Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

What

The seminal book on persuasion that everyone and their mom recommends (with good reason).

Why

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to influence someone’s behavior, opinion, or beliefs, this is the book.

Most of today’s popular books on persuasion and sales are rip offs of this guy. The reason this is the “seminal” text everyone goes back to is because this stuff works. It’s not enough to know the “hacks” you read on Joe Shmo’s blog, you need to understand why those hacks work. This book explains that in frightening and fascinating (but still palatable) depth.

TL;DR: Don’t just watch the RSA animate – read the book.

Disclaimer

It doesn’t read as nicely as the memoir style storytelling (after all, Cialdini isn’t a copywriter), but don’t be deterred. Worth pushing through for the “ah ha” moments it will inspire for your sales.

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 Most social media books are useless and outdated the moment they hit shelves.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.

My Life in Advertising by Claude Hopkins

What

A time machine to the turn of the century. You get to step out, walk around, and feel what it was like to sell to the masses, invent markets, and do business in the early 1900’s.

Why

Things that are “old hat” today came from this guy. He pioneered sampling, using ads to secure distribution, and (this one is huge) how to manufacture demand for a product. The best part: This man predated all the studies on influence and persuasion, yet he details truths about human nature that have been validated by science nearly 100 years later.

Oh and household brands like Palmolive, Pepsodent, and Goodyear are only “household brands” because of him.

Get your highlighter out. I couldn’t put this one down.

Disclaimer

A lot has changed since the time this book was published (1927). You’ll notice back then people paid attention to ads. Still, the appeals he uses are relevant today, even in a crowded marketplace where no one is paying attention. The genius is in his approach. Notice how he thinks about solving each business problem and how he thinks about “mass markets” and ordinary “simple” people. Those are the takeaways you’re looking for.

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.

Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

What

A semester on advertising, business, and selling from the real life Don Draper.

Why

His lessons on business are timeless #facepalms ignored by 90% of businesses (especially marketers), like this one: “Make sure what you promise is important to your customer.

There’s a reason Ogilvy was considered the best. The crux of his philosophy is remarkably simple: “I don’t want you to tell me that you find it “creative.” I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

The book goes into detail on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to advertising that sells – with lots of examples (and pictures!).

The best part is Ogilvy is an insufferably arrogant British Man and the result is absolutely hilarious. “Any fool can fool can write a bad advertisement, but it takes a genius to take his hands off a good one. (p.67).”  There’s enough in here to keep you in business for 100 years.

Disclaimer

If you aren’t inherently interested in this topic, you might miss the value packed into this little book. If you are, have your highlighter ready.

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