Digital Marketing is an ever-changing profession and you have to adapt in order to keep growing. However, there are certain foundational skills that you must imbibe before you start or while you are practicing digital marketing. These skills will help you at each step of your digital marketing career giving you a competitive edge. Moreover, these qualities will help you to have a holistic understanding of how digital marketing works and how to get the best results from it.
Earlier, I’d authored an article Top 10 skills you need for success in digital marketing for Economic Times in which I’d shared top 10 foundational skills for success in digital marketing. Looking at the response we received, we created a video highlighting the importance of these skills:
Now, I have compiled a list of 15 books that you must read to learn these foundational digital marketing skills. Please note that you will not find tactical advice for digital marketing success in these books.
Digital marketing is a dynamic field and digital media platforms change almost on a weekly basis – so no tactical advice stays relevant for very long. But, you can surely work on building strong bedrock of knowledge that will help you in the long run.
Let’s now understand how the following books can be of help:
#1 Made to Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
by Chip and Dan Heath
In 2011, Coca Cola conceptualized a campaign called ‘Share a Coke’.
The objective of the campaign was to strengthen Coke’s relationship with youngsters in Australia. The company personalized each bottle of coke with 150 popular names. It was able to sell a whopping 250 million coke bottles and cans in the region that summer. The campaign was then replicated in 70 countries including the United States. The brand also sold personalized coke bottles with first names, nicknames, and logos from their website.
That was indeed one interesting campaign idea that stuck around for long. Wasn’t it?
Yes, that’s why every digital marketing campaign also needs a big idea.
In this book, you will understand how to make ideas stick. It also explains the ‘Velcro Theory of Memory’ to help you learn how to conceptualize better ideas. After reading this book you’ll definitely find yourself to be a more effective communicator while you’ll also learn the “Made to Stick Success Formula”.
#2 Tribes – We Need You to Lead Us
by Seth Godin
According to Wikipedia,
“A community is a small or large social unit (a group of living things) who have something in common, such as norms, religion, values, or identity.”
Sephora, a popular beauty brand created a community of those who are interested in sharing beauty tips and ideas. The brand created value for its prospective customers by creating a platform where they can discuss, learn and make the right choice while purchasing beauty products. The platform, which is absolutely free to use, has now turned into a bustling community – a source of regular business for Sephora.
This book beautifully explains how humans have an inherent tendency to form groups and communities. These communities follow an idea and a leader.
The digital platforms of today have enabled more and more such groups and communities to be formed (Eg. Facebook groups).
Here’s a very interesting video on how to build followership and the lessons in this video are directly applicable to digital media:
The book talks about how the Internet provides you with an opportunity to lead the pack by following your passion. It tells you how you need to take risks and be different, to be able to lead. As a digital marketer, one fundamental aspect of running any type of campaign includes how you can position your brand as a leader, in a competitive marketplace.
It requires you to ensure that your brand is unique and stands out from the competition so that it’s unique and can easily garner more followers and build a community. It’s a great book to understand how digital communities work and how you can get ahead of your game by having a distinct voice on the web.
#3 Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict The Future
by Rohit Bhargava
“A non-obvious trend is an idea that describes the accelerating present in a new, unique way.” – Rohit Bhargava
This book is very helpful for all you budding digital marketers who are keen to think in a way that’s non-obvious. The reason to do that is, by the way, pretty obvious – you need to do things differently to make your campaign see the best of the results. It’s essential to be able to observe the present and predict the future of consumer behavior in order to deliver successful digital marketing campaigns, consistently. The book also teaches you how you can create trends and profit from them.
#4 Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers
by Jay Baer
As a digital marketer, you may come across unpleasant situations on social media. There are times when the customer is not happy with the service and they need to vent it out. As a customer of a popular cab service OLA, I did the same. My daughter had to attend her friend’s birthday. Due to unavailability of a cab and late response from the customer service team, she had to miss the party she had been looking forward to for days. I decided to respond to OLA on Twitter:
The customer care representative called me and apologized for incorrect allotment of the cab and assured that the situation would not be repeated. Somehow I was still quite annoyed and dissatisfied with the response I received.
Finally, the company decided to undo the damage by surprising my daughter with a box of cake and the following message:
I was happy to see a smile on my daughter’s face and decided to forgive the taxi service.
The above example shows how a brand can do away with negativity by being polite, accepting mistakes and making the customer feel special.
Digital marketing is not just about delivering successful campaigns and getting more leads. What you need to also understand is that your customers and evangelists will stay with you because of the overall service and experience you provide to them.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. When you are promoting your business on social and other online channels, your brand is exposed to all types of positive and negative feedback. How to tackle fake and real complaints on digital media is an art that you can learn from this terrific book. It will surely help you to craft that much-needed humility while dealing with online negativity.
#5 Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers
by Seth Godin
I am sure you have experienced growing spam across digital media especially email. Any marketing message, which is intrusive and disturbing, will never do any good to your brand reputation.
As a digital marketer chasing targets, you must tread carefully while putting across messages to your prospective customers.
This book teaches you the foundational digital marketing skill called “Permission Marketing”. It will help you to learn how to run campaigns and create brand messages that your audience would love to consume and follow. The book will help you to think offbeat and understand how to build a strong relationship with your online prospects. This blog post on two separate email marketing cases by Godin will give you a basic idea of how marketing with permission creates a win-win situation for the business and its prospects.
#6 Ogilvy on Advertising
by David Ogilvy
“You cannot bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them in buying it.” -David Ogilvy
Take a look at this ad from David Ogilvy’s work for Dove back in the 50s and 60s:
Although this is a print ad, it teaches you a lot about how you can create out-of-the-box, audience-centric and engaging messages for your digital marketing campaigns.
Understanding the basic principles of how advertising works is a must for every digital marketer. You must know what kind of brand message works with different audience types and how you must position your brand more effectively. The book would help you to understand a variety of marketing techniques including how to craft ‘the big idea’ for your campaign and how to write copy that catches audience attention, getting them to know more about your products.
#7 Experiences The 7th Era of Marketing
by Robert Rose and Carla Johnson
Loreal Paris recently created an augmented reality app called Makeup Genius. The app allows its users try on different makeup styles virtually, using their handheld device. The following video explains it all:
Brands are now using the latest technologies like AR/VR for providing the best of interactive experiences to their target audience.
This book by Robert Rose and Carla Johnson would help you understand the gravity of experiential marketing in today’s times. It is a must for digital marketers to know more about consumer expectations in a hyper-competitive marketplace. It will help you to get a strategic understanding of marketing in the current era.
#8 Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age
by Gini Dietrich
“You can try and mimic what others are doing but until you actually do it you’re not going to be good at it.” -Gini Dietrich
Honest and authentic brand communication is one of the key responsibilities of a digital marketer. The book will help you to learn how to build trust among your audience through ethical communication. It will guide you on how you can humanize your brand and its communication messages. You must read this book to get a strong understanding of how to do effective brand PR through digital channels.
#9 Building a Story Brand
by Donald Miller
“The only reason our customers buy from us is that the external problem we solve is frustrating them in some way. If we can identify that frustration, put it into words, and offer to resolve it along with the original external problem, something special happens. We bond with our customers because we’ve positioned ourselves more deeply into their narrative.” -Donald Miller
Storytelling is one of the basic skills that you need to learn for becoming an adept digital marketer. This book would help you to become familiar with concepts related to creating crisp and clear brand communication.
When you do digital marketing, you should be excited about your campaign messages and so should be your audience. Reading this book will help you to practice that mindset.
#10 How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World
by Gary Vaynerchuk
“It took thirty-eight years before 50 million people gained access to radios. It took television thirteen years to earn an audience that size. It took Instagram a year and a half.” -Gary Vaynerchuk
With more number of social media platforms and every brand fighting for audience attention, social media platforms are full of clutter and confusion. Understanding how a platform behaves and how you should customize your campaign for each is crucial to success. This book will help you to get in-depth knowledge about every social media platform and how you can create clutter-breaking campaigns.
#11 Contagious – Why Things Catch On
by Jonah Berger
You must have come across quite a few remarkable, humorous or simply outrageous images/videos on social media – some of these spreading like wildfire. One such example is this video from Dollar Shave Club:
This hilarious product explainer from the razor brand has received a mind-blowing 25 million plus views since its launch in 2012. The single video helped DSC to skyrocket its sales in a matter of just a few months and achieve phenomenal success.
There’s a distinct phenomenon that the web gave birth to and it’s called virality. Even common people are aware of the term but what’s truly elusive is the art of making something go viral. The Internet is inherently social in nature where people like to believe in each other’s views and opinions. They like sharing content that’s being shared and consuming products and services that are being recommended.
As a digital marketer, you must ensure that your target audience is appreciating your brand messages and products. This book will teach you the fundamentals of how to make all of that happen for your brand.
#12 The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells
by Robert W. Bly
“Avoid pompous words and fancy phrases.” -Robert W. Bly
Understanding the basics of copywriting and creative campaign conceptualization will go a long way in helping you to succeed as a digital marketer. These skills will help you to create effective campaigns as well as have ready guidelines to judge the worth of a creative campaign. So, whether you wish to be on the creative side of digital marketing or on the analytics side, this book will add a valuable skill set for career growth.
#13 Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
by Nir Eyal
Products/brands like Facebook, Google, Apple, and WhatsApp have understood consumer psychology and helped them find lasting value.
As a digital marketing professional, you are out there to sell products and services. As you grow in your career, you must understand why some products are more successful and why others don’t do so well. This will help you to move up the corporate ladder in taking up roles where you can manage products/brands independently. At the same time associating yourself with the right products will help you to have a more fulfilling digital marketing career.
#14 Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior
by Jonah Berger
Digital marketers of today’s times must learn to build the right perceptions in the minds of their target audience.
Online influencers are there in every niche, be it food, fashion, lifestyle, travel or business. Some of these influencers have a huge fan-base and it would not be an exaggeration to say that influencers are playing a big role in creating culture, and shaping perceptions. The following is the Instagram handle of Martha Stewart, one of the top food influencers in the United States.
As you can see, she has got 1.7 million followers on Instagram alone. Brands have the opportunity to collaborate with existing influencers and get in front of a large audience.
This book will surely give you deeper insights on how influence works and how you can leverage it for your brand.
#15 Youtility: Why Your Marketing Should be About Help and Not Hype
“If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life. Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of Marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is Marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.”
In this information age where everyone’s looking for help online, brands must be there to help them and in the process build a relationship with them. Every digital marketer must understand this basic principle to be able to crack digital marketing in today’s times.
Your website rankings, social media followers, leads, and conversions, everything will depend on how effectively you’re able to help your target customers. The book will help you to get an in-depth understanding of the concept and apply at every step in your digital marketing career.
Over To You
Reading books beyond the curriculum is a great way to broaden your horizon and make your mark as a digital marketer. The books mentioned above will help you to understand your audience, and the business environment better. They will help you to think creatively and communicate effectively. These are foundational skills and you must learn them to stay ahead of the pack.
I would love to know which books you recommend as a digital marketer for fellow digital marketers. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below.