Let’s go through 10 of the very best books for entrepreneurs. Now, it should go without saying, but none of these books are required for you to become an entrepreneur.
You can go and start a business, you can achieve great things all without ever reading a single one of the books on this list. But if you take that route, you will almost certainly end up spending a lot of time, energy and money rediscovering things that other entrepreneurs have already solved for you.
And in some cases, you might never discover a key insight that could literally save you months or even years of frustration. So, think of these books as shortcuts.
Each one of them covers a unique perspective that can not only save you time and energy and money but can also help you have a greater impact as an entrepreneur. So with that in mind, let’s dive into the first book in the list.
“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. This is a book that I recommend every entrepreneur reads, at least once. It really stresses the value of understanding the assumptions that you’re making in your startup. Getting clear on the areas of uncertainty, and then focusing on figuring out how you can address that uncertainty really quickly and inexpensively. So the book popularizes the idea of the minimum viable product also referred to as MVP. This is a very popular idea in the startup world, often very misunderstood, but the basic premise is you wanna start with a very simple version of your product to assess some of these areas of uncertainty, to get clear on whether or not you’re moving in the right direction. And then from there, you can continue to iterate and improve the product as you learn more about what exactly customers value. So a really important book.
Next on the list is “Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. The number one reason why new startups fail is that they aren’t able to attract enough customers. So, this book really recommends that right from the beginning, you split your time 50/50, between everything involved in building out the product or the business or the brand. And on the other hand, figuring out how to connect with potential customers, gathering as much feedback as possible, and developing marketing channels so that by the time your product is ready to go, you have the other side of the equation ready as well. That way you don’t fall into the trap of launching a product only to discover nobody is particularly interested in it or that you’re not able to reach them in a cost-effective way. So the book covers 19 different traction channels or marketing channels that you can use to attract customers and it’s got some powerful frameworks and ideas for how to select and execute on the best marketing opportunities for your business.
Next on the list is “Sprint” by Jake Knapp. This book covers Google Ventures, a unique five-day process for answering critical questions really early in the startup process. So it’s all about rapid prototyping and testing ideas with customers. Now, in many ways it builds on some of the ideas from the “Lean Startup” where that book really focuses on why you wanna build something like an MVP, and even how to go about that in certain ways. This book takes that to the next level with a whole bunch of strategies, frameworks, tactics, how to solve these problems, how to come up with creative solutions, how to work with your team to brainstorm ideas for your prototype, how to solve a big problem, how to break out of a rut, how to make quick progress, all kinds of topics like this when it comes to actually execute on that strategy for a wide variety of products and services out there. So if you’re looking for examples and tactics for pulling off something like an MVP, or even just a prototype to answer early questions, then this is almost certainly the book for you.
Next on the list is “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick. One of the fastest ways to improve your idea is by talking with early potential customers. Even before you build the product or a prototype or anything like that, you wanna gather important feedback to make sure that you’re headed in the right direction. Now, the issue that often crops up when most people go to talk with customers is that they end up selling the idea. And really what they’re looking for is validation. They wanna make sure they’re moving in the right direction. They’re not really gathering feedback, they simply wanna see that nod from a potential customer that yup, you’re moving in the right direction. And unfortunately, the way these conversations usually take shape, you really set up the other side to only be able to offer some kind of mild or blind encouragement just because they’re simply trying to be socially polite. So the idea behind this book is about how to really conduct these conversations to make sure you’re not just getting blind encouragement, but you’re getting useful concrete, practical information that you can use to improve your idea and to not only make sure that you’re moving in the right direction but that it’s more likely that you’ll eventually land on a winning product that creates more value for your potential customers.
Next on the list is “Start At The End” by Matt Wallaert. This book is all about how to build products that create change. And as the title suggests, it’s all about starting at the end, getting very clear on how you wanna see customers use or engage with your product or your service or whatever it is that you’re building. And once you know exactly what it is that you want people to do and how you want their behavior to be changed by the product, then you work backward from there and design the product in such a way that that outcome is more likely. So the book explains the intervention design process or IDP for short, and how to create a product in such a way that you can alter the behavior of your customers and make it more likely that they will benefit from what it is that they purchased. And of course, this can result in all kinds of benefits from more positive reviews, word-of-mouth referral, repeat business over time and just generally, if you’re doing this right, a much more happy and engaged customer.
Next on the list is “Building A Storybrand” by Donald Miller. There’s a big difference between creating something that customers want or need and being able to effectively communicate that with them, where they get it and they understand what it is, who it’s for and how it can benefit them. So this book is all about how to clarify your message so customers will listen. So they’ll get it, they’ll understand what it is that you’re offering and how it can help them. Because the worst thing that you can achieve in marketing is having customers say no only because they don’t get it. It’s okay if they say yes and it’s okay if they make an informed no, it might just not be for them. But you don’t want people to say no simply because they don’t even really understand the value proposition. So this book is all about making sure that you’re able to clarify what it is that you’re offering, and that can be digested in an easy way where they get it, they understand it. And even if it’s not for them, maybe they can recommend it to a friend or a family member, because at very least they understand exactly what it is that you’re offering. So, it can help not only with clarity, but it can also help with word-of-mouth referrals and making sure that you get your message out there so people can understand what you’re offering and make a clear and informed decision.
Next on the list is “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. This is one of my all-time favorite books, it’s about the power of positioning. So it explains how certain businesses are able to create an association between a product category and their specific brand. So for example, if I mentioned a category like fast food, most people immediately associate that category with McDonald’s. And if I mentioned coffee shops, most people think of Starbucks. If I mentioned ride-sharing, it might be Uber. There are many, many examples of this. And the idea here is you wanna own this connection. You want it so that when people think of your product category, one that’s directly related to your product or your brand, you want them to have that association where they instantly think of you. Because if you can achieve this, you effectively live rent-free in the minds of customers. Every time they think of the category, they think of you, that’s the best thing you could possibly hope for in a category. And so this explains a few different strategies on how so you can achieve this status and if there’s already a rival business or a competitor that has that status, a few different ways that you can approach circumventing that control and actually ultimately in a roundabout way, achieving that status in your own unique way. So if you’re interested in learning more, definitely pick up a copy of this book, it’s a relatively short read.
Next on the list is “Contagious” by Jonah Berger. One of the most important factors in business success is a word-of-mouth referral. If you can make it ever so slightly more likely that your average prospect or customer will recommend your products or your services to other people, this can have a profound impact on the longterm prospects for your business. Because instead of having to chase down every future sale using paid advertising or other tactics like that, you can have customers flocking to your business because they’ve been recommended by other people that are already enjoying your products and your services. So, this book is all about the six principles of contagiousness, six different things that you can incorporate into your products or services to make it more likely that they will spread through word-of-mouth referral. And the book has many examples of how you can incorporate one or more of these ideas into your products and it shows how other companies have done the same in order to make their products more likely to spread. So, an absolute must-read if you wanna take advantage of word-of-mouth referral.
Next, on the list is “Hooked” by Nir Eyal. Another really important factor when it comes to long-term success is driving repeat usage and engagement. Having customers come back to your product or your service on a consistent basis. Now, the way that a lot of companies approach this, especially when it comes to subscription services or consumable products where they need to come back and buy more of some aspect of the product over time is they engage in expensive marketing campaigns, paid promotions, maybe community building, or running contests, things like this to keep bringing customers back to the product. But depending on exactly what it is that you sell this might not be cost-effective, or you may just be looking for a way to save a lot of time, energy and money by doing things differently. And so this book explains how to create habit-forming products, how to build products in such a way that customers will come back over and over again, completely unprompted. You don’t have to run marketing campaigns or contests or anything like that. They come because they develop a habit of using the product. And so this book explains the hook model, a four-step cycle that involves trigger, action, variable reward, and investment. And if you can incorporate these elements properly into your product or service, this can result in completely unprompted re-engagement or customers just keep coming back. They cycle through this loop over and over again, and they come back without you necessarily having to spend additional money.
Last on the list is “Crossing The Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore. This book is about how to sell disruptive products to mainstream customers. And the reason why it’s so important is it explains the different kinds of customers that you will almost certainly encounter throughout your journey as an entrepreneur. So two examples that I’ll give you from the book among several others that are covered, include early adopters and pragmatist mainstream customers. So early adopters represent a relatively small portion of the market, but these are people that love to try new and interesting solutions. So if you’re bringing a disruptive product to market something that causes customers to have to alter or change their behavior, whether it’s technology-related or it’s just a new approach, early adopters love these kinds of solutions. And they’re more than willing to try them out, but they’re a relatively small portion of the market. Whereas pragmatist mainstream customers, what they want is proven complete solutions. They don’t wanna try new things, they’re looking for the proven solution that other people like them are already using. And so a book like this explains these different kinds of customers that you will likely encounter. And perhaps most importantly, how to cross the chasm from early adopters to pragmatist mainstream customers, how to shift from this small audience that loves new things to this much larger audience, where much more revenue, many more profits can be earned by appealing to what they value. And it’s a very different audience with totally different values. So if you wanna understand how to navigate these waters, how to understand the differences between different kinds of customers, you will almost certainly encounter. Then this is an absolute must-read.