The Big Event Podcast: 5 Must-Read Books for Marketers

Here at Akkroo, reading and learning is a huge part of our company culture. Everyone on the team gets a quarterly book budget to spend on new reading material, which is a fantastic way to encourage people to keep learning and prioritise personal development.

The whole marketing team are big readers, so we decided to sit down and talk about some of the books we’ve read recently. In this episode of The Big Event podcast, Mike, Emily and Stefan discuss the books that have sparked new ideas and changed the way we as marketers create, collaborate and generate new leads.

In this episode we cover:

  • The book that’s been the inspiration for a lot of the work we’re doing, creating the event lead capture category.
  • Books that have transformed our approach to demand generation
  • Recommendations for marketers working on branding, or looking to adopt a storytelling approach to marketing.

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What are some must-read books for marketers? Mike, Emily and Stefan discuss the books that have sparked new ideas and changed the way we as marketers create, collaborate and generate new leads. Click To Tweet

No time to listen? Read the transcript

Stefan: Welcome back to the Big Event podcast, brought to you by Akkroo. We are talking about books today with the marketing team again. Now if you’ve not seen or heard the last two podcasts you won’t know who I’m speaking to or probably who I am, so once again, let’s go round the room, what you do at Akkroo, your job title and then we’ll crack on with the books.

Stefan: I’m Stefan, I’m Marketing Manager at Akkroo and I look after the brand, after audio visual and conversational marketing. Emily?

Emily: I’m Emily, I’m the Content Marketer at Akkroo. I write all of the things. Website, social media, blog posts, resources, anything like that, yeah, that’s me.

Mike: I’m Mike. I work with Emily and Stef as head of demand generation on all things demand and brand.

Stefan: And generation.

Mike: And generation.

Stefan: We are talking about books. I just wanted to talk about why we are doing this podcast. This is number three in a series of where we as a Marketing Team come together and share our knowledge, tips, insights that we’ve had, just to help us develop and speak better at what we do and our personal and company goals.

Stefan: Let’s talk about books. We’ve got a reading budget or an educational budget at Akkroo, which is pretty cool. Which means we can go off and by books every quarter. Emily do you want to kick off with something you’ve read. That you’ve enjoyed or that’s been helpful for you?

Emily: Yeah. I don’t have a copy with me so I can’t hold it up to show but the first book I’d like to talk about is called Play Bigger. It’s one that we really, really love here at Akkroo. I think I was recommended it during my onboarding as a good intro to what we’re trying to do as a company. The book looks at building a category within, well in our case, within software and how companies do that. It talks about examples like Uber and not a software company, but Birds Eye, how they built that category of frozen food.

Emily: What we are doing here at Akkroo is building the event lead capture category within the existing lead generation, lead capture space.

Stefan: That was something you brought in wasn’t it Mike, Play Bigger?

Mike: Yeah that was introduced to Andy one of the Akkroo co-founders at SaaStock 2017 and like Emily said there, a really interesting book about category creation for things. If you’re working in a category or trying to create a category, it’s been done before, so it’s a really useful read to, identify plays people have done. Companies within the tech space, within other spaces that you may not have even thought about, Emily referenced Birds Eye then, they pioneered the frozen food category. I just assumed frozen food had been around forever. I didn’t know someone had invented that category.

Emily: Not one you’d think about.

Mike: It’s a really interesting read and if you are creating a category I think it’s a must read.

Stefan: I remember when you brought it, you listened to it. The audiobook. And you came into the office and you explained it because the concept of the category at first was like, what does that mean? I think the example you used was inbound marketing. You said, if you think inbound marketing you think hubspot, why? Because they are the category king and it’s all about being the king of your category. Completely fine to have competitors in there, but it’s the number one slot where you win.

Emily: And then more recently you think conversation marketing, you think Drift, you are seeing other players moving into that space, it’s the same journey that we’re on here. I’m starting to see other companies moving into the space of collecting leads at events and it’s really interesting to see how the things that we’ve read in this book are playing out in the life of the business.

Mike: Competitors you’ve mentioned there. I think for a category to exist, it’s not only good to have competitors, you need to have competitors. Because that proves there is a space, there is demand for a product or the solution to your building a category that you’re building and as you kind of mentioned the category king in anything you think of whether it’s trainers to event lead capture there’s gonna be a category king or one or two category kings that take 80, 90% of the revenue. So it shows the importance, if you are building a category or within a category you should be striving to get to that number one, number two spot. Really good read or listen, as I was lazy.

Stefan: It’s a book as well that we listen to it within marketing then Chris our CEO listened, because it helped. We could explain that, “Chris we need a category we need to define who we are.” But until you read the book, that’s the context of the idea. And I think he’s got it and that’s filtering down now to the commercial team and it’s a good way to think as a business.

Emily: So reading that book prompted us as a business to all sit down. You talked about it before we started recording Stef, about how we sat down and went in the thought process of our category and what it’s going to be.

Stefan: Yeah, that was a long session, session(s).

Mike: Long, but useful…it’s difficult to focus it down to who you really are but for really useful exercise. And if you are creating a category it’s also worth mentioning that what you want the category to be, what you’re creating it may not end up being that, so it’s important to monitor the market, monitor competitors, direct competitors or loosely associated competitors, because it’s ultimately the consumers and your customers that will create the category with the language they use. You can have an influence on that but definitely important to be monitoring it and that book goes through the examples from start to finish. From companies that have done it. There’s no one formula but there’s certain things that if you implement, you’ll have a really strong chance of success.

Stefan: That’s a great point. So that’s Play Bigger. Continuing on round then. Mike, any books that you’ve read recently or anything that you go back to all the time?

Mike: Yeah. This is one that I read a few years ago. I think it was 2015.

Stefan: Driving demand.

Mike: Driving demand by Carlos Hidergaldego?

Emily: Hidalgo?

Stefan: Carlos, if you’re listening, watching, correct us please.

Mike: Sorry for the pronunciation there. B2B marketing strategies for specifically demand gen. In terms of who should read this or who would get benefit from it. If you work in a company where marketing, demand, sales, sales development work in silos, this book will help break them down and help everyone understand that they are all working towards the same goal.

Mike: It goes through strategies and frameworks from a prospect coming in or identifying prospect, engaging them all the way through to becoming a customer and beyond. A couple of the chapter headings, which I’ll just read out loud to give you a quick summary of what’s in there. “From identifying modern demand generation strategies to align in content with your buyer. Measuring for success.” And there’s some interesting points on if you’re bought into this, how to roll out transformation and why change management might fall down. Really, really useful book to get your head around modern B2B demand generation strategies and frameworks and something that I’d advise sales, marketing, sales development to pick up and read.

Emily: Is it one that you’ve recommended to the sales team here at Akkroo?

Mike: Yeah. I keep a copy on my desk and I’ve recommended it. It’s a book you can read from start to finish but you can also just dip in and out of. I like those type of books, because I’ll start a book and then another book will peak my interest or pick that up. Books like this are just good to have on your desk. The chapters are well labeled and explained. If your’e struggling with a particular aspect of demand generation or you are looking to improve your reporting or the way you measure, there’s a chapter for that you can just dip in. I’m gonna maybe leave some copies on peoples desks for a few weeks and months.

Emily: I haven’t read it yet but I imagine that will come my way.

Stefan: It looks well used.

Mike: The book jacket served its purpose. It’s fairly ripped up but that’s because wherever I’ve been I’ve kept it on my desk so I pick it up if I’m stuck on a point or I want to re-reference it. Think it was released in 2015-ish so a lot of the principles are still very relevant. I know there’s a lot of talk from moving away from the funnels or flywheel now and things now but the principles in this book apply to that change that’s going on now.

Mike: Definitely recommend…actually found this because I went for a job interview a number of years back and it was on the desk of the person who was interviewing me, and I was, “ah, I’m gonna Google that book after I get out of this.” So thank you to that person.

Stefan: And was that so you could go and learn or if you come back for a second interview you could drop some lines in their from that?

Mike: A little bit of both probably. A little bit of both.

Stefan: Mike’s interview hacks could be another podcast series.

Mike: Read the room. A really book good. It’s especially useful if you’re at a company where you wanna bridge that gap between sales and marketing and get everyone on the same page working towards the same goal.

Stefan: I think great point you made there about having a book that you can dip in and out of, we joked before, Finn, our video guy, just having a copy of Sapiens he just seemed to carry around under his arm a lot. I don’t know if he’s finished it? Finn let us know. I like that because you can just drop a post-it in like you’ve done there and go to the sales team, “look guys just, if you’re gonna read one thing, just to understand what I’m doing in this campaign at the moment, check this out and likewise you can come to us and go, don’t worry about reading the whole thing, these three chapters are what you need to know for this next quarter.” That’s a great tip.

Mike: Yeah, it’s good.

Stefan: You’ve got another book there as well, Mike?

Mike: I do, I thought I’d steal the limelight. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. Another book you can dip in and out of. Great to just have on the desk at all times. We know that education and great content is at the core of good marketing. Especially if you are creating the categories as we are and talking about Play Bigger, referencing that. So this book references, I think it’s split into six categories and then broke down in loads and loads of small sections.

Mike: There’s a quote here that sums up the book better than I could, so I’ll just read it out of this book. This is by the author, “I couldn’t find what I wanted, part writing guide, part handbook on the rules of good sportsmanship in content marketing. An all around reliable desk companion for anyone creating or directing content on behalf of brands.”

Mike: And that’s what it is, it’s a guide and part playbook, part rules of how to create great content from creating great headlines to proper use of grammar, avoiding buzzwords.

Emily: Speaking of interview hacks this was actually, Everybody Writes, I think I recommended that to Mike when I interviewed at Akkroo. I remember being on the phone and you asking me, “what books have you read recently?”, I went, “oh, I don’t know.” Panic, and this was the one that was on my shelf in front of me, “oh yeah, I’ve read that.” I have actually read it since. It was really useful for me as a Content Marketer. I really enjoyed it.

Stefan: It’s on my list of things because I wanna write more. It takes me forever to write something and when I joined Akkroo I was the content writer as well. Not a lot of blog activity in those first 90 days. I think, having not read this, I guess that this would probably help you create a brief as well, get in the mindset of how something should be presented to you, Emily for example, if we’ve got an idea for a piece of content, how you would like to work with it.

Emily: The title says it all, Everybody Writes. It really ties in with how I try and work across the teams here at Akkroo. There are members of the team who quite like writing, feel quite comfortable expressing themselves in that way and then there are others who aren’t. But have got ideas that they want to share and wanna put forward so it’s really helpful to help other people as well as just reading it for yourself.

Mike: It not only makes you a better writer. It can help you come over that fear of publishing. A lot of people, myself included, you’ll write something, is this good enough to put out into the world? Do I want people reading this and associate it back to me? You overthink it. This book not only makes you a better writer as you dip in and out or read specific chapters and sections, it helps you overcome that fear of right, ship, just write regularly is one thing I took from it. Instead of booking out eight hours in one long session, I need to write a blog, just write 200 words a day or 100 words a day whatever it is.

Emily: I think also it makes you realize that your first draft is going to be terrible. You gotta embrace that drafting process and just get the ideas down on the page and you can then revisit later on. My first drafts are bare bones and half written sentences and then you can revisit it and shape into something that actually works.

Mike: The ugly first draft. Is it what it’s called in there. Embrace the ugly first draft.

Emily: I couldn’t remember what it was called. I’ve heard other variations.

Stefan: It is a mindset change. I think back to school writing and you’re not taught that way. I can’t even remember how you’re taught to write because-

Emily: I think back in school you are writing pen on paper and everything you put down has to be right first time. Whereas now you are typing it you can chop and change and delete bits and it’s just a much easier to adapt writing process.

Stefan: Good recommendation.

Mike: Another one to just keep on the desk at arms length, dip in and out of it as your writing a piece.

Stefan: We’ve got quite a library of books appearing now. We’ve got a library section and definitely over the last month or so, I think I’ve posted a photo recently, we’ve been getting mini libraries on our desks, those go to guides that you always come back to.

Stefan: I got a book, it is this one, get that in shot, there we go, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin interesting names. I think I’ve pronounced them correctly. This is an interesting book because he did a Ted Talk, Jocko Willink did a Ted Talk about extreme ownership and I remember seeing bits of it and then we went to Hypergrowth, Mike and I went to Hypergrowth in Boston last year, thank you to Drift for some free tickets to that. And Jocko was one of the speakers and he was talking about extreme ownership and he was the last talk of the day, wasn’t he? It was a long day and it was quite an impactful talk at the end, finished on a high.

Stefan: I picked out a key part here. His experience as a U.S. Navy Seal, he developed these laws of combat and it sounds quite extreme but it’s applying that to the business world and I’ll read a few things out because they make complete sense and we were talking about this earlier with a website project that we did recently. There’s four rules, and it’s, “cover and move, simple, prioritize and execute, and decentralized command.” They don’t really make too much sense on their own but if I jump into those it will.

Stefan: For example, cover and move is all about, teamwork. The team must move forwards together and if the team fails, everyone fails. The importance of building relationships outside your team. We know that, as a marketing team, we over arch all departments so it’s important for us to be talking to sales, to customer success and not be in a silo and jumping up every now and then saying, “do this.” That’s the cover and move part.

Stefan: And then, simple is just simplify the mission. You can come up with a really complicated campaign. Looks great on paper and it comes to delivering it and it’s like, this is ridiculous, oh, the fire bell. Forgot about the fire bell on a Tuesday.

Stefan: Establish great communication, make sure people know the why within your team and over communicate as well. Make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Stefan: Prioritize and execute, it’s like relax, lets take a look around and things like detach emotionally. Things can go wrong in a plan, you shouldn’t just take it personally, you should stop, think, listen and then move forwards.

Stefan: And decentralized commands, everybody leads, so equip everyone to lead. It doesn’t need to be the project manager or the head of department calling the shots. It can be down to the individual to go, “look, I need this to make this happen” and go and make it happen and feel like they can do that instead of going, “what do I do now?” That was out of that whole talk that he did and reading the book. I’ve got it saved on my desktop at work. I always think about that when I’m coming up for a project to plan.

Mike: That’s a good point, I’m gonna add that to my reading list like you said, at Drift the talk was really good. I’ve listened to a podcast with him on before as well. Just the way he speaks, his mentality towards translating that to business makes a lot of sense. Especially the leadership piece and taking ownership. You don’t need to have the word leader in your title or the word Manager, the word head of, to actually take the lead on something. Especially within marketing teams, we have specializing content, within AV, our digital designer, things that would be ludicrous for me to give advice on certain topics when we have experts in house. Give people a voice.

Emily: It would be like if you sat down at the start of every quarter and said, “okay Emily, I need you to write these exact things, this quarter.” Probably wouldn’t work that well. We’d have pieces going out that weren’t really aligned with our goals or weren’t that relevant with other things we’ve done or duplicated stuff. Whereas it’s trusted to me to-

Mike: Until I’ve finished, Everybody Writes, and then-

Emily: -then you’d be the new Akkroo content marketer, do a job swap for a week.

Mike: Its important to give people a voice and give people the confidence to take the lead and give their viewpoint, really good point from that book.

Stefan: And as a book to read it was interesting because the setting is it’s their experiences of the war in Iraq and how they handled very, very difficult situations and how they handled it on the battlefield and now they have their own company where they go in and give leadership training. They apply that way of thinking to the office, but they give examples of, let’s say, this has happened on the battlefield but then give an example of this happened in the office, and then they give the example of how they helped to overcome it and this whole concept of extreme leadership, taking ownership if something goes wrong, just to say, “yeah, that’s down to me, I need to sort it out” rather than going, “yeah, it was their fault.” That doesn’t fly. You got to look at yourself first. That was a really cool book. I think anyone in business can read that and get something from it. Yeah. Extreme Ownership.

Mike: Nice.

Emily: Nice.

Stefan: Talking of Hypergrowth. It feels like we’ve mentioned Drift all the time in our podcasts at the moment, but they are doing some great things. This won’t scale, so this book, we got this, we got another two copies, is there another copy going around?

Emily: I think there was meant to be one arrive and then it didn’t. This is actually Mike’s copy that I acquired.

Stefan: Stole. Oh, acquired, right okay.

Stefan: If you attended Hypergrowth you got sent a copy. I dread to think how many copies they’ve sent out because we are definitely not in the USA and it arrived via air mail, “okay, thank you very much, that’s pretty cool.” Do you want to talk a bit more about this book? Because I’ve read through it’s been, it’s a quick read, but really cool stuff in there to have a think about and action straight away.

Emily: Yeah. I really like the format of it. It’s broken down into to 40 odd, short plays and makes it a bit like what we’re saying with Everybody Writes and Driving Demand…. you need to just dip in and out. Yours is full of post-its.

Stefan: If you are watching as well, I’m just showing all the post its I’ve got there if you are listening. Lots of pencil marks in there as well. I know you don’t like that Emily.

Emily: Stef said, “do you want to read my copy?” I said, “oh, no I’ll read Mike’s because he hasn’t written in it yet.” I made my notes on my phone. It’s really good to keep a note and refer back to key plays. You Stef had a couple that you wanted to talk in more detail about.

Stefan: Yeah. The ones for this chat, most relevant, there’s a lot of these plays you read them and you go, “why didn’t I think of that?” That in itself pretty cool and so that’s one you can just turn the key and off you go.

Emily: But also there were a few that we read and we thought, “oh, we’re actually doing that?”

Stefan: It’s validation.

Emily: Yeah, we feel like we are doing something right.

Stefan: So that’s cool. Overall this book does tie in nicely to the content we mentioned. The-

Emily: Category creation in Play Bigger.

Stefan: Exactly, so that’s really neat. Play 30 – Optimize for Conversations. This one of those like that, no brainer things. When you are sending out a LinkedIn message a Twitter message don’t be broadcasting like it’s a TV advert, just say, “what do you think?” Encourage a comment, to get a reaction. That’s super important. It’s something that we are trying switch to. Because you wanna have conversations with people, out of conversations come great things.

Mike: It’s a more authentic way of communicating. Imagine going to a party and being the guy who just talks about himself without asking questions or translating that to a real room situation, actually speaking to someone, asking questions, inviting interaction makes a lot more sense and is just a better way of doing things.

Stefan: This links in nicely because there’s a play a little bit later on which is, Opt for plain text emails. So these two tie up nicely because Emily, do you want to talk some more about what you have been doing with our email campaigns?

Emily: Yeah, so that’s, I guess it was a little while before we read the book we kept thinking we should try switching from our nice branded HTML emails to just sending out some plain text ones. Reading this gave us the impetus to test it. For the first time ever we had people replying to these emails that we sent. We’d send a marketing email every month, forever and then for the first time ever we were having people reply, and actually engage with our emails in a one to one basis. Which we’d never had before and it was really exciting. It’s a more personal way to communicate with people.

Stefan: That was a great to see, engagement up, actual responses, rather than tracking things like open rate. Which we all know is someone scrolling up and down their inbox, not ideal.

Mike: Or opening it just before they click delete. Some of those communicating in a more real authentic way. We’ve been providing value, education, resources about the category about capturing leads at events. Everything the space we work within, not selling but providing value.

Emily: We always had that value driven approach for emails before but what has changed is the way we’re presenting it. It’s more like a one on one communication and much more personal email style. We try and keep them really short.

Stefan: It’s one point as well. Rather than here’s three things you need to do in this email. With another massive CTA at the bottom. It’s more, this is going to help you out, go and read it, let me know what you think, that’s helpful.

Mike: If you were emailing your friend outside of work with some tips or a nice article they’d be interested in, you wouldn’t brand it.

Stefan: No? Oh.

Mike: Translating that to business, makes sense. It’s people speaking to people and where we’ve provided value, some of them, people we’ve spoke to have come back, requested demos, product tours and gone into the sales process and became customers so it just proves that helping other people out, helps you out.

Stefan: Curve ball, so, This won’t scale. Mike, as a demand generation, person, what’s your views on Things that don’t scale? Put you on the spot now.

Mike: The title for me is a little bit misleading in a way in that I think most things can scale but maybe not to the point of automation. For me, what that book is about is, those processes plain text emails can scale. It’s just more people doing it opposed to automating process and blanket emailing ten thousand people at once. So that whole idea about scaling or not scaling is just take it back to relevancy and appropriateness of the channel and what you are actually trying to do. Some of the things you mentioned in Jockos book, like simplifying it. Simplifying it often means being more human as opposed to automating it.

Stefan: Good response. For everyone really, what is in your Amazon, sorry, you’re online shopping cart now? What book are you going to buy next? I wrote mine down I think.

Mike: Oh, that’s cheating.

Stefan: Yeah, well that’s, presenter, I can do that.

Emily: Perks of being a presenter. I really love reading the stories of start ups that have grown and how that journey’s gone. One I really want to read is, I think it’s called Bad Blood, we talked about it before. The story of, I don’t know how it’s said, but Theranos? Is that the name of the company? That did, they raised an awful lot of money and it-

Mike: Wasn’t all it seemed, let’s just say.

Emily: Yeah. Lets go with that to avoid any legal action. There’s a lot of news about that and I remember reading a lot about it at the time. But this, the book’s been done by a very respectable journalist. Sounds like it would be really interesting.

Stefan: Excellent.

Mike: Think I’ve got that in the cart as well, so I’ll take that out and wait for Emily’s copy to arrive on my desk. What’s in my cart? I like to mix up reading about the B2B demand gen books with other areas so they don’t blur into one. Break it up, I think I’ve got a few of the Freakonomics books in there. I read a couple of them before they are just interesting reads. Humorous take, as well as learning something on how the world works. How money moves around in interesting ways. Those are on the list.

Stefan: Mine was Drive by Daniel Pink the surprising truth about what motivates us.

Emily: I’ve read that, it’s good.

Stefan: Yeah?

Emily: Yeah.

Stefan: Was it your copy?

Emily: No, I think there’s one in the library.

Mike: Always check the library.

Stefan: There you go, another top tip from Mike.

Emily: I was looking in the Akkroo library this morning for a copy of Play Bigger but it appears to have been checked out. I think there was a copy of Drive in there.

Stefan: Right, well I will take that out of my cart and go retrieve that. There was another one which was by Wally Olins he’s a brand guru. I’ve read one of his books recently which was the Brand Handbook, another one of those things on my desk all the time. Especially as we’ve gone through a rebrand as well. A step by step process of how someone, a company re brands, but the reasons behind that, the rationale. That was really cool.

Stefan: He’s written a book about the future of brand as well, thinking way ahead, what’s going to be the characteristics of a brand that succeeds. Something you should read if you want to be forward thinking. Those are the only two things or now one thing in my cart. I think that’s it for books.

Stefan: Thanks again for tuning in. We’ve been through a few books there but we compiled a list of ten that we as a marketing team have read, Outside of Content, Demand Gen Marketing, our Designer, our Events Manager, our Video Producer, things that we’ve read that we use to develop as individuals and contribute to the company goals as well. We’ll leave a link to that blog post in the description. Go and check that out and also if you enjoy this, gives us a thumbs up and subscribe.

Stefan: Thanks for coming in again guys.

Emily: Thanks.

Mike: Thanks a lot, until next time.

Stefan: See you later.

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