Whatever line of business you’re in, whether you’re working for an employer, freelancing or a business owner, just like an athlete if you want to gain and maintain any level of success in your field you should be constantly working on improving yourself, your business and your mindset.
Books are my preferred method of learning, and over the last 10 years I’ve amassed a library of over 500 of the most amazing business and personal development books that have made significant impacts to the way I work and the results I get. Also over that time many of the best books have been discovered by recommendation for which I’m always extremely grateful.
This post was inspired by Tony Dimmock’s recent presentation at this year’s BrightonSEO ocnference which led me to ordering my latest read Paul Cherry’s Questions That Sell.
I’ve selected 5 recommended books from my library that I believe will make you a better marketer, freelancer or small business owner. I hope you find them useful and I encourage you to add your own recommendations in the comments below!
Steven K Scott is a master marketer. If you’ve ever arrived home late into the night after a party and switched on your TV to be greeted by the infomercials you can thank Scott for that. He has been one of the key masters of infomercial production, especially in the early days of the format.
Using practical examples in 15 mentoring sessions, Scott focuses on communication as the key to marketing and sales. He covers area’s such as how to master copywriting through the technique of “salting” prospects (much as bartenders do with olives and nuts to make you more thirsty), building your project plans out in a way that guarantees they’ll get completed to the highest standard (the vision mapping templates included in the book are always on my copier), and also covers areas of business success psychology. The chapter on mining the nuggets of gold from criticism and failure is particularly empowering, as is how you qualify who’s actually delivering the criticism.
I particularly loved the part where Scott describes attending an advertising awards ceremony to collect an award, and discusses conversion rates for his infomercials with his peers at the pre-awards networking event. At the time Scott had been so focused on his own conversion rates he had forgot to find out what the industry average was, so he opened up an innocent conversation during a networking meeting asking how he could improve his conversions from the 75% rate he was currently achieving. The astounded listener simply replied “You do know the industry average most of us are getting is 2% ?”. To which Scott replied, “Really? I had no idea, wow I’m doing OK then…”
The vision mapping templates included in the book live on my copier, and are an incredible blueprint document you can use again and again to get things done. You can’t fail to succeed if you use a vision mapping template as a living foundational document for your projects. It takes discipline to use them but they are written in a very engaging way that makes them incredibly useful.
This book was first published in 1935 and has stood the test of time as one of the most respected works in the industry on advertising and copywriting. John Caples was a genuis copywriter and gave birth to one of the most famous headlines “They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano, But When I started to Play!–“.
For a book that was originally written nearly 80 years ago it’s incredible how relevant it is now for anyone in the marketing, blogging and social media arenas. Not only is it the most succinct crash course in headline writing, it’s a complete collection of swipe files you can use as a framework right of the page. Copy, modify to your subject and and paste and you have 10 new great headlines!
If John Caples was still alive today, you can bet that he would have the most visited blog on the web. Take chapter 5’s title “Thirty Five Proven Formulas For Writing Headlines And Direct Mail Teasers” and I’m sure you recognize that style being used across the web today.
The 5th Edition of Tested Advertising Methods has been revised by Fred E. Hahn to bring it right up to date, and the most recent 5th edition is still in print today and available in paperback, published by Pearson Education Publishing.
If you’re looking to improve your sales skills (and we all sell ourselves through life however much you think you might not be a salesperson) then this book is for you. Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon who turned to psychology to understand more about people’s underlying self image and took him on a journey that led to the famous book Psycho Cybernetics, the study of the subconsious mind and how humans form habits and automatic responses for everything they do.
Zero resistance selling is based on the principles of Psycho Cybernetics and focuses on how you can create positive habits that will lead you to a successful sale on autopilot. It also touches on how your self image sets your own comfort zone, your earning power, and ultimately your own ceiling on success and gives you good advice on how to master re-programming these limiting beliefs. If you’re interested in being a high performer this book is for you.
This is a kick ass book for the entrepreneur in you. Dan Kennedy is one of the most respected and well paid marketers on the planet and he’s got there by being the straightforward guy who tells it how it is. Whilst many other books on entrepreneurship might paint a glossy picture of running your own business, Kennedy gives you down in the trenches, practical, actionable and experiential advice on how to make your business a success.
Kennedy particulary addresses how to succeed despite economically turbulent times, with the view that it’s always possible to succeed in spite of (and many times because of) a recession.
With mantras (Kennedy calls them “eternal truths”) such as “Entrepreneurs learn to get what they want working with what they’ve got”, “No one will ever be a bigger expert on your business than you” and “The willingness to do whatever it takes is infinitely more important than knowing everything there is to know about how to do it” this is a book that doesn’t hold back. If you think that you’re not getting the results you deserve in your business, then you definitely should pick up this motivational book.
Whilst this book definitely falls more into the personal development category than the business section, motivating yourself to keep going on the journey to reach your goals is an important part of your mindset in business.
Chandler brings you 100 bite size chapters just a mere 2-3 pages long each but that’s why I like this book. I can pick it up at any time of the day, open it up at pretty much any chapter and get a dose of inspiration that will straighten up your thinking and clear your head.
There are some real gems in this book that will inspire you, and with chapter titles like “Storm Your Own Brain”, “Take No For A Question”, “Do Something Badly”, Exploit Your Weakness” and the incredibly perspective setting “Get On Your Own Deathbed”, Chandler’s book always brings a breath of fresh air to any situation where you feel stuck. This was one of the first personal development books I purchased, and 10 years later it still sits on my desk and I refer to it daily.
It’s hard for me to pick any 5 books out of my extensive library, I’ve been blessed with so much wisdom from the many books I’ve read that I just had to give some quick bonus mentions to some more impactful books in case you haven’t come across the authors or the books.
Robert B. Cialdini – Influence. A classic book on persuasion, explaining the psychology of why people say yes, and how to apply these understandings. Learn how to become a skilled persuader and defend yourself against them too…
Napoleon Hill – How To Sell Your Way Through Life. Alongside the classic “Think And Grow Rich” this is one of the best books on the mindset of sales. Hard to find as it’s out of print, but occasionally appears on AbeBooks or eBay.
Dan Ariely – Predictably Irrational. In incredibly revealing insight into human behaviour. Particularly good sections on the psychology of pricing models and creating urgency.
Brian Tracy – Maximum Achievement. This book will make you a better businessperson, a better friend, a better parent – quite simply the principles of success in one book.
Jack Canfield – The Alladin Factor. A book that teaches you how to ask very very good questions that get results every time. If you have ever caught yourself saying “I can’t ask for that” you need this book. Once you’ve read it you’ll be able to ask anyone for anything (and get it).
Happy reading, and if you’ve read a book that’s made an impact on you, leave your recommendations in the comments below.
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