Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk

What

A book on selling in the connection economy, disguised as a social media book.

Why

Say what you will about Gary V, the guy knows his stuff. Most social media books are useless and outdated the moment they hit shelves. This one is different. And that’s because Gary V outlines a way of looking at the world, your business, and your customers that has utility far beyond social media.

The idea is simple: Find a way to add value first, then ask for the sale – hard.

He highlights timeless principles of listening to your customer, showing up where they’re already hanging out, and speaking to them in a way that they can hear you. There are also fun pictures.

TL;DR: You’ll never think about sales the same way again.

Disclaimer

Yes, there are things that are dated (like # of FB users or EdgeRank). But if you get stuck on those things you’re missing the point. You want to pay attention to the approach he is recommending. Don’t get lost in the tactics.

No B.S. Direct Marketing by Dan Kennedy

What

Fantastic introduction to direct response marketing for small-to-midsize businesses.

Why

The tenants of direct response used to rule the advertising world till the advent of TV and branding and other less-trackable forms of marketing became popular. Dan Kennedy resurrects the basics for you in a highly palatable easy-to-read book for lay people who aren’t marketers.

Direct response (DR) marketing is marketing that sells. Contrast that with brand marketing which (today) is about “awareness.” The idea behind DR is that your marketing should pay for itself. It should be trackable, measurable, and generate ROI. (These are the principles laid out by Ogilvy, Hopkins, Wunderman, Schwartz…but applied to today).

Disclaimer

SPAMMY. It feels spammy. All copywriting and DR books written after 1980 feel spammy. It’s their trademark. Still, this man knows what he’s talking about. Find the lessons underneath the icky-feeling you have before you dismiss it.

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom

What

Exposé on how companies manipulate us into loving them and buying more. But with science. Neuroscience. #nerdalert

Why

If you’re on the fence about whether “branding” actually works, this will tip the scale.

Lindstrom’s done a ton of research in the field with some pretty big brand names. He takes you behind-the-scenes as he exposes their manipulative tricks and explains why they work. Some will surprise you; others will trouble you (like how the addition of sweat bubbles on a photo of a can of soda can dramatically increase sales or how music influences your purchase behavior in stores).

He sensationalizes the “manipulation and deception” angle a bit for the sake of controversy. Most of what’s in here isn’t bad, it’s smart and generally good business practices (like giving samples of your clothes to celebrities with social influence, for example).

(PS: This is the second book to a companion, Buy-ology, but this one is better. And includes as much as the first + some.)

Disclaimer

It’s not a book on “branding.” It’s about how the brands we create influence everything from our purchase behavior to our beliefs about the world.

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz

What

The bible for copywriting.

Why

If you want to be a persuasive writer, you need this book. Forget ads, I was convincing my husband to agree with me within days of reading this book. And that’s because “the copywriter’s primary job is to know his market. He has to know more about that market than the market knows about itself.” 

In other words: This book is about understanding people.

You can think of it as a manual for understanding human desire. Specifically, for capturing human desire and channeling it into the appeal in your ad.

The author, Eugene Schwartz, was a mail direct response copywriter in the Mad Men days. This book is his guide to writing effective ad copy that sells. It has tons of examples form the 1950s (many of which are shockingly offensive because…it was the 50s).

If you’ve ever heard people refer to market sophistication and awareness levels (hi MindValley) this is where they got it from.

I re-read it almost every year.

Disclaimer

For serious nerds only. This is a tough read. Not a beginner book. It’s dense and will be hard to get through if you’re not inherently interested in this topic.