Top 38 Books Every Online Entrepreneur Must Read

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are busy people. They have to-do lists a mile long. They are always prioritizing and editing their daily tasks. Most of them which won’t get done on the day. Not only they are running their businesses but also investing their own development – personal and professional both.

They attend conferences, attend webinars, subscribe to leading publications in their industry, enroll in training programs and of course hire mentors and business coaches. Sometimes they are super busy though. They want to learn something new or open up their mind to new possibilities but just don’t have the time for full blown training, or maybe they can’t afford to hire the right business coach or invest in more training right this minute.

What’s the solution? Well – what’s the next best thing to hiring someone whom you’d like to learn from and pick their brains, in the shortest possible time and with minimum cost? Pick up their book, of course.

But you say business books are so boring, dry, and most don’t apply to you as an owner of a tiny business. Yes, there are books geared towards helping CEOs and large corporation managers, but there are also books perfect for your needs.

And today I have made a list of books I consider a must read for you. And the best thing, they are the opposite of boring. In fact they are so engaging and enlightening that once you start one, you would not be able to put it down – I promise.

So let’s get started. I have categorized them for you by topic so it is easier for you to make the best choice based on your current situation. I have also listed some takeaways that personally resonated for me. Enjoy.

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Content marketing

#1 Clout: The Art and Science of Highly Influential Web Content by Colleen Jones

Clout is influence or pull. On the web, it allows you to attract the right people at the right time, and change what they think or do. So what doesn’t? Targeting customers with manipulative tricks, publishing more instead of better web content, spending too much time or money on SEO and getting on social networks without any thoughts of supporting content

Learn the principles of influence, not tactics. Truly understand them before you publish.

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#2 Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, ebooks, Webinars and More that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley

Do you know the essentials of killer content? Find an authentic voice and craft bold content that resonates with your audience. Leverage social media to get your content and ideas distributed. And understand why you are generating content and write to communicate your message across various media.

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#3 Content Strategy for the Web by Christina Halvorson

What is content strategy?

Step1: It describes how you are going to use content to meet your business (or project) goals as well as your user needs.

Step 2: It guides decisions regarding content.

Step 3: It sets benchmarks against which to measure the success of your content.

Remember, web writing is much more than smart copywriting. An effective web writer must also understand the basics of user experience (UX) design to create content that simply works.

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#4 The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott

Create content for niche audiences and tell them an online story about your product – a story that is created especially for them. By truly understanding the needs and the mindset of few buyer personas, you will be able to create appropriate content.

Think like a publisher. Consider these questions.

  • Who are my readers?
  • How can I reach them?
  • What are their motivations?
  • What are their problems I can help solve?
  • How do I entertain and inform at the same time?
  • What content will compel them to purchase an offer?

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#5 Get Content Get Customers: Turn Prospects into Buyers with Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett

The new rules of marketing tell us that what customers want is valuable content that will improve their lives. In order to truly transform your content, you need a new mindset as well as skills to match.

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#6 Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs by Brian Halligan, B Dharmesh Shah

Inbound marketing helps to improve your rankings in Google to get more traffic and builds and promotes a blog for your business. You can grow and nurture a community in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Measure what matters and do more of what works online. Stop pushing your message out and start pulling your customers in.

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#7 Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing by Lee Odden

  1. Create a blueprint for integrated search, social media and content marketing strategy.
  2. Determine best result tactics and implement holistic search and social optimization.
  3. Measure the business value of content marketing and scale online marketing success.

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Creativity

#8 The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

“Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what resistance is. Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet.”

Resistance is something that arises from within, is universal, most power at the finish line and most commonly manifests as procrastination

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#9 Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Get in touch with your artistic side. Know that creativity is everywhere and creativity is for everyone. Nothing is original. You don’t need to be a genius – you just need to be yourself.

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#10 Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky 

Organization is a major force for making ideas happen. Creativity X Organization = Impact. This is why “less creative” people produce more work than their talented peers. You can maximize execution by following 3-step process.

  • Step 1 Capture action steps
  • Step 2 Add to references
  • Step 3 Label backburner items

Celebrate successes. Progress begets progress.

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#11 Accidental Creative How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry

How to be brilliant? Well, in a nutshell, focus on your most critical work, develop stimulating relationships, manage your energy effectively, curate stimuli that help you stay mentally focused, and leverage your hours.

  • Prolific + brilliant + healthy = producing great work consistently
  • Prolific + brilliant – healthy = burnout
  • Brilliant + healthy – prolific = unreliable
  • Prolific – brilliant + healthy = mediocre or inferior quality work

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#12 Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and content by Mark Levy

Feeling like the well of ideas has run dry? Here is a solution when conventional thinking no longer works. The answer is freewriting, a technique many writers have used for years to solve all types of business problems, and generate ideas for books, articles and blog posts.

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Influence

#13 Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

The Golden Circle explains how you should take action.

  • What you do? The outer circle. The consistency of ‘what’ gives you results.
  • How you do it? The middle one. The discipline of ‘how’ drives action.
  • Why you do it? The heart and centre of your business. Your cause. The clarity of ‘why’ are your values and guiding principles.

If you don’t know your ‘why’, you can’t know ‘how’. When you believe in ‘why’, success just happens.

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#14 Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini

Six main compliance techniques that you can use to trigger the influences that already exist in the situation:

  • Reciprocation – people feel obligated to return the favours they receive.
  • Commitment and consistency – people want to be perceived as consistent and they stay committed to appear just that.
  • Social proof – people view behaviours to be correct if they see others doing it.
  • Liking – people comply with requests when made by people they like.
  • Authority – people do things if even if they don’t want to.
  • Scarcity – Opportunities seem more valuable when their availability is limited.

As long as you are honest, it is okay to use persuasion techniques in business and personal life.

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#15 Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead

The golden hallmarks of a fascinating message are that it provokes strong and immediate emotional reactions, creates advocates, becomes cultural shorthand, incites conversations, forces competitors to realign around it and triggers social revolutions

Nothing itself is fascinating. When something activates a trigger, we are compelled to focus. The context and meaning will determine whether a person or product is fascinating.

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#16 Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

SUCCESs – six principles of sticky ideas:

  • Simplicity – create ideas that are simple. Prioritize and strip to the core.
  • Unexpected – get people to pay attention (surprise) and maintain their interest.
  • Concrete – easiest to remember and embrace.
  • Credible – make it believable.
  • Emotional – inject emotion, make people care. They will take action.
  • Stories – provide simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act).

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#17 Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

Are you looking to create a product?

  • Create a product that you would personally use.
  • Create products that solve problems in unexpected ways
  • Create products that exceeds your audience expectations

Bake in the wow.

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#18 Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Vision Beyond the Competition by Michael Stelzner

To overcome gravity drag, you business must overcome escape velocity. Start with the end in mind and work backwards. How to create your vision? Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • Why do I want it?
  • Can I rally others around my mission?
  • What perceived problems am I addressing?

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#19 Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

Three pillars of engagement are likeability, trustworthiness and having a great cause.

The content can be news, personal or educational. There are four kinds of stories. Inspirational, underdog success, courage and personal.

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#20 The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

There are three kinds of gifted people:

  • Connectors have an extraordinary knack of making friends and forming relationships.
  • Mavens are accumulators of knowledge; they teach (and learn).
  • Salespeople are masters of persuasion.

Which one are you?

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#21 Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust By Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Six main tenets that will make you a trust agent are:

  • Standing out
  • Belonging
  • Leverage
  • Networking
  • Soft Skills and
  • Strength in numbers

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#22 The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easy to Understand by Lee Lefever

An explanation is used to describe the cause, content and consequences. An explanation is not a description, definition, instruction, elaboration, report or illustration. They all contribute towards improving an explanation. Explanation requires empathy. It is a way to package ideas in a new way that helps answer the question ‘why’ and make people care.

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#23 To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

  • Do you earn your living trying to convince others to purchase goods or services?
  • Do you work for yourself?
  • Does your work require elastic skills?
  • Do you work in education or healthcare ED-MD?

If so, you are in sales.

The age of ABC (Always be closing) is over. The three qualities to move people are

A – attunement

B – buoyancy

C – clarity

If your project can’t attract support, it is going to fail.

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#24 Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Here are the STEPS that create word of mouth, that help ideas spread.

  • Social currency
  • Triggers
  • Emotion
  • Public
  • Practical value
  • Stories

Content with emotions causing high arousal such as awe, excitement and amusement are more likely to spread than contentment or sadness.

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#25 The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise? by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith

Impact = C X (R + E + A + T + E)

Here’s how this equation can be explained:

  • Contrast – ideas that needs to be familiar enough to be understood and yet different enough to stand out
  • Reach – more people
  • Exposure – how often you connect with them
  • Articulation – clear
  • Trust
  • Echo – feeling of connection you give to your audience

Rate yourself on all these factors.

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Conversion

#26 Convert: Designing Websites to Increase Traffic and Conversion by Ben Hunt

Awareness ladder is a model that allows you to approach every page on your site with precision. It details the steps your audience is currently at.

Step 0 – Don’t think they have a problem/need

Step 1 – They know they have a problem but are not aware of solutions.

Step 2 – Aware of some solutions, but not yours.

Step 3 – Know about your solution but not its benefits

Step 4 – Know its benefits but not ready to buy

Step 5 – Ready to buy.

For conversion, you must take people up the awareness ladder, one step at a time. Change your products to propositions, features to benefits, Us to You.

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#27 Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

Open any web page blindly. You should be able to answer these questions:

  • What site is this?
  • What page am I on?
  • What are the major sections?
  • What are my options (local navigation)?
  • Where am I?
  • How can I search?

People don’t always choose the best option, they choose the first reasonable one – they satisfice (a term coined by economist Herbert Simon, A cross between satisfying and sufficing.)

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Motivation

#28 Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

We have three innate psychological needs: competency, autonomy and relatedness. When these needs are met, we are productive, satisfied and happy.

You can be Type X where the main motivator is external reward, or, you can be Type I where freedom, challenge and purpose of undertaking are the main motivators. Other gains are welcome but merely a bonus. Doesn’t snub money or recognition but mental well-being is more important.

Mastery is an asymptote. You can approach it, home on it. You can get really, really close but you can never touch it.

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#29 Talent is overrated – What really separates world class performers from everybody else? by Geoff Colvin

If you ever wonder about why some people become so successful, if you ever look (with open mouthed wonder) at world class athletes, chess players, writers, musicians or business people and ask yourself, what’s their secret?, then you must read this book.

It’s not something they are born with, the author assures us.The reason behind their huge success is deliberate practice.

So how does deliberate practice change a person? They perceive more and look further ahead. They pick up not so obvious indicators, know more from seeing less, make finer discriminations and remember more.

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#30 Switch; How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Think of your emotional side as an elephant and the rational side as a rider perched atop, holding its reins, seeming to be the leader. But look at their sizes. Anytime the rider and the elephant disagree, the rider is going to lose.

To make lasting changes, you must direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path. Investigate the bright spots. Find out what is working.

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#31 The Power of Habit (Why We Do What We Do) by Charles Duhigg

By putting together a cue, a routine and a reward and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop, a habit is formed. The golden rule of habit change states that you can’t extinguish a bad habit; you can only change it using the same cue, providing the same reward and changing the routine. You also have to believe that the change is feasible.

Start with keystone habits and you will cause widespread shifts. Finding them is a little tricky though.

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#32 So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Carl Newport

Motivation in the workplace requires that you fulfill three psychological needs.

  • Autonomy – control
  • Competence – good at what you do
  • Relatedness – feeling of connection to other people.

The craftsmen mindset: Focus on what you offer to the world

The passion mindset: What the world offers you

Three traits that define great work: creativity, impact, control.

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#33 Mindset: The psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck talks about growth mindset (vs. fixed), one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity. Praise the effort rather than ability.

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#34 The Dip: The Little Book that Teaches You when to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin

Winners do quit. They quit fast and they quit often, especially when they are in the Cul-De-Sac which will never get better. Know when you are in a dip, which is a temporary setback which will get better.

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#35 Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham

What is a strength?

  • The consistent, near perfect performance in a activity.
  • Can be done consistently.
  • Must also drive some intrinsic satisfaction from it.

Talents + Knowledge + Skills = Strengths

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#36 The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Put knowledge to good use, prevent mistakes. The checklist should have 7-9 items, clear instructions and killer items (failure to do something will cause great damage). Not everything is included in a checklist.

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#37 The Big Moo: Stop Trying to be Perfect and Start being Remarkable by Seth Godin

Differentiate your customers. Find the groups that are most profitable and reward them. Ignore the rest. Your products should not cater to the masses. They should cater to the customers you will choose if you could choose them.

The opposite of remarkable is very good. It is not bad or mediocre or poorly done. Are you making very good stuff? How fast can you stop? (Make remarkable stuff instead.)

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#38 Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers are people who lie outside the norm – who enjoy tremendous success.

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Only being intelligent is not enough. You need the right guidance and the environment and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. I know there are so many titles worthy of being on this list. I had to make some hard choices otherwise the list would have gone on forever.

So allow me to ask you then, you online entrepreneur. What would you add to this list?

  • David Kamnitzer

    Thank you!

    How about a TOP 5 (if we could only do 5)?

  • Elisha Gabriell

    I’d add “Collaboration Economy- Eliminate the Competition by Creating Partnership Opportunities” by John Spencer Ellis and Topher Morrison (packed with great ideas!)