Kids don’t go to school on career day as a marketing director. No one grows up thinking, “I want to manage ad placements and creative content,” but somehow everyone has an opinion on marketing and how it should be done. Even Karen from accounting has recommendations for you. After launching into how they think you should solve their sales, manufacturing, or leadership problem simply with better marketing, you will hear them say, “Oh, but I’m not the creative one, that’s your area.”

Where does that feedback come from?
Often it comes from brief personal experiences: “Hey, I saw this sign” or “This company does this, so we should try it.” And while those are real and relevant ideas, they are only small glimpses. Did you see the entire campaign, across all channels? Did you get a look at their ROI on the catalog? What was their conversion rate and average order value of each digital ad placement?

We just drive by, scroll down, or page through, make an assumption, and then compare our next marketing move to what we saw in that instance. And we all live in this glass house, so the stones are thrown knowing that we have all been guilty.

If we are absolutely honest, that glass house is more of a bubble—a closed loop if you will. Here in Lynchburg those circles, bubbles, and loops may overlap, but they really don’t range widely. So if you are going to expand your mind and broaden your experiences, the fastest and most affordable way to do that is by reading. Yes, I said it: Read daily. Surround yourself with thinkers and practitioners who, for only $24.95 on Amazon, are willing to give you a master’s course in their area of expertise. Because let’s be real, your local business networking group is probably not going to get you all the way there.

Here are the four books from the past 12 months that every marketer should read and why:
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See
By Seth Godin
Godin is hands down one of the best thinkers of our time. With 18 books to his credit, he still finds ways to make you look at something in a new way. He often looks at complicated business problems and melts them down to a few simple shifts that could change the business. This book feels more raw and personal than his previous works. It is highlighted and dog-eared to death for me.

Never Split the Difference
By Chris Voss
Whether you are buying an advertisement or a house, signing a contract, have kids… or heck, if you are married, you should read this book on how to really negotiate. Voss, who was the FBI’s lead hostage negotiator (yep, there is only one of those at a time), took his skills in freeing your parents from a drug lord in Colombia to Harvard and crushed their best business students with a couple of simple tactics. He will teach you how to not only negotiate but also how to help others feel understood. Because in the end, that’s what we all really want in any relationship.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
By Donald Miller
A simply put story is the best and oldest form of marketing. Miller, who is a New York Times best seller, takes his experience as an author and strips storytelling to its core. He teaches you how to craft brand messages that will guide any customer (aka, the hero) to “win the day” in simple, easy-to-understand language that results in sales. Bonus: He also has an excellent “Building a StoryBrand” podcast with notable guests from the business and entertainment world.

Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth
By Jay Baer & Daniel Lemin
Word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing. Baer and Lemin go through 30+ real-world examples of how other companies have created customer conversations around their products. These conversations are not a result of larger ad budgets but instead they are a result of doing something memorable for every customer, every day.