As many of you know, I’m in the process of writing a new book on B2B marketing. The good news in undertaking this endeavor is it has forced me to read and review the latest and greatest books on this topic. With summer upon us, here are five worthy of your time and consideration. Now, I will save all the comments about what type of people add B2B marketing books to their summer reading list because that would be rather self-incriminating.

1. The B2B Executive Playbook: The Ultimate Weapon for Achieving Sustainable, Predictable and Profitable Growth by Sean Geehan (November 2011)
My #1 pick for your summer reading list. The B2B Executive Playbook provides a unique strategic approach for B2B companies on how to design, develop and enhance their product offerings by engaging with and listening to their top customers. It is an excellent book that reveals an important customer listening and collaboration approach rarely written about. Mr. Geehan shares his knowledge and insights on why most B2B marketing activities are a waste of time and money. Further, he demonstrates the most commonly overlooked, yet most impactful, activities that drive substantial long-term business growth.
Mr. Geehan also explains how CEOs and CMOs can establish executive councils with their top customers and why it’s important. He provides specific guidance on running customer councils and, based upon feedback garnered, how to apply the information shared to a given set of marketing activities for the greatest return on time and investment.
The B2B Playbook has a wonderful section that explains the difference marketing and sales efforts make on influencing decision makers, influencers, users and purchasers, and why most B2B marketers are spending their time incorrectly. This book is on my list for a second read.
2. B2B Customer Insight: The Proven Path to Growth by John Barrett (2012)
B2B Customer Insight is a must-read for all B2B marketing and sales organizations. It provides accurate and actionable insights about winning and strategically growing an organization’s revenue.
Following in the same theme of The B2B Executive Playbook, Mr. Barrett’s book goes deeply into the subject of customer listening. He focuses on a narrow and important aspect of the most effective way to conduct customer insights research, in order to fully understand how a given company’s customers perceive the performance of their products and services. He explains that ranking various customer satisfaction measures is not enough.  A marketer must know the importance of each of these performance attributes to the continued purchase of a company’s services and products, as well as how a company scores on these satisfaction factors relative to its competitors.
I highly recommend this book for your reading list.  By following Mr. Barrett’s methodology, a B2B marketer will have the necessary insights to better craft content along the buyer’s journey. Most importantly, he or she will be able to evaluate their entire go-to-market operations to determine what factors need to be improved in an effort to retain and grow new customers.
3. Revenue Disruption: Game-Changing Sales and Marketing Strategies to Accelerate Growth, by Phil Fernandez (May 2012)
Mr. Fernandez presents a good historical account of the evolution of marketing and sales. He takes us from push mass advertising, the brand-centric approach, “sales as lone hunter” in the 1950’s to today’s demand-generation, integrated-team approach.
Mr. Fernandez discusses the dysfunctional ties that still exist within marketing and sales teams. He makes a strong case for the need for both teams to walk in each other’s shoes and focus on driving revenue for their organization.
Mr. Fernandez goes on to explain why marketing and sales now need to be managed as a process and not as an art form. He presents a model, called Revenue Performance Management, as the approach to measuring every step of the demand-generation process, from awareness to closed deal. Mr. Fernandez makes a compelling case for understanding the sales funnel as “leaky,” and why recycling of leads that fall out of the sales process is critical, not just some secondary consideration for marketers.
Finally, Mr. Fernandez explains the hows and whys of creating a process-oriented approach to driving revenue growth with the help of marketing automation. He provides a foundational explanation of the new definitions required, the stages of the process that need to be developed, new measurement methods to provide better accountability and an ROI approach to marketing investment. If you want to make sure you understand the critical concepts of advanced B2B marketing, be sure to read Revenue Disruption.
4. Strategic Digital Marketing: Top Digital Experts Share the Formula for Tangible Returns on Your Marketing Investment by Eric Greenberg and Alexander Kates (2014)
Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Kates, as professors at Rutgers University and consultants to industry, have amalgamated a collection of stand-alone chapters, covering the entire spectrum of digital marketing, from a host of professionals.
The authors start by explaining the roots for all digital marketing and why we are in the era of the new empowered consumer. They propose a “liquid” philosophy and extol the importance of digital marketers being highly adaptive in their thinking and approach, given the requirements to succeed with digital marketing.
Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Kates discuss two concepts important for increasing the effectiveness of content marketing:
1) Look at content using the principle of Stock and Flow.
2) Use the 70/20/10 principle of content creation and management.
This book provides in-depth overviews of all the digital channels, including search, mobile, video and social marketing. Website design, measurement methodologies, the legal aspects of digital as well as leadership transformation are all included. The chapters provide a history of each channel and its size, reach and number of users, as well as prescriptive dos and don’ts. Also included are implementation checklists for success within given channels.
The book is written primarily from a consumer marketer’s perspective, with stories and examples from consumer brands such as Scottrade, DISH Network, Macy’s and Apple. The authors’ intent is to provide business leaders with a broad overview of the changes in consumer behavior as a result of new technology. They provide an interesting glimpse into digital marketing channels and the challenges facing leaders in transforming their organizations to respond to the new demand of digital marketing.  Despite the lack of story flow between chapters, this book is a highly recommended read for marketing leaders.
5. Complete B2B Online Marketing by William Leake (August 2012)
My last recommendation for your summer reading is Mr. Leake’s book. This is a nuts-and-bolts how-to book about B2B online marketing.
The author provides in-depth content and specific examples on how to increase the effectiveness of online marketing. Topics include:
  • How to build a brand online
  • How to outrank your competitors with search engine optimization
  • The role of search and social media to provide links and increase traffic
Mr. Leake’s book is written for the hands-on, entry-level practitioner. He gives the reader specific examples of what to do and what not to do. He also provides insights on the bridge between online and offline marketing. If you want to understand how the digital machinery of online marketing really works, then pick up Mr. Leake’s book. It’s a bit technical, so steady yourself for some really detailed reading. However, I promise the returns will be well worth the time invested.
For most, summer is supposed to be the time to have fun in the sun. For us marketers, with the rapid changes happening all around us, investing a few summer hours reading these gems will be invaluable, broadening your marketing knowledge and yielding more confidence.
I hope you enjoy my recommendations. Be sure to share your favorite must-reads with me as well.