Despite the volume of blogs, newsletters and other daily reading material I try to digest on a regular basis, books (in print or digital format) remain my favorite tools for changing the way I think, and redirecting the strategies I use for my business and our clients towards more effective, revenue-producing work.

Among the books I read this year, the seven below were my favorite. Not all were published this year (one, in fact, was published in the 1920’s), but these seven had the greatest impact and I highly recommend them if you haven’t yet had the opportunity.

In no particular order:

Scientific Advertising
by Claude C Hopkins: This book was written in 1923, and is incredibly relevant in today’s marketing world. Claude was one of the first to master the art of advertising and copywriting. This is a very short book, a one-night read, but if you have any role in sales or marketing, anything customer-facing really, I highly recommend this.

Mastering the Complex Sale
by Jeff Thull: Easily the best sales book I read this year. I also had the opportunity to see Jeff speak this spring at a Fortune Sales & Marketing conference. Among many important points, Jeff teaches the art of diagnostic selling, a next step from the consultative selling approach that many are likely familiar with. The gist is to help your prospect understand and quantify the cost of the current problem (that they may or may not have known they had), and to thereby make the cost of staying the same far greater than the cost of making a chance (hence driving urgency to buy, and preference with you for helping discover the problem & opportunity).

Content Rules
by Ann Handley & CC Chapman: The art of content marketing – blogs, podcasts, videos, white papers, webinars, etc. – is going to drive successful marketing strategy in the years to come. There are a number of great blogs and white papers out there that speak to various elements of effective content marketing strategy, but Content Rules ties it all together in one place. This is a dynamic field, and a second edition next year may look very different. But if you’re trying to wrap your head around the idea of content marketing for your business, this book is a great place to start.

Rework by Jason Fried: Our assumptions about how we work, when we work, where we work – generally how we are “supposed” to engage in successful business – is challenged in this book. Better yet, it’s challenged by a guy who’s practicing what he preaches every day in a very successful business that’s still thriving and growing today. This is another quick read, but I’d challenge you to pick 2-3 ideas from this book to adopt in your business (or at minimum your division, department or personal work habits) in 2011.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh: If you’re a fan or student of, you understand a good part of Tony’s premise in this book. But it’s still worth reading how he works through it, the psychology and fundamentals behind it, and how specifically it’s manifested in the incredible success he’s created at Zappos. If you were to step back and really understand what makes your customers happy (not profitable, not faster, not prettier….but happy), what could happen to your own profits, growth, and customer loyalty? This book will make you think.

Switch by Chip & Dan Heath: This book is relevant in so many ways. I work with big companies that are unsure how to manage through massive strategy shifts. Small companies that are afraid of damaging their fragile customer base or company cultures. Newcomers in mature markets who are struggling every day to capture market share from established brands. In each of these scenarios and more, this book is a must read. Chip & Dan break down why change happens, and the circumstances in which it happens smoothly and successfully. Each individual criteria they identify offers an important key for driving change in our own organizations.

Branding Basics for Small Business by Maria Ross: I don’t care if you’re a brand-new business or a Fortune 500 company. It’s very easy to make brand strategy too complicated. Do yourself a favor and think about building a successful brand from the ground up, from the perspective of an organization or entrepreneur who’s starting from scratch and doesn’t understand brand at all. This book is one of the first I’ve read on brand that assumes you know nothing, and builds you up from there. It’s refreshing, easy to read, and highly practical.