10+ Free (Yes, Even for Commercial Use) Stock Photo Websites

Sometimes web designers, entrepreneurs, and digital marketers just need some basic stock photography to elevate their website or landing page. Even if you’re bootstrapping or on a tight budget, you still need to find quality eye catching graphics and photos.

Well look no further than the following free and no copyright CC0 stock photography websites.

1) StockSnap.io

2) Unsplash.com

3) Pexels.com

4) Gratisography.com

5) VisualHunt.com

6) Finda.photo

7) Pixabay.com

8) Kaboompics.com

9) Tookapic.com (Select Free Tab)

10) Lifeofpix.com

Bonus Sites:


Buckeylistly Photos

Brain & Storm









Looking Glass



Negative Space

New Old Stock







Useful B2B Digital Marketing Benchmarks [Infographic]

When planning upcoming marketing campaigns it helps to take a look back at your historical metrics to determine if your tactics were successful or not. If it was an email campaign, you’re naturally looking at open and click rates. If you launch a paid search ad, you need to know your average click-thru-rate (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC).

Once you know these numbers, the next question is “What does success mean for each?” And that’s where gets interesting. Some metrics can be determined by working back from business metrics but other times you just want a quick reference to industry benchmarks.

Insight Venture Partners, a leading global private equity and venture capital firm, created this Periodic Table of B2B Digital Marketing Metrics.


Download as PDF

Increase Productivity with a Bullet Journal

One of the keys to stress-free productivity is transferring all of those critical thoughts from your head to someplace else on a regular basis. Because the human brain can only think one thought at a time, it becomes overwhelming to keep them bouncing around all day long.

I’m always been an avid note taker. I typically fill a couple pages per day with conversations I have with colleagues, important tasks (with that ever so satisfying box I swiftly check when I complete one), and with key dates that I need to make note of.

The problem I’ve always had with my notebooks is that they are painful to revisit. It is time consuming to find something more than a day ago and I end up rewriting the same information over and over again.

Then I discovered the Bullet Journal a few months ago and it completely changed how I take notes.

The genius behind it is the structure and brevity.

The structure can be set up with the following sections.

  • Index
  • Future Log
  • Monthly Log
  • Daily Log

Next, you “rapid log,” according to creator Ryder Carroll. As shown below, you start by creating tasks with dots, notes with dashes, and events with circles. You’re then able to complete or migrate each item in short order as you go about your day. An “X” over the dot means you completed it. You can indicate you’ve moved the task forward with a “>” over the dot. Strike through the whole task if you’ve decided it’s no longer worth your time.


It works with any notebook but they do sell an official Bullet Journal for $20.

Once you get comfortable with the system, you can start to customize it to your needs. For example, I add my tasks as they come up through the week to my “weekly log” instead of a “daily log,” enabling me to pick and choose the tasks that I expected, or switch focus to new high priority tasks come up.

Watch this video on YouTube if you want to give it a shot.

2016 Summer Reading List for Marketing Leaders

If you’re a thriving marketing leader, chances are one of your beliefs in life is to never stop learning. You’re probably always keeping yourself up-to-date on the latest blogs, books, and magazines. You read about business, leadership, productivity, negotiation, marketing, social media, etc. I’d like to recommend the following books to add to your reading list.

The New Rules of Lead Generation by David T. Scott

Learn from a corporate marketer who has been there. The New Rules of Lead Generation intelligently outlines the best practices and strategies for developing your system of lead generation. Integrate the 7 most successful lead-generation tactics and you’ll be set.Click here to read the first chapter for free

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Marketers sometimes struggle with differentiating their products or services from the competition. Seth Godin, in the The Purple Cow, describes the importance of creating and delivering an exceptional product that is “remarkable.” Targeting the right customers and prospects is key to building the momentum you’ll need to capture the masses. Learn how to position your brand and build a loyal follow base in this easy read book.Click here to read the first chapter for free

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

The best companies and brands that are rising to the top have a special focus on the customer experience and delivering great service. Gary Vaynerchuk identifies some of the best and pin-points what they’ve done to achieve their success. This book is a strong advocate for using social media to scale your 1-on-1 interactions with customers and creating a relationship with them.Click here to read the first chapter for free

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Whether you’re in a small startup or a large corporation, the principles of The Lean Startup can help you achieve product innovation and growth. Many companies struggle with developing new products because they don’t create a continually process for testing and receiving customer feedback. By closing the loop, delivering a product faster, and focusing the right measurements then one could achieve great success through this model.Click here to read some of the methodology on the book

Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch

Some great back-to-basics marketing strategies for small or large companies with a tight budget. Partly focused on strategy and stories and much about culture, this book provides a great perspective from a highly experienced marketer. Duct Tape Marketing starts with truly knowing your customer, giving them the simple solution they need, and building marketing into your company’s DNA.Click here to read some free content on the Duct Tape Marketing blog

Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute

This is a must-read leadership book for every level of an organization. It is written as a parable that walks through the majority of “people problems” that occur in the workplace. Without these common problems, a person and organization and focus on results that matter.Click here to read excerpts from the book

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

Successful people are the hardest to convince that they need to change because they are, well successful. Marshall Goldsmith, through his great experience coaching executives, has developed a killer list of behavior traits that hold people back from achieving even more success. Whether you’re a new manager or a rising CEO, following these “20 habits that hold you back from the top” might be your answer to achieving your goals.Click here to learn more about this book and others on the author’s website

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

This book is a leadership fable about a young CEO who is thrown into a technology company and has to win the hearts and respect of her fellow executives. It’s an easy read with a built-in model for how to overcome universal team dysfunctions. The five steps from bottom to top are: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.Click here to learn more about this book and download the Five Dysfunctions model.

Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey

If you’re looking for a rock solid playbook on how to build your culture, team, and processes from a reputable financial advisory, then look no further than Dave Ramsey’s book Entreleadership. He walks through the trials and tribulations of starting his business from the ground up. Great insight on how to manage people and how to let them leave when necessary.Click here to listen to the Entreleadership podcasts

Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

This is a great and easy read if you’re looking to understand the best way to get your ideas adopted. What are the characteristics of ideas that seem to have a life of their own? Chip and Dan Heath develop a framework based on the great ideas of the past. Does your idea explore the framework: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credential, Emotional, Story.Click here to read the first chapter for free

The Little Black Book of Innovation by Scott D. Anthony

Innovation can be a complex topic because of the range of thinking and mass of information out there. It’s become a popular topic because of the impact it can have on companies and markets. The Little Black Book of Innovation does a fantastic job of simplifying the subject by summarizing the experts throughout history. This 28-day guidebook provides insight into innovation and how anyone can begin to master it.Click here to download a free excerpt

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

If you’re looking for a book on networking, then look no farther than Never Eat Alone. Keith Ferrazzi provides his rich life story of how he put developing relationships first and foremost. By taking the time to actually add value to other people’s lives, while expecting nothing in return ironically provides you with an abundance of opportunity. Learn how the great leaders and politicians instantly create an intimate and genuine relationship through this insightful book.Click here to learn more about the book on the author’s website

The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha

The Start-up of You encourages readers to look at their own careers and networks from an entrepreneurial perspective. It teaches how to differentiate oneself and leverage connections to get results. This book provides great insight into building real relationships that allow everyone to get ahead.Click here to download the executive summary

Getting Things Done by Stuart Diamond

Not many people stop and ask themselves “Am I spending my precious time wisely?” Even after acknowledging that the answer to that question is “No,” many don’t have a different solution. Getting Things Done (GTD) is a great book for increasing anyone’s productivity. This book and system offers a proven system to manage the tasks that can sometime overwhelm the day.Click here to request free articles and handouts

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

If you’ve ever wondered how you can be more productive and take control of your life then this book is for you. Timothy Ferris is a comedic and informative entrepreneur who tells the story of how he automated his online business and manages it remotely from dozens of countries around the world. This is a great resource for tools and solutions that will help you remain focused on setting your goals and empowering you to accomplish them.Click here to read some of the content from his free blog

Getting More by Stuart Diamond

Getting more out of your life isn’t about getting everything you’ve ever wanted, and neither does it mean that anyone else gets less. Stuart Diamond teaches you specifically how to use invisible negotiation tips to get more from companies you buy from, your kids/family members, or your employer. This book is about expanding the pie and coming to a mutual arrangement. This is not your typical “win win” negotiation book.Click here to learn more about the book on the author’s website

Honored to have Won Chicago’s Power 30 Under 30

I am honored to have won the Power 30 Under 30 Award for Business in Chicago! Thanks Apex Society and Porsche! Read NW Herald article and Chicago Business Journal article.


Marketing professional added to prestigious list of 30 young professionals under 30 in Chicago.

Cody Ward, 29, a marketing leader, consultant, entrepreneur, blogger, and social media enthusiast living in the greater Chicago area was named to Chicago’s 1st Annual Power 30 Under 30™ list. The award was presented by the Apex Society, an international young professionals organization, in conjunction with Porsche Cars of North America.

Ward has worked to help Fortune 500 companies and start-up businesses alike create and launch their B2B or B2C marketing campaigns. By combining technical solutions with modern marketing strategy, Ward has developed a track record for executing digital marketing campaigns that deliver strong ROI.

Ward strives to give back to his community through contributing his time and skills to various non-profit organizations including Dignified Dining, which fights hunger in the community and Guardian Angel Community Services, a domestic violence shelter.

The Power 30 Under 30™ Awards honors thirty outstanding individuals under the age of thirty from Chicago that have achieved extraordinary success. Young leaders are recognized from the following categories: 1) Arts, Entertainment, & Media 2) Business 3) Community Service 4) Politics 5) Science & Technology 6) Sports.

Ward was selected as a winner in “Business” with other award recipients at a ceremony and reception hosted by the Apex Society and sponsored by Porsche Cars of North America on Thursday July 21st, 2016.

The Apex Society is an international young professionals club (by invitation only) founded in 2000 that fosters a sense of community through positive business, personal, and educational relationships for its members. The Apex Society’s members are the brightest and most accomplished young professionals around the world. The organization also creates opportunities for its members to give back to the community, especially community organizations whose mission is to build the next generation of overachievers.

Website: http://www.power30under30.com

Book Review: The Art of the Start 2.0

ArtOfTheStart20_735x1102Guy Kawasaki once again shows his entrepreneurial genius with his latest book The Art of the Start 2.0 – The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything.

I was fortunate enough to get a pre-released copy of the book and was excited to see the changes from his original version. Guy named the book 2.0, and rightfully so, as it is 64% longer than the original version and packed with ideas.

The Art of the Start 2.0 walks you through the critical steps of: Launching, Leading, Bootstrapping, Fund-raising, Building a Team, Evangelizing, Socializing, Rainmaking, Partnering, and Enduring.

Guy’s stated goal with this book is “to make entrepreneurship easier for you.” I believe he’s done just that but don’t be fooled into thinking he does all the thinking for you. He puts you to work with this book and challenges you to apply the material to your own idea/start-up.

Much like a workbook, Guy stops to provides exercises throughout each chapter and pushes you answer important questions. Therefore, I believe each person will take away a personalized and unique experience with the content.

If you’re starting something new or an entrepreneur at heart, this book is well worth the investment.

The Art of the Start 2.0 is available on Amazon now.

Corporate Social Media Campaigns [Infographic]

The following infographic showcases some recent and interesting findings on how corporations are tackling social media. Initially skeptical of its use for business purposes, it appears many have adopted the two-way communication mindset during this modern age of information and relationship building.

Below are some of the more interesting highlights from the infographic:

  • 94% of corporates use social media in some capacity.
  • 75% saw an increase in website traffic.
  • 58% use it for lead generation.
  • Favorite social sites are Facebook (92%), Twitter (82%), LinkedIn (73%) and blogs (61%).
  • 58% of Fortune 500 companies had Facebook pages in 2011, 62% had Twitter accounts.
  • Companies with blogs dropped from 50% to 37%. Speculated due to content requirements. [I’m not sure about this statistic. My experience shows that more companies are seeing value in Inbound Marketing and blogging their thought leadership]
  • Blog best practices: schedule posts on a regular basis, plan ahead, use a casual tone, interact with customers, and enable social sharing.

Social media is going corporate
Courtesy of: MBA Programs

The Mobile Revolution is Here Now [Infographic]

For the past 5 years or so, research has predicted that mobile devices would overtake personal computers when it comes to internet usage. The infographic in this blog post pulls together data that shows that the turning point is here now. The Post-PC Revolution infographic was created by Moovweb, a company that has released a “Post-PC cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that syncs content, features and business logic across all Web experiences – in real time.”

Looking at your own company or business, you’ll likely only need to ask yourself one question,

“Am I ready for my customers to engage with me via mobile devices?”

In another recent post of mine, I’ve identified why your business should go mobile and the best practices around it.

Below are some interesting statistics from the infographic:

  • There are currently more than 1,038,000,000 smartphones in use (1 out of every 6.7 people on Earth).
  • 79% will abandon your business’s website if it’s not optimized for mobile.
  • Media tablet sales will likely increase from 118.9 million in 2012 to 369.2 million by 2016.
  • 52% of retailers do not have a mobile website experience (You’re not alone!)
  • Amazon.com will reach 4 billion dollars in mobile sales by end of 2012.
  • 1 in 8 will use mobile tickets for airlines, rail and bus travel, festivals, cinemas, and sports events in 2015.
  • Only 22% of insurers have a mobile quoting app.
  • Mobile banking will increase from 47 million users in 2012 to 61 million users in 2013.

The Post-PC Revolution Infographic:

Infographic by Moovweb

Ignore Your Email Marketing Open Rates

It often surprises me when I ask email marketers, “How is your campaign going?” and they answer with something similar to “Very well! Our open rate is 30%, which is above the industry average by 10 percentage points.” I cringe. Not because the open rate isn’t important, but because using it as your key primary indicator (KPI) often misleads your email marketing campaigns.

What’s wrong with the open rate metric?

It’s not 100% reliable, to say the least. The open rate is counted when a small 1×1 pixel image is loaded by the subscriber’s email client. A preview pane in Outlook counts if the images load. Thumbing through emails where your image loads counts. These examples show your recipients may be opening it but haven’t seen any of your content. Open rate does not mean they read your email.

Knowing this you can then logically deduce what constitutes a non-open. Simply, the image not loading. If you read it as TEXT on your Blackberry, you didn’t “open” it. If your Gmail blocks images, then you’re an unengaged subscriber to the marketer. You could have read all of the content by clicking “View as web page”, reading it in your browser, and the email would remain “unopened”.

What can you learn from the open rate?

Assuming you’re measuring it correctly… Emails Delivered / Unique Emails Opened = Open Rate … the open rate can tell you some interesting things about your campaign. Comparing it over time, you can make some high level guesses (I’ll explain later why I say guesses) about your emails. You can see if your contacts are becoming more or less interested in your content. You can A/B split test two emails against each other to see which subject line helped push it higher. You can get an overall performance of what percentage is engaged, as long as you remember the chance of error up or down as previously pointed out.

Many assume that there is a direct correlation between subject line and open rate. Mostly because there isn’t a great alternative if you’re using open rate as your primary KPI. Marketers will slave over the subject line attributed every up and down to the power of the subject line. The problem is that all of the invisible factors get ignored and decisions are made on the subject line alone.

Below are some other factors that affect the open rate:

  • Time of day
  • Day of week
  • Holidays
  • Last email received (did it make a good or bad impression)
  • From alias
  • From address
  • Workload of recipient
  • Amount of email in recipient’s inbox
  • Mood of recipient

Look at your own email habits.

As marketers, I’m guilty of this, we get so caught up in the numbers and content that we forget about our own habits. Sometimes I subscribe to an email newsletter because I dealt with the company or wanted to receive their content. Over the next few months, they send me emails here and there. I don’t unsubscribe because I still value the relationship, but often don’t read the emails either. I delete them from my iPhone because I compulsively avoid the small red circle with numbers telling me I have alerts. But the images loaded before I deleted it and as a result the email marketer is patting themselves on the back because they have a large list of people who are “opening” their emails. Their running to their boss saying “Look! Look! We’re making a difference!” But are they? Take a look at your own email habits and accept that it’s probably similar to your subscribers.

What’s better than the open rate metric?

Anytime you can get closer to the “sale” or at least the conversion, the better. A click… Emails Delivered / Unique Emails Clicked = Click Rate… is better than an open. A registration is better than a click. A lead is better than a registration. A sale is better than a lead. These other metrics are sometimes ignored because they are often small. It seems more important to report large numbers. It’s impressive to say we have a 45% open rate versus saying we have a 5% click rate. I’d argue that you can learn much more about the 5% that clicked on the email than you can about the 45%. What link did they click on? When did they click on it? How many times? You can’t get that with an open rate. But you can use this information to improve your email as I hope you believe, the most important factor is the content. Try this thought experiment. Would you rather have 100% open rate and 0% of the people engaged with your content (i.e. clicked) or 0% open rate and 100% of the people clicked. Yes you can have a click without an open, per our definition above.


The purpose of this post is to challenge the open rate as the primary KPI. If you’re an email marketer who is currently using open rates to make tactical or strategic decisions about your emails, I’d caution how much information you actually have. There is an infinite number of reasons on why someone opens an email but a much more limited number of how many engage with it by clicking on the content or following up with the company down the line in the sales funnel. Be aware of the open rate as a trend guide, but don’t rely on it to prove your campaign is successful. When asked the question “How’s your campaign going?” I’d hope you answer along the lines of “Very well. We saw 25% of our engaged customers click on a whitepaper in our last monthly email newsletter. Of those 25%, we’ve converted half to buy more from us.” Good luck!

Being Busy is Not Being Productive

One of the most misleading but commonly held beliefs is being “busy” means that you’re being productive and accomplishing a lot. The problem is that the busy work for most people isn’t focused on the things that need to be done. It’s just that, busy work.

People get into a mindset that these things have to be done and there is no other way. Therefore, they get consumed by the same tasks over and over and because they are endless, the day is over and it’s time to check-out. The next day begins a new cycle of non-productivity.

Busy but non-productive tasks include:

  • Checking emails
  • Making/returning phone calls
  • Holding meetings
  • Reading the news & blogs
  • Reading/updating social media

Wait a second.You’re telling me that I can’t check my email? I can’t make phone calls? How will I stay informed without the news? If we don’t hold meetings, we’ll never be on the same page. Social media is the future. I have to stay current or I’ll get left behind.

If you’re still with me, then let me explain what I mean by labeling these tasks as non-productive. You’re probably having some of the responses above, so hang in there.

These tasks are non-productive because they are endless and time consuming. They don’t accomplish anything and are administrative by nature. The problem isn’t in the task itself, but the amount of time dedicated to it.

Let’s take email as an example. If you’re like me, you can probably get through 200+ emails in less than 15 minutes, if you have to. You’ve done it before. You have your pre-defined rules of how you’ll respond and you make quick decisions when you first get in in the morning or after a long vacation.

Delete. Delete. Archive. Spam folder. Save. Reply. Forward. Delete. Delete. Unsubscribe. Save. Archive. Delete.

You get the point.

So why is it that it takes hours, multiple hours, every day to check half that number of emails? I believe it’s because you’re accepting email as an interruption and stopping something productive to respond. You’re focused on accomplishing something, just about to have a breakthrough, and *ding* (or pop-up). It’s from your boss, colleague, or Grandma. You stop what you’re doing and respond.

Although it just takes you a minute or two, you’ve just broken concentration and focus. You’ve stopped in the middle of what you were doing and diverted your attention. It now takes you more time to get re-focused and back to where you were. You finally get there and *ding*. I think you see where I’m going.

Although email is the example, it applies to all of the non-productive tasks on the list above.

So what do you do? You have to stay connected with people in order to do your job. This is true. But you can control it and schedule times where it’s appropriate.

Solution: Remove the interruptions and you will be more productive.

I just finished the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, a masterful book on automating your work so that you can “join the new rich” and “design a great life style”. This is on my recommended reading list. In the book Timothy Ferriss outlines some great rules to follow. I’ve evolved them slightly but have to give him full credit as this book has taken my view of productivity to an entirely new level.

Follow these Rules:

  • Only check emails a few times per day.  That’s right. Close outlook, log off the internet, or turn off the cell phone. Do whatever you have to and stop the “You’ve got mail!” messages. It’s not helping. Tim Ferriss suggests that you only check your email twice. Once at 10AM (that’s right, not right away in the morning) and once at 4pm. He goes as far as to outsource this process entirely, but you can read the book to learn more about that in his book.
  • Minimize your time on the phone. Schedule this one too and limit to a few times per day. Have a voice-mail message that clearly states when you will return phone calls. Be consistent and put off returning calls unless urgent. Have an emergency phone where people can reach you. Be brief and to the point if they call this number. If you only have one primary line, let the calls to go voice-mail and then return them later. The point is not to interrupt what you’re doing. Finish it before going on to your next important thing.
  • Keep meetings brief or stay out of them completely. The 4-Hour Workweek suggests that you ask for a meeting agenda before every meeting and decline if you find it irrelevant. Good advice. In my opinion, in order to be more productive you need to separate your “work time”. If you’re in meetings, you’re likely not accomplishing many of your other tasks. Especially if it isn’t your meeting. Keep them to a minimum and certainly don’t make them an hour. If you can accomplish it in 30 minutes, schedule it for that time and make it a “hard-stop”. Extended meetings mess up the rest of your schedule. Another great tip by HBR is to keep everyone standing. No sitting.
  • Stop “keeping yourself updated” with news and blogs. Although it’s extremely important to stay up-to-date on the constantly and quickly evolving new economy, don’t get consumed by trying to keep up with it. Your blogs and newspapers aren’t going anywhere and if you don’t read about the latest tip first thing in the morning, you’ll be okay. Limit yourself this guilty pleasure. Don’t spend more that 10 minutes at a time consuming new information. Schedule it and use it as a reward for accomplishing your most important task of the day.
  • Stay off social media. I’m a huge advocate for social media. I know it’s here to stay and essential for building relationships with customers and building a business. However, updating your Facebook status and retweeting all of your followers is NOT productive. If you could spend 1 hour creating something of value or accomplishing something that hasn’t been done at your company before or managing your Twitter account, I’m hoping this article encourages you to choose the former. Like the previous bullet, schedule this and use it as a “reward”. Social media does not count as a most important task of the day. Choose something else.

To summarize, keep yourself focused on what you need and should accomplish. Stop being consumed by the end-less tasks that make you appear busy. If you’re constantly checking email, reading online, or updating social media then chances are you’re going home tired. You’re always going to be busy if you follow this pattern. Break it today and take control of your productivity.