Expand Your Mind

June 2, 2015

Great summer reads for wisdom-seeking B-to-B marketers

By Christopher Hosford

Summer is upon us, which often means heading to the beach (or just to the backyard) with a juicy page-turner of a book. While potboilers are popular, some marketers may prefer to tuck into a favorite industry classic or the latest "how-to" to refresh their attitudes, gain new insights, and top off their professional batteries.

"I would begin with Robert Bly's classic, Business-to-Business Direct Marketing: Proven Direct Response Methods to Generate More Leads and Sales (McGraw-Hill, 1998)," says Ruth P. Stevens, a B-to-B marketing consultant who also teaches marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business. "It opened my eyes to the notion that in B-to-B all marketing is direct marketing."

Stevens, author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers(Que Publishing, 2011), has a new book set to be published this month, B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results (Racom Communications, 2015). It is "intended to help demystify B-to-B data and customer and prospect information," Stevens notes.

Bookshelf Worthy

Consultant Jay Baer just finished reading Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, by Robert Rose and Carla Johnson (Content Marketing Institute, 2015). The book focuses on content creation management as a core discipline within a marketing strategy. "It's an excellent combination of marketing, customer experience, and storytelling," says Baer, president of Convince & Convert Digital Marketing Advisors, based in Bloomington, Ind. "Robert and Carla are both very active consultants in the space. The book's content is true, not just opinion."

Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype (Portfolio, 2013), also recommends these titles:

  • Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, by Ann Handley (Wiley, 2014). "The best book about marketing since Stephen King'sOn Writing," Baer says.
  • Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers, by Jeffrey K. Rohrs (Wiley, 2013). "It's about the fact that marketers need to think about their connections as their own proprietary audience," Baer notes.
  • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Random House, 2007). "It's a book people continue to reread, with a formula about how to make ideas memorable and sticky," Baer adds.

More Wise Choices

Gary Slack, chief experience officer at the Chicago, Ill.-based B-to-B agency Slack and Company and vice president of professional development for the BMA Advisory Board, is a fan of Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators: Creating Shared Value for the Organization and its Stakeholders, by Ron Culp and Matthew W. Ragas (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

"Crisis communications is a key element in this book — Culp worked for major companies in crisis situations — and it's a pretty riveting read," Slack says. "This book is more for an entry- or mid-level marketer, but it also would be a great refresher."

This summer Slack plans to reread Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, by P.M. Forni (St. Martin's Griffin, 2003). "It's the first book we ask every new employee to read," Slack says. "Because of the lessons in this book, we get more done in less time, with fewer internal hassles. And a lot of it translates into how staff can work with clients."

Finally, consider current publications from Racom Communications, which specializes in marketing titles including: Creative Strategy in Direct & Interactive Marketing, by Susan K. Jones; The New Media Driver's License: Using Social Media for More Productive Business and Marketing Communications, by Richard T. Cole and Derek Mehraban; and Follow That Customer!, by Egbert Jan van Bel and Ed Sander.

BMA Chapter Leader Faves

Four BMA chapter presidents share their favorite marketing/business books.

  • Molly Castelazo, president, BMA-Phoenix
    The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (Portfolio, 2011)
    "This book is based on an in-depth study to determine the common characteristics of the most effective B-to-B salespeople. I love it because it really gives insight into how marketers can help sales sell more. The conclusion is that 'The Challenger' is one who engages with prospects about their needs and is willing to push back in a respectful, non-condescending way."
  • Steve Cummins, president, BMA-New Jersey
    Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers, by Geoffrey A. Moore (HarperBusiness, 3rd edition, 2014)
    "I had just moved from an engineering role to product management, and was responsible for a line of high-tech manufacturing equipment. Crossing the Chasmgave me a great understanding of how to launch a product, shepherd it through the growth and decline phases, and avoid the pitfalls that often kill a product. I still think it's a must read, particularly for those dealing with complex products or new market segments."
  • Tony Harris, president, BMA-Northern California
    There Is No B2B or B2C: It's Human to Human #H2H, by Bryan Kramer (PureMatter, 2014)
    "The book's theme hasn't changed in my professional career: that B-to-B companies don't buy from other companies; it's people who buy stuff from other people. Kramer's new take is that social media has added new channels and a level of immediacy to this process. I'm interested in how we combine what's technically possible with the principles of helping people make the decision to buy."
  • Sandra Zoratti, president, BMA-Colorado 
    What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, by Marshall Goldsmith (Hachette Books, 2007)
    "Personal growth is an area that requires relentless effort our entire lives. This book is a gift because it directly tackles our blind spots, opens our minds to broader possibilities, and teaches us through real CEO experiences versus theoretical approaches."

"Expand Your Mind." Christopher Hosford. BMA Buzz. 6/2/15.