Inbound marketing is a popular way to market that favours valuable information and experiences over unhelpful sales babble. When marketers follow the inbound method, they put an emphasis on informing and entertaining a prospect through the entire buyer’s journey, using a variety of content formats.
Inbound marketing pulls customers close, instead of pushing them to take action. But that’s not all. There are many different parts of the inbound methodology with principles, tools and strategies to boot.
To become an effective inbound marketer, you’ll need to spend time familiarising yourself with the concept and learn how it will work for your business. As inbound marketing enthusiasts, we’ve read many books, downloads and blog posts on the topic in our time. In this blog, we’ve whittled it down to our favourite ten texts (with some added extras at the very end).
1. Marketing 5.0: Technology for Humanity by Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya and Iwan Setiawan
The latest of Kotler’s work, Marketing 5.0 explores budding forms of technology - marketing automation, facial recognition and augmented reality to name a few - relating to digital marketing.
Throughout the text, Kotler and co-authors Kartajaya and Setiawan, tackle two opposites: technology and humans.
In doing so, this book helps readers to understand where inbound marketing fits in today’s perplexing technology puzzle and arms marketers with the knowledge they need to create a true human connection via mediums that feel, well, pretty robotic at times.
2. The Inbound Marketing Playbook: How to Kickstart Your Inbound Strategy and Get Results by Cosmin Patlageanu
Published in 2020, this is one of the most recent book releases dedicated solely to inbound marketing. As a playbook, this text surpasses written theory and theoretical examples, instead offering an actionable plan marketers can use to instantly implement inbound marketing into their everyday.
As a results-based book, this text also explains how inbound marketing helps your business succeed, as opposed to always talking about the big benefit to your customer.
This is a great resource to explain the value of inbound marketing to uncertain executives or get buy-in from your entire team.
3. This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See by Seth Godin
Seth Godin has officially made it into mainstream publishing, meaning it won’t just be diehard marketers that recognise this iconic, orange cover.
In perhaps his most famous book to date, Godin attempts to teach marketing to any type of audience. As such, the book is regarded as a marketing Bible to many, covering positioning, storytelling and the transition from traditional to modern marketing, among other key concepts.
The engaging way that Godin writes means this is hands-down the most enjoyable text to read on this list. It’s less textbook and more anecdotal, giving it more appeal than most marketing manuals.
4. Sustainable Marketing: How to Drive Profits with Purpose by Michelle Carvill, Gemma Butler and Geraint Evans
Although not a book strictly about inbound marketing, this text helps add another element to the inbound discussion.
Dealing with the topic of transparency and authenticity in business, Sustainable Marketing feeds into much of inbound marketing’s philosophy: to provide relevant, valuable messages to customers. With most customers now keen to adopt brands with squeaky clean ethics and environmentally-focused aims, this work can be considered to cover one of the latest developments in modern marketing.
This is one of the few marketing books that can be passed around an entire organisation without it feeling too niche for everyone from junior staff to senior management to find value in.
5. Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage and Delight Customers Online by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
As the founders of HubSpot - the inbound marketing CRM platform we exclusively use at Digital 22 - Halligan and Shah are the true inbound authority.
In this book, they discuss each stage of the inbound methodology, explaining how you can attract, engage and delight customers. As a tried-and-tested resource, this text is frequently revised and updated to give both evergreen advice and of the time information.
With a bonus Entrepreneur’s Guide to Startup Marketing, this book is written with an amateur audience in mind. This makes the text one of the most accessible introductions to inbound marketing, meaning anyone, even those with no understanding, can read it.
Put simply, if you want to practise inbound marketing, having this title on your bookshelf is a must.
6. Inbound Marketing And SEO: Insights From The Moz Blog by Rand Fiskin & Thomas Høgenhaven
Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz and the co-author of this book, is no stranger to digital marketing.
In Inbound Marketing and SEO Insights From The Moz Blog, Fishkin explores inbound marketing from a search perspective, ensuring we can write for humans and still win in the game of search.
However, it’s worth noting this book was published in 2013 and much has changed in search since then. Needless to say, specific search examples and best practices should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Still, as far as inbound marketing books go, this is a worthy read providing clarity on the need to balance search and customer engagement efforts.
Also read: 5 Books Every Tech Marketer Should Read
7. Getting Goosebumps: A Pragmatic Guide To Effective Inbound Marketing and Talent Attraction by Bryan Adams and Dave Hazlehurst
This isn't the first inbound marketing book by Adams and Hazlehurst, with another volume, A Pragmatic Guide to Effective Inbound Marketing: Emotionally Connect with Your Audience and Achieve Business Objectives, being published in 2015.
An updated version of the original bestseller, this volume offers additional insights covering more than just how to attract customers, but also how to attract talent (otherwise known as internal customers).
With this book, Adams and Hazlehurst have stretched the definition of inbound marketing to mean more than just selling to a customer in the traditional sense, allowing us to redefine the boundaries of inbound marketing and the impact it can have on our business.
8. Blog To Win Business: How To Enchant Readers and Woo Customers by Henneke Duistermaat
Blogging is a key part of any inbound strategy, so it’s no surprise this book hones in on the art of blogging, showing how engaging, informative content can strengthen a customer’s relationship with your business.
In this book, master blogger Henneke Duistermaat teaches people how to enchant readers with their content. The text guides readers through each step of the content creation process explaining the basics such as finding your unique voice and determining who you’re writing for.
Whether you’re a writing novice or a blogging pro, you’ll find some benefit from this book.
9. The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million by Mark Roberge
From his experience working with HubSpot, Mark Roberge shares his insight on modern marketing.
While there are lots of sales books out there, Roberge's book speaks directly to marketers, explaining how the sales process is impacted by everyday developments related to data and technology.
Ultimately, we recommend reading this book above other sales manuals as Roberge offers practical steps and solutions to sales problems, rather than just highlighting them.
10. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley
Despite the book’s old publication date - first released in 2014 - Ann Handley’s work Everybody Writes is still relevant today.
In it, Handley discusses content creation generally, sharing tips and actionable advice along the way.
While you may have to ignore ageing case studies of landing pages, blogs, emails and marketing campaigns, it’s worth spending some time filtering through the sometimes outdated and sometimes evergreen information to take away the good stuff.
Other ways to learn about inbound
If you’re not a bookworm or if you struggle to find enough time to read a text in its entirety, all is not lost.
There are plenty of other, just as useful, ways to learn the art of inbound marketing that don’t require an entire afternoon of research.
- Listening to Digital 22’s podcast Inbound After Hours: Inbound After Hours is our in-house podcast providing you with useful tips and tricks from our Elite HubSpot agency. The podcast is informative yet informal, allowing you to get the latest inbound updates with ease
- Reading the HubSpot marketing blog: Who better to learn about inbound marketing from than its creator? HubSpot’s marketing blog is packed with practical information about every imaginable marketing topic from writing engaging email newsletters to learning about permalinks. For those in a time crunch, you can see how long each blog will take to read at the top of the page
- Watching the world around you: There are examples of inbound marketing all around us if we look hard enough. To learn about inbound, we just need to be aware of it and how it might be playing into our own lives as a customer. When was the last time you consulted Google to solve a problem? You likely read an excerpt from a well-written inbound blog. Take a step back and scrutinise your own interactions with your favourite companies. How do they help to inform, entertain and persuade us?
When you’ve done enough research and you’re ready to put your newfound inbound knowledge into practice, download our inbound templates, designed to help you implement inbound marketing for the first time.
From crafting a buyer persona to performing a content audit, these templates cover everything you’ll need to launch your first inbound marketing campaign.
Download the templates by clicking the link below.
Originally written in 2016.
Updated in June 2021 by Bethany Spence.