7 great books for B2B Marketers: On customer experience, digital transformation, and embracing change

By Chuck Leddy

Although great content to help you learn best practices in B2B marketing is increasingly in digital form – from online courses to webinars to blog posts – curling up with a great book is still an excellent way to learn how about marketing. Books are also fine ideas for gift-giving, in case you know a marketer loves to read.

Here are 7 great marketing-related books that are well worth your time:

1: Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. Your customers want to know your brand story, your values, and understand why you exist. You can pay tons of money for marketing, PR, and advertising, but it’s easy for customers to tune out this “interruptive” messaging. By telling stories that consistently express your why, you can more closely connect with customers so they’ll want to hear more from you, and want deeper relationships with your company.

As author Donald Miller says in this terrific book about how to tell brand stories, “the most important challenge for business leaders is to define something simple and relevant their customers want and to become known for delivering on that promise.” B2B marketers who can create stories that connect their offerings to the needs and emotions of their customers will be the ones who build long-term trust and drive lifetime customer value (and long-term profitability). Miller’s book tells you how to build stories around your brand’s uniqueness and the value you create for customers.

2: The Power of Moments: Why Certain Moments Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath. The Heath brothers are masters at explaining what makes customer experiences memorable. This book dives into human psychology and marketing to explain why some moments stand out and others don’t. It begins with understanding customer expectations, the standard script for “average,” and then surpassing the expected to create memorable moments.”

What B2B marketers must do is to map out the standard script and then play with customer expectations at each step of the journey. Suppose a restaurant brought you a surprise appetizer. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just the surprise alone is going to count to the restaurant’s credit. The Heaths teach you to play with the script and re-engineer it in appropriate ways to delight customers.

3: Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley. B2B marketers can’t be great storytellers, and can’t create memorable moments, unless they can first write well. Veteran marketer Handley advocates for clarity and simplicity: don’t write to impress or show off how smart you are. Instead, write to connect.

Being able to write well isn’t just nice, it’s necessary. And it’s an essential ingredient for all effective content marketing.. Handley offers you expert guidance into the process and strategy of content creation, production, and publishing with practical how-to advice designed to drive results. Her lessons apply to all of your Web pages, home pages, landing pages, blogs, emails, marketing offers, and social media posts.

4: The Sentient Enterprise: The Evolution of Business Decision-Making by Mohan Sawhney. This wonderful book blends Sawhney’s practical experience with a firm theoretical foundation to explain how organizations can become fully mature in how they leverage data and drive digital transformation. The relevance for digital marketers, especially in the B2B space, couldn’t be clearer.

Sawhney powerfully advocates for effective data management to fuel personalization efforts. The problem he bemoans loudest is that so many companies simply can’t leverage their data because it’s trapped within silos — lost in different systems. There’s an organizational tendency to proliferate tools and platforms and end up with ungovernable “data spaghetti,” preventing you from seeing 360 degrees across your business. You also can’t see your customer in totality. Sawhney shows you how to untangle the spaghetti and optimize your data.

5: Capturing Loyalty: How to Measure, Generate and Profit from Highly-Satisfied Customers by John Larson and Bennett McClellan. A terrific and practical CX manual filled with actionable insights on driving higher levels of customer loyalty. This book is must-reading for marketers and brands who use “net promoter score” or NPS as a measure of customer satisfaction. The book’s central idea is that a highly satisfied customer (HSC) is significantly more profitable for any business than a customer who is “just satisfied.” Data shows there’s not much difference at all between a customer who is satisfied, and one who is either indifferent or dissatisfied. Therefore, the real opportunity for revenue growth comes in moving a customer from satisfied (NPS 3) to highly satisfied (NPS 5).

HSCs have a much greater purchasing frequency: they come back three to four times more often on average than a “just satisfied” customer. They’ll also buy a wider range of products, so you get more cross-selling and upselling. HSCs are also cheaper to serve because they have fewer problems or complaints than other clients. And if you have to raise your prices, that “just satisfied” customer is going to go someplace else, while the HSCs will stay with you. They’ll also offer you great word-of-mouth marketing, the best kind of marketing.

6: The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu. An entertaining and informative page-turner about the history of advertising, from the penny newspapers of the early 19th Century to today’s tech titans like Google and Amazon. The consistent theme of this brilliant book is how various media channels, from newspapers to radio to TV to the Internet, have consistently sought to capture human attention and then sell that attention to advertisers and marketers.

For those who love history and marketing, Wu’s book is as fun as it gets, bringing you in-depth into evolving business models that haven’t changed much in two centuries. Nobody has written better about the historical underpinnings of today’s “attention economy” than Tim Wu.

7: Next is Now: 5 Steps for Embracing Change — Building a Business That Thrives into the Future by Lior Arussy. The most accessible book ever on the psychology of change management, it explores the deep mental and emotional obstacles that individuals and organizations confront as they seek to embrace change. Arussy offers 5 practical, actionable steps that individuals and organizations can take to effectively manage change.

Arussy’s research has found that failure is the norm, not the exception, for change management initiatives. The top reasons for these failures were all human-related factors: (1) People within the organization didn’t understand the “why” behind the change; (2) Senior leadership didn’t communicate the purpose and plan effectively; (3) Senior leadership itself was often not aligned behind the change. So budgets, technologies, and processes aren’t the main obstacles to change: people are, as Arussy’s book makes clear. He shows you how to effectively manage change.

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