Product marketing is an ever-evolving field where trends change rapidly.
Whether you’re a newbie hoping to learn different marketing concepts or an experienced product marketer trying to expand your skills, product marketing books are sure to help you find success.
We’ve compiled the ten best product marketing books that will keep you up-to-date with trends, find your target customers, and teach you other relevant product marketing strategies.
Some are entirely focused on marketing your products effectively, while others favor the management side of things.
Overall, these are some of the best books on product marketing that will help you become a better product marketer and create a positive experience for your users.
Let’s dive in.
10 Books Every Product Marketer Must Read in 2023
1. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Nir Eyal
Originally published in 2013, Hooked is a total must-read for product markets, managers, designers, and anyone who wants to dive deeper into how products influence people’s behavior.
It includes insights into creating and marketing habit-forming products that capture the public’s imagination like Instagram, Netflix, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Plus, it helps product marketers understand exactly what makes consumers engage with certain products and how you can support them in discovering your product as a solution to their problems.
Author Nir Eyal explains these concepts with a four-step Hook Model that various successful companies use when building and marketing their products.
These steps are aimed to bring a consumer back time and time again organically, without relying on advertising.
Here’s a peek into the four steps of the Hook Model:
- Trigger: A trigger prompts the user to interact with a certain product. It comes in two types: external and internal. External triggers are embedded with information that tells users what to do next, such as website links, viral videos, and press mentions. Internal triggers occur when a product becomes closely related to an emotion, a thought, or a pre-existing routine. Negative emotions like boredom, frustration, and loneliness are powerful internal triggers.
- Action: Action is the steps we take to achieve a particular reward. For example, a simple action of clicking on an interesting picture on your newsfeed can take you to a website called Pinterest. Or, clicking on a “Get Started” button can enable you to create a Netflix account and stream your favorite movies and shows.
- Variable Reward: The things that make users repeatedly perform an action out of anticipation are variable rewards. In other words, rewards create a craving and desire for a particular product within a user. Examples include winning a lottery, discounts, cashback, and other good deals on apps like Swiggy, Zomato, etc.
- Investment: It is the amount of work, time, or money that a user spends on the product while performing actions on it. For example, LinkedIn Learning allows users to take sources for free for a particular period, after which you have to pay a minimal fee to continue learning. Now that you have spent some time acquiring helpful information on the platform, you’re more likely to invest a small amount to continue taking courses.
2. Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love – Marty Cagan
Written by the founder of the Silicon Valley Product Group, Marty Cagan, this book is packed with the author’s observations and insights about product development from his experience in the field.
Inspired explains the process of developing and designing products that customers love — by embracing the latest techniques and practices and utilizing customer feedback.
Plus, it has various real-world examples of how successful companies like Netflix, Google, Apple, and BBC have built irresistible products with millions of loyal users.
Some key takeaways in the book are:
- Great products are never created by accident but by design.
- The product manager has two key responsibilities — determining the product opportunities and defining the product to be created.
- A product manager should work closely with the interaction designer and software architect to build a better product from the very beginning.
- Test product ideas on actual target users — early and often — to come up with a valuable, feasible, and usable product.
- While hiring a product manager, look for different skills such as confidence, work ethics, integrity, time management, efficient communication, and other business skills.
3. Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value – Melissa Perri
In today’s competitive environment, organizations need to adopt customer-centric practices that focus exclusively on outcomes rather than outputs.
Far too many companies live and die by outputs, which is why Melissa Perri’s Escaping the Build Trap is a top must-read for product managers striving to take their careers to another level.
In this book, Melissa Perri defines the “build trap” as the situation where an organization gets stuck and focuses on how much they’re shipping and not on what value those features are actually driving for the customers and the business.
In other words, these companies value activity over quality and the what over the why.
Melissa explains that the job of a product manager is to understand the customers’ problems, needs, and wants, to create a valuable product based on emerging technologies.
This product should not be created just for the sake of “building” or by copying the features of your competitors but by figuring out why your customer needs it and what sets you apart from others.
The customers buy the product and pay money that creates value for the business in exchange.
The book also states that the most optimal way to deliver customer value is by creating a product-led organization with the following components:
- Creating a product manager role with the proper structure and responsibilities.
- Providing the product managers with a strategy that promotes efficient decision-making.
- Determining how to build a product with experimentation and optimization.
- Supporting the product managers with effective organizational policies, culture, and rewards.
4. Crossing The Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers – Geoffrey Moore
Different types of customers will engage with your product at different times after its launch with different needs and focuses.
In this book, Geoffrey Moore covers how products marketers can reach out and sell to innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.
Further, they should focus on one segment of customers at a time and use each segment as a base for marketing to the next group.
- Innovators are customers who take the risk with new tech products and are the first to buy them.
- Next in line are the early adopters who quickly appreciate the benefits of the new products and buy them very early in their life cycle.
- The third group, the early majority, are customers who are driven by practicality and purchase the new technology after innovators and early adopters have proven its benefits.
- The late majority, also known as pragmatists, is the second to last group of customers to adopt innovative tech products. They are not comfortable buying new technology until it becomes an established standard.
- Laggards are consumers who avoid new technology until all the traditional alternatives are unavailable.
This book also covers the process of closing the wide chasm between innovators and pragmatists.
A chasm exists because after selling to early adopters, you reach a point where your next step is to take the product to the masses.
Since early adopters and the early majority have different expectations, it is crucial to leverage techniques to cross the chasm successfully.
Some methods include choosing a target market, addressing your customers’ needs with a whole product, positioning the product appropriately, distributing the product throughout the right channels, and so on.
5. Building For Everyone: Expand Your Market With Design Practices From Google’s Product Inclusion Team – Annie Jean-Baptiste
As product designers and marketers, we must understand the ethical importance of making our products accessible and inclusive for all users.
But, we don’t always understand the best way of doing this or making it a priority.
Annie Jean-Baptiste, Google’s head of Product Inclusion, talks exactly about this in her book — Building For Everyone — which covers how organizations can create better products by promoting inclusion into the corporate environment.
You’ll learn the best techniques for inclusion in product planning, design, marketing, management, and beyond.
Throughout the chapters, Annie shares valuable lessons she learned from starting Google’s Product Inclusion team, along with relevant case studies of how other companies can incorporate diversity and inclusion — not only in the workforce but also in the product development process.
Overall, this simple read will cover the following:
- Key terms like product inclusion, diversity, equity, and intersectionality
- Essential questions to ask about diversity and inclusion in your products from marketers, managers, user researchers, and more.
- Google’s six-step inclusive research framework
- Relevant examples on what works and what doesn’t to avoid mistakes of those who came before you
- Integrating product inclusion into four key steps — Ideation, UX Research and Design, User Testing, and Marketing.
The most prominent example featured in the book is NASA’s spacesuit design that accommodates larger male sizes.
In 2019, the first all-women spacewalk was delayed because they didn’t have enough spacesuits on board that would fit both women.
6. Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It – April Dunford
It doesn’t matter how attractive your product is or how well it solves your customers’ problems; if you don’t position it properly, potential customers are going to pass by without giving it a second glance.
That’s exactly what this book by April Dunford will teach you — if you fail at positioning, you’ll fail at marketing and sales too.
And spoiler alert: it’s not like your other product positioning books.
Here are a few key takeaways from this book:
- According to April, a good positioning strategy starts with understanding the customers who love your product and can’t wait to tell others about it. Making a list of such customers can help you identify your best-fit customer profile. Find out what they love about your product and position it in the best possible light.
- Both products and markets change, competitors come and go, and technologies and landscapes evolve with time. So, companies need to check in on their positioning and tweak it regularly to make sure your product is sitting at the right place in the market. April recommends checking in on your product positioning every six months or when a significant event takes place that could change your market’s competitive landscape.
- Understanding how your customers perceive your competitors is crucial for positioning. So, don’t be afraid to mention your competitors as it can help you know what your target customers would use or do if your product didn’t exist.
In addition, the book also covers six components of effective positioning — competitive alternatives, unique attributes, value (and proof), target market characteristics, market category, and relevant trends.
7. The Four Steps to the Epiphany – Steve Blank
Written by Steve Blank, an eight-time serial entrepreneur, and author, this book is an actionable guide on how to go about building your company, managing your customers and sales, and marketing your product at different business stages.
It introduces the customer development framework — one of the three pillars of the Lean Startup Movement.
In this book, Steve talks about a four-step customer development process that helps startups build a product that solves customers’ real problems.
- Customer discovery: This step focuses on understanding exactly who your customers are. Blank recommends that the product management team “get out of the building” to find their target customers and understand the problems that the product will solve.
- Customer validation: After you’ve identified the target market and customer, it’s time to create a scalable sales process that will help you reach those customers. What’s unique about this part is that if it doesn’t work, your team has to start over again with customer discovery.
- Customer creation: The third step drives end-users into the sales process. It is an integral step because it states that businesses might enter one or more among these four types of startup markets:
A. Some businesses enter pre-existing markets.
B. Some businesses enter new markets.
C. Some businesses enter existing markets as a low-cost alternative.
D. Some businesses create a new segment in an existing market as a niche.
- Company building: This is the final step of the process as it involves the transition from an informal, learning, and discovery-oriented experience into a fully-fledged formal department. This is where companies can start spending more on marketing and sales efforts because spending on unidentified customers can put the business in a vulnerable financial state.
8. Badass: Making Users Awesome – Kathy Sierra
The best product managers not only want to build products for their users but also want to encourage them to solve their problems and make their lives better — and this book strives to do just that.
Badass is an actionable guide that aims to shift the organizations’ focus from creating a brilliant product to creating a brilliant user of that product.
It explores different strategies for how product, engineering, sales, marketing, and customer success teams should work in harmony to make their users badass — someone who has achieved mastery.
This is possible not just by helping them become skillful at using the product but at whatever the product can help them do. Build high-quality educational materials that help them achieve the outcomes they strive for.
- Instead of just teaching them how to log in to your fitness app, teach them how to create a daily habit of exercising.
- Instead of tracking how many words they write in an hour, give them tips on writing faster, checking grammatical errors, and how to research.
In a nutshell, it’s not about how the users feel about your product or service; it’s about how users think of themselves while using your product.
In fact, when they say, “This product is amazing. You should see what it can do”, they actually mean, “I am amazing. You should see what I can do with it”.
9. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Why do some ideas stick in people’s minds while others fade?
This is the question that the Heath brothers set out to answer in their book Made to Stick.
This book clearly outlines how you can develop ideas that will stick in the public’s consciousness and make a difference.
The world is full of small and big ideas. But, the ones that are passed from person to person are called the sticky ones. They might be good or bad, right or wrong — basically, the ones that stay in people’s imaginations for longer.
Chip and Dan Heath offer six qualities that make ideas sticky — Simplicity Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories (SUCCESS).
- Simplicity: This is achieved when an idea is boiled down to its core without making it sound silly. However, it doesn’t have to be short but should highlight the most important thing. In fact, numerous sticky ideas are easy for the average person to understand.
- Unexpected: The best ideas break the established patterns forcing people to notice them. Once they grab your attention, such ideas refuse to let go until you discover the outcome.
- Concrete: An idea becomes sticky when it is concrete and realistic. When everyone in the audience easily understands your idea, it stays in their brain for a long time.
- Credible: Sticky ideas should be reasonably believable such that a normal person can believe they’re real (even when they’re not). You can do this by using statistics and personal experiences.
- Emotional: Sticky ideas are pretty emotional and appeal to our dreams, desires, and wishes. So, while developing a sticky idea, focus on the emotions behind it and give your audience a reason to care about it.
- Stories: A key to developing a sticky idea is to tell it as a story. To make them last through generations, integrate the ideas with the personal life stories of its customer base.
10. To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – Daniel Pink
We’re all in sales — in his book, To Sell is Human, Pink provides a fresh perspective on the art of selling.
He asserts that everyone is involved in sales regardless of what they do. They are working to persuade, influence, and pitch others on ideas, products, and more.
For example, managers influencing their employees to develop something innovative, parents convincing their children to help them clean the house, or brands trying to persuade customers to switch from freemium to paid models.
So basically, every time you convince others to act, you’re in the selling business.
Keeping this in mind, here are our three takeaways from the book:
- Selling has changed. Earlier it was challenging for buyers to determine the seller’s honesty as the salesperson was their only source of information. But today, we’ve transitioned to a world where the buyers have easy access to tons of information about the seller or product. This means no seller can try to con customers during this age as they will easily find the truth and switch to the competitors.
- ABCs doesn’t mean “Always Be Closing”. Daniel Pink suggests a new model:
A. Attunement: The ability to understand and empathize with people you’re trying to persuade.
B. Buoyancy: The ability to bounce back after a series of rejections and bad news.
C. Clarity: The ability to sort through massive amounts of information, ask the right questions, and identify problems customers don’t know they have.
- Get better at three crucial sales skills:
A. Pitch: Apart from the elevator pitch, there are six others you should know — one-word pitch, question pitch, rhyming pitch, email subject line pitch, Twitter pitch, and Pixar pitch.
B. To improvise: The ability to adapt when the pitch doesn’t go as planned.
C. To serve: How can you make your customers’ lives better? Listen to their goals and expectations to connect them with a solution that will improve their lives.
No matter where you are in your PM career, constantly honing your skills is crucial to becoming a successful product marketer.
From creative aspects (writing a clear messaging, positioning, and designing compelling presentations) to analytical ones (synthesizing large amounts of information like customer data into actionable insights) — there’s a lot to learn, and these books are sure to make a difference.
So, we hope these books inspire you, help you keep up with the emerging trends, and turn some heads when you launch your next big thing.
Hiral Rana Dholakiya is the Co-Founder and Chief of Creatives at Growfusely, a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO.