19 Best Marketing Books for Explosive Growth

Marketing looks easy. And setting up an ad account is easy. Reading the case study with 33 tactics is easy. What’s not easy remains getting traction and finding where the channel, positioning, and marketing strategy aligned. From there doubling down on what’s working. That’s the hard part. These books allow you to pour a foundation to build tactics and strategy on top of.

Required Reading for Marketers

Influence by Robert B. Cialdini

6 universal principles to influence in different ways? Check. Case studies for marketing using those principles? Check. There’s a reason this book is at the top of the list. It’s timeless. It’s researched over 35 years. And it provides practical application to all marketing problems. The six principles can be the starting point for any marketing testing process.

Use the 6 principles in marketing copy, campaigns and landing pages. Try to hit as many types of influence in each as different forms of influence appeal to different types of people. After you read this, you’ll start seeing the 6 principles everywhere in almost all the best marketing campaigns.

The 22 Immutable Laws of MarketingPositioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

This is the one book Tim Ferriss returns to re-read before each new product. The best marketing laws are the first two. The Law of Leadership and Law of the Category. Those two laws state only on offering can capture consumer minds at one time. Think of any brand, that brand holds the number one spot: Search, Google; Washer Detergent, Tide; Car Rentals, Hertz. Before each launch as you work on a product. Think about what category you can dominate before launching.

Those two laws from the basis of the next book, Positioning. In Positioning, you’ll learn how to dominate a category and become a leader based on positioning your brand as the default choice. Build your positioning strategy around a competitors weakness to showcase differences in the market.

Ogilvy on AdvertisingConfessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

New channels, new tools, the digital age. There’s been a shift in marketing. But what hasn’t changed and won’t change remains human nature. This is a guide on appealing to human nature. Showcasing some of Ogilvy’s best campaigns, you’ll get a better idea on how to research, how to write copy, how to create standout ads that generate real revenue.

In Ogilvy’s second book, you’ll learn even more principles behind creating great campaigns. But it also goes past advertising to give advice about management, careers, and office politics.

Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Morgan Brown & Sean Ellis

“Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing” notes Andrew Chen. Growth Hackers combine the principles of marketing with technical skill. The lines are blurring between product, marketing, and developers. Sean Ellis championed the idea of growth hacking with his company and community.

This book was created based on how he’s helped multiple companies supercharge growth using A/B testing and technical builds to capture more revenue from current marketing buys. In addition to A/B testing, the number of new channels, the next wave of Marketing VPs will have to continuously test new channels, test new approaches within old channels on top of executing a pipeline of testing ideas. This book guides you through how to approach hacking for growth.

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

One of the principles of Influence is authority. The ability to persuade someone based on the fact that you have the prominence or status as a leading figure in the market. Chet Holmes lays down a sales process of in-depth research to uncover enough scientific claims on the value of your offering to become an authority within the category you’re competing for.

After in-depth research comes Chet’s idea of a core story. It’s a laser focus on the challenges of your core market and how the offer solves that challenge. The subtitle of chapter 10 explains the process the best: The Deeper you Go, the More you Will Sell. Do the research, use the research and become the authority in your chosen category.

Recommended Reading

Data-Driven Marketing: The 15 Metrics Everyone in Marketing Should Know by Mark Jeffery

Recommended by Jeff Bezos this book shows “data-driven marketing improves efficiency and effectiveness of marketing expenditures across the spectrum of marketing activities from branding and awareness, trail and loyalty, to new product launch and Internet marketing. Based on new research from the Kellogg School of Management, this book is a clear and convincing guide to using a more rigorous, data-driven strategic approach to deliver significant performance gains from your marketing.”

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising by Ryan Holiday

“Growth hackers have thrown out the old playbook and replaced it with tools that are testable, trackable, and scalable. They believe that products and businesses should be modified repeatedly until they’re primed to generate explosive reactions.”

My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

“Gain a lifetime of experience from the inventor of test marketing and coupon sampling — Claude C. Hopkins. Here, you’ll get two landmark works in one, and discover his fixed principles and basic fundamentals that still prevail today.”

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith

“a succinct and often entertaining look at the unique characteristics of services and their prospects, and how any service, from a home-based consultancy to a multinational brokerage, can turn more prospects into clients and keep them.”

SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

“Unquestionably the best-documented account of sales success ever collected and the result of the Huthwaite corporation’s massive 12-year, $1-million dollar research into effective sales performance, this groundbreaking resource details the revolutionary SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) strategy.”

Predictably Irrational by Dr. Dan Ariely

“From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.”

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince by Roger Dooley

“Brainfluence delivers the latest insights and research, giving you an edge in your marketing, advertising, and sales efforts. This scientific approach to marketing has helped many well-known brands and companies determine how to best market their products to different demographics and consumer groups.”

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition by Jay Abraham

Jay “focuses on helping you spot the hidden assets, overlooked opportunities, and untapped resources around you, and gives you, and gives you fresh eyes with which to see and capitalize on them. You’ll also learn how to adapt and apply these tools to your unique circumstances to maximize your income, influence, power, and success.”

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

Detailing the 19 different marketing channels you should test into today. Gabriel and Justin dive into case studies for each channel and how different entrepreneurs built their business using the channel. Learn from Noah Kagan and how he used blogs to help build Mint.com. Each chapter focuses on a different channel with a different case study into that channel.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover

“Hooked is based on Eyal’s years of research, consulting, and practical experience. He wrote the book he wished had been available to him as a start-up founder—not abstract theory, but a how-to guide for building better products. Hooked is written for product managers, designers, marketers, start-up founders, and anyone who seeks to understand how products influence our behavior.”

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim (Author),‎ Renee Mauborgne

One of the best laws of marketing involves creating an entirely new category. Competition is for losers as Peter Thiel is fond of saying. This book is based on the idea of not competing in red, bloody oceans, but to create a category to make competing irrelevant.

Additional Books on Marketing

Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value by William Poundstone

Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do by Kaiser Fung

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill



This is part of a Real World MBA curriculum. Other reading lists include ManagementDecision MakingStartupsExecutionCareer SuccessFinance, and Strategy.