8 business books to read

8 Books Every Entrepreneur and Growth Hacker Should Read

I brandish myself a perpetual student of life, and of business. After all, life is about making mistakes, learning from them, and growing as a result of our life lessons.

For most of us, the biggest lessons come from experiences themselves. But we can take a shortcut by reading and staying up to date on trends. Many business authors are crafting advice that descends directly from their own lessons and mistakes. Others are sharing opinions they’ve developed not through trial and error, but based on a range of variables from luck to advice they received from mentors and teachers.

If you want to stay competitive in today’s dynamic business and marketing environment, you simply have to keep up. So today, I’m sharing eight books that had a great impact on me along the way to building up my own business. Some are about marketing, still others about how to curate ideas or manage growth.

Take note that these are books which I personally found great value in.  There are many more quality books worth considering, but these authors resonated with me either through their approach to business, their voice, or something intangible. Whatever the reasons, I present to you eight books that anyone trying to build and grow a business should read if for no other reason than educational.

Eight Books for Entrepreneurs and Growth Hackers

The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime

Author: MJ DeMarco

If you are like me, the title of this book will make you take pause. My initial reaction was that this had to be one of those smarmy “get rich quick” books, where the author is sharing their “blueprint to success” for you to bank in only 30 days.

Fortunately, I gave the book a fair chance at the recommendation of my colleague, Vickie Flaugher. She had read it and swore to me that it was a brilliant read, and she was right.

The Millionaire Fastlane comes at you with a no nonsense tone, where author MJ DeMarco spells out the mindset and strategies you need to keep in mind if you want to build the right business the right way. His book is in no way about capitalizing on others to make a buck, but rather, it’s about practical approaches to get the right thoughts and actions in place to drive wealth.

He also covers things like the top business models for scaling revenue, how to know if you are adding value, and the right way to focus so you actually achieve your goals rather than thrashing around in the pool. If you want to go out on your own and have been struggling with how to get there, take time to read this book. It may provide you with some clarity that helps you get moving again.

Check out the book on Amazon:

The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t

Author: William Collins

Good to Great is one of the more fascinating books I’ve read during the course of my career. It is based on analysis of five years worth of data, where author William Collins and team analyzed why some companies stagnate while others experience massive growth.

What Collins found is that “great” companies have several things in common, ranging from leadership, to culture, to how they adopt technology to improve performance. Although the book was published in 2001, the findings are timeless. For example, just to give you one spoiler, leaders who exhibit a great deal of hubris rarely succeed at helping their business make the leap. A bit of humility actually works to their advantage.

But you really should read the book for yourself. It’s a pretty easy read, one that you can knock out pretty quickly. Here’s a link to Good to Great on Amazon:

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t

Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain

Authors: Patrick Renvoise and Christophe Morin

This book was recommended to me by a local colleague who was working with a range of startups back in 2009, and he was spot on with the recommendation. I found myself blazing through it at a rapid pace, because Neuromarketing really kept my attention and inspired me to think about the best ways to apply it’s techniques.

First, I have to point out that this book is not about any medical studies that tracked brain waves or anything like that. It is about how the brain processes stimuli based on right, left, and “old” brain reactions. By appealing to all three of the parts of the brain, you can increase your chances of getting to “yes” during a sales pitch, presentation, or other persuasive interaction.

You may be asking what the “old brain” is. Good question! Think of it as an analogy for your gut, or instinctive reaction mechanism. If you can talk to the old brain, wonderful things can happen. At only around 200 pages, you should be able to read this pretty quickly, so I highly recommend you pick up a copy for yourself today:

Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain

Content Rules

Authors: Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

About three years ago, I attended a Marketing Profs event in Austin, TX. A vendor had covered my entry to the event as a thank you for doing business with them, and I was fortunate enough to sit in on Ann Handley’s workshop about content marketing.

Ann’s workshop was built based on the materials from her recent book she had co-published with C.C. Chapman, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customer adn Ignite Your Business (Content Rules for short). Although I was already well versed in content marketing as a discipline, her full day workshop was time very well spent. And to boot, she handed out copies of her book as a thank you for attending.

Content Rules includes a range of case studies to hammer home it’s key points – how to build and promote the right kind of content to engage audiences. This book goes much deeper than “your website needs a blog.” It covers the right way to build and use each type of content medium to drive interest in your brand. One of my favorite parts of the whole book is the list of “bad” words never to use if you really want to have the content resonate with audiences (mostly calling out jargon and corporate speak).

If you are already using content marketing as a strategic asset, this book would be somewhat remedial for you, but a good read nonetheless. For those of you still trying to piece it all together, this is a “must read.” Get your copy via the following link:

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business

The Findability Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing

Author: Heather Lutze

Search Engine Marketing, otherwise knows as Pay Per Click Advertising, has become a major component for most companies’ marketing budgets today. It is the fastest way to drive traffic and conversions on a new website that has yet to build up enough domain authority to rank in the organic SERPs. But it’s far from easy to do.

Enter Heather Lutze and The Findability Formula. Written in a no nonsense tone with plenty of realistic examples to help you grasp what she is outlining, this book is a great way for marketers to demystify the enigma that is SEM. She explains how to approach keyword research for SEM, how to build campaigns, and how to understand the impact of conversions on your efforts. Even better, Heather calls out some myths and misunderstandings that are common with PPC, and sets the record straight.

If you’ve wanted to figure out how to manage SEM yourself but failed to find a good resource where you can learn about it in plain English, buy this book:

The Findability Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers

Author: Seth Godin

In what is one of the penultimate publications for modern marketing, former Yahoo executive Seth Godin spells out how and why to evolve from interruption-based marketing to permission-based.  Although this book was originally written when email marketing was all the rage, its concepts translate effectively to social media and other modern marketing vehicles.

At its most basic level, this book is about how to build progressively deeper levels of trust with customers. As trust grows, those customers will give you more and more permission to interact with them.

Seth’s writing style is engaging and colorful, and he spells out a framework for building relationships with prospects and customers that is immediately actionable. Most marketers have probably read this book, so if you haven’t yet, go get it today and fix that situation:

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers

Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity

Author: Avinash Kaushik

Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik is pretty well known among metrics driven marketers, and for good reason – he really knows his stuff. Avinash’s blog, Occam’s Razor, continues the discussion around analytics that he began with his first book, Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, and Web Analytics 2.0.

Whereas the first book was more about how to identify and measure the right results, 2.0 covers how to understand real business value and integrate those findings into decisions. He breaks it down into a three part process spelling out what the right metrics are, how those numbers impact the company’s mission/purpose, and how findings are filtered back into the decision making process.

Avinash’s writing style is pretty easy to read, although analytics newbies should spend time reading his first book before delving into 2.0. I also want to mention that Avinash donates all profits to charity, so you can learn about analytics and help make the world a better place at the same time. You can find 2.0 available for purchase at:

Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity

High Trust Selling: Make More Money in Less Time with Less Stress

Author: Todd Duncan

I originally read this book back in 2004 when working with a local startup to help build out their sales process. After one read, I realized that my view of sales had changed forever.

There are a ton of sales methodologies, and in the past decade many more of them have evolved to be more customer centric. Given the way customers buy today, it’s no longer sensible to dial for dollars and then to try to talk your way into a purchase by a hard sell. It simply doesn’t work with most people any more.

Sales doesn’t have to be that hard, and you don’t have to work your fingers to the bone to make a living wage. Why is it that some sales people can work half as hard and make twice as much money? They understand the secrets to high trust selling, which are clearly spelled out in this book.

Similar to Seth Godin’s trust based approach to marketing, Todd Duncan’s book helps reframe the sales conversation in a way that helps the customer want to buy from you, if applied correctly. At the end of the day, sales and marketing are both much easier when you can build relationships along the way. This book helps extend the relationship effort beyond marketing programs to the sales process. If you are in sales or have to sell to run your business, I highly recommend this book:

High Trust Selling: Make More Money in Less Time with Less Stress


Well, there you have it – my eight must-read recommendations for anyone trying to succeed in entrepreneurship or growth hacking today. There were probably another dozen or so books I considered for inclusion on this list, but they were not quite as impactful on me personally as these eight. Perhaps I’ll do a follow up with more books to read, but this should be enough to keep you going for at least a few weeks. Come back and add a comment on this post later to let me know whether the books were as useful to you as they were to me.

Feature image credit: crosstalk.com, License: CC BY (commercial reuse with modification)


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As Founder and President of Return On Now, Tommy Landry provides the vision behind our SEO and SEM methodologies. With over 25 years of business experience and a deep understanding of modern internet marketing techniques, he spends his time providing hands-on consulting, insightful content, and engaging public speaking appearances to Online Marketers of all skill levels.
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