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Marketing Bookshelf: On Strategic Marketing

In our Marketing Bookshelf series, we review popular business and marketing books and report back on their applicability and/or utility to marketers in the A/E/C industry. Is that book your boss is always telling you to read actually helpful, or just another passing business fad? Andrew J. Beaton, a Senior Communications Specialist with CDM Smith, is our guide through tomes both useful and irrelevant!

If you’re looking for business wisdom in an easy-to-digest package, I highly recommend the Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads series. Each edition contains a batch of excellent essays from the publication’s illustrious catalogue, often mixing classic articles from past decades with highly relevant new material. Every article is accompanied by an “Idea in Brief” sidebar that summarizes the content to come, which not only provides you with a helpful executive summary, but also lets you decide if that essay is even relevant to your interests. If not — flip on to the next chapter! But you’ll generally find yourself reading every last page, because the 10 Must Reads books don’t mess around when it comes to thought-provoking, compelling content. Plus, with their bold-colored covers, they look great on a bookshelf!

10 Must Reads on Strategic Marketing by Harvard Business Review | $12.99 for Amazon Kindle

There are several editions of the series that I’ve read and enjoyed, but for purposes of A/E/C marketing, the On Strategic Marketing volume is the one I’d recommend that you read first. While many varied insights are contained herein, the 10 essays in this edition repeatedly return to an essential central theme: Don’t market products or services in a vacuum. Understand and cultivate your customers and provide them with partnership in accomplishing their goals.

The essays you’ll find in this book are:

Rethinking Marketing (2010). “To compete in an aggressively interactive environment, companies must shift their focus from driving transactions to maximizing customer lifetime value.”

Branding in the Digital Age (2010). “We believe that marketing will increasingly take a lead role in distributing customer insights across the organization…discoveries about ‘what the customer says’ may be highly relevant to product development or service programs.”

Marketing Myopia (1960). “What business are you really in? Concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than selling products.”

Marketing Malpractice (2005). “The great Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt used to tell his students, ‘People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!’”

The Brand Report Card (2000). “A brand report card can help you identify areas that need improvement, recognize areas in which your brand is strong, and learn more about how your particular brand is configured.”

The Female Economy (2009). “In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined.”

Customer Value Propositions in Business Markets (2006). “‘We can save you money!’ won’t cut it as a customer value proposition. Back up this claim in accessible, persuasive language that describes the difference between your offerings and your rivals’.”

Getting Brand Communities Right (2009). “Engineer the community, and the brand will be strong.”

The One Number You Need To Grow (2003). “When customers recommend you, they’re puttingtheir reputations on the line. And they’ll take that risk only if they’re intensely loyal.”

Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing (2006). “Create the right relationship between sales and marketing, and you reduce internecine squabbling, enabling these former combatants to boost top- and bottom-line growth, together.”

As with many books of marketing wisdom, the discussions often stray towards the B2C side of the business world, diverting into discussions of consumer product branding, positioning and marketing in a vein that is less helpful to the A/E/C marketer. Indeed, the writers of On Marketing note numerous times that the customer-centric model that our industry generally uses is superior to the product-centric model that consumer product companies often rely on, and much time is devoted to making that argument…to an end that is already mostly settled law in our world. But with that said, we can always use a reminder that it’s not all about us when trying to make the case for our team to win a project!

While these 10 essays vary in their A/E/C relevance and overall entertainment value, each one provided me with useful takeaways. Insights on how marketing can successfully interface with sales and IT have been hugely insightful to me while working in a large organization. And as a former small-business marketing manager, the best practices on brand building definitely rang true. In conclusion, I have to concur with Harvard Business Review and call these 10 articles true Must Reads.


Andrew J. Beaton is an Associate and Manager of Marketing & Communications with CDM Smith and the President of SMPS Boston. In addition to his passion for A/E/C marketing, he enjoys meeting new people, reading about history, eating great/weird food, and celebrating the fine films of Nicolas Cage.

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