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  • Writer's pictureBailey Martindale

The 13 Books Every Entrepreneur, Brand Builder & Marketer Should Read

If you've followed me long, you know a few things are true: I am an entrepreneur, I am a brand strategist and I am an avid reader. My goal is to always seek knowledge. Over the years, I've found a few incredible authors and thought leaders who truly inspire and motivate me or change my ways of thinking. Whether you are launching a small side hustle, going all in and starting a business, managing social for an existing brand or working as a marketing professional, you will find a wealth of knowledge among the pages of these books. This list features an assortment of my favorite professional lessons from some of the greatest in the industry. 1. The Purple Cow Seth Godin is a brand and business brainiac. I can't get enough of his content. The Purple Cow argues the only way to break through the noise and stand out is to focus on innovation and remarkability. He continually pushes the message of "Be Remarkable." Brand Genetics summarized the book by saying, "Godin points out that 80% of the 30 newest entrants to Interbrand’s top 100 brand list owe their success to word of mouth around what they sell rather advertising clout.  Successful brands like IKEA, Starbucks, SAP, Krispy Kreme, Jet Blue, Google are all built on remarkable products that get talked about.  Innovation brains, not advertising or distributional muscle is what is needed to succeed in marketing today."

2. Tribes Did I mention I love Seth Godin? In Tribes, Godin explains how people form groups, both large and small, connect over a similar experience, a leader or an idea. These tribes are a powerful force and can bring about impressive change and influence. He argues that marketers and other professionals must learn how to tap into the potential of forming and leading these tribes.

3. All Marketers Are Liars/ Tell Stories Oops. Another Seth Godin book. But really, if you don't already know, he's a brand genius. Storytelling is a vital part of any brand but many brands solely use inauthentic storytelling to pitch their product. Good brands understand you can't just tell your audience a story, you have to tell them an authentic story in order to grow a true brand tribe.

4. Building A Story Brand This has been one of the most impactful books I've read in my career. Donald Miller truly understands branding like few others. His exercises and thoughts on brand development and positioning are incredible. He teaches his readers how to clarify their message and grow their business. His phrase, "If you confuse, you lose," is a phrase I use daily with my clients. Donald Miller also has a supplemental podcast which has been a wealth of knowledge.

5. This Is Marketing Surprise. Another Seth Godin book. In this book, Godin argues that in order to find marketing success in today's over-saturated world, a brand must focus more on the needs, values and desires of our target audience rather than spamming everyone with the brand message. He also talks about incorporating your target audience into a tribe and mobilizing them for your brand. And he dives into the critical aspect of focusing on specific groups rather than just trying to get your brand in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

6. The Creative Curve

This book highlights how to develop the right idea at the right time. Blinkist summarizes the book saying, "The Creative Curve provides valuable insights into the true nature of talent. Using examples from scientific research, as well as anecdotal evidence from the careers of certified geniuses, these blinks explore whether creative success is the result of unique inspiration or something far more predictable." Ultimately, the book argues that creativity is fueled by purposeful practice, not intelligence.

7. Hit Makers This book argues that popularity is about exposure, not necessarily quality. There is a cultural phenomenon of popularity and fashion, and this book dives into that and the related science. This book helps you understand why some products, songs and works of art take off, while others fade into the past.

8. Start With Why This book is such a great look at how great leaders inspire others to take action. It examines and answers the question, "What makes some organizations and people more innovative, influential, and profitable than others?" It’s all about asking “Why?” rather than “What?”

9. Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell is another thought genius. I have devoured essentially every book he's read. In the tipping point, he examines how little things tip the balance of a system and makes a big difference. The tipping point is a magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. "Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate." Gladwell shows us particular personality types who are natural "pollinators" of new ideas and trends - the people who influence and cause change. This explains how fashion trends, information, music and other ideas can quickly take off.

10. Content, Inc.

Author Joe Pulizzi says, "Today's availability of technology means that any business in any industry can develop an audience through consistent storytelling." The author is one of the first pioneers of content marketing and started using the idea and term as early as 2001 while working as vice president of a media company and managing the custom marketing programs they created for other businesses. As time went on, he started to realize how important content marketing would become in a post-advertising world and eventually founded the Content Marketing Institute in 2007. CMI went on to become one of the fastest growing media companies ever and is now the industry’s go-to source.

CMI now also hosts Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing event in the world and publishes Chief Content Officer, an industry magazine.

Joe speaks and educates people about content marketing all around the world, and his books are part of that mission. Content, Inc. is his latest one, and it’s about how entrepreneurs can use a six-step content marketing approach to keep their business from falling flat on its face – before it even starts.

11. What Customers Crave In his book, Webb helps you realize that too many businesses have gotten too far away from the customer experience throughout the whole lifecycle. He highlights the critical element of ensuring a remarkable customer experience at every single touchpoint and how to bring customers back to the center of your business. Too many brands focus on their business, services, solutions, etc. and getting them in front of the customer rather than thinking through the customer needs and wants. He asks and explains the concept of what your customers crave and how to fulfill their craving.

12. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World

Adam Grant dives deep into what it truly takes to be original and unique and how to challenge the status quo. It explores what happens when you dare to think differently. He provides many relevant ideas and suggestions on how to innovate successfully in order to make a substantial impact. He takes you on the journey of understanding the importance of taking the path less traveled and pursuing fresh ideas even if they conflict with prevailing norms.

13. Built To Last

This book takes a look at the successful habits of truly visionary companies. It looks at extraordinary companies and points out what has allowed them to prosper for decades and in some cases, two centuries. The study dives into what sets apart these long-lasting businesses from their less-successful fleeting competitors. This book is fantastic for any level of an organization from CEO to intern and for startups to Fortune 500s. The advice in this book is timeless and evergreen.

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