Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Just when you thought you had wrapped up your list of New Year’s resolutions, I have one more for you and the rest of your management team: A strategic marketing reading list for 2004.

The good news is that most of these books are quick reads, and more importantly, all of them are invaluable for a technology services business. Some of these I read over a decade ago and still use as reference books. Occasionally I even re-read them.

Some contain profound and fresh insights, while others will reinforce what you already know and forget to do. If you don’t have formal strategic planning or marketing training, you’ll find the books to be practical and useful regardless of your role within the company. If you are in a leadership position, have everyone on the team read these. They will give you common reference points and vernacular as you move forward.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I consider these to be a starting point. I’ve listed them here in order of priority, starting with Crossing the Chasm.

Theresa’s top two

1.Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore – This is Marketing 101 with a technology twist. Moore documents a common pattern/pitfall called the “chasm,” which you need to understand and plan for if you want to stay in business. Overall, it’s a great strategic marketing primer if you don’t have a marketing background, and it’s a great refresher if you do.

It’s geared toward product companies but has useful applications for the service business, as well. You’ll get through this one in a single plane trip but underline key passages and take notes. Afterward, keep it within arm’s reach for future reference – my first copy is almost worn out.

2. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout – I recommend all of their books, but if you can only read one, this is it. The format makes it easy to digest, and you can probably finish it in one sitting (or plane ride). It’s as much a strategy book as a marketing book. It’s full of common sense, and yet eight out of 10 technology service companies break these laws and are suffering the consequences. The CEO and senior executives all need to read this. Yes, it’s generic in nature, but the laws are highly applicable to technology services.

Next page: Tackling competition

3. Competitive Strategy by Michael E. Porter – The only reason this book is at number three instead of number one is that it’s a denser read. But when it comes to strategy and its marketing implications, Michael Porter is the guru of gurus. If you ignore what he has to say, you won’t survive. On the other hand, if you take his advice, you can become the undisputed, highly profitable leader in your sector.

If you make it through this book, pick up the bigger yet equally valuable companion text, Competitive Advantage. Keep both handy as your strategy bibles.

4. Marketing Services: Competing Through Quality by Leonard L. Berry and A. Parasuraman – What I love about this book is that they emphasizes what most people don’t understand about marketing in a services company: It’s everyone’s job.

While most of their examples deal with consumer services, their content is highly applicable to a technology services company. Sophisticated market dominance strategies won’t do you much good until you’ve nailed the fundamentals prescribed in this book.

5. Strategic Selling by Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman – Though there are lots of great selling techniques on the market, this book is highly applicable to technology services. It offers a terrific and simple framework that explains the complex and confusing process many of your buyers put you through. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of the various roles that buyers and influencers play, how to manage them, and how to avoid common pitfalls. Everyone in your company who helps market, sell or deliver services should read it. (Current edition is referred to as New Strategic Selling).

Focusing for success

6. Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith –
This is another one you’ll read in one sitting. It’s also a collection of immutable laws, each accompanied by a one- or two-page explanation. You’ll be tempted to dismiss them as platitudes until you realize you’re failing on many fronts. Prepare to feel a little humbled. Fortunately, it shouldn’t take long to achieve substantial improvement by using these as a checklist, and you’ll be much more profitable as a result.

7. Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends On It by Al Ries – If you are skeptical as to the wisdom of narrowing your market focus and still get tempted to provide a broad range of services for a broad range of companies, you MUST read this book. I speak from experience. The book offers at least a thousand examples and can get a little repetitive, but plow on through. You’ll learn why a smaller target market leads to much larger profits and faster growth.

8. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout – I couldn’t resist adding one more book by these guys, because poor positioning is one of the biggest problems facing companies in this industry, and this book nails it. While aimed at a general audience, the concepts are highly relevant to your services business, regardless of your size. It’s a quick read, is full of examples, and may well become your positioning handbook. This is a definite read for the CEO.

Honing your management skills

9. Managing the Professional Service Firm by David Maister –
This book is one of the few books out there that addresses management and operating issues unique to a professional services company. It primarily speaks to the partnership model of accounting and law firms and is somewhat outdated from the perspective of the technology services industry; nevertheless, my copy is marked up with notes and underlined passages that still apply. It doesn’t go much further than the basics, but again, they are basics you are probably neglecting to consciously address. It’s worth the time for a quick read-through. Then keep it on your shelf as a reference book.

10. True Professionalism by David Maister – If you find this book to be full of new and profound insights, you may not be ready for the other books on this list. It’s motherhood-and-apple-pie and is most useful for less progressive consulting or law firms. On the other hand, I guarantee there are plenty of fundamentals in here you are neglecting to do. The book contains some useful, practical suggestions and offers frameworks that will help you reflect on your current market position and how to possibly adjust it.

These are ten books I’ve found to be extremely valuable and practical when developing the vision, strategy and marketing initiatives for technology services companies aiming to increase margins, grow and dominate their chosen markets. You should definitely add them to your personal reference library. All are available through

I’m sure there are many more gems out there have helped you with the strategy and marketing challenges unique to technology services companies. Send me your own personal favorites, and I’ll share them with your fellow readers. Email me at and put “Recommended Reading” in the subject header. Please provide your name, company and title, and let me know whether it’s okay to give you credit in print.

Theresa Lina Stevens specializes in market dominance strategy and marketing for IT and professional services companies. She is CEO of Lina Group Inc., which helps clients gain and sustain a unique and high-profit, high-growth market position through a proprietary approach called the Apollo Method for Market Dominance. You can reach her at or visit the Lina Group website at