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Good Reads for Marketing Communicators


    Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once horrified hundreds of fans attending a World Science Fiction Convention by proclaiming "Ninety percent of all science fiction is crap." He explained, "But then, ninety percent of everything is crap." This has become known as Sturgeon's Law, and it certainly holds true of books on website design and other forms of marketing communications. I've read hundreds of books on marketing, both digital and traditional. Some are so bad I keep them as horrible examples. Here are four I wholeheartedly recommend.
Don't Make Me Think, Revisited by Steve Krug
      If you need to create websites, mobile sites, or mobile apps, this book is the first one I recommend. Krug tells how to make web and mobile projects that work. His book is correct and clear, and so fun and thin that your boss can read it. I've bought copies to give to people I work with. Everyone involved with any kind of digital marketing can profit from Krug's book.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
      In spite of this book's title, it is not about why ideas survive; it is about why some messages survive and other messages die. Customer messaging is the lifeblood of marketing, and this is one of the few books that cover the creative end of messaging. The Heath brothers focus on 6 qualities that a message must include to thrive. (If you must know: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional, and stories. In other words, a simple, unexpected [surprising might be a more apt word], concrete, credible, emotionally charged story will thrive. Remove one of those qualities and it will die.) Sometimes the authors come across as a bit oversimplistic, and sometimes they repeat themselves, but overall, what they say works, and that is my yardstick for measuring a worthwhile marcom book. For marketers, I especially recommend the "Sticky Advice" chapter near the end of the book.

Customer Message Management: Increasing Marketing's Impact on Selling
    by Tim Riesterer and Diane Emo
      This is my other recommended book on customer message management, and it approaches the problem from the opposite end as Made to Stick. Riesterer and Emo tell how to create brand messages, marketing messages, and sales messages based on your customer's situations and goals. Their book is aimed at business-to-business marketers (especially those in large businesses), but also provides suggestions that business-to-consumer marketers can use. The book is detailed—some readers say too detailed. The authors walk you through the process of building reusable message maps and tell how to conduct messaging workshops to create consistent messages that satisfy often-battling marketing and sales teams. The writing style is dry as dust, but this valuable resource gives you tools for roll-up-your-shirtsleeves-and-get-your-hands-dirty work (worksheets, project plans, roadmaps) not covered by Made to Stick, nor by any other resource I've found.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
      Yes, this book is more than 30 years old. But when it comes to the timeless principles that make brands and marketing communications work, this book has been the most influential in my life. And Ogilvy is one of my heroes as a writer; he is always fascinating to read, with the bonus that he makes me a more effective marketer because is is so passionate about results.