The 5 Most Valuable Books in My Marketing Career

When I was still a little girl, one of the things I would get every year for Christmas was a pile of books as high as I was. I was a picky eater, so my parents, in their vast interest to get me to eat properly, would tell me to “clean my plate” so I would grow, and get more books.

I’m still an avid reader but my attitude towards eating has changed! Fortunately I’ve been able to pursue my love of reading even more readily, facilitated by the advent of the ebook reader. I am hearing more and more complaints though about the lack of thought provoking business books, something I have found as well. So, in an attempt to provide some help to the people out there looking for a solid book, here are the 5 books that shaped me most in my career.

1. Freakonomics, A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner.

This book encourages you to look beyond common wisdom and academics, to ask, with an open mind, the right questions to uncover life’s mysteries. It helped me think outside of the box, challenging evergreen truths, and combining data analysis with input from people.

2. Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, by Howard Schultz.

In 2008, Howard Schultz decided to “pull a Steve Jobs”, returning as CEO of Starbucks after 8 years of absence. His goal was to help the company return to it’s core values. He ended up achieving profitability during one of the worst economical crises in history. I was the GM of a business servicing the financial industry in those days, and the book showed me that I wasn’t the only one with all my doubts and my fears. It also showed me that it was possible to navigate the recession, preserve and grow the business, while still maintaining my human values.

3. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs, by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.

Marketing has gone through tremendous change over the last 3 to 5 years, driven by the arrival and use of new technologies by consumers. This is a solid book for anyone trying to make sense of internet marketing, and the onslaught of technology.

4. Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, by Ann Handley and CC Chapman.

This book, combined with the previous one, shaped my understanding on how online marketing helps you get found, and content marketing determines what happens once you are found. Online and Content Marketing go hand in hand, and you really can’t design a marketing strategy without addressing at least these two components.

5. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson.

A lot has been said about Steve Jobs, most of it coming down to how genius he was, but impossible to work for. My big epiphany reading this book was that although dysfunctional behavior is not OK for a leader, he was consistently dysfunctional, thus providing a stable environment for his people to work and thrive within. My big lesson was that if you are consistent in your behavior as a leader, no matter how bad it is, your people can rise to the occasion. If you are inconsistent and unpredictable,processes and people will start breaking down

Katleen Richardson is the President of Marketing AdvantEdge Katleen Richardson and is an experienced leader who builds integrated strategies combining research, data analysis and creative thinking. She has delivered successful solutions for the publishing, financial and telecommunications industries, as well as for conference and training companies, and professional associations. Her approach is to design customer focused, cost-effective solutions based on cross functional collaboration and results-based metrics.