Books I Read*

You Are What You Read

I create corporate marketing videos that look like movies.  I realize that sounds like a niche business, and it is to some degree.  But video marketing can be the most important and powerful messaging you can create without being face to face with a customer.  Several years ago, I was buried under a computer making CG worlds, explosions, and creatures.  Then camera technology took an unexpected leap and a new industry was born.  I set out to find out what was driving business thinking since the slow crawl out of the ooze left from the giant bubble of 2000.  I was particularly interested in what startups were doing because that was where I would find the newest ideas.  What I found was exciting because companies were not going back to basics, they were inventing new laws of physics!  From the Business Model Canvases' of the ooze came efficiency and rapid growth.  This led to refinement of those models and adoption of the philosophies of the startup into the largest organizations in the world.  Business was being reborn, and the new models were all about the doers, not the planners.  There were amazing new stories to tell, and video was proven to be the most effective way to tell great stories.


Today there is a LOT of movement in the business landscape with people from different disciplines and industries bringing new strengths to old companies.  Take for example the newspaper publishing business, which has been deconstructed by major shifts in information sharing and creation.  Many of these 'news people' have moved into large technology and retail businesses where they are re-creating their newsrooms to build content exclusively for one brand.  Companies like Intel basically have their own Wall Street Journal inside the company, creating hundreds of content pieces every day globally.  This is a very exciting time in business, especially for the established companies that are now open to the newest of ideas and searching for the 'magic' that will keep them relevant and necessary during the next giant wave of innovation.


To be an effective marketer, you have to keep abreast of the trends in business thinking.  Here is a short list of relevant books I have been reading lately.  You may have read the same titles!  These are pretty much required reading.  They have shaped the narrative of my pitch, and helped me define my value proposition.

Review Disclaimer! *

The Future of Marketing

by Nick Johnson


Nick runs a marketing research company.  He collects and translates data into insight.  This book is chock full of insight about the fundamental shifts the marketing department in large organizations has undergone.  The book itself is an easy to digest business reader, but I absolutely love that Nick leaves you with a "full disclosure" bibliography at the end of each chapter.  If you were to follow the links to these rabbit holes, you would undoubtedly venture far beyond the pages of the book, which is clearly what Nick Johnson has already done.  He supports much of the suppositions with stats (although it's a lot of 70% this.. 80% that), yet his prose does not come off as a know-it-all reference.  This book has a shelf life of 2 years tops, because the tactics in this book are meant to illustrate/reinforce the need for fundamental change in marketer behavior, which is surely to change and marketers will need to be spoon-fed new tactics as their new roles mature.


The best part of the book is towards the end, when he points out a laundry list of tactics that should be examined in order to serve the modern company.  They do not have to be done in order, nor do they all need to be achieved to generate success, which is a more hopeful vision for transformation.  The last chapter deals with Nick's blueprint of the near-future marketing organization, where he adds new roles like Data Translator and Marketing IT Specialist to the org chart.  If anything, this book validates everything I have pitched recently as necessary tactics  - to be more customer-driven, outside-in, and relevant in your companies communication and content strategies.


Buy this book!  If anything, for the paragraph headlines and chapter titles that could easily fill your next slide deck as bullet points on why marketing needs to be funded properly!  Nick has won me over with his brilliant acronym A.R.T. - Authenticity, Relevance, and Transparency  - Three mantras I have spent the last few years addressing with my work!

Key Takeaway:

There is no going back to Marketing-as-Usual.  Behold the "smart creatives" who run the marketing departments of the future - FYI: These guys Are Good.

How Google Works

by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg


The book is meant to give a glimpse into to the culture and behavior of arguably one of the most important companies of the 21st century - And who better than two "outsiders" that played a large part in running Google for over 10 years during its phenomenal growth years.  Google acts like almost no other company,  and many of its operational practices are a mystery and would be scoffed at by traditional business leaders.  The enigma of Google is that much of how it acts now is easier implemented because it is successful, and the way it operates is generally perceived as a much too risky "culture shock" for most established tech companies.  Eric Schmidt makes some great points about the importance of hiring great, talented , "smart creatives", and why freedom to work on personal projects can be a huge advantage for a company to spur innovation.  But this book will surely have you shaking your head in disbelief imagining the adoption of "Googleyness" in your own company.  Add to that the likelihood  most of us would not pass a Google interview and you can see why there are more pundits than champions of the Google operating culture.  The best part of the book resides on page 252-253 in the conclusion chapter where Eric drives home a series of hard questions business leaders need to ask that would undoubtedly be a great starting point for positive change in any organization.  The book is hopeful, yet leaves you wondering if behaving this way in an existing company is a better solution than just starting over and acting like Google.

Key Takeaway:

1. Hire the smartest people you can.  2. Give them the freedom to innovate and the power to make decisions.  3. Remove enough hierarchy in leadership to be able to repeat 1 and 2.

Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies

that Drive Results


by Ardath Albee

There is a reason Ardath Albee has been voted one of the 50 most influential people in Sales and Lead management for the past three years - She has been there and done that!  Ardath hits the nail on the head and spends over half the book calling out bad marketing habits and practices that are so common in large B2B organizations.  For every example of marketing gone wrong, she backs up her strategies for correcting this behavior with hard data and research.  Her simple but powerful Relevance Maturity Matrix (RMM) gives even the most dysfunctional marketing organizations a clear path and method to go from irrelevance to shifting relevance, to becoming socially relevant and crossing over to become radically relevant to their customers.  Ardath clearly understands the power of storytelling and why no company, small or large, can afford to continue an inside->out communication strategy.  That being said, there are a few chapters of circular business speak to endure, but every chapter is succinct.  Also, a few of the major hurdles to overcome to be able to adapt to her methods are handled with too much simplicity - Eg. Her strategies for bringing Sales and Marketing together for strategy alignment is a mere 3 pages at the end of the book, but the implications in achieving that could fill an entire series!  I guess I'll wait to read Ardath's next book on that subject? ;)

Key Takeaway:

Becoming dynamically relevant is a process that never ends.  Outside -> in marketing that is solely customer focused is the future of marketing.  Anything else is - irrelevant.

The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation

by Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson


This book can be considered SPIN Selling 3.0, with an enormous amount of proof to back up the books premise: The most successful sales people in a complex B2B sales environment are the ones who challenge their customers and bring them new insights on how to save and/or make money.  It is my belief that marketing MUST understand what types of salespeople they have and what a good rep looks like.  Coordinated and trained properly, complex platform solution selling can and should involve a Challenger rep with a team of experts and marketing personnel working in real time together to complete the deal.  This book is a strong validation of what I bring to the table in terms of deliverable: A video marketing platform that delivers insights into the business, and not just focused on product and service advertising.  My strategies for video marketing are largely based on the ideas in this book!

Key Takeaway:

You need very smart sales reps, an even smarter marketing team, and you need them to work together in real time to bring business insights to your customers.


Everybody Writes - Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

by Ann Handley

Ann Handley is one of those people that knows how to create a groundswell.  The creator of the well known marketing think tank, Ann is a prolific writer on the subject of marketing.  What I like most about Everybody Writes is the quick "checklist style" chapters that get you to take action and  improve your writing immediately.  You'll find yourself making a tweak to your blog or marketing content at each chapter, slowly refining your messaging as you quickly read through each point Ann makes.  This is the fastest read you'll ever encounter and I think it's very useful as a step-by-step tool to help you write better.  There are many excellent free writing resources that Ann uses which she describes in the book.  Overall, it's a fairly common sense guide, but the short chapters make this book a great tool towards simplifying your messaging.

Key Takeaway:

Get over yourself and start training to be better at editing your own writing!

60-Minute Brand Strategist: The Essential Brand Book for Marketing Professionals

by Idris Mootee

There are lots of disciplines in Business Marketing & lots of different personalities.  There are analyst-types, with their metrics, spreadsheets and graphs - There are business-process-types, with their KPI's and persona brainstorm meetings - Agency-types, with their style guides, taglines, and Pantone(tm) swatches - Designer-types, with their font metrics and UX focus - and Product-Style types, where every action seeks to create a customer's ideal moment in time with your products/services.  Idris Mootee is all of those.  His "airplane" reader, is part style-guide, part inspirational gallery, part business book, part daily affirmation self-help guide for Marketing professionals.  Idris brilliantly crafts a huge amount of modern business marketing thinking into an easily digestible yet profound set of essential mantras, accessible by M.B.A's & CMO's as well as artists and designers.  It truly is an essential guide for professionals responsible for the company brand.

Key Takeaway:

A great mix of creative strategies for managing a brand (relationship) with your audience!

Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future

by Jonah Sachs


I saw Jonah in person shortly after he finished this book, and he really knows the power of story on our culture.  I would recommend this book as a primer for understanding the structure of a good story and how it directly relates to your company.  This book is the most concise description I've read on the subject, and the author does an excellent job describing what has happened to sales & marketing over the last 100 years, and how storytelling remains the most powerful technique to persuade audiences ever invented by mankind.  Jonah brings modern research data and plenty of examples to illustrate a fundamental shift in how marketers need to act in order to succeed going forward.  He does a thorough job of explaining the structure of stories - what makes them good or bad, and how to test your story for effectiveness.  This is a MUST READ for anyone who has the word "marketing" in their job title!

Key Takeaway:

The customer is the hero!  Your company is the mentor!  Period.

The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets

by Brant Cooper/Patrick Vlaskovitz


Behold the definitive playbook for how to properly treat a startup company or behave like one.  This book destroys common adages and traditional business thinking in the first chapters, providing a no-nonsense discussion about what it truly means to operate LEAN and adopt wholeheartedly Lean Startup methodologies.  This book reads like an advanced 5-day intensive conference proceeding with sidebars, takeaways, and homework!  Not for the rookie Lean Startup learner, this book is meant for people who are actively engaged in customer development, niche market value propositions, or people tasked with reinventing an established corporate division to behave lean.  If you are new to the concepts, I suggest reading "4 Steps to the Epiphany", "The Startup Owners Manual", "The Lean Startup", and "Business Model Generation"(In that order).   Then read this, then "The Lean Brand" -  Then, when your CMO asks your large corporation to act like an agile startup, just laugh!  Your Sales and marketing world just blew up! ;)

Key Takeaway:

THE how-to manual for the knowledgeable lean startup entrepreneur!

The Lean Brand:

How Brand Innovation Builds Passion,


by Jeremiah Gardner & Brant Cooper

Transforms Organizations and Creates Value

Want to redefine how your existing brands relates to customers? Need to define a new brand?  This is the first book to apply Lean Startup methodologies to brand development.  From the same guys behind "The Lean Entrepreneur",  this read is meant as a master class for those marketing professionals who need to impart next generation Lean Startup techniques to  create value-based, passionate relationships with their audiences.  Full of case studies and step-by-step techniques,  the authors deserve praise for their "roll up your sleeves and get dirty" approach.  If the concepts in this book seem foreign to you as a marketing professional,  you've been warned!  Their 21st century approach to building a relevant brand and the information within this read reflects the maturity of thought and reasoning of modern business thinking, born of the startup culture that has been refined and accelerated over the last decade and a half.

Key Takeaway:

A brand is a relationship between you and your audience, and that relationship is shared, not owned.  The relationship is what matters.

* I have no connection to the authors, publishers, or books mentioned above in any way.  All reviews are my opinion, intended to provide insight into business topics and strategies.

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