When I sought out my first job as a startup marketer, it wasn’t because I’d heard about this opportunity from my friends. Neither was it because I’d studied marketing in university.
The magnetic urge that drew me to marketing was a book. Just a single book. It was written by David Meerman Scott and named The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Ironically, I’d grabbed the book from the bookshelves of a PR agency I was working at back then. (There’s your reason not to buy books to your employees…)
I bet that if I’d read the book now, it wouldn’t have the same impact on the course of my career and life.
However, back then, this book combined with long hot summer days full of reading marketing blogs (I’ll tell you later which ones) grew my passion for marketing so high that I was ready to jump the ship sailing on a steady course. Soon, I found myself on board a lot smaller ship – a B2B SaaS startup.
I’m writing this story because lately, we’ve interviewed lots of enthusiastic candidates to join our marketing team. One of my favourite questions to ask the person has become “Which marketing blogs do you read?”
Usually, by this time, the previously confident candidates start to lose their ground.
“Oh, yes… The marketing blogs…” ??
The regular answer goes along the lines of “Erm… HubSpot … Um … This guy I-can’t-remember-his-name …” And silence.
For me, this answer’s an almost immediate deal breaker, at least one raising some long-brewing concerns.
A marketer not reading any work-related blogs could mean two things: They’re so good that no new insights can improve their work or they’re too indifferent to search for the latest tactics and hacks. A beginner- or medium-level marketing candidate’s most likely guilty of the latter.
Many people calling themselves marketers don’t really care about marketing as a craft.That’s fine, they’re still needed to carry out regular daily marketing tasks to keep the engines running.
Nevertheless, if you want to be in the Top 1% of the “marketing royalty”, simply completing your daily work tasks is not going to cut it.
You need to read.
The lasting benefits of reading
Read the following paragraphs with a small reservation: I love reading (and writing) way too much to claim I’m able to stay 100% objective.
So what is it about reading that turns it into a make or break interview question? How can reading make you a better marketer compared to those working harder and having a longer career path behind them than you?
1. Reading reflects on your curiosity
Many famous scientists, artists, and politicians are remembered by their curiosity to discover various aspects of the world. Take Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Richard Feynman – during his lifetime, the man was both a successful physicist as well as a hobby painter, dancer, and code breaker.
As a marketer, curiosity’s a sign that you’re driven by the wish to find new marketing tactics and test them out as often as possible. When working with companies betting on fast growth, frequent amendments and tweaks to the marketing strategy bring the long-term home run.
2. Reading makes you build new associations
Speaking of tiny improvements and coming up with the tactics to put on trial, you’ll have to be able to produce many ideas. And I mean many.
James Altucher, an American hedge fund manager, has long been preaching about the “idea muscle”. In his blog, Altucher explains that the more ideas you demand your brain to produce, the more brilliant ones you’ll get.
In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant, an influential management thinker, explores the fact that famous composers produced over five thousand works during their lifetime. The classical music we’re celebrating today is the result of a strenuous process of hit and miss.
A divergent reading list of literature, marketing blogs, and business books will open your mind to a whole new level of idea generation. One that can introduce you to many eureka! moments and ideas to take for a test drive.
3. Reading grows you into a better marketer
Marketers are a weird bunch in that they compete in sharing their best secret tactics in tens of blog posts. By reading the blogs of individual marketers, apps, and agencies, you’ve got the unique chance to learn about all their best practices. You’ll also learn about different PPC channels, seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Why would marketers share all their best hacks? I guess it’s because people are lazy, and only very few can really pull off the tactics and make them work.
On these premises, you can browse tens of marketing blogs on the topics ranging from copywriting and paid advertising to web design and conversion rate optimization.
4. Reading makes you a better writer
If you’re wondering where the Top bloggers and marketers got their copywriting skills, it’s not about how they got there. It’s about how the developed those skills by making reading and writing their bread and butter.
Reading the works of literary classics and other marketers not only gives you a wide vocabulary and writing skills, it also teaches you the language of potential customer groups.
I had a friend recently telling me that the way business blogs are written is completely different to any other type of writing. And he was entirely right– you’d probably never talk to a family member in the same language you find in marketing blogs. Nevertheless, you’d use this language to communicate with business partners and people at work.
In addition to expanding the “idea muscle”, regular reading also rubs off on your copywriting skills – an incredibly valuable asset as a marketer.
5. Reading’s kind of like meditating
If you feel that reading’s a chore rather than a pleasant way to spend an hour or two daily, you likely won’t find any zen in the process.
It’s easy to get stuck with a boring book or give up on the search of marketing blogs worth your time. All things considered, there are tons of generic articles that do not deserve your attention. (Or anyone’s for that matter…)
But as you find some gems along the way, the outlook becomes a lot more positive. For me, having a Feedly feed of my favourite 20-30 blogs and keeping a to-read book list presents more than enough attention-worthy reading material.
If someone recommends you a book or life advice… Sometimes it’s just not the right time in your life It’s OK to put the recommendation aside for now and return to it later. Rather, look for the resources that seem the most interesting to you.
Creating your reading framework as a marketer
Everyone’s reading habits are unique. However, here’s a framework that you can use to get started:
- Consider what you’d like to learn/read about
- Create a list of marketing blogs sharing high-level insight
- Add 1-2 hour blocks of reading time into your schedule
- Constantly think how new ideas could be applied in your company
- Keep notes of the best ideas and key takeaways
- Revisit your notes when in need of new ideas
As time goes by, the blogs you visit and the books you search out will likely change, both in terms of topics and the expectations you set.
As I started out 2 years ago, I was more focused on content marketing and copywriting. Then, the focus shifted to paid advertising and conversion rate optimization. Switching the topics you read about gives you a wider scope of knowledge and expands your skill set. (And makes you a winning candidate to join any marketing team…)
+ see the list of my fave marketing & business blogs here ?
+ share your go-to marketing blogs in the comments ?