5 Books Top CMOs Are Reading in 2018

Ever wonder what books Top Chief Marketing Officers are currently reading or listening to?

Whether you’re a thoughtful CMO thirsty for the latest insights or an up-and-comer studying up before this week’s office book club, this list of the five marketing books should have already read is a must see.

The Agency Spotter team chose which books to feature based on how many times they were mentioned in CMO interviews and on other lists put out by sources like Forbes and McKinsey. Unlike other lists, however, ours comes with a bonus: the high-level takeaways from each book.

In addition, we have included resources to help you dive deeper into each book’s content directly. Our hope is to help you decide what you should read next, all the while giving you the inside scoop on the top CMO guidebooks of today (Amazon links included).


1. They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan

Top three takeaways:

  • Paying attention to the questions your customers ask you has organization-wide benefits.
  • Best-practice is to collaborate with members of different teams within your organization to compile a list of common questions customers pose.
  • You should collaboratively answer them to the best of your ability. Your answers may not be perfect, but their availability will improve customer experience.

Sheridan also stresses the importance of phrasing things how a customer would. The best way to post Qs and As, the author says, is via video and text on your website – something that is easier said than done. Browse the best UX agencies on Agency Spotter to help smooth out those details.

This video contains Sheridan’s overview of the They Ask You Answer methodology:

Click here to watch another video-based resource about the book on his YouTube channel.

2. The Content Formula by Michael Brenner and Liz Bedor

Top three takeaways:

  • If you’re willing to gather numbers from other parts of your organization, you can calculate the ROI of content marketing in terms your boss understands.
  • This can be done in 10 steps, using only the four basic math operations.
  • You need these numbers if you want to get a promotion.

If you want a crash course on the value this book can deliver to you and your organization, here’s a revealing, 45-minute-long podcast starring Michael Brenner discussing just that.

Brenner posted this info about The Content Formula on his YouTube channel:

3. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

Top three takeaways:

  • The basis behind all marketing is storytelling. Most of the time, the narrative is centered around the experience the consumer is supposed to have while using the product.
  • Once a consumer believes something, it becomes their truth. For example, many people believe that “a Porsche Cayenne is superior to a VW Touareg, although it is virtually the same car.”
  • Marketers should always tell truthful stories. If they don’t, they’ll get caught and will be in worse circumstances than before.

Though it may be well-aged, this 19-minute NPR interview with Godin concerning All Marketers Are Liars is a time-tested semi-summary of the book, and a good clip to listen to if you’d like Godin himself to help you read between the lines.

Further, here’s a video so all-encompassing and anecdotal that it could only come from someone as full of knowledge as Godin. In it, he discusses the deadly difference between being a marketer who lies, and one who storytells:

Find a branding agency that helps you stay a storyteller on Agency Spotter.

4. Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer

The book’s top three takeaways:

  • Over 40% of consumer interaction with companies is done publically, yet almost everyone underestimates the impact of service on customer retention and acquisition.
  • Because customer service is now a “spectator sport,” marketers must harness it’s power as a marketing tool.
  • “Haters aren’t your problem – ignoring them is.” The customers who like you the least are important opportunities to prove your worth.

Here’s a video of Baer himself talking about the book – watch it for insight directly from the source.

Below is an infographic that offers data regarding the two kinds of haters as characterized by Baer:

Address your haters with the right public relations partner – browse the 400+ PR agencies on Agency Spotter.

5. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Top three takeaways:

  • All marketers are in some way publishers – yourself included.
  • Effectively communicating within published materials – be they copy, memos, or RFPs – is directly correlated with your success as a marketer.
  • Not all style manuals cater to the needs of marketers, and there are industry-specific things marketers must make sure they do in their writing (think deadly minutiae like SlideShare vs. Slideshare).

Handley offers more insight, as well as a free sneak peek of the book, on her website, AnnHandley.com

Watch the below video to see what Handley has to say about her book in an interview at Marketing Prof’s B2B Forum:

Even with expert guidance, writing marketing content alone is still intimidatingly complex. Working alongside one of the Top 20 Content Marketing Agencies on Agency Spotter, however, could make it a whole lot easier.

Reading Can Build Competitive Advantage

In today’s world, marketing best-practices change at lightning speed. They also depend heavily on what is profitable and what is not. Agency Spotter thinks trends shift too quickly to let you simply “catch on” to them over time. CMO, we compiled the above list for you to be able to begin purposefully informing yourself in order to stay on the cutting edge. And if that means taking a few minutes a day to tune everything out and just read, we say why not? – Plush robe and fireside chaise are optional.

Are you reading one of these books? What do you think of it? We’d love it if you’d let us know on our Twitter or Facebook page.

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Paul Weston