Marketing is the promotion of a product, service, organization, or idea. You can market almost anything to almost anyone. While we often associate marketing as synonymous with advertising, they are not the same thing. Advertising is simply one of the tactics used in the marketing tool-belt.

From household brand names to politicians, we are bombarded with marketing messages every waking hour of our days. Our cell phones, web browsers, television sets, and roadsides are constantly trying to sell us something new, sign up for a newsletter, contribute to a cause, or click here for more information.

The great brands and organizations that find a place in our brains (and even our culture) are the ones that master marketing. Apple, McDonalds, Coca Cola, and AT&T have all established household status through brand positioning. Google has elevated its brand to the status of being a verb. Facebook is eating the world through word of mouth recommendation and the network effect. Donald Trump won the White House with social media marketing that is unrivaled in the political sphere.

In the world we live in today, advertising and money are not enough to effectively promote your brand. You have to grasp the basics of marketing to identify your audience, understand their pains, describe your solution, and tell a compelling story to tie it all together.

So how do you enter into the world of marketing? I'd suggest a crash course in the absolute basics to gain a foothold. Once you have a general understanding of the fundamental marketing concepts, you can tailor your continued education with a good foundation to build upon.

DIY Marketing Crash Course

I've assembled a short list of five books to get you started on your journey to becoming an effective marketer in the modern landscape. While these five books are not the silver bullet to marketing expertise, they are a great place to start and have been valuable to my marketing journey.

1. Positioning


This book is hardly modern. Many of the examples used are no longer relevant in our society, but do not let this discourage you from reading this masterful look at how brands are positioned in the minds of your prospects. The examples may be stale, but the knowledge is timeless. From politics to sales, establishing a position in the minds of others is marketing distilled to its purest form. This book is a must read for anyone that is marketing a brand or organization that has competition.

2. Building a StoryBrand


Great marketing and great storytelling go hand in hand. Humans love a good story, especially one where the can see themselves as the hero. In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller outlines the step by step instructions for building a compelling story that will share your message in a way that will resonate with your audience. Finally, the book leaves you with a template to craft and create your narratives for your unique customer segments. A must read for anyone that wants to have their message stick with their prospects and solidify their brand position.

3. Traction


Not to be confused with Gino Wickman's masterpiece by the same name, this book focuses on how startups can gain traction by exploring 19 channels for your advertising and marking efforts. This book is aimed at startups, but it can be a great resource for anyone that is spending advertising dollars or marking time and are not getting anywhere. A quick and simple read, this book can help you understand how to effectively explore and identify channels that reach your customers and return value for your efforts.

4. This is Marketing


Really any book by Seth Godin is a good use of your time when learning marketing. I'm not a devotee of his, but I do respect what he has done in his career and think he has some wonderful ideas for marketers of all levels. I picked this one as it is more of an omnibus view of the topic from one of its most prolific teachers and influencers. This is a general overview of the discipline and will help round out your understanding of the subject.

5. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing


Rounding out this list is yet another book by Al Ries and Jack Trout, the same authors that brought us Positioning. This book is a great overview of their decades of marketing experience distilled into 22 laws that should guide any marketer's world view. As the book's subtitle states, "Violate Them at Your Own Risk".


Marketing is different for every product, service, organization, market, audience, location, and a variety of other factors. Having a firm grasp on the underlying concepts of the craft and the wisdom of the practitioners that have curated their knowledge in books we can consume is essential to reaping the benefits of a good marketing strategy and campaign.

Please tweet me at @jdstraughan to discuss further. I'd love to hear which marketing books and resources have impacted you the most. I found these to be invaluable resources, and I hope they add value to your marketing efforts.