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Four Books That Inspired Marketing Experts

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Although it may be considered “old school” in today’s technology-heavy world, books still make an impact.

“I think we’d all like to read more if we possibly could,” Jeff Irvine, president of digital media marketing agency, InnoVision says.

Ratchet+Wrench sat down with three marketing experts to discuss what books have not only made an impact in their business, but ultimately inspired their marketing craft.


Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

The Reviewer

Drew Gneiser, a training manager and social strategist at The Social Lights in Minneapolis, works directly with strategy, social media management, training, and business development. Gneiser has worked with brands, nonprofits and musicians. In addition to working at The Social Lights, Gneiser is the host and organizer of “Creative Mornings/Minneapolis,” a free, monthly breakfast lecture series that features designers, entrepreneurs and musicians.

The Book

Made to Stick was featured on both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal’s bestseller lists and was retired from the BusinessWeek list after 24 months, according to the Heath Brothers website.

Gneiser came across this book after college years ago, he says, when he was exploring marketing titles and looking for new ideas in a bookstore.

“A surprising thing that stuck with me from this book is that many of the reasons that ideas fail to stick, are also the default ways that marketers assume will work,” Gneiser says. “Numbers and features often turn off the part of our brain that makes decisions.”

A lot of marketing is communicating ideas that spread, Gneiser says, and this book discusses why some ideas take hold and others don’t.

“If we can clearly understand how this works, we can aim to replicate this in our own marketing,” Gneiser says.

The Impact

The book has provided Gneiser insight on how to create content that benefits the client, he explains.

“We talk about this with our team and with clients: What will make this content stick? How will it make the biggest impact? Our natural inclination is to lead with product features,” Gneiser says. “When you engage the rational part of someone's brain, you also engage the part of the brain that doesn't make the decisions. This is why storytelling and emotions (two principles from the book) are so important.

“If you want your message to stick, you have to resist the urge to list off a bunch of features and instead look for the story or emotion that people will connect to.”

Additionally, Gneiser says the book showed him the “Curse of Knowledge,” a principle where having knowledge about a topic makes it difficult to imagine not having knowledge about the topic. This is the main barrier of communication, Gneiser says.

“Knowing this principle, we now ask ourselves how we can make our marketing messages more clear and simple—not the same as dumbed down,” Gneiser says. “We can’t assume everyone has the context or knowledge we have.”


This is Marketing by Seth Godin

The Reviewer

Leona Dalavai Scott is the director of marketing and communications for the Automotive Service Association (ASA). In her role today, she oversees the content manager and graphics/production manager, oversees internal and external communication for social media, email marketing, press releases, video production, digital communications, and three websites.

Dalavai Scott also supports the membership department and legislative office in Washington, D.C., with marketing materials, and is responsible for marketing to the organization’s current members, she says.

The Book

This Is Marketing educates readers on ways to identify your smallest audience, as well as ways to build trust and permission with your target market, how to create and release tension, and give people the tools to achieve their goals.

This Is Marketing was a Christmas present that Dalavai Scott received last year, she says.   

“There is a perception that marketing is about sales, and while that is true to some small degree, it’s much more,” Dalavai Scott says. “Seth’s book helped me realize that, through marketing, you are making a change. I think the biggest thing that the book taught me is to create marketing that matters, with your customer at the center of everything you do.”

Dalavai Scott says the book taught her how to see clients as real people who may be struggling with a problem or challenge that marketing can assist with, she says.

“Position your marketing in such a way that ‘speaks to their soul and persona in language,’” Dalavai Scott says.

Storytelling is a huge part of marketing, she says.

“People love stories, but using stories in your marketing takes time and genuine effort,” Dalavai Scott says. “Whenever we personalize our marketing with a story, we get a deeper connection with our audience that resonates more strongly than just simply explaining the value of something and why you should buy it—or in ASA’s case, why you need to join as a member.”

The Impact

Dalavai Scott recently used knowledge from the book while working on content for a flyer regarding an upcoming “Technology & Telematics Forum.” While creating content, Dalavai Scott says she thought back to Godin’s advice on identifying what pain points or problems need to be solved.

“So we positioned the content to address those pain points,” Dalavai Scott says. “We just finalized the flyer, [and] we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our members, and tried to address the following: How will these new technologies affect my shop? What is the current cybersecurity and data access solution, and what's at stake?”

Start With Why by Simon Sinek and Good to Great by Jim Collins

The Reviewer

Jeff Irvine is the president of digital marketing agency and SEO company, InnoVision, based in Sacramento, Calif. Irvine has worked in the marketing industry for 15 years before starting InnoVision six years ago, he says.     

Irvine works primarily on digital marketing today, he says, and is the primary point of contact for the business. Some of his role includes reaching out to clients to see how they’re doing as well as determining how the business can bring value back to the clients.

The Books

Start With Why by Simon Sinek dives into how leaders with a great influence think, according to Sinek’s website. Sinek started a movement in 2009 to help make people more inspired in their work setting, and he discusses his ideas in a TED Talk video, which has been viewed more than 28 million times.

Irvine received both books as gifts from his mentors. According to Irvine, he’s had Good to Great by Jim Collins in his possession for 10 years, and it’s a book that he picks up every now and then.

Good to Great by Jim Collins addresses a single question, according to Collin’s website: “Can a good company become a great company, and if so, how?”

“Good to Great is centered around what makes a great business,” Irvine says. “It’s the leadership, it’s the culture, and it’s how you approach your business itself and allow it to succeed.”

Irvine also says Start With Why by Simon Sinek has helped him grow in his role today.

Start With Why is really a textbook for communications,” Irvine says. “It’s how you’re communicating with not only employees, but customers in the business world, essentially.”

The Impact

Irvine uses knowledge gained from both books quite often at his business, he says.

“Really, [the books] are focused on building a business, making myself better, and becoming a better leader, and better at communicating [with clients],” he says.

According to Irvine, some of the communication tips offered from the books have given him a better understanding of how to speak with clients.  

“All of those things will then help me in the marketing world when we’re either developing campaigns on how we message that and we’re talking to a consumer, trying to get a consumer’s business, and the way I’m interacting with my customers and potential customers,” Irvine says.

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