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The Best Marketing Books of All Time (Part 1)

We just had a virtual event earlier this month, people in the chat kept asking me, “What are the best marketing books?” I kind of locked up because I had no answer for that, except that there isn’t really one. If you want to study marketing and really understand it, we’ve got to go through a journey!

Every three months we do our coaching meetings. We used to do them in person, but because of the pandemic, we’ve gone virtual. At our most recent one, the legend, Michael Levine, was kind enough to come on, and I lost count of how many F-bombs he dropped.

I noticed since then, everybody’s been swearing a lot more around the office. I asked a few people via text about the swearing, but nobody seemed to be bothered. Instead, I’ve been getting texts like, “Hey, great meeting, he was unbelievable,” and, “When are we going to put that up on on-demand?”

Michael Levine wrote the famous book, Gorilla PR, and then Broken Windows, Broken Business which has been on the best seller list for like 13 years in a row now, and it’s a great book. Long before I became friends with Michael, I bought many copies of that book and handed it out to many people.

Today we’re going to go through my favorite marketing books, and this is going to be a two-parter because I’ve spent hours and hours going through the thousands of books we have here at the office. I’m going to go through the books that I think will help you with marketing, but they’re not just marketing books! Some are in marketing, some just apply to marketing but aren’t directly about it.

I’m also going to recommend a video and some documentaries, so it’s going to be fun. Some of them you may not care about, but you’ll get a sense for how eccentric I am and how many books I read in different areas that you would never imagine. Something I’ve never shared before.

Usually, when I do these sorts of things, I curate the list for the audience, but for this list I’m doing it for the results. There’s a big difference. I’m not expecting this list to make you go and download the book on Audible because some of these books are out of print or otherwise hard to find. Some of them are thousands of dollars because they’re collectible, but it’s the result that I want you to get.

This is also relevant for everybody coming out of the coaching meeting because we were talking about how to drive RO count, psychology, your approach to marketing, and how it’s changing the industry. The service drive is becoming the focal point in everything and we’re going to have to learn how to be good marketers, so I’m going to help you with that.

Before I get to that, though, we had time on the show for one question. Remember, if you call in and submit a question and we play it on the air, we’re going to send you some Service Drive Revolution swag; a hat, T-shirt, coffee mug, everything.

“Hey, Chris. My name is Dan. I work over at a trailer dealership here in Bakersfield. I started watching your show to get a little more understanding about the service side of everything. I watched the episode where you talked about how you became a GM and actually owned a couple of stores, and the question I had was, aside from becoming a GM and going through dealer school, what else do you need to buy your own dealership? Who puts up the money? Does the manufacturer give loans for that? How do you do that? My story as well, like yours, I started as a detailer and climbed the ranks. I’m an F&I now, doing pretty good at that. Hope to hear the answer on a show. Thank you, man.”

Thanks so much for the great question! When you’re buying a dealership, you have a couple different things that you’re going to have to finance. So the first thing you’re going to have to finance is just the basic assets of the business, which means the inventory and parts, the desks, whatever. Whether you’re buying the building or not, you’re going to buy the assets, the computers, lifts in the service department, phone system, all of that.

There’s going to be an asset purchase, and with that, you’re going to have a working capital requirement. In the working capital, you’re going to have your parts, payroll, and other things. Usually you can’t finance that. You’ve got to come in with that money. You’re going to have to have probably 50% down on that more than anything.

And the next thing you’re going to have is what they call ‘blue sky.’ So let’s say you have a Chevy dealership that is making a million dollars a year in profit. I’m not a broker, but let’s also say that Chevy dealerships are selling for five to six times earnings so you’re going to pay $5-6 million in blue sky. You’re going to have a couple million in working capital and assets, and then you’re going to have $5-6 million in blue sky.

Then, the next line of credit you’ll need to have is used cars and new cars inventory, which will be $10 million in a second. You can usually do that through a flooring line of credit depending on how financially stable you are in the deal you make. The used cars, you might have to have some cash down. You might not be able to floor all of them, but you don’t have to start with a ton used cars either. The new cars, usually the factory will let you floor them, and you’ll have a flooring line of credit with whoever the manufacturer is.

So often times, you can get a bank to loan on the business to an extent, but somebody’s going to have to come in with a pretty good chunk of change to make it happen. And so often times, there’s dealer groups out there that will let you become a general manager and then buy the dealership from them while they just retain a certain part of it. There’s also investors out there that will invest. In my experience, most banks don’t like to touch first-time dealers so you’re going to need a partner or another dealer that will invest in you. So probably the best path for you is to find a dealer that wants to expand and wants talented people around, save your money, then do some sort of buyout over time.

You used to be able to get a dealership off of a handshake and a smile 50 years ago, but it’s very different now. Banks are very shy because there’s a lot of moving parts, and it’s hard. There’s a joke that the quickest way to lose a million dollars is to buy a dealership.

I hope that all of this helps you because there’s three parts to it. Somebody’s got to come in with a pretty good chunk of change in order to make it go.

So that was the one question from today’s episode, and now we’re onto the first book:

  1.       Culture Code

The first book I would have you read if you wanted to understand marketing is a book called Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille. It’s okay if you have trouble saying that one out loud because I do, too.

Now, there’s a bunch of books called Culture Code, so be careful. This is the one you want with Clotaire, and the subtitle is An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do. The story on him was that he was a doctor trying to pioneer a way for autistic kids to learn. His neighbor was the president of Nestle and asked him, “Hey, can you go to Japan and do a study, and tell me why people there won’t drink coffee? He did this, came back, and he said, “You’ve got to make candy and things for kids that are coffee-flavored, and then the next generation will like coffee.”

Then he did a thing for Chrysler where he helped them design a car. It’s all described in the book where Chrysler came to him and said, “We know that our customers want gas mileage, reliability, and safety. Those three things.” He helped them design a car that was supposed to save them, but it turned out it wasn’t very reliable. It got terrible mileage and it was not safe. I’ll let you read the rest of it in the book, but it’s a great one. It’s just about understanding the deeper psychology of what motivates people more than anything else.

  1.       Ultimate Sales Machine

Another one I would do is The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. There’s some stuff in here on marketing and his system for presenting that I think is helpful, but it’s also a great book.

  1.       Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

I was lucky enough to be in a mastermind with Robert Cialdini for a while, but he wrote a book called The Psychology of Persuasion, and the title of this one is Influence. What I love about this book is it’s just case study after case study after case study after case study. That’s it. My favorite takeaway from it is this one with a piano store.

So they have a piano store, and they take customers to the cheapest piano first, then the grand piano, and then they do it in reverse. Their average sales were higher when they showed them the grand piano first. I thought that was unbelievable!

  1.       The Letter Book

Now, Robert Collier has written a bunch of good books, but this one’s pretty great. It’s called The Letter Book. He also wrote one of my top five books, Winning Through Intimidation.

  1.        A by Andy Warhol, and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

If you talk about the most successful artists, then Warhol has to be on that list. I have a first edition of A that I kept wrapped in plastic for the longest time, and then I have The Philosophy of Andy Warhol from A to B and Back Again, and if you look at it, he actually signed that copy and drew his famous soup can.

The thing that you want to pay attention to with Andy is his approach, his mindset, but he’s also building a machine. He was one of the first to do screen prints and limited editions, that sort of thing. He had a factory. When you think about art, you think about originals, but he pioneered a different way of doing it and less effort for more revenue.

  1.       Propaganda Front: Postcards from the Era of World Wars

This one’s by Hennessy and Ingalls. I have a bunch of these in a whole section on my bookshelf of propaganda books. The reason why I like propaganda, like old German, Russian, and American propaganda is because there’s a system to it. There’s a look, there’s a color palette to it more than anything else. It’s a lot of red, black cream. There’s a way people stand, a posture; it’s leadership in a way. It’s marketing at a very, very high level when you’re trying to get a whole country to do what you want.

  1.       Design of Dissent, Expanded Edition: Greed, Nationalism, Alternative Facts, and Resonance

Same thing, just propaganda posters, but this one is by Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic. Those are good to look at, especially if you’re doing any sort of banners or websites online.

  1.       Re-Imagine!

So anything by Tom Peters is great, but this book is amazing and it’s an easy read. It’s the kind of book where you can just pick it up and turn to any page.

  1.       Anything by Dan Kennedy

The last ones I’ll recommend are from Dan Kennedy and I don’t think anybody’s influenced me more than him. I love him. He’s grumpy, but he’s taught me more about marketing than anybody. I love his approach. I had somebody watching his videos the other day, and they just hated him, and I didn’t understand. It surprised me because his work changed my life.

Here are a couple for you to dip your toe into the water: Marketing to the Affluent, The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost Your Sales, and… here’s a mouthful… No B.S. Direct Marketing: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing for Non-Direct Marketing Businesses.

Marketing to the Affluent is a great book. He has some courses you can buy on his website. Influential Copywriting is probably his best course. I watched that one maybe 10 times in my life. It’s old, but it’s great. I would buy it and support him if you’re going to do it. I think it’s like $2,500 or something, but it’s worth it. Those are the first half of my marketing books.

Those are the first half of my marketing books. In the next episode, we’re going to get a little deeper, a little crazier, and a little more abstract.

My next recommendation outside of books is a big documentary on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s called The Social Dilemma.

It’ll scare you to death. You’ll delete all of your social media after that. Except for Christian, because he’s evidently going to be a TikTok star.

Thanks so much for watching this episode of Service Drive Revolution. We’re uploading new stuff every day so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss out. If you have a question you’d like us to answer on the show, call 833-3 ASK SDR, and we’ll answer your question on the show.

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Have a great week and we’ll see you next time on Service Drive Revolution!


If knowledge is power, then these books are a nuclear weapon for your business. Find out the best marketing books of all time, only on this week's Service Drive Revolution. Now streaming! Got a question? Call us at 1-833-327-5737 JOIN THE REVOLUTION --

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