5 Unexpected Marketing Books Every Business Leader Should Read

October 30, 2023

Dutch Scholar Erasmus once said, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”History’s greatest (and most successful) leaders consistently point to reading as a source of their success. So I try to read often in order to expand my understanding of the world and grow my expertise.There is an endless amount of marketing books on the market. Some great, some good, some unnecessary. I’ve read a mix of all three, for sure. And I’ve read some of the “standards” often hailed as required reading in the business world. Surprisingly, my greatest insights came in unexpected places. Sure, I’ve learned a ton from Seth Godin’s extensive work. Yet perhaps the greatest marketing books I’ve read aren’t technically marketing books at all. Instead, they speak about a marketing concept from a unique angle, causing me to think differently and expand my perspectives.

So here are five of my favorite unexpected marketing books:

Book 1: Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

From Amazon: The bible for bringing cutting-edge products to larger markets.Marketing Nugget: Building a strategy that worksThis book is a classic for tech companies. Moore shows how to build a marketing strategy - for any company - that drives more revenue. For those struggling to build a marketing plan in any industry, this is a must-read. Favorite Quote: “Marketing’s purpose, therefore, is to develop and shape something that is real, and not, as people sometimes want to believe, to create illusions.”If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

Book 2: D-Day by Stephen Ambrose

From Amazon: Stephen E. Ambrose’s D-Day is the definitive history of World War II’s most pivotal battle, a day that changed the course of history.Marketing Nugget: Learning more about strategyI know, I know. This book seems random, but it’s intentionally included. In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore uses D-Day to help companies understand how to build a better marketing strategy. So this book dives deeper into what went on before, during, and after one of the most famous days in history. Favorite Quote: The quotes from Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, and Eisenhower listed before the Table of Contents hit you with the magnitude of this day. If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

Book 3: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

From Amazon: We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies—neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist.Marketing Nugget: Creating consistency and reducing errors in the workGawande is a surgeon, New Yorker contributor, and now CEO of the Jeff Bezos/Warren Buffett healthcare company. He revolutionized healthcare in America by introducing checklists, and the lessons here are powerful ones for marketers and business leaders. Favorite Quote: “What is needed, however, isn't just that people working together be nice to each other. It is discipline. Discipline is hard--harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can't even keep from snacking between meals. We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.”If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

Book 4: Words That Work by Frank Luntz

From the Amazon description: In Words That Work, Luntz offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the tactical use of words and phrases affects what we buy, who we vote for, and even what we believe in.Marketing Nugget: Understanding how people think and the power of wordsLuntz is a legend in political arenas, with a specialty in creating a position that resonates with people and compels them to action.Favorite Quote: “We live in an age when the world is no longer ruled as it once was by the Latin of the elites, but by the common, democratic tongues of the people. And if you want to reach the people, you must first speak their language.”If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

Book 5: Long Story Short by Margot Leitman

From Amazon: With a fun, irreverent, and infographic approach, this guide breaks a story into concrete components with ways to improve content, structure, emotional impact, and delivery through personal anecdotes, relatable examples, and practical exercises.Marketing Nugget: Telling a more compelling storyI picked up this book at the Amazon bookstore in Seattle. Marketing is really about creating and telling a powerful story. This book is packed with insights for developing and communicating a more compelling story, whether it’s in marketing, sales, or even leadership. Favorite Quote: “Don’t hide your quirks - take a closer look at them. They may be the key to a great story.” If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.What are some of your favorite (and maybe unconventional) marketing books? Leave your comments below!

Ever wonder what to say in marketing and sales? 

Each week I send a short, actionable email helping you know exactly what to say.