You MUST Read These 3 Content Marketing Books In 2016

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I’m scrambling to create better content this year. Are you?

With organic traffic in a downward spiral, Content Shock, and an onslaught of posts, memes and articles on just about everything, it’s time for a major change.

You can go out there and Google the secrets to success, OR, you can read these three content marketing books by the experts.


Content Marketing Must-Read #1: The Content Code by Mark W. Schaefer

This is your “start here” book. Even if you’re a content marketing newbie, I suggest this is the first book you plant your nose into.

What Mark so eloquently shows us it that writing epic content — which is what most marketers latch onto with waaaaay too much gumption — is not the most crucial part of content marketing; content distribution is.

“Creating great content is not the finish line. It’s the starting line.” -- Mark W. Schaefer Click To Tweet

In his book, The Content Code, Mark shares the simple six-step process for getting your content to move or content distribution:

  1. Brand Development
  2. Audience & Influencers
  3. Distribution, Advertising, Promotion, and SEO
  4. Authority
  5. Shareability
  6. Social Proof & Social Signals

I’ve recommended this book to countless numbers of business partners and friends. One of them, Jamie Teasdale of Plan, Promote, Prosper had this to say about Mark’s book:

The Content Code was an incredible book. Talk about having all the info, all the tips and all of the how to’s of content marketing in one place! As a business owner who deals in content, I have already recommended it to ten of my friends and I feel it would be an excellent gift for many of my clients.

Two of the points I could pinpoint for purposes of this recommendation were Mark’s point about writing for your audience first, and SEO second. SEO is important, but how your audience responds to heart-felt and personality infused content will outweigh a potentially dryer article that is written for SEO purposes only. The second point is about finding and cultivating your Alpha Audience. These are the tribe of raving fans who will share your content and engage with you with blind trust! These are the carriers of your message.

While neither of these points are true “ah ha” moments for me personally, they resonated loudly. Thank you Brooke and thank you Mark. I’m grateful for this tool that I can refer my associates, clients and friends too!

When reading Mark’s book, I found myself mesmerised by Chapter Four, 22 Practical Ways to Achieve Content Ignition, as so many people (even the experts!) miss these 22 ways to achieve content distribution.

In fact, I put together a Content Code infographic with visual aids and tips on the eleven easiest ways to get your content shared:

11 Ways To Ignite Content from the Content Code_Infographic

Chapter Five on Building An Alpha Audience is especially pivotal in the success or failure of content marketers or any business looking to have their content consumed and shared at scale.

What is an alpha audience? Mark describes it as the “elite and engaged tribe at the top of the social sharing food chain, the bedrock of your business.”

As for attracting your own alpha audience, here’s what the experts Mark surveyed suggested:

  • “Above all, be interesting.” — David Meerman Scott
  • “Build the smallest possible audience.” — Seth Godin
  • “Establish a communion of equals.” — Marcus Sheridan
  • “Speak to one person.” — Bernadette Jiwa
  • “Publish with empathy.” — Jonathon Colman
  • “Don’t publish when you ‘should.'” — Scott Stratten
  • “Never take the audience for granted.” — Ann Handley
  • “Connecting content, people, and conferences.” — Lee Odden
  • “Don’t take the party line.” — Dorie Clark
  • “Connect the community.” — Gini Dietrich
  • “Be real.” — Joyce Cherrier
  • “Establish a common dream.” — Guy Kawasaki
  • “Aim for allies, not fans.” — Chris Brogan
  • “Give them everything.” — Mark W. Schaefer

Of course, you’ll have to read the entire book and all of Chapter Five for the specifics, but it’s safe to say your viewpoint on amassing ALL THE fans and vanity metrics should be reduced.

Find out more about Mark’s work with companies on the Content Code or buy his book here.

Content Marketing Must-Read #2: Invisible Selling Machine by Ryan Deiss


Although this book is not new, it’s a must-have content marketing book for your arsenal — especially if you’re spending more time on your owned assets and email marketing.

What makes his book, and his scripts, so different is that they look at nurture or drip email campaigns from a storytelling point of view; he forces you to see how you can use your own experiences and stories to soft sell your products and services.

It’s no secret that we’re HUGE fans of segmentation here at B Squared Media. That’s probably why Chapter 8 on Segmentation was highlighted, tabbed, and dogeared numerous times.

Ryan’s biggest advice?

'Stop selling ... start segmenting.' -- Ryan DeissClick To Tweet

In this chapter, Ryan walks you through segmentation with content, authority, surveys, webinars, your blog, sales, and even tells you when to segment.

Honestly, having this chapter (and his book) is like having an email marketing coach by your side while you set up content and email campaigns that will nurture your prospects through the sales pipeline.

Chapter 11: My 100 Best Email Subject Line Templates is another great place for content marketing newbies or marketers who are stuck to get some serious ah-ha and lightbulb moments. Ryan’s top 10 subject lines were:

  1. Breaking news …
  2. Facebook traffic is dead?
  3. Everybody’s waiting for you …
  4. Kindle bestseller in 4 days?
  5. Watch live? From anywhere?
  6. Facebook closing down?
  7. I feel kinda sorry for you …
  8. How to scale your business
  9. Good news for people who love bad news …
  10. Can’t make the trip?

Notice how every one of his top subject lines gives an air of mystery or touches on the fears he knows his audience worries about daily (Facebook, anyone?!).

There really is NO FLUFF with this content marketing book.

Ryan gives you an email marketing process map and then spends the rest of the book showing you exactly how to implement with email samples, visual aids, and ideas.

See more on Invisible Selling Machine or buy it here.

Content Marketing Must-Read #3: The Content Formula by Michael Brenner & Liz Bedor


Whereas the previous two books are trusted guides that many marketers have put their stock in, this book is brand new!

The reason this book is actionable enough to share on this short list is right in the subtitle: Calculate the ROI of Content Marketing & Never Waste Monday Again.

While Mark underscores the importance not just of engagement but influence, and Ryan showcases how to use storytelling, mystery and fear to get opens, Michael and Liz come to the rescue with a strategy and formulas for calculating your content marketing ROI.

Part One of the book helps you build the business case for content marketing, Part Two helps you find and allocate a budget, but I really started to get excited during Part Three: Measuring the Business Case.

Here Michael and Liz show you formulas and graphs for measuring:

  • Paid vs. Organic Search Traffic
  • Unbranded Organic Search Traffic
  • Share of Voice
  • Time on Site
  • Repeat Visitors
  • Social Likes
  • Subscriptions
  • Bounce Rate
  • Social Shares/Followers
  • Offsite SEO
  • Cost per Lead
  • Percentage of Leads Sourced
  • Conversions
  • Retention

Nowhere else can you find marketers sharing this kind of useful, relevant, on-point information. Why?

Because 57 percent of B2B marketers are still struggling with measuring content marketing performance.

With The Content Formula, there is no excuse.

And even if you don’t have time to read the entire book, Liz and Michael have delivered the Content Formula Cheat Sheets for you starting on page 75.

Where there normally isn’t an easy button for proving return on investment in marketing, The Content Formula is primed and ready to deliver tangible, dollars-and-cents business results for your content marketing efforts.

Watch a video on the book or get your own copy of The Content Formula here.

Why These Content Marketing Books Are Must Reads

If your business New Year’s resolutions had anything to do with content marketing, you should definitely read these three books and focus on:

  • Content distribution
  • Email marketing
  • Measuring your content marketing efforts and ROI

Gone are the days of “writing epic shit.”

Today’s content marketers are going to have to find better ways of providing, and proving, value with their content.

Have any books that need to be added to our actionable MUST-READ content marketing books? Let us know about them in the comments section below.


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Content Distribution, Content Marketing
Tags: content, content creation, content distribution, content marketing, content marketing books, content marketing ROI,
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