18 Marketing Books Coaches Should Read (If they want to succeed)

I think we can agree that the overwhelming majority of coaches are struggling to get clients.

And that the overwhelming majority of coaches don’t read books on marketing and/or client attraction.

Is that a coincidence?

I seriously doubt it.

There’s a belief amongst many coaches that being brilliant at what they do will eradicate any need to market/promote their services.

Can you name any other ultra-competitive industry where that’s the case?

Being good at something is not a marketing strategy.

Your potential clients expect you to be a great coach; that’s merely the bar to entry.

It’s not a differentiator.

There are thousands of good coaches with no clients.

Your success as a coach will be determined by your ability to market yourself.

Today I’m going to share with you some of the best books I have read that can help you get clients.

Note: If you’re more in the mood for reading about self development and coaching, then 30 Self Development Books Every Life Coach Should Read (and one they shouldn’t) may be right for you.

I’ve limited this list to no more than one book by any author because otherwise, the post would probably be called 15 Seth Godin Books Coaches Should Read To Succeed.

With that in mind, you really cannot go wrong by reading any of his material, so let’s kick off.

1. This is Marketing by Seth Godin

As alluded to, I could have pretty much picked any of Seth Godin’s books and been confident in the knowledge that you would have loved me for recommending it.

But whereas Purple Cow would help you understand the need to stand out 

Tribes, the need to focus on a smaller number of followers who love you rather than a lot who think you’re ok.

And All Marketers are Liars explains the importance of storytelling, it’s This is Marketing that wraps everything together.

Seth Godin ran a course called The Marketing Seminar that was purely based on this one book. 

I took it twice.

If you’re only going to read one book on marketing (and if you want to succeed, please don’t), make it this one.

He epitomises everything that is right in marketing and never deviates from the line of you build success by always acting with the client/customer in mind and doing the right thing.

This book will give you a broad understanding of what Godin termed in the seminal book of the same name, permission marketing.

Find a niche, build relationships with like-minded people, establish trust, and most of all, help people rather than hassle them.

Then you can sell to them.

Click to get the book bullseye

2. The Clarity Method by Tim Brownson

Oh come on, you didn’t expect me not to include my own book, did you?

As I said in my New York Times full-page ad explaining my virtues, I’m humble, but not that humble.

Core values work has given me more breakthroughs than every other tool I have used combined.

They will help you figure out not just your own core values, but the ones you want to align your coaching practice with.

Core values will give you your why.

As a coach, you know that your why is crucial in maintaining your focus on the big picture and driving you forward when things get tough.

Oh, and as an added bonus, it will help you look like an utter genius when working with your clients to uncover their values.

The Dalai Lama didn’t say it was an utterly brilliant book for nothing, you know.

Click to get the book

3. Lingo by Jeffrey Shaw

I recently spent a day offering free video feedback on the websites of about 30 coaches who are members of The Fully Booked Coach Facebook Group.

There were a number of issues that kept coming up again and again, but possibly the most egregious from a marketing perspective was the use of language.

And by that, I don’t mean offensive language or poor grammar (that’s my territory), but adopting coach speak rather than using the type of language that their ideal clients would use.

In other words, they do not use their client’s lingo.

Lingo demonstrates that you must get inside the head of your ideal client and understand what her hopes, fears, frustrations, goals and dreams are.

Not knowing those things means you’re just guessing with your marketing.

Similarly, you must know how she expresses those things (the lingo) if you are to make authentic and meaningful connections.

And you must do all this before you try and sell.

I found myself really liking Jeffrey Shaw, and I got the feeling he wanted to help me as much as he wanted to take my money.

The way he built his own photography business using what he teaches in this book just adds an extra layer of credibility.

I know that new coaches like you are frustrated at how difficult it is to attract paying clients.

I also know that you may be feeling disillusioned with an industry that promised so much and is delivering so little.

If that is the case, then Lingo can start to redress the balance in your favour without resorting to competing on price as way too many coaches do.

Click to get the book

4. Think. Do. Say. by Ron Tite

In the close to 20 years I’ve been listening to audiobooks, I’ve only ever felt compelled to listen at normal speed for two authors.

Doug Stanhope, because he’s a comedy genius and comedy is all about timing.

And Malcolm Gladwell because, quite honestly, he could be reading another advert for fucking bedding (like he does on his podcast), and I’d still happily listen because his voice is so hypnotic to me.

Ron Tite is the third.

Tite is not only very, very funny, but he also oozes wisdom and marketing knowledge.

There is a lot of marketing noise out there, and it’s growing exponentially.

As the author explains, it’s like constantly walking through Times Square with all the neon lights and advertising that is vying for our attention.

People no longer know which way to turn, or who to trust. So they just tune everything out.

If you want to stand out (in a good way) you don’t do so by adding to that noise.

Spamming people is just noise, as is having one-way conversations on social media and trying to constantly sell to people who don’t even know you.

In other words, or rather Ron Tite’s words, you cannot keep pitch-slapping people.

Just on the slim off-chance, you don’t buy the book, I must tell you a line in the book that made me howl with laughter.

One person who had attended one of his speeches had filled in a comment card saying he should be called Ron Trite.

It takes confidence, self-deprecation and honesty to include that in your own book.

And trust me, Ron is not trite. Click to get the book handshake

5. Influence by Robert Cialdini

This book is a classic.

On its publication in 1984, it was instantly raped and pillaged by marketers the world over.

And then everybody popped back later to rape and pillage it some more.

If you want to know why scarcity tactics work, this book will tell you.

If you want to understand how the law of reciprocity works, this book will explain it to you.

If you want to know why marketers still insist on using prices like $47 and $97 rather than $49 or even £100, then you’re in for a treat.

And if you want to be crazily attractive to the opposite (or same) sex, then you can sit on a train reading this book, and you will look smart…..probably.

A lot of the stories have been replicated on blogs and in other books so you may know a few, or a lot, it’s still well worth buying though.

Note: The book has been rewritten and expanded with new research in 2021, which made it my favourite of all time. To the extent that I bought the Audible version and then the hard copy too. Just buy it and thank me later. Click to get the book growth

6. Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

If like me, you prefer shorter books that get straight to the point, then you will like this.

Holiday has a background in the very aggressive and very intense industry of PR (his book Trust Me, I’m Lying is an excellent portrayal of the industry and how he came to turn his back on it).

Growth hacker marketing has two fundamental elements to it.

#1 – Think differently

Sure you can buy ad space, spam the crap out of people and generally just copy what people have already done.

And it could possibly work.

But it probably won’t, and it certainly will not help you to be admired and sought after.

Or, you can do things that have never been done before.

In other words, don’t follow the coaching crowd.

#2 – Be prepared to pivot

Too many coaches set off down one marketing path, such as Facebook, and when it’s not working, they refuse to quit.

The time, energy, and sometimes money they have poured into it acts as a sunk cost, keeping them flogging a dead horse.

Of course, it could be they are just doing it wrong, or it could be they need to refer back to #1.

And if you’re thinking of publishing a book, then Holiday details how he got one of Tim Ferris’ books to the top of the bestseller list at the end. Click to get the book covid

7. Contagious (Why Things Catch On) by Jonah Berger

How do you fancy a fried meat pattie made of pig heart, tripe and intestine served on a sesame-topped bun?

No?

What about if I cover it in a sugary sauce that includes imitation barbecue smoke, surely now you want it?

No again?

Hmm, weird.

Well, how about if I tell you that it’s the only one of its kind and there are hundreds of thousands of people just like you, desperate to get their hands on it if you don’t want it?

Unless you’re a vegetarian or maybe a pig, you probably want it now.

That is pretty much what the McRib is and what McDonald’s did to stimulate interest in a waning product line.

This book is a fascinating look into how companies do things that may seem counterintuitive from a marketing perspective, but that still work.

From the $100 Philly Cheesesteak to the Bar with no obvious way of getting in, there are a bunch of cool stories, often from smaller businesses, that crushed it in generating word-of-mouth marketing.

Which by the way, is the cheapest and most effective marketing of them all if you can pull it off.

Click to get the book 3rd door

8. The Third Door by Alex Banayan

A quarter of the way into this book I’d have described it as a ‘precocious kid sets off on a quest to interview a bunch of A+ list celebs and gets lucky on the back of winning a TV quiz show’.

Well, that would have been utterly wrong.

Now I’d describe it as ‘crazy determined self-effacing kid sets off to interview a bunch of A+ list celebs and gets knock back after knock back, but refuses to quit even when staring humiliation and ridicule in the face’

Banayan describes the first door as entering the nightclub with all the other paying guests.

The second door is when you are lucky enough to be waved in by security because you’re connected or a VIP.

The third door is when you slip down the side alley, through a window in the kitchen and enter the club through a secret door behind the stage.

Alex Banayan is a force of nature in his refusal to take no for an answer and determination to find that third door.

Just the stories about him trying to get in front of Warren Buffet are worth the cost of the book and show a rare single-mindedness.

If you want to get in front of decision-makers and influencers in your industry, you may need to find the third door because so do all your competitors.

Click to get the book

9. Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

I’m a fan of this book without being a fan of Donald Miller’s style.

When I pay for a book I don’t expect the author to be upselling me with such regularity as Miller does in both this book and the follow-up, Marketing Made Simple.

But it would be churlish to leave out such a brilliant book because I’m old and salty.

If you don’t yet understand the incredible power of using stories (especially the Hero’s Journey) in your marketing, then this book will explain it to you.

It will also show you how to craft a story that can be as short as one sentence. Think taglines, or blog lines as they are called in the movie industry.

And Miller is an ex-script writer, so he knows his shit.

At the very least, you will come away understanding (which very few coaches do) that your About page isn’t really about you.

But there is a lot more to it than that.

Just step away from your credit card as you read it and when you click through to his website to download the forms. Click to get the book man thinking

10. The Little Red Book of Sales Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer

EVERY coach should learn the basics of selling, yet few do.

Whether it’s our ideas, our thoughts, our products, or ourselves, we are all selling all the time.

So we may as well learn to do it well, right?

Gitomer has done a bunch of ‘little books’ such as Little Black Book of Connections, and Little Gold Book of Yes and all are really good albeit with some crossover.

But this is the one I’d recommend to any coach who hasn’t had any formal sales training.

Gitomer just flat-out knows sales and he has a writing style that is fun to read and very easy to follow.

Sales can get technically tricky at times (something that is lost on even many salespeople who think it’s just about closing deals), but Gitomer simplifies it.

Whereas this book is aimed at professional salespeople almost all of the information can be easily and directly applied to coaching and used by coaches.

Of course, you could always hire me to teach you sales as I’ve got 20-years-experience, but this book may prove a cheaper option.

If you can, buy the hard copy because the design is brilliant and very tactile.

Click to get the book

11. The Methods of Persuasion by Nick Kolenda

I have been following Nick Kolenda for a number of years and he puts out some excellent material around customer psychology and conversion optimisation.

A lot (perhaps all) of the information comes from other people’s work and I’d advise going straight to the horses’ mouth (Kahneman and Tversky) if I wanted to read about cognitive biases, but it’s none the poorer for that.

It takes real skill to take complex ideas and theories and then distil them to the core elements and make them as easy to understand and digest as Kolenda does.

I don’t care who did the work, if you can present it to me in a manner that I find useful and implementable I will thank you.

Just like I’d laugh if you told me a joke you hadn’t written.

If you want to know why companies like Amazon do what they do on sales and product pages and why things work and others don’t, then Methods of Persuasion is for you.

Click to get the book clock

12. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

I hemmed and hawed about adding this book because I thought 70% of it was pure filler, and it kind of lost its way in the second half.

Also, Ferriss – who by the way, is a genius – admitted that the title is marketing hype.

So, I’d not recommend this to you with an eye on only working 4 hours per week, or even only spending 4 hours per week working on your marketing, for that matter.

However, if you want ideas about how you can reduce your workload by starting to outsource jobs that can be done for a fraction of what you’re worth per hour, then it’s a good starting point.

Click to get the book

13. Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson

Although there is a disappointing lack of large primates in this book, it is must read for coaches with a limited marketing budget. Even with advances in the internet, AI, and other technologies, this book remains highly relevant, as it focuses on low-cost, high-impact strategies that adapt well to the changing marketing terrain. Levinson’s laid-back writing style makes it easy to follow along, and he shares real-life stories and examples to show you’re not alone in facing marketing challenges. Click to get the book

14. Alchemy by Rory Sutherland

I fucking love Rory Sutherland! He swears on podcasts, he’s funny as fuck and he isn’t afraid to butcher a sacred cow or two in his quest to teach the world about behavioural science. In Alchemy he urges the reader to consider irrationality as a powerful tool in problem-solving and decision-making. Red Bull didn’t build a brand (and some would say an industry) by going head-to-head with Coca-Cola. Avis Rent-a-Car used the fact that they were second best to their advantage. Pringle crisps (chips) reframed their brand into being something of a luxury And when Japanese engineers were struggling to get the Bullet Train to go faster they turned to the Kingfisher (yes the bird) to solve their issues. If you don’t finish Alchemy with a bunch of ideas to help you get more coaching clients, then I’ll give you your money back. Click to get the book

15. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

It would be easy to skim through this book and think it’s no longer relevant. After all, it was written 40 years ago, and much of the wisdom in it comes from the 1950s and 60s. But Oglivy was a giant amongst copywriters and direct response marketers to the extent that he was a major inspiration behind the TV series Mad Men. Even though the ebook was written pre-internet, the principles within it are just as relevant today:
  • The headline is the most important element (Ogilvy famously said he spent 80% of his time on the headline of his ads)
  • Advertising without understanding your ideal client is a waste of time and money
  • All advertising should focus on your USP (unique selling proposition)
  • Advertising should be consistent across all formats
  • Advertising is a skill that needs to be worked on
You may be thinking that you have no plans to advertise so that’s not relevant to you. Think again. You write headlines for emails and blog posts. And you have copy on your website designed to convert visitors into clients. Oh, and one other thing. Even though Ogilvy was a bit of an old stick in the mud in many respects, he thought humour in copy/adverts could be highly effective. Who knew? Click to get the book

16. How to Get to the Top of Google by Tim Cameron-Kitchen?

Tim Cameron-Kitchen is the host of possibly my favourite podcast, The Digital Marketing Podcast, and the indutsry-leading founder of the digital marketing agency Exposure Ninja. SEO is in a constant state of flux, with the looming SGE (search generative experience) coming from Google likely to shake things up even more. However, there are still best practices with SEO that remain consistent, with the main one being to create content that people want to consume and answers their queries and satisfies their requirments. What I like about this book is that it is updated regularly to reflect the latest changes. As such, it is literally the only book on SEO that I recommend to clients. Click to get the book

17. The Illusion of Choice by Richard Shotton

The Choice Factory, like Shotton’s previous book, The Illusion of Choice, offers fascinating insights into the psychological shortcuts and irrational thought processes that influence our (buying) decisions. Written clearly and practically, without jargon, the book unpacks experiments and examples of behavioural science in an easy-to-grasp story-based format. The actionable tips help coaches apply key concepts to their real-world marketing. It’s easy to read, very enjoyable and a goldmine of ideas for any coach. Click to get the book

18. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

As a coach trying to attract more ideal clients, make your messaging stick! Made to Stick by the Heath brothers is an absolute game-changer. By analyzing sticky ideas from urban legends to political slogans, Chip and Dan crack the code on crafting messages that spark action. With this easy-to-use guide, we can make our websites, emails, and promo materials insanely compelling. Click to get the book

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