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Summer Reading For Sharp Entrepreneurs

Joe Sugarman & Steve Sipress

Joe Sugarman & Steve Sipress

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and although it’s not yet officially “Summer,” there’s nothing like a few 90+ degree days to get everyone’s mind turning to thoughts of rest, relaxation and… summer reading.

All wealth-minded entrepreneurs, small business owners and sales professionals know that the money is in the marketing, while the vast majority of business people mistakenly focus instead on improving only the quality of whatever happens to be their deliverable, to the severe detriment of their bank accounts.

So for all of you sharp marketers, here is my list of the most basic small business marketing books that are absolutely essential reading for all entrepreneurs. My copies of all of these are dog-eared, highlighted and underlined, and none are ever more than a few feet from my desk:

Dan Kennedy, “The Ultimate Marketing Plan” A very basic overview of direct response marketing for beginners who are unfamiliar with and/or have never used it to grow their businesses.

Al Ries and Jack Trout, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!” and “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind” Both are quick and easy reads, full of common sense wisdom that, unfortunately, is not very common. Good for the very basic purpose of establishing a marketing mindset (but other, more in-depth study and research is necessary to become an effective marketer).

Robert Collier, “The Robert Collier Letter Book” Pure genius from one of the all-time greatest copywriters. In addition to the many examples of the very best “salesmanship in print,” Collier gives step-by-step advice on the #1 skill anyone can have: how to sell with the written word. Just reading some of his classic salesletters over and over helped me recognize effective copywriting and start creating it myself.

Jon Spoelstra, “Ice To The Eskimos” and “Marketing Outrageously” Two fun-to-read books full of actionable ideas and real-life examples of their implementation by a hired gun of the pro sports world, often called upon to turn around under-performing franchises. Even if you don’t actually use any of the author’s strategies or tactics, just reading these two books will put you in the right “problem-solving” mindset to stop feeling helpless or powerless and start realizing that you can achieve success even if you – and everyone else around you – thinks you can’t.

Claude Hopkins, “My Life In Advertising” and “Scientific Advertising” Two classics by one of the true pioneers and masters of direct response marketing and copywriting. If you don’t read and study Hopkins’ simple formula for advertising success, you’re likely to become an “advertising victim” and believe that the garbage that passes for modern advertising is anything more than the total waste of money that it is.

Eldridge and Eldridge, “How To Position Yourself As The Obvious Expert” Very easy to read, with plenty of advice and examples of the power of getting prospects to chase you instead of the opposite. After reading this, you’ll know how and why to use basic “information marketing” strategies and tactics to revolutionize your business by attracting more and better customers, clients or patients than ever before.

Denny Hatch, “Million Dollar Mailings” An amazing collection of some of the most successful direct response marketing salesletter ever, with thorough explanations of how they were put together. Use it to learn exactly what makes a salesletter great, or as a “swipe file” to create your own multi-million dollar pieces, or both. Just make sure to use it. Fairly expensive – and easily worth 1,000 times the price to an action-taker.

David Ogilvy, “Ogilvy On Advertising” Absolutely essential for anyone who either invests any of their hard-earned money into advertising, or who just wants to learn why the overwhelming majority of what passes for modern advertising is almost completely ineffective at best, if not completely wasteful.

John Caples, “Tested Advertising Methods” Another phenomenal book on direct response marketing and what really works. Caution: The most current revision is not up to the standards of the classic version – make sure to get the 4th Edition or earlier.

Joe Sugarman, “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” This Chicago native is one of the all-time most respected, admired and innovative marketing geniuses, and one of the best teachers of direct response marketing. This book is an entertaining and informative read, full of real-life examples and immediately-actionable advice.

Victor Schwab, “How To Write A Good Advertisement”
Another classic that must be a part of every serious businessperson’s library. Even if you read no further than the opening chapter’s understated “100 Good Headlines and Why They Were so Profitable,” you’ll have gotten a lot more than your money’s worth and greatly improved your marketing skill. This chapter alone has saved me untold hours and dollars attempting to “reinvent the wheel” by providing me with winning headline templates – and the psychology behind each of them – that have brought in millions of dollars for me and my clients.

Robert Cialdini, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” Very entertaining and engaging, with plenty of stories and scientific research to back up every point. I have personally used all six of the basic principles of influence that Cialdini teaches to bring in millions of dollars in dozens of different businesses. All of direct response marketing comes down to math and behavioral psychology, and this is the best book ever written on what makes consumers take action.

Eugene Schwartz, “Breakthrough Advertising” This book is extremely rare and out of print. You should be in no rush to get it until you’ve read all of the other books on this list multiple times. It is extremely advanced and a very difficult read – definitely only for the most advanced direct marketing students and practitioners. That said, it is easily the most powerful and potentially life-changing book on this list.

If you read, study and use these books over the summer, or even within the next year or two, your income and lifestyle will forever be changed in a major, positive way.

4 Responses to Summer Reading For Sharp Entrepreneurs

  1. Jim Lynch Reply

    May 31, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Steve you’ve done it again…… Marketing Insight that Matters!

  2. Steve Sipress Reply

    May 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks, Jim!

  3. Susan Joy Schleef Reply

    June 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Great list, Steve! There are several books on there that I’ll take another look at this summer.

  4. Mary Forte Reply

    June 9, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the summer reading list, going to order the ones I don’t have as soon as I finish this reply!
    And as Susan said, take another look at some that I haven’t read in awhile.

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