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The 12 most important business books of the last ten years…

Marc Andreessen posts “Coming Soon” titles on his blog. That’s really cool and something I’d love to do, too. Of course, I’d have to follow through on it. So why not borrow one of Marc’s instead?

One future title in particular, “Top 10 books for high-tech entrepreneurs,” intrigued me and got me thinking about the most valuable books I’ve read. So, in no particular order, the list below represents the twelve most influential and important books for marketers and general business folks over the last 10 years:

  • Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind – Al Ries popularized the notion of positioning, that is, owning a position within your customer’s mind and ignited a revolution in the way marketers thought about their brands. Seth Godin takes it a step further with his notion of “edgecrafting” in Free Prize Inside. While Godin notes the differences between the two approaches (one focuses on perception, the other on reality), I see them as two sides of a single coin. And what a valuable coin it is.
  • Selling the Invisible – While still in the realm of “pure” marketing, Harry Beckwith’s slim volume provides excellent guidance for companies looking to market services instead of products. And Beckwith’s style has influenced a number of business book writers over the years (I’m looking at you, Seth).
  • The Long Tail – Possibly the most influential and important business idea of the last decade, Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail literally stands the traditional notion of commerce on its (short) head. Much like Blink and The Tipping Point, more folks get more mileage from one simple idea than the author could ever have expected. Brilliant. And absolutely mandatory for anyone selling products online today.
  • Made to Stick – The Heath Brothers’ study of messages that work best, not surprisingly, works wonders. Not only did I learn a great deal, I enjoyed the read immensely. You will, too.
  • Blue Ocean Strategy – OK. Compared to most other items on this list (with one notable exception) this one’s a little dry. Suffer. You should read the book. You’ll see strategy in a whole new light.
  • Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big And Small – Purely tactical information for coming up with new ideas and approaches. I’ve read better books, but I keep returing to Nalebuff and Ayre’s techniques. That’s got to count for something.
  • Deadline! How Premier Organizations Win the Race Against Time – Dan Carrison has written the perfect book for aspiring project managers. Or anyone who needs to manage any project. And you think your projects are tough? Imagine building an NFL stadium, on environmentally protected land, dealing with multiple county, state, and federal agencies, working towards opening day of the season. Oh, and you’re not allowed to tear down the old stadium which sits on the same footprint until weeks before you’re supposed to be done. If that sounds easy to you, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The stadium case study is only half as compelling as the one involving FBI kidnap recovery teams. You’ll learn real skills and be really amazed at the same time.
  • Don’t Make Me Think – Why a web usability book? Two reasons: one, I’m a web guy. Steve Krug speaks my language. Two, you’ll gain tons of common sense insights about how people interact with your products and how to use those insights to improve your business.
  • Web Analytics: An Hour a Day – What, you’re thinking, and now a web analytics book? What gives? Simple. Avinash Kaushik has given deep thought to the importance of metrics and how companies can create the ones that really matter. While the book speaks about web analytics in particular, many of the lessons apply to any measurement effort. See this recent post for just one example.
  • The World is Flat – Excellent overview of how the world has changed, and continues changing, due to globalization, outsourcing and technology. Consider it a roadmap for today’s world. And tomorrow’s.
  • Essential Peter Drucker – OK, this one’s cheating a little bit, since many of these essays predate my 10-year limit, but Drucker gave us too much good information to keep him off the list. You’ll learn more about how to run a business well in this book than just about anything else on the list.
  • Warren Buffett’s “Owner’s Manual” from – One of the great reads for any business person. Ever. Buffett provides an outstanding overview of how shareholders – business owners in reality, if not always in attitude – need to evaluate their businesses. The approach Buffett recommends would benefit all business owners. Written in 1996, but posted online a few years later and incredibly important, so we’ll grandfather it. ;-) As a bonus book, check out The Intelligent Investor, written by Ben Graham. Graham taught Buffett how to invest. And that seems to have turned out OK. If you need to understand the capital markets in this country, Graham is a good place to start.

What’s missing? What books got you were you are today?

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Thanks very much for the compliment of including my book in your list of the decades’ most important ones.

    Given how much I enjoyed the other books you mentioned, the compliment felt even better.

    All the best to you, and thanks again,

    Harry Beckwith

    1. Harry, you’re very welcome. And the compliment is very well deserved. I must reference your “fix the product” story from chapter 1 every month.

      Keep up the great work and thanks for dropping by.

  2. Dear Sir,

    Kindly say the top 10 business for 10 years after 2012
    A waiting for your valuable reply..

    Thanks & Regards,
    Mittal Shah.

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