Here’s a pop quiz: What do Oprah, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Marc Cuban all have in common?
They are all famous billionaires, of course, but they all share another common trait: they are voracious readers. Gates finishes 50 books a year. Oprah credits her success to reading books. Buffett said in an interview that he reads five to six hours a day.
As a busy marketer or market researcher, you probably don’t have many spare hours in a day. But if you want to continue to improve in your role, setting aside time to read and learn is critical.
Whether you are trying to pick up reading as a new habit or simply looking for new books, the following list should help. These book recommendations came from leading marketers and researchers, including those we interviewed on the Vision Critical blog.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
"Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow has become a must-read for marketers and market researchers seeking to explain human behavior. Terms from this book such as 'System 1' and 'System 2' (Kahneman’s terms for the two modes of thought) and 'loss aversion' have already entered the business lexicon. Released in 2011, this award-winning best seller promises to be an important reference for market researchers in the decades ahead."
- Ray Poynter, Founder and Chair of NewMR and Managing Director of The Future Place
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
"It’s very relevant to the digital age. The new edition covers how to engage with people within your company on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Thriving as a marketer or researcher today isn’t about producing the best report or the most sophisticated insights from a research study. Success requires influencing people within your own department and groups that you support. How to Win Friends and Influence People was one of the first books that helped me learn best practices on how to do that and build authentic relationships with colleagues."
- Tyler Kettle, International Insights Manager at Google
Designing With the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson
"I would recommend it to every designer because it does a great job of talking about our cognitive biases, the perceptual limitations of humans and how the brain processes information. It helps you understand where heuristics come from so that you know when to apply or break them."
- Marcus Lofthouse, Senior Director of User Experience at Audible
First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
"First, Break All the Rules opened my eyes to how great managers develop and work with talented people. I’ve learned from his book that you can teach somebody a skill, but you can’t teach people a talent, like curiosity."
- Elizabeth Nann, Executive Director of Global Consumer Insights at The Wall Street Journal
Humble Inquiry by Edward Schein
"It’s about being curious and drawing someone out, rather than being directive in the way that you speak to them. This book has connected a lot with us as an organization because as we’re creating a lean organization, we’re empowering front line staff to solve problems. If we, as leaders, are not really being curious and listening, then we might miss opportunities that our associates bring forward to us."
- Katy Dalton Rigsby, System Vice President of Marketing and Communications at OhioHealth
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
"It’s a book about success, efficiency and creativity. It’s not about business, but it’s fantastic."
- Jamie Gutfreund, Global CMO of digital agency Wunderman
Grit by Angela Duckworth
"The book, as well as Duckworth’s TED Talk, is all about passion and perseverance. She interviewed high achievers and found that people who are most successful are not the ones who are naturally talented. They’re the ones that worked the hardest toward one long-term goal in everything that they did. Duckworth’s research shows that the most successful are those who focus on one skill to improve, and they’re doing that over decades and decades.
As a young professional, I try to develop and hone many new skills. But I learned from Grit that it’s important to focus on one or two things that you want to do well and work at those no matter what."
- Eileen Chen, Customer Insights Analyst at Keurig Canada
Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
"The book has an assessment that goes along with it, and it helps you identify your top five strengths. The book’s overarching idea is that you should pursue and develop your strengths rather than try to compensate for your weaknesses. It helps facilitate coaching conversations with your team to understand and build upon each other’s strengths. I’ve recommended Strengths Finder to many teams at Cleveland Clinic—it is a great team builder!"
Misti Allison, Senior Market Research Analyst at Cleveland Clinic
Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte
"This one is strictly for data visualization. The book talks about how to layout a presentation, organize slides, and place visuals on a page to make it as reader friendly as possible. I still find myself going back to this book and leafing pages for my presentations. Although it's a few years old now, the book has an incredible shelf-life and many of her design and illustration points stand the test of time."
- George Kuhn, Owner and President of Drive Research
Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil
"Big Data is changing everything and offers us unlimited possibilities, but… to improve our way of living? O’Neil warns us of dangers, that we face as a society: growing inequality and low-quality democracy. The algorithms are never neutral, collect prejudices, ideologies and objectives of their creators. Interesting reflection for researchers: are we designing really objective statistical models? Or do we echo our clients’ own beliefs?"
- Paul Laughlin, Chief Blogger, CustomerInsightLeader.com
Superconsumers by Eddie Yoon
"Pork dorks. Craftsters. American Girl fans. Despite their different tastes, eclectic diehards have a lot in common: they're obsessed about a specific brand, product, or category. They pursue their passions with fervor, and they're extremely knowledgeable about the things they love. They aren't average consumers—they're superconsumers.
While small in number, superconsumers can have an outsized impact on a company's bottom line. Representing 10% of total consumers, they can drive between 30% to 70% of sales, and offer invaluable advice to managers looking to improve their products, change their business models, energize their cultures, and attract new customers. Rich with data and case studies of companies that have implemented superconsumer strategies with great success, Superconsumers is a fun, practical, and inspiring guide for anyone interested in making their best customers even better."
- Kimberly A. Whitler, Darden Business School professor, contributor to Forbes and CMO.com, and former CMO
Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
"It’s hard to believe that this book is almost 20 years old! This classic from Seth Godin was one of the first books to recast the role of marketing in the digital age. Instead of using these new tools to blast even more messages at an even louder volume, Godin teaches us to offer value up front in exchange for permission. And with that permission, we can continue to build and deepen the relationship with our customers over time.
I read this book early in my career, when I was working for an educational publishing company, leading the transition from direct mail to internet marketing. I couldn’t imagine navigating today’s media shifts without it. With more networks and more noise, the lessons are as relevant as ever."
- Nick Westgaard, Chief Brand Strategist, Brand Driven Digital
Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
"One of Business Magazine’s top three business books of 2016, Hug Your Haters is a hilarious and relevant twist on the traditional customer service book. While 80% of companies claim they provide superior customer service, only an alarming 8% of their customers agree.
Jay Baer explains the reality of customer service today: that marketers should spend more time interacting with consumers on social media, not through phone or email. Baer uses research to make a compelling argument for addressing every complaint and handling internet trolls in an age when one-third of customer complaints go unanswered."
- Steve Olenski, Contributor to Forbes
Looking for more insight and recommendations from leaders in market research? Download Leaders of Change, an e-book from Ray Poynter featuring 10 of the most influential researchers in the world today.