meinzer

The numerous insights, tips, and overviews you’ll gain about podcasts represent just some of the value this book offers. It’s one of the best podcasting books available. It offers an ideal balance between topic overviews as well as suggestions for implementation. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business by Kindra Hall

The book is a great tool. It’s not about the product or person, it’s about the story that goes along with it. Captivating, fun, smart. You’ll love it and her. – Abby Burlingham, mission and brand enhancement director, Oshkosh Community YMCA

Reading and loving it – Liz Upson, head of content marketing, Provenir

Storytelling books often disappoint. Although written to support the idea of narrative communication, they often fail to communicate. Stories that Stick is different. It offers the most useful information organized for easy reading. When you read it, pay special attention to the Eight & Bob story, an excellent first-person story. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer 

Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, and Build a Successful Business by Pat Flynn

The book is an excellent reminder for marketers of just how important it is to be thinking about all the interactions that build a company’s brand. It’s easy to get lost in the data, the funnel, the blog posts, and lose sight of the fact that it’s still just people selling to other people. Superfans makes the case that we should always be thinking about connecting with those people on a deeper lever to make them love our brand as much as anything else in this world. – James Furbish, global content marketing manager, Cognex

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

I recommend Talking to Strangers for content marketers because we frequently connect with prospects who are strangers. As Malcolm says, people are not taught how to behave with strangers. We are not taught how to watch for clues. As a result, minor misunderstandings can erupt because both parties may be misinterpreting the situation. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

The Copyeditor’s Handbook, The Copyeditor’s Workbook by Amy Einsohn, Marilyn Schwartz, and Erika Buky

I’m a stickler for correct grammar and proper usage, but I get stumped all the time. Some of this stuff is hard and the rules don’t always make sense. Should I edit “data” so that it’s always plural, or is that now considered stuffy? Should I let “impactful” stand, even though many, including me, consider it an annoying buzzword? For these and other language conundrums, this handbook is a gem. It’s clear, practical, and so refreshingly down to earth and interesting you won’t want to put it down.

Like my go-to style books, it covers punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and the like. Then it goes several steps further to explain the different levels of copy editing, how to use new technologies, how to address global audiences, how to comply with plain language mandates, and more. If you’re a total word nerd, you can test your editorial judgment in the handbook’s companion workbook. – Amy Hourigan, director of marketing and communications, HAI Group

For language conundrums, The Copyeditor’s Handbook is a gem, says @AmyHour via @cmicontent. #books #writing Click To Tweet

The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI by Carlos Gil

(Self-nomination) The book is intended to revolutionize the way brands, agencies and marketers should approach marketing. From how Donald Trump won the American presidency using social media and why Kim Kardashian is one of the world’s biggest online brands, through to the impact of bots and automation, this book teaches about new features and emerging platforms that will engage customers and employees. Hear from some of the world’s largest brands and content creators and find out how to build smarter paid-strategies to help you claim brand relevancy in a world where algorithms dominate, organic reach is dwindling, and consumers don’t want to be sold to. – Carlos Gil, author

The Visual MBA: Two Years of Business School Packed into One Priceless Book of Pure Awesomeness  by Jason Barron

This book is perfect for content marketers looking for a refresher course in the basics of marketing. Instead of handwritten notes during the two-year MBA residency program, the author decided to use visual thinking to boost retention. The drawings summarize the 516 hours of every class in the MBA program he attended. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption by Thales S. Teixeira

Thales makes a key point that for most digital disrupters, disruption comes from better understanding customer behavior, not from technology itself. I think that is true in content marketing as well. It can all be too easy to fall into the trap of [thinking] I need this content tool or this content technology.

It got me more focused on the customer/reader and I realized how well our (brand’s) basic articles have been doing. Since I’ve been in this industry for 19 years, I want articles I write to be new or advanced or novel – something I haven’t heard before or sparks my interest. It’s all too easy for me to overlook the fact that there are so many people new to (the field of) marketing and we need to serve them as well. – Daniel Burstein, senior director of content and marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS

Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence by Shelle Rose Charvet

The author shows how to measurably improve your communication by modifying your words to match the unconscious patterns of your prospects. By asking a brief set of questions, and listening carefully to how people answer, you can uncover their patterns based on the structure of the language they use. Thus, you can determine what will trigger and maintain your prospect’s motivation and how they internally process information. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

Writing to Persuade: How to Bring People Over to Your Side  by Trish Hall

A broad spectrum of content marketers will enjoy Writing to Persuade. For several years, Trish Hall was the editor of The New York Times opinion page. She begins the book with an annotated list of the 15 principles of persuasive writing with a few-sentence summary. Later, she describes how professional writers and authors often submitted op-ed pieces that didn’t follow those 15 rules only to have their articles rejected or filled with corrections. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

And debuting on Jan. 7, 2020 …

Fanocracy: Turning FANS Into CUSTOMERS and CUSTOMERS Into FANS by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott

David joined by his daughter Reiko always delivers details and fresh perspectives on current trends – or tomorrow’s emerging trends. In this case, Fanocracy highlights a cross-section of firms and associations whose customer experiences create passionate followers. The book’s value is enhanced by the authors’ interview-based research. – Roger Parker, writer and book reviewer

Have you read one of these books? Did you find another in 2019 that helped your work? Please share in the comments.

Next month, we’ll share the must-have books for every content marketer. Have a nomination? Share with us on social (@CMIContent) or email [email protected] (SUBJECT: Book Recommendation) by December 20, 2019.

Sign up for the CMI newsletter so you don’t miss the next list. And join us in 2020 for soon-to-be-announced #CMWorld Book Chats.