Alex Medick

March 15, 2022

5 Books Every Marketer Should Read

Looking to level up your marketing skills? Or want to know how to think like a growth marketer? Then these are five books you need to read.

Before I share the book recommendations, I would like to caveat that you cannot master marketing from books. Modern marketing moves way too fast to make it to publication in a timely manner. BUT, the following books are great for sparking new ideas, understanding foundational frameworks, and learning from the masters of growth.

Happy reading 📚 Let's fucking grow 🚀

-AJM

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5 Books Every Marketer Should Read

1. The Cold Start Problem: How To Start And Scale Network Effects

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Written By: Andrew Chen
Buy On Amazon
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A startup executive and investor draws on expertise developed at the premier venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and as an executive at Uber to address how tech’s most successful products have solved the dreaded "cold start problem”—by leveraging network effects to launch and scale toward billions of users.

Although software has become easier to build, launching and scaling new products and services remains difficult. Startups face daunting challenges entering the technology ecosystem, including stiff competition, copycats, and ineffective marketing channels. Teams launching new products must consider the advantages of “the network effect,” where a product or service’s value increases as more users engage with it. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants utilize network effects, and most tech products incorporate them, whether they’re messaging apps, workplace collaboration tools, or marketplaces. Network effects provide a path for fledgling products to break through, attracting new users through viral growth and word of mouth.

Yet most entrepreneurs lack the vocabulary and context to describe them—much less understand the fundamental principles that drive the effect. What exactly are network effects? How do teams create and build them into their products? How do products compete in a market where every player has them? Andrew Chen draws on his experience and on interviews with the CEOs and founding teams of LinkedIn, Twitch, Zoom, Dropbox, Tinder, Uber, Airbnb, and Pinterest to offer unique insights in answering these questions. Chen also provides practical frameworks and principles that can be applied across products and industries.

The Cold Start Problem reveals what makes winning networks thrive, why some startups fail to successfully scale, and, most crucially, why products that create and compete using the network effect are vitally important today.

2. Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets

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By: Christopher Lochhead, Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, and Kevin Maney
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The founders of a respected Silicon Valley advisory firm study legendary category-creating companies and reveal a groundbreaking discipline called category design.

Winning today isn’t about beating the competition at the old game. It’s about inventing a whole new game—defining a new market category, developing it, and dominating it over time. You can’t build a legendary company without building a legendary category. If you think that having the best product is all it takes to win, you’re going to lose.

In this farsighted, pioneering guide, the founders of Silicon Valley advisory firm Play Bigger rely on data analysis and interviews to understand the inner workings of “category kings”— companies such as Amazon, Salesforce, Uber, and IKEA—that give us new ways of living, thinking or doing business, often solving problems we didn’t know we had.

In Play Bigger, the authors assemble their findings to introduce the new discipline of category design. By applying category design, companies can create new demand where none existed, conditioning customers’ brains so they change their expectations and buying habits. While this discipline defines the tech industry, it applies to every kind of industry and even to personal careers.

Crossing the Chasm revolutionized how we think about new products in an existing market. The Innovator’s Dilemma taught us about disrupting an aging market. Now, Play Bigger is transforming business once again, showing us how to create the market itself.

3. Hacking Growth: How Today's Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success

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Written By: Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
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The definitive playbook by the pioneers of Growth Hacking, one of the hottest business methodologies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

It seems hard to believe today, but there was a time when Airbnb was the best-kept secret of travel hackers and couch surfers, Pinterest was a niche web site frequented only by bakers and crafters, LinkedIn was an exclusive network for C-suite executives and top-level recruiters, Facebook was MySpace’s sorry step-brother, and Uber was a scrappy upstart that didn’t stand a chance against the Goliath that was  New York City Yellow Cabs.

So how did these companies grow from these humble beginnings into the powerhouses they are today? Contrary to popular belief, they didn’t explode to massive worldwide popularity simply by building  a great product then crossing their fingers and hoping it would catch on. There was a studied, carefully implemented methodology behind these companies’ extraordinary rise. That methodology is called Growth Hacking, and it’s practitioners include not just today’s hottest start-ups, but also companies like IBM, Walmart, and Microsoft as well as the millions of entrepreneurs, marketers, managers and executives who make up the community of Growth Hackers.

Think of the Growth Hacking methodology as doing for market-share growth what Lean Start-Up did for product development, and Scrum did for productivity. It involves cross-functional teams and rapid-tempo testing and iteration that focuses customers: attaining them, retaining them, engaging them, and motivating them to come back and buy more.

An accessible and practical toolkit that teams and companies in all industries can use to increase their customer base and market share, this book walks readers through the process of creating and executing their own custom-made growth hacking strategy. It is a must read for any marketer, entrepreneur, innovator or manger looking to replace wasteful big bets and "spaghetti-on-the-wall" approaches with more consistent, replicable, cost-effective, and data-driven results.

4. Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products

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Written By: Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover
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How do successful companies create products people can’t put down?

Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us?

Nir Eyal answers these questions (and many more) by explaining the Hook Model—a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior. Through consecutive “hook cycles,” these products reach their ultimate goal of bringing users back again and again without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

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.

Eyal provides readers with:

• Practical insights to create user habits that stick.
• Actionable steps for building products people love.
• Fascinating examples from the iPhone to Twitter, Pinterest to the Bible App, and many other habit-forming products.

5. Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

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Written By: Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
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Most startups don't fail because they can't build a product. Most startups fail because they can't get traction.

Building a successful company is hard. Smart entrepreneurs know that the key to success isn't the originality of your offering, the brilliance of your team, or how much money you raise. It's how consistently you can grow and acquire new customers.

Traction will teach you the nineteen channels you can use to build a customer base, and offers a three-step framework to figure out which ones will work best for your business. No matter how you apply them, the lessons and examples in Traction will help you create and sustain the growth your business desperately needs.