stress management techniques

Stress Management Techniques Small Business Owners Need to Know

Ok. First thing’s first. Find nearest heavy object and throw it at an employee. Feeling better?

I’m just kidding. Definitely, do not do what I mentioned above.

As a small business owner, you have a lot of hard work and pressure constantly weighing on your shoulders. Sometimes yelling or throwing objects may seem like a great idea.

But having a lawsuit on your hands, along with regular responsibilities such as unpredictability of revenue, or team performance won't help your stress levels.

It’s bad enough you can’t have a good work/life balance, but the effects of stress can be ridiculous -- everything from waning health to death. To ensure you have a long and happy life, you need to evaluate these stressors and learn how to exorcise them like the terrible demons they are.

Instant Stress Management Techniques

Treat Yourself

I’m a firm believer that treating yourself to something nice helps to reduce stress. Whether it’s shopping, massage, or a little weekend getaway, every month you should do something for yourself.

By simply scheduling a massage, you can lower your cortisol (stress hormone) levels by a third!

Eat the Right Food

You know the saying “You are what you eat”? Well eating green leafy vegetables, blueberries and other superfoods can actually reduce your risk for depression. So the next time you’re starting to get stressed, grab some blueberries instead of that cup of coffee. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in the berries will give that stress the kick in the butt it needs.

Make a Kickass Playlist

Remember how I mentioned that treating yourself to a massage can lower cortisol levels by a third? Well having a great playlist can cut cortisol elevation by up to 66%! The trick here is to listen to something calming and avoid the urge to throw on some heavy metal and dubstep. Me personally, I opt for a Reggae Ohana playlist, Motown Hits, or classical. But hey, to each their own.

Get Help

I don’t mean hire a psychiatrist. I mean ask someone at your office for help. 1 in 10 business owners work more than 70 hours per week, and the vast majority work way more hours than they should. The best way to decrease your workload? Learn to delegate. Make sure you hire the best people and you let them take over some of the tasks that you’re overloading yourself with. I'm convinced that delegation is the key for success.

Power Nap

I’m one of those people who’s regularly guilty of never getting enough sleep. If you’re unable to get 8 hours of sleep, then find some time during the day to power nap. It may some contradictory to what you’d expect, but a power nap can boost productivity and cognitive function. NASA space pilots tested this nap theory and found that pilots who took naps were able to increase performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.

Puppies = Happiness

Not all office spaces are dog-friendly, but if yours is, then I suggest bringing your puppy to work. A study by Virgina Commonwealth University showed that workers who had dogs near them as they worked saw stress decline by 11%, while those without a furry friend saw stress levels rise by a whopping 70%!

Work Out

44% of business owners and managers say that the stress of their business damages their health. 22% say they’ve gained weight and 14% of people surveyed said they had a shorter temper. My advice, save your anger for the weights, not your work. Even something as simple as going for a 20-30 minute jog will give you that endorphin rush you need to fight stress. We have a great list of company fitness challenges that will help get your team moving, or if you want to switch companies entirely, we have a list of companies with onsite gyms.

There’s an App for That

Whether it’s using an App tons schedule your day or one to help you through guided meditation, there’s something here for everyone. Breathe2Relax is a great app to give you a moment to just clear your mind and breathe. Taking a breath can elicit the relaxation response which helps to decrease your metabolism, slow your heartbeat, relax muscles, and decrease blood pressure. Scheduling apps like Any.Do also help you reduce stress because they give you a simple todo list to let you know what you need to knock out for the day.

Get Creative

When things get stressful at work, out goes the fun. One of the ways that I personally use to de-stress at work is to get creative. Whether it’s writing about zombies or my favorite TV shows, getting creative helps you relax and have fun. If you’re not one for writing, then try knitting or a brief doodling session. Students at the University of Cincinnati created a Stress Less Zone where they provided knitting and painting tools to help students de-stress during finals week.

Take a Walk

When you’re busy working, you can lose track of time. So not only are you stressed but now you’re also sitting for long periods of time. And are you aware of the health hazards of sitting for long periods? Heart disease, foggy brain, overprotective pancreas, colon cancer, strained neck, spinal problems, mushy abs, poor circulation, yeesh. Every couple of hours, take 15 minutes to go for a walk outside. The walk will relieve your organs and body of the stress from sitting, and the sun will boost your serotonin ( a natural mood booster).

Are you currently stressed at work? What has you stressed?

Instapage vs Leadpages

There’s no shortage of tools out there to build landing pages. But when I looked around, I couldn’t find any real analysis behind the tools besides a few review websites. In this head-to-head challenge, I’m going to pit Instapage and Leadpages up against each other and tell you which is the winner.

A little background. Instapage and Leadpages are landing page tools. That means that they make it easy for you to create web pages designed to convert visitors into prospects or leads.

Common functionality includes the ease of building a page, the inclusion of signup forms, redirecting to specific URLs on form completion, templates to get started, integration with 3rd party email platforms, customization, the inclusion of tracking pixels, analytics, and A|B testing.

Enough of about the features, how do these two stack up.

Instapage vs Leadpages

Let’s start with Leadpages.
First, it’s and not Even as a past user, I would regularly go the wrong URL.

Let’s start with basic usability.

Leadpages has several templates to choose from and “drag and drop” templates for customization.

I found the templates to be very rigid and difficult to customize. If you wanted to just replace images and text, it works fine. But if you wanted to move things around, change image sizes for specific sections, then you’ll find it difficult or annoying to use.

Also, I found that the platform itself is incredibly slow. I would get frustrated trying to navigate and customize different sections of the page while waiting for it to load or catch up.

I do like the lightbox functionality of the forms, but being forced to use it in every situation seems a bit overkill.

My next big problem with Leadpages comes with the integration of other platforms. The connections were limited, and even integrating with their own spin-off tool Drip ( more complicated than expected to setup, and the form field integration wasn’t able to do things as simple as drop downs, selections, and other custom field types.

This was a big issue for me. When running multiple nurture campaigns based on company size, I needed to have the ability to incorporate those fields and create segmented campaigns.

For beginners, I would definitely not recommend Leadpages. You’ll get frustrated trying to get it to do what you want unless there’s a specific template that you’re planning to use with little to no customization.

For more experienced individuals who have used platforms like Wordpress or Mailchimp, you’ll also hate Leadpages. The functionality isn’t going to be flexible enough for your needs and in terms of the UI, it will remind you of an even worse version of the Hubspot landing page tool (don’t get me started on that one).

Verdict: Run away. Do not use Leadpages.


Spoiler alert: Instapage wins.

But that should have been obvious with how low of a bar Leadpages set. Don’t get it wrong, though, Instapage is an incredibly powerful tool. It leverages a true drag-and-drop interface where you can literally place any content where you want on the page. It’s not like Leadpages where there are strict zones on the page for the content.

Implementation of various HTML, javascript and tracking codes is as easy as pie with designated settings for each. You can even easily create a|b tests from the landing page and integrate the specific page to a number of different platforms. These include Aweber, MailChimp, Marketo, Infusionsoft, GoToWebinar, ZohoCRM, ConstantContact, GetResponse, Salesforce, Campaign Monitor, and Autopilot (my new favorite tool).

To top it off, they have a pretty large selection of templates that you can choose and customize. And Instapage is incredibly fast compared to Leadpages. Comparing the two is like putting a Ferrari up against a pack mule.

Regardless of skill, I recommend Instapage for your landing page tool. It’s easy to use for all skill levels and offers incredible flexibility for more design savvy users.

Verdict: Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

50 Shades of Office Romance

With the release of 50 Shades Darker this weekend, we thought it would be fun to examine office romances and provide a list of some films to satiate your office hookup appetite. But first, a little information and psychology behind office relationships.

Why do people find office romances so intriguing?

Psychology Today had a great write-up on the psychology behind the office romance. They bring up the intensity of a time pressured partnership working towards a common goal, and how it mirrors the intensity and synergy of sexual relationships.

On average, people spend a large majority of their time working at their office. And when you combine that time with the partnership of work-related tasks, it sets the stage for office romance. The more time they spend together, the more they start viewing themselves from the context of a relationship. I’m not saying every work partnership will turn into a scene from 50 Shades of Grey, but it happens more often than you'd think.

Statistics show that office romances and hookups are more common than ever. Apparently, 40-47% of employees surveyed have been in a workplace romance! Take a look around you, statistically, half your team has been involved "romantically." Considering the amount of popularity and the implications, I’m surprised office romances haven’t been examined at a greater level by other businesses.

The motives for office hookups range from time, love, companionship, ease of opportunity, sex, and professional motives.

1. Time

9-5PM. That’s a lot of time to spend with someone else, and naturally, you’ll share the intimate details of your life.

2. Love and Companionship

Though time plays a factor here, the more time you spend with someone the more you’ll feel a level of companionship, which is a building block for an office romance.

3. Ease of Opportunity

An office promotes close proximity to coworkers, and when you’re overloaded with work, it can be difficult to maintain a social life outside of your office. The workplace can become the next best thing to a social life that some employees may have.

4. Sex

Office hookups can be just that — hookups. Office relationships can simply be driven by two individuals wanting to cross that boundary for a physical relationship.

5. Professional Motives

The most frowned upon motive for office hookups are for professional motives. Employees desire to move up or get special perks by engaging in a physical or romantic relationship.

Now that you know the brief psychology behind office romances, here’s some of our favorite examples of office romances in film and television.

Best Movies and TV Shows With Office Romances

What Women Want

Mel Gibson before he went super "Mel Gibson" and Helen Hunt star in the romantic comedy about a mind-reading executive who starts a relationship with his boss.

500 Days of Summer

How can you not love JGL? Am I right? While the movie takes a deeper examination of true love and fate, it offers a fun story between the romance between two coworkers and it's effect on their personal and professional lives.


This movie really functions as a "what not to do" at an office. From the drinking to the office romance, HR managers can show this movie to their staff and just tell them to do the exact opposite of what they see and that should keep everyone in compliance.


If you haven't watched Amazon Prime's Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thorton, then you're missing out. This show features an Executive of a legal firm who routinely takes advantage of female employees.

Love Actually

One of the all-time feel-good Christmas Rom-Coms features two office romances, one involving Alan Rickman and his assistant, and other involving Hugh Grant and his assistant.


Mike Ross and Rachel Zane. One TV couple that shows that the office romance can work out with a happy ending (well sort-of).

Grey’s Anatomy

I don't even know where to start. Every member of this staff has been romantically involved at some point.


With national security a stake, can the country survive a relationship between two agents? Watch and find out.


Dr.Bones and Agent Boothe, a workplace romance that took years to come together.

That Awkward Moment

Zac Efron has a one night stand and soon finds out that she is the new client at his company. Things get awkward...


Not to give too many spoilers, but you'll want to tune-in to see what happens when the President of the United States has an affair with the White House Director of Communications. Let's just say things get a little bit... scandalous.



Does starting a romantic relationship with your work partner effect your ability to solve paranormal crime? Find out.



As a comic book nerd, I had to include at least one show based on the comic book universe. Oliver Queen (aka Green Arrow) is also the owner of a billion dollar company. He has an office romance with employee Felicity Smoak and even one of his partners in vigilante justice in Black Canary.

Parks and Recreation

Who doesn't love shows about dysfunctional workplaces and office hijinx?

What do you think of our list? Have any other examples you think should be added? Let us know in the comments!


lunch at billion dollar startups

What Lunch is Like at Billion Dollar Tech Companies...

Ever wonder what it’s like to have lunch at a startup valued in the billions? I did too. So I made a call to a friend who showed me around the lunch room at Dropbox. And then I called him again, and again. What makes Dropbox HQ lunches so great is they have something for everyone. Multiple entree stations, burger bar, vegetarian options, ice cream station, and multiple dessert trays.

Below you’ll see a series of lunches I had when visiting the Dropbox headquarters. Prepare to drool.

Because a single pig isn't enough. Dropbox had to have multiple roasted pigs for Chinese New Year.

Unleashing my inner Mongol.

A photo posted by Ronny Cheng ???? (@ronnyfcheng) on

Their catered lunches are as good as some Michelin star restaurants!

Needed a break from the brisket and dumpling diet. Avocado toast with radish

A photo posted by Ronny Cheng ???? (@ronnyfcheng) on

We all need a healthy break from pigs and lamb shanks every now and then right?

Dropbox should just open a restaurant already because this is ridiculous ... thanks again for the meal @the_benstagram

A photo posted by Ronny Cheng ???? (@ronnyfcheng) on

It's as ridiculous as you thought isn't it?

Are you full yet?

Hopefully Dropbox has some good fitness programs...

Not sure how @the_benstagram isn't fat working here every day... Beef bulgogi bahn mi and two hot wings #notdoneyet

A photo posted by Ronny Cheng ???? (@ronnyfcheng) on


Cannot believe they feed their employees like this... Shrimp okonomiyaki

A photo posted by Ronny Cheng ???? (@ronnyfcheng) on

Seared pork chop for company lunch!

A photo posted by Ronny Cheng ???? (@ronnyfcheng) on

Chief Diversity Officer Job Description

Chief Diversity Officer Job Description Sample

This Chief Diversity Officer job description template is optimized for posting on job boards. Each section is designed to help increase your visibility on job board search engines by leveraging SEO best practices.

A Chief Diversity Officer is responsible for creating an inclusive environment for all employees. Usually, good Chief Diversity Officers will focus on building recruiting, training, and activities that make employees feel comfortable regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or disability.

Below you’ll find a sample job description for a Chief Diversity Officer. You can copy the Chief Diversity Officer job description, but make sure to add your own information for company culture, perks/benefits, as well as double-check that the skills match your exact requirements.

Company Culture/Introduction:

{{This is where you’ll write a short introduction about your company and describe the culture. This is one of the most important sections, as it will be a key selling point for top candidates. Emphasize the company culture, perks, benefits, and anything else that makes your company amazing.}}

Job Description/ Why We’re Hiring:

We’re looking for a CTO who will take a key role on our team. Our CTO will be responsible for the technical vision and development of our {product/services}. You’ll be managing other engineers and developers, collaborating on the various layers of the infrastructure for our {{platform/application/etc.}}.

Chief Diversity Officer Duties, Responsibilities, and Expertise

{Below is a list of several skills and responsibilities of Chief Diversity Officers. Remember to remove any that do not fit your specific role}:

  • Serve as the key strategist responsible for guiding efforts and creating opportunities to define, assess and promote diversity and inclusive excellence, educational and employment opportunity, and cultural proficiency.
  • Work with all stakeholders to build a long-term plan for implementing plans and the metrics to measure success.
  • Create a vision for company's growth and how it will foster an environment of inclusiveness in relation to race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, etc.
  • Ensure recruiting processes to promote diversity, and acceptance for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, etc.
  • In-depth knowledge of issues of access, inclusion, diversity, equity, and multiculturalism in business settings.
  • Understanding of the various laws and regulations, as well as policies related to equality and diversity.
  • Successful track record with building high-performance teams.
  • Conflict resolution skills and ability to find solutions to complex problems.
  • {{Make sure to mention any additional knowledge or technology that is  relevant to your product/company}}

Benefits and Perks

{{Insert the benefits or company perks here. You’ll want to emphasize health, any fitness perks, flexible work schedule, stock, company catered lunches, etc}}.

Examples of Company Fitness Challenges

Many companies like to talk big. They make a big deal of how they try to create an amazing company culture and they respect work/life balance, but the truth is, most businesses fail at promoting a healthy lifestyle for employees.

While it’s one thing to talk the talk, offer gym stipends, healthy office snacks, etc. it’s still not enough. I’m not saying that you need to go the extent of forcing people to be active or take breaks, but you need to do something to promote healthier behavior in employees.

But why do you want healthier employees?

Here’s a look at some pretty awesome stats collected by Zane Benefits.

  • Employees who eat healthy are 25% more likely have higher job performance.
  • Employees who exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times/week, are 15% more likely to have higher job performance.
  • Healthy employees take fewer sick days as absenteeism is 27% lower for workers who eat healthy and exercise regularly.
  • Overweight employees cost their employers at least $73.1 billion a year.
  • Employees are 14% more engaged when provided time off to recharge, 10% more engaged when provided healthy food options, 18% more engaged when provided time for healthy activities, and 18% more engaged when provided a flexible schedule.
  • 93% of employers believe healthier employees are more productive

So, if healthy employees are such a big benefit for employers, what can they do to better promote healthy lifestyles for employees?

Examples of Company Fitness Challenges

Outside of providing onsite fitness centers, businesses should be implementing workplace fitness challenges to promote a more active lifestyle for employees.

Step Challenge

What better way to get your team moving than with some fitness challenges? Using programs like step challenges will have your team competing for prizes. Step challenges are a simple, very low barrier way to get your team active.

Wall Sit/Plank Challenge

What about a wall sit or plank challenge? Take 5 minutes out of the day to have every employee participate in a wall sit or plank challenge like FitBug. The goal is to have everyone do it for a set time, and increase the time for the challenge by 10 seconds each day.

Mile-A-Day Challenge

Each month challenge employees to track how many days they run at east 1 mile. The winner at the end of each month gets a prize.

Biggest Loser Challenge

12-week weight loss competition, based on a percentage of weight loss, not actual pounds. NutraClick offered a similar challenge but also provided employees with free personal training services to get them even more engaged.

Physical Activity Challenge

Employees set their own personal goals each week for physical activity. Track everyone and see who’s able to hit their goals. Offer some cool incentives like new gear, electronics, meal subscriptions, free maid service, etc.

Daily Workout Incentive Challenge 

Incentivize your employees to workout! Seems simple right? Well, for a personal fitness challenge you can have employees receive PTO credits for each time they workout for at least an hour.

Train for a 5K Program

Every city has a 5K walk/run. Get your team together to train every day leading up to the event. Make sure to make the training during regular office hours to prevent employees from having to do it on their own time. We’ve found that participation is best either at the end of the day before everyone heads home, early in the morning, or during lunch hours. Oh, and make sure to cover the signup costs for the 5K. The last thing you want is to have to make them pay for it on their own.

Company fitness challenges and programs are a great way to keep your team active and build camaraderie. Do you know of any other fitness challenges or have details on how it worked for your company? Let us know in the comments and we'll add it to our list.

Hulk Out at these Companies with Onsite Gyms

Since employer branding became a “thing”, countless businesses have done everything that can to outdo each other. One company offers Unlimited PTO, the next offers that plus Nap Pods at the office.

However, one of my favorite perks that companies started to offer were Gym/Fitness Stipends to pay for your wellness. I always thought this was an incredibly valuable perk, as it shows a company’s want for you to have a good work/life balance and healthy lifestyle. After all, we spend so many hours at work, screwing up our posture, they should invest in the health of their employees — Right?

But then companies tried to go bigger and better again, offering full-scale onsite gyms at the workplace. That’s pretty crazy — don’t you think?

Below is a list of some of the companies with onsite gyms that encourage you to workout at the workplace.

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Companies with Onsite Gyms at the Workplace


The Genentech gym, or “Club Genentech” as they call it, is a fully stocked gym with free acai bowls!

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As a fitness brand, you’d expect TRX to have a pretty kickass workplace gym. The onsite TRX gym features all of the latest TRX equipment, personal training courses and more.

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SAS Institute

Not only are the recognized as the Best Place to Work, but SAS has an amazing gym and fitness programs daily at work. Keeping employees healthy and engaged is clearly a priority for this company.

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General Mills

The General Mills HQ features a gym at the workplace and what I can assume is a never ending supply of Honey Nut Cheerios.

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Put them right up there with Google, Facebook is known for some awesome perks. But how does their gym hold up? Well, it features two full rooms of well-maintained machines, weight equipment, and even a third room for free fitness classes! Hell, they even have a rock wall outside and fields for team sports.

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Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants

Not all Kimptons are created equal. But some of the gyms they have at their hotels worldwide are just incredible.

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Red Ventures

Employees at Red Ventures have a pretty great setup. A complete onsite gym, workplace basketball court, onsite bowling alley, and a health center.

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We love gyms, but we love gyms with some character more. Zappos took an old city jail and converted it to a gym decorated in prison style.

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Verizon Wireless

Verizon has over 30 onsite gyms across the country, and even offer health care screenings, discounted weight loss programs and more.

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I bet you didn’t expect to see Chick-Fil-A on this list did you?  Chick-Fil-A has a complete wellness center, think weights, machines, cardio equipment galore. Oh, and they have a rooftop basketball court.

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MindBody provides software for the wellness industry. They provide an onsite fitness center and wellness programs to drive home their core values of wellness of : mind, body and spirit.

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95% of people probably don’t even know what Weebly does (they provide a website building platform), but that hasn’t stopped them from providing their employees with a pretty amazing gym.

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Honeywell employees cursh it at the office and at the gym with a fully stocked weight and cardio center at their multiple office locations.

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Rodale Inc.

You may not recognize the name, but Rodale is the owner of popular magazines like “Men’s Fitness.” They have an entire training center called the Rodale Energy Center that features full weight machines, cardio, spin classes and more.

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When it came to an onsite fitness center, ExxonMobil spared no expense. They provide employees with a 130,000 square foot Wellness Center with a three-story glass atrium, basketball court, fitness center, personal training service, and healthy dining service.

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When I think of Herbalife, the first I think of is a pyramid scheme. But besides their often controversial form of “Direct Selling,” they also have a great gym at the workplace for their employees.

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Apple is known for providing their employees with some great perks. Workplace gyms are just one of many perks that they offer their employees.

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It should be a standard for performance brands like Reebok to provide great workplace gyms. The UFC sponsor spares no expense in giving employees a great onsite fitness option.

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Under Armour

Just like Reebok, Under Armour provides an amazing workplace fitness center.

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What do you think of our list? Are we missing any offices with sweet gyms? Let us know in the comments below!

email tracking

MixMax vs Bananatag

I love playing with new toys. It’s kind of an addiction. When it comes to productivity tools, there are so many options that it can be difficult to choose. I've had this problem with project management software, and I've had this problem with email tracking tools.

But I recently kicked the email tracking software hopping habit. I was an active user of Bananatag when I was first looking for a tool, and then I moved on to Sidekick by Hubspot. Afterward, I moved back to Bananatag and then switched to MixMax.

Overall, I've seen my sales close rates increase by at least 75% by just adding these tools to the mix. The reason why? Knowing how many times a prospect has read your email or clickedthrough a link gives you direct insight into interest. If a prospect opens an email 17 times, then chances are they're interested in your services. This lets you quickly craft follow-ups specifically for them.

What I loved about Bananatag


Bananatag email tracking


Simplicity. It tracked my emails and did it well. It also had one of the key features I wanted - email scheduling. This made it easy for me to set follow-up emails, and track A|B email tests. Definitely, recommend Bananatag as a simple email tracking tool that you can install and forget about. But as much as I liked Bananatag, I still wanted more.

Why I Switched to MixMax


First, there was nothing wrong with Bananatag. I made the switch purely out of preference. MixMax had all of the things I loved about Bananatag, but added some other cool tools. Just like Bananatag, I could install MixMax and forget about it, but the UI was a little more to my liking. The added features are what really won me over. Being able to send emails with embedded surveys, polls, and calendar invites was clutch for me.



In terms of their impact on sales, both MixMax and Bananatag had the same results. The major difference for me was in time saved through calendaring and internal communications. MixMax polls and surveys make it easy to ask questions to your team and get quick feedback that is collected through a centralized system, and the calendar feature removed back and forth emails to set meeting times for all parties involved. You wouldn't expect to utilize the surveys and polls often, but I found myself using them more and more. If I needed my team to choose between two landing page designs, then I could send the images and ask them to click a button on the poll signaling which one they liked more. It resulted in much higher engagement rates from my team and faster response times.

MixMax vs Bananatag: who wins?


It depends on what you want. If all you need is email tracking and scheduling, then Bananatag is a good option. Me, I prefer MixMax. I think they have stronger functionality and I prefer the UI. The calendar scheduling is a can't-miss feature for me, as it makes it that much easier to schedule meetings with prospects. They both have free options, so I suggest trying them out and seeing which works best for you.

marketing bullshit

Seeing Past the Marketing BS

In the marketing and services game, we go head-to-head against several firms. It’s the nature of the game. Most businesses understand that they need help, but aren’t marketing experts so they reach out to several firms for proposals. I’ve seen more than one company fall for the marketing BS that some of these organizations/consultants spout off. They'll often start by telling you how “your marketing is in peril” and “you’re falling behind because you’re not using the latest technology”, and “have you heard of trend X, it’s completely changing marketing!”

Warning Signs that the Marketing Firm You’re speaking with is a SCAM

They follow a fad. At the end of the day, marketing is marketing. Real pros will use all of the tools at their disposal to create programs for you that drive revenue. Yes, we each may have some specialties, but our businesses are not built on QR Codes or a single fad.

They make impossible promises. I’m sure you get those emails. You know the ones I’m talking about right?

If the marketing consultant you’re speaking with is making promises of number 1 position on Google within 90 days, then they’re scam artists. Search engines are like living entities, while online marketers can influence them in a positive way, search engines can also react in unpredictable ways. It’s like training a dog. You may be able to create positive behavior that you want, but your dog will always have his own personality that causes him to act differently given different environmental and local factors. There’s a lot of factors that can impact search engine rankings at any given time.

Deals too good to be true. Why would you pay thousands for a web developer to do your site when this guy in India is promising to do it for $250? You get what you pay for. What ends up happening is this guy in India builds you a website that is one sneeze away from collapsing. Same goes for paying for writers on the cheap. $5/article sounds good, but then you have to factor the time it takes you to read the content, make edits, and publish. Overall, it costs you way more of your time, then having a high-quality writer create it from the start!

Over emphasis of Technical SEO. Yes, technical SEO is important. Depending on your site you may even have hundreds of issues. But firms or consultants that overemphasize this and avoid discussing your website messaging, user experience, and overall content are definitely not focusing on the issues that will reap some of the biggest rewards.

Pre-packaged or Bundled Plans. If the firm you’re considering has an "add to cart" or checkout process, then you’re probably dealing with scam artists. Every business is unique and requires different strategies. You can’t just prescribe 1 Facebook post a day, 1 email/month, and a “gold” or “silver” SEO package and call it a day. True marketing firms and consultants need to understand your business, your market, and goals to create a strategy that encompasses the key areas of focus to help you get results.

Your website is being penalized or is not ranking in Google. If the consultant you’re working with sent you an email like this, then there’s a 99.9% chance you have a scam on your hands. True marketers don’t need to employ scare tactics like this or scream “DANGER! Will Robinson! DANGER!” to win your business. They understand you may have a need and will cite examples of areas that you can improve whether it’s through content strategy, keyword-driven SEO plans, more well-optimized landing pages, etc.

Questions to ask a marketing consultant or firm before you make your decision on who to hire:

  • What is your marketing background and qualifications?
  • What are some recent projects that you’ve worked?
  • What are your areas of focus?
  • What industries do you traditionally serve?
  • What do you think of our current marketing efforts?

nick fury giph

The Fury-ous Case for Storytelling in Marketing

Experience is everything. These days you hear marketers talk constantly about experiential marketing and storytelling as if they're brand new concepts.

Marketing in B2B has primarily been all about push, push, push. Take your product and messaging and just stuff it in the face of your prospects. This strategy worked. But as technology and people have evolved, we’ve also grown more numb to this form of blatant marketing. The newest craze — Marketing through Storytelling and Experiences.

But what does that mean? By storytelling am I talking about literally writing a Harry Potter novel? No. Marketing through storytelling is the art of using content to take your prospects through a journey that eventually leads them to perform a desired action (or you can refer to this as a conversion point). The use of experiences has added to the various marketing channels as companies seek the latest “it thing” to go “viral."

What About Content Marketing?

However, content marketing was once bastardized by SEO. People viewed content as a 350-word post that focused solely on keyword density and proper H-tag usage. You can still find search engines littered with hundreds of posts titled “Best CRM Software” or “Best Project Management Software”, etc. with it literally been written with little to no English knowledge.

Content Marketing has made a comeback but the new buzz is around storytelling. There are tons of examples of storytelling done right, but I’m going to share one of my favorite examples — Comic books. Most comic books can be seen as engaging stories but few create interactive experiences. In the late 1950’s through the 1960’s, Jim Steranko was the writer for the comic book that I believe sets the tone for experiential marketing through storytelling.

That comic was Nick Fury and the Agents of Shield as well as Strange Tales featuring none other than, Nick Fury. From a marketing perspective what made Nick Fury so unique? For one, Steranko was capitalizing on the popularity of James Bond (Dr.No was released in 1963) and tailored Fury to be Marvel’s eye-patch wearing super spy.

Interactive Storytelling

What Steranko accomplished with his run of Nick Fury was an incredible example of creating an interactive experience. In my favorite example, Nick Fury is trapped in a maze, and to continue reading the comic you were forced to physically rotate the page as if you were working your way through the maze, placing you in the same position as Nick Fury in the comic.

Nick Fury Steranko storytelling

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.. or is it a Million?

As marketers what have we learned about the use imagery? The use of imagery has higher metrics for engagement, social posts that use imagery have statistically higher CTR. So if we see these positive metrics, then imagine what a two-page spread in a comic can do. But how else can you stand out? Steranko being the storytelling pioneer with DGAF attitude, created a not one, not two, but a three-page spread of just images. During this time, this was considered crazy. But the images on those pages created a powerful experience that words couldn’t describe.
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nick fury moment of silence
This sequence shows Agent Nick Fury, stealthily moving through enemy headquarters. The lack of any words or narration added the to stealth experience, as the reader is meant to experience the silence. This section gets readers to interact with the comic by piecing the narrative together from images and gets the reader to engage by leading them to an exciting twist with this storytelling tool.

Spread 'Em

Another great example is the epic 4-page spread. Again something that had never been done before, but would ensure that comic book readers would purchase two issues of the Nick Fury comic to see the entire spread.

This was marketing through storytelling at its finest.

And the result of these stories of engagement? Strange Tales gained enough popularity for a spin-off comic of Nick Fury Agents of Shield, which led to increased revenue at Marvel Comics, and Steranko became one of the three highest-paid employees at Marvel. I’d say his storytelling converted pretty well...

What Lessons Can We Learn About Marketing through Storytelling?

While most marketers still look at content from an SEO perspective, the fact is the landscape has evolved. People want more than 350 words on the best practices for Online Marketing. Your audience is demanding to be engaged through stories and experiences. And what better medium to analyze than comic books? Comics are the definition of what marketers strive to achieve — content that engages and captivates users and drives them to convert to company revenue.