Marketing Strategy

beautiful backyards

Think Spring! Top Tips From Our Clients Who Help Make Backyards Beautiful

Think Spring! Top Tips From Our Clients Who Help Make Backyards Beautiful 900 600 Kari Switala

Spring is officially here! And while it may not always feel spring-like here in Minnesota (April snowstorms are all too real, whether we like it or not!), it’s that time of year when we turn our thoughts to tidying up our outdoor spaces. As the weather gets warmer and the days grow longer, we are eager to spend more and more time outside. That season is nearing where we’ll spend long days working in the gardens while the kids play outside, followed by grilling on the deck for dinner and maybe a s’more or two by the fire. If you’re as ready for those days as we are, it’s time to start thinking about spiffing up your lawn, gardens, and deck. 

We recently talked with three of our clients who specialize in making outdoor spaces beautiful. Read on to learn more about them and the trends they’re seeing this year in landscaping, decking, irrigation, and lighting. We’re certain you’ll find some inspiration for your yard!

McDonough Landscaping, Inc.

McDonough Landscaping was one of our very first clients when we started out 10 years ago! They are a small, family-run design/build landscape construction company that has served the Twin Cities metro area since 2003. They specialize in landscape design and installation of residential projects, from small front yard plantings to large outdoor living spaces. Their goal is to provide their customers with sustainable, high-quality landscape design and installation while providing excellent customer service from start to finish. The team at McDonough loves the work they do, and it shows—check out their gallery of past projects here! 

WFM: What would you say is the #1 trend in the landscaping industry right now?

MM: With COVID hitting last year, calls for patios and/or fire pits have increased a ton. It seems like every other call is for one or both of these with people spending more time at home and wanting to utilize their yard more.

beautiful backyards-fire pits
WFM: What was one of your favorite projects from last year? 

MM: It would be a project we did in Woodbury where they just wanted to add some simple outdoor living space to their yard. It wasn’t a big space but the client’s backyard usable space went from small and cramped to spacious and stylish with the addition of their beautiful stone patio and outdoor living area! It just goes to show that you don’t have to have a large space to be able to create some amazing outdoor living space for your yard. 

As you can see, the team at McDonough Landscaping do an amazing job of making backyards both functional and beautiful!

Backyard Before
Backyard After

Do you dread the landscape work that comes with the beauty and warmth of a Minnesota spring? Fear no more! McDonough offers seasonal landscape maintenance services for the warmer months like planting bed cleanup and mulch topdressing services. Contact them to schedule your spring cleanup service today!

Skip’s Sprinklers & Outdoor Lighting

For over 43 years, Skip’s Sprinklers has been a family owned and operated business offering irrigation design and installation, as well as landscape lighting. They use simple lighting and lawn hydration to help you turn your backyard into a peaceful haven. Their founder, Skip, believed in the finest service and quality in all aspects of the business. They strive to maintain this belief in all of their work, and the results speak for themselves. Skip’s Sprinklers never takes shortcuts, always offering unparalleled quality of work and outstanding customer service. 

WFM: What would you say is the #1 trend in your industry? What new exciting thing should homeowners watch for?

SS: Smart controllers are becoming huge in this industry! The need to go inside customers’ homes is a lot less with this option, which is very appealing in the current situation. Also, the user-friendly apps that come with the smart controllers are very helpful for both customers and contractors! 

One of the smart controllers we recommend is the Hunter Hydrawise. It is a robust and reliable high-end residential controller that offers simple programming and the potential for expansion as needed. A smart controller like this can really make keeping your lawn properly irrigated a breeze!

WFM: What was one of your favorite projects from 2020? 

SS: A new build lighting job in Hastings! The customer was very open to letting us do the most and it turned out lovely! It works very nicely with the landscaping they added last summer!!

Landscape lighting has the ability to add both safety and beauty to your yard. It enhances your landscaping and allows you to use your yard later into the evenings, giving you more time to enjoy your lawn and gardens. 

When it comes to installing and maintaining sprinklers, irrigation systems, and landscape lighting, Skip’s gets it right the first time, every time. Contact them today to get a free estimate for lighting or irrigation installation!

Outdoor Solutions, Inc

Jim and Christy Funk founded Outdoor Solutions in 1997, and have enjoyed building the company into what it is today—a trusted construction company specializing in decks and additions. Their favorite part of their job is the people: they are thankful to work with such wonderful clients and a phenomenal staff!

Outdoor Solutions works to design and build environments that enhance the use and enjoyment of their clients’ homes. It is a licensed and insured general contracting company, offering an array of services including decks, additions, windows and doors, and remodeling.

WFM: If you could share the #1 trend in your industry, what would it be?

OS: With the onset of COVID last year, we’ve seen a big interest in transforming the yard into an outdoor oasis. People are spending more time at home and are using their outdoor spaces as places to “get away from it all” or to entertain friends and family. They’re looking for decks or patios with great views of their landscaping and plenty of space to entertain. Many people are adding features like built-in bars or outdoor cooking areas, fire pits, water features, comfortable furniture…even weatherproof TVs! The idea is to find ways to live more of your life outside.

WFM: What have been some of your favorite projects to work on? 

OS: We love any project where we can help our clients enhance their outdoor areas. A new deck or four-season room can bring a world of enjoyment to your backyard. We love creating spaces that allow our clients to gather with friends and family or simply enjoy the peace and beauty of nature.
Are you dreaming of creating your own outdoor oasis with a new deck or four season room? Contact Outdoor Solutions today for a free estimate!

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry 900 600 Kari Switala

One of our favorite parts of what we do is learning about other industries from our clients, referral partners and trusted advisors. One industry we’ve been learning a lot about these past few years is the financial services industry. Whether it’s filing your taxes, purchasing a home and securing financing or investing your money and creating a legacy account for your children and grandchildren, everyone depends on financial experts at some (or many!) points during their lives.

At Wild Fig Marketing, we are honored to share the company of many incredible women in the financial services industry. We took some time recently to interview four of these women and learn from them. We think you will find their insights valuable! 

This is the final interview in our series. 

We’d like to introduce you to Angela Alvig, Founder and Family CFO at Simplify Wealth.

Hello Angela! Can you please give us a brief overview of what you do at Simplify Wealth?

I am a Family CFO and the founder of Simplify Wealth. We handle the details of our clients’ finances and households so they can fully enjoy life and achieve their goals. In addition to acting as our clients’ Personal CFOs or Family CFOs, we provide wealth concierge services and outsourced support to small business owners. Our job is to make things happen for our clients and keep them organized.

What is a common myth in your industry? 

People think they need to know more before they take action regarding their personal or business finances. This is a myth. There is NO ONE who knows everything. Instead, simply “know what you don’t know,” surround yourself with a team of experts who do know the fine details in their area of expertise, and ask questions when you don’t understand. There are NO dumb questions. I find that people who profess to know the least about finances ask the best questions.

If you could only share one tip (relating to your industry) with small businesses this year, what would it be and why?

Stick to what you love to do—in your life and in your business—and delegate the rest. Build a team of professionals who support you in their area of expertise and free you up to do what you do best. The monetary investment is well worth what you get in return—a life that you love!

Who do you love to work with and what do you love most about the work you do? 

We love working with a wide variety of clients. They may be experiencing a major life transition they need help getting through. Or they may have a specific problem or lack of organization that keeps them from making progress in their life or business. We pull the details together and positive things start to happen. We enjoy clients who are passionate about achieving their goals and see value in delegating the details to us. Working with highly engaged clients really keeps us on our A game and we enjoy that. What I love most about the work I do is that it truly helps people and improves their lives. We hear all the time from our clients that they don’t know what they would do without us.

What’s your #1 go-to resource (websites, podcasts, publications, etc.) for information about your industry?

Our go-to resources are the professional advisors and experts that our clients already have on their financial teams—CPAs, wealth managers, bankers, attorneys…We learn from them every day as we tackle details for our clients. I also love the Tim Ferriss Show podcast. Learning ideas and business tips from the highly successful people he interviews has been very helpful for me as I have grown my business.

To learn more about Simplify Wealth, visit their website at www.simplify-wealth.com

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry 900 600 Kari Switala

One of our favorite parts of what we do is learning about other industries from our clients, referral partners and trusted advisors. One industry we’ve been learning a lot about these past few years is the financial services industry. Whether it’s filing your taxes, purchasing a home and securing financing or investing your money and creating a legacy account for your children and grandchildren, everyone depends on financial experts at some (or many!) points during their lives.

At Wild Fig Marketing, we are honored to share the company of many incredible women in the financial services industry. We took some time recently to interview four of these women and learn from them. We think you will find their insights valuable! 

This is the third in a series of four interviews. 

We’d like to introduce you to Angie Wood, Owner of Wood CPA.

Hello Angie! Can you please give us a brief overview of what you do at Wood CPA?

I started my firm in December 2019. I have added two employees and the growth continues! My business focuses on advisory services, accounting, tax planning, tax return preparation, payroll and sales & use taxes. I work with clients all over the U.S.

What is a common myth in your industry? 

That having a CPA is just another costly expense that you can’t afford or that you won’t see value to justify the cost. In reality, a good CPA is an investment in your business and can help you save money by doing things correctly and timely. More and more, the industry is filled with trusted advisors for businesses with proactive advice and up-to-date knowledge. These advisors are a great resource! At Wood CPA, the tax return is just the final result of our year-long planning and not the main focus of our services.

If you could only share one tip (relating to your industry) with small businesses this year, what would it be and why?

Outsource your accounting and tax work! There are constant changes with tax, payroll and accounting. That can be a lot for an owner of a small business to stay on top of and implement. Business owners should be spending their time doing what they do best—running their business!

Who do you love to work with and what do you love most about the work you do? 

I love working with small businesses. Staying up-to-date with monthly accounting work and navigating all of the tax and payroll laws can be a very daunting task for business owners. Therefore, it gets pushed aside. I love taking that burden off of business owners and coming up with a streamlined process to complete their monthly books with accuracy. Once we have that information, I work with business owners on their goals—whether it’s to build up their balance sheet to help secure financing or to strategically plan to save money on their taxes. The statistics on how many businesses fail within the first five years of operation are scary. Having proper financials and tax returns is a huge part of business success.

What’s your #1 go-to resource (websites, podcasts, publications, etc) for information about your industry?

There are many that I use but they are exclusive to accountants. I would say the best resource for a business owner who wants to stay on top of the changes in the accounting and tax industry would be www.journalofaccountancy.com


To learn more about Wood CPA, visit their website at www.woodcpamn.com.

EOS

The Two Surprising Things Traction/EOS Helps With That No One Talks About

The Two Surprising Things Traction/EOS Helps With That No One Talks About 900 600 WildFigAdmin

We’d like to welcome a guest writer to the Wild Fig blog—Sara Stern of Family Business Minnesota! Sara is a trained coach and EOS Implementer™. She has a unique ability to help family businesses leaders maximize the impact they have on their companies, families and communities. She is also a friend of the Fig who has helped a lot of businesses, including a few clients of ours! Read on to learn more about what she does and how it could help your business.

What People Do Talk About

Many people know the incredible power that the Entrepreneurial Operating System (a.k.a., Traction) does for businesses. 

It is a complete, proven system with simple, practical tools to help leadership teams do three things:  

  1. They get a clear vision for the business, and all leaders get 100% on the same page with where the business is going and how it is going to get there. This is a rare and awesome experience in an entrepreneurial company—sign me up!
  2. They also get Traction which is truly what everyone wants. Right?!? It helps the entire leadership team become more disciplined and accountable, executing really well to achieve every part of the vision.
  3. The really surprising and powerful thing you get when you run on EOS is that you become a healthy team. This means your leaders become a healthy, functional, cohesive leadership team—and we all know leaders often don’t function well as a team. And teamwork makes the dream work!

What many people don’t know or talk about is two other incredible things EOS gives you:

  1. One is Happiness. Gino Wickman read about happiness as he was creating the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and those concepts are woven into the tools we use. 
  2. The other thing it helps with is family business succession. Family business succession, when done poorly, can end family businesses. EOS helps family businesses continue by doing succession well.

So how the heck does EOS do that??!

Family Business Succession

Gino was literally working shoulder-to-shoulder with his own dad in their family business when he started reading every book there was to read about leadership and management and how to run a great business. 

He created two incredible tools that help two generations of a family business get together on what they want from the business. He created the Vision Traction Organizer and the Accountability Chart.

Shared Vision

The first tool is the Vision Traction Organizer (V/TO). It is a 1-page document that clearly outlines the strategic direction for the business and how you’re going to accomplish it. It is a simple and a powerful way for family members to truly agree and commit to where they’re going.

Imagine this—if the leadership team of your family business answered these 8 questions and then agreed to make decisions based on them, how much easier would your conversations be?

  • What are your core values?
  • What is your core focus (your purpose, cause or passion, and your niche)?
  • What is your 10 year target?
  • What is your marketing strategy?
  • What is your 3 year picture?
  • What are your 1 year goals?
  • What are your highest priorities for the next 90 days?
  • What are your issues?

Clear Roles

The second tool that Gino Wickman created that really helps family business succession go well is the Accountability Chart. The Accountability Chart is essentially an organizational chart on steroids. It outlines the functions of the business and what each person is accountable for. When done right it starts with the structure needed for the business and then puts the right people into those seats—not the other way around! It helps family businesses make it clear what skills are needed in the next generation. It also helps family businesses avoid building jobs around family members or keeping family members around that aren’t truly supporting the future of the business. 

When family businesses have a shared (and agreed-upon) vision and the roles you need to accomplish that vision are clear, succession gets significantly better. EOS is NOT a tool made just for family business succession but it is incredibly good at helping it happen.

Happiness

So what about happiness and why do I care about that?

As Daniel Pink pointed out in his book, Drive, when people have autonomy, mastery and purpose, they are more engaged in their jobs. When you like your job more, you’re happier. EOS helps people have autonomy by showing them clearly what their job is through the Accountability Chart. It gives them mastery by showing them where they can grow in the business, giving them numbers to shoot for and processes to follow. And purpose—just looking at a V/TO (Vision Traction Organizer), the 2nd item you see is the purpose, cause or passion of the business. Team members who work in EOS companies have a purpose they are fighting for with their colleagues every day.

EOS helps people like their colleagues too. And that leads to happiness. When you spend 1/3 of your day (or more) at work with people you like, you’re happier. Companies that run on EOS hire, fire, review, reward and recognize their team based on a shared set of values. When you’re surrounded by people who share the same values, you like those people more. When you like your colleagues more, you have fewer bummer moments in your day. When you have few bummer moments, you’re happier. Boom.

Happiness often comes out of keeping things in perspective. It comes out of knowing what is the highest priority and knowing you can get it done. It is about having clarity and confidence that what you’re doing is the right thing and moving you forward. EOS is full of tools like that. Just think about rocks, to-dos, measurables, and the rarely used and very important clarity break!

EOS requires you to have open and honest communication and to avoid politicking in your work and with your colleagues.

Finally – EOS Is designed to help you have the EOS Life. What is the EOS Life? It is this:

  • Do work you love
  • With people you love
  • Make a huge difference
  • Get compensated well
  • And have time for other passions

If that isn’t a recipe for happiness, I don’t know what is!?!!

Now what

If you want more happiness or a clearer path for family business succession—or even more fun—or all of those things, here is what you can do:

  • Email me to get a free copy of the book Traction that talks about all of these tools and more
  • Call me and let’s talk about how this could work in your business

Call or email me today at (612) 220-6559 or sara@familybusinessmn.com. Let’s talk about the future of your family business.

business photography tips

7 Business Photography Tips to Increase Your Bottom Line

7 Business Photography Tips to Increase Your Bottom Line 902 600 WildFigAdmin

Guest Blog: By Dan Iverson
theanthologie.com

Does your company have online curb appeal? These 7 photo mistakes may be impacting your bottom line.

Imagine searching for a new home and you come across two properties that are shaping up to be the perfect fit for you and your family. When you swing by for an in-person inspection, however, you discover the options are worlds apart. One home looks well maintained and features a stunning landscape while the other looks like it’s been neglected for the better part of a decade. In the blink of an eye you realize what you thought was going to be a difficult decision is now rather easy. 

That’s because whether we like to admit it or not we are prejudiced by appearances. In fact, our brains process visual information 60 times faster than words alone, so it’s plain to see how as you’re gazing at a home in a state of disrepair your brain has subconsciously eliminated it from the running and is probably already picking out window treatments for the charming one. Image matters.

So, how does this translate to your business? You need online presence with curb appeal. More people than ever are shopping from home even when it comes to big purchases and what they see first has a huge impact on how they perceive your brand. People may poll their online audience of friends and peers for recommendations for products and services, but as soon as potential customers have your business name you can bet they’re going to search your company online. If your website and social media aren’t grabbing their attention with strong photos your message may be lost, or worse, you may be sending the wrong message about your professionalism. In contrast, high quality images — and better yet, images that put a face to your company — can build trust in your brand before prospects ever hit send on your contact form.

Doing all that with photography may sound confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. And you don’t need to invest $20,000 in camera equipment to do the job right. There are definitely times when you should consider hiring a professional photographer for your branded photography, but if you’re a DIY’er these tips will help ensure you’re sending the right message to your online viewers even if the best equipment you have is a mobile phone.

1. Show don’t tell.

business photography tips

Be strategic about your photos. Think about your picture as a story with no words and always be thinking: “Why am I creating this photo? What is its purpose?” and you’ll be ahead of the competition. Not only will your pictures be more engaging, but they will instantly convey your intended message to your audience and help them to remember your company first! 

2. Look on the bright side.

Photographing your subject in an area with too much sunlight and shadows interfering with one another or in an area that’s too dark can be distracting to the viewer. One of the easiest things you can do for better pictures is to explore your subject at different times of day. You may find that the scene looks completely different at 7 a.m. vs. 7 p.m. As a general rule of thumb midday is the often most challenging time for photos as there tends to be too many harsh shadows. Softer, more-pleasing light can often be found closer to sunrise or sunset. Midday can work, however, and provide a pop of color when the light is even across the entire scene.

3. Declutter.

Another big no-no is to create a photo that just has too much going on. If you want to think like a photographer the mantra may be: simple is best. Remove items from the background that visually compete for your attention with the main subject. Be sure a tool in the background isn’t aligning on center with someone’s face in the foreground. This will subconsciously create tension with your audience. Be sure the space you’re working in is clean, too. If you’re showing off a completed remodel, for example, you’d want to make sure there aren’t boxes, packaging, tools or cords present anywhere in your pictures.

4. Sharpen up.

Modern cameras and mobile phone cameras make auto focus very simple — you just have to know how to use it. Mobile phone camera software autofocuses to the foreground of your frame. However, sometimes what you want to be in focus isn’t obvious. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus just tap on the screen where you want to to sharpen the image. If you’re photographing something in motion try activating the burst setting on your camera, which will take a number of frames in a matter of seconds. It’s more likely one of them will have better focus than the others. Don’t be afraid to take a lot of pictures. You can delete the not-so-great ones later on.

5. Give it some space.

Too often I find when a team member is tasked with creating employee portraits the standard practice is to push them right up against a wall and stand very close to one another. For business portraits and headshots have your subject stand at least a few feet in front of a wall or background. This will help to ensure attention is clearly on the individual and not something else. You can also have a little fun with this concept if you put even more distance between the subject and the background to tell a little more about your company by subtly including some visual cues to your services in the background.

6. Photograph from different angles.

Not every picture is compelling from eye level, yet that’s where so many people are holding the camera for 99.9% of all of their pictures. Try kneeling down, or using a step ladder to gain a new perspective from above. Most pictures of physical spaces used to show off your business location, for example, often look better when photographed at or near hip level. You may be surprised that laying down completely may create a truly unique image, too.

7. Frame your subject.

A more advanced composition technique is to use the environment to frame your subject. This combines many of the tips above and helps to instantly draw viewers in to the message you wish to convey. Aside from doors and archways, keep your eyes open for patterns with arching trees, rows of lights or even railings to help isolate people and highlight them in an unexpected manner.

Learn more about Dan Iverson and Anthologie at www.theanthologie.com.

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry 900 600 Kari Switala

One of our favorite parts of what we do is learning about other industries from our clients, referral partners and trusted advisors. One industry we’ve been learning a lot about these past few years is the financial services industry. Whether it’s filing your taxes, purchasing a home and securing financing or investing your money and creating a legacy account for your children and grandchildren, everyone depends on financial experts at some (or many!) points during their lives.

At Wild Fig Marketing, we are honored to share the company of many incredible women in the financial services industry. We took some time recently to interview four of these women and learn from them. We think you will find their insights valuable! 

This is the second in a series of four interviews. 

We’d like to introduce you to Susan Anderson, Senior Vice President at VisionBank.

Hello Susan! Can you please give us a brief overview of what you do at VisionBank?

I am the Senior Vice President at VisionBank and I am involved in the lending process, from developing businesses and underwriting credit requests to managing the ongoing relationships. Most banks and bankers are not involved in that process in its entirety. I find it beneficial because I really “know” my clients and can better advocate for them when they have a need.

What is a common myth in your industry? 

That you should bank with someone in your neighborhood or close to your home or office. I do not discount the value of a bank that understands the “neighborhood” but you should be able to have a relationship with a bank anywhere in the metro area or beyond. Most people never go to their bank—they don’t have to. It isn’t just the big banks who offer all the services you need. You should be able to conduct all of your banking affairs remotely. One exception to this is a business that relies heavily on cash. However, they could still transact daily cash needs at a local bank and use a different bank for their lending needs.

If you could only share one tip (relating to your industry) with small businesses this year, what would it be and why?

Stay in communication with your banker. If you don’t have a banker, go to a community bank and establish a relationship. There will be a point in your business when you will need someone who knows you and your business and will be willing to assist you to the best of their ability. Think of the PPP (The Paycheck Protection Program) process and the stories you’ve heard from many small business owners who weren’t able to get their applications processed or were told they didn’t qualify when they did. They probably would have had a different experience if they had a personal banker. You don’t know when you will need someone to help you out so establish that relationship in advance.

Who do you love to work with and what do you love most about the work you do? 

I love working with small business owners and helping them make their dreams a reality. Sometimes they aren’t quite ready for bank financing. In those instances, we try to provide them with direction to get to that point. I really enjoy learning about different industries and business practices. I have the benefit of many years in this profession which allows me to work towards finding the best, most creative loan structure for each client. We keep our loan policy to a minimum to allow for greater flexibility in structuring transactions.

What’s your #1 go-to resource (websites, podcasts, publications, etc) for information about your industry?

I feel like we have the best internal team and we are able to work together to determine the best next steps. We discuss things and bounce things off of one another frequently. Occasionally I go to ICBM (Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota), but not often. For “outsiders” who are looking for information, the FDIC reports on every bank and the information is available to the public. That said, hopefully you have a banker who can answer any questions you have! 

To learn more about VisionBank, visit their website at www.bankwithvision.com.

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry 900 600 Kari Switala

One of our favorite parts of what we do is learning about other industries from our clients, referral partners and trusted advisors. One industry we’ve been learning a lot about these past few years is the financial services industry. Whether it’s filing your taxes, purchasing a home and securing financing or investing your money and creating a legacy account for your children and grandchildren, everyone depends on financial experts at some (or many!) points during their lives.

At Wild Fig Marketing, we are honored to share the company of many incredible women in the financial services industry. We took some time recently to interview four of these women and learn from them. We think you will find their insights valuable! 

This is the first in a series of four interviews. 

We’d like to start by introducing you to Alix Magner, Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley. 

Hello Alix! Can you please give us a brief overview of what you do at Morgan Stanley?

helpful business tips and insights from Minneapolis financial experts

As a Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley, I run an intentional wealth practice with a focus on sustainable investing. Most of my clients are purposeful women and their families who are smart, busy and successful. My practice works primarily with women business owners and professionals, tech employees, and LGBTQ+ people. In my practice within Morgan Stanley, I work with clients to make plans that work for them and I invest their money in support of their plan. 

What is a common myth in your industry? 

One of the biggest myths around sustainable investing is that aligning your investments with your values generates lower returns than traditional investing. But we have analyzed the data and found that this is simply not true. Recently, the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing analyzed 11,000 mutual funds, comparing the performance of sustainable investments versus traditional investments from 2004 to 2018. What did we find? We discovered that the sustainable investments performed in line with the traditional strategies—with one big difference: The sustainable funds had a lower volatility and a 20% smaller downside deviation compared to the traditional funds.1 I believe this helps to back up my view: Sustainable investing is sound investing and factoring in how businesses impact the environment, society and the global community is not at odds with good investing—indeed, it may make it more robust.

If you could only share one tip (relating to your industry) with small businesses this year, what would it be and why?

This wild COVID year accelerated many people’s long-term plans—buying a business, selling a business, working from the cabin, expanding the business…COVID has made everyone rethink their assumptions and where they want to be in the future. 

Make sure that how you’ve structured your business (how you’re incorporated and your ownership structure) supports those big plans. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily weeds of running your business. Your business structure has a huge impact on what types of retirement accounts you can offer and on your succession planning. There are a lot of potential benefits to setting up the right structure. Take the time to think through how you’re structured now and how you should be structured. Now is the time to ask your advisors and think about the future. 

Who do you love to work with and what do you love most about the work you do? 

I love to work with women who are the breadwinners for their households. My clients are women who have continued to be successful and the more successful they get, the more complex the money stuff gets and the less time they have to manage it. When the finance questions swirl in their brains, they’re thinking: 

  • How much should I reinvest in my business? 
  • What type of retirement plan or equity plan should I offer my employees? 
  • Can my spouse stop working? 
  • As complicated as my situation is, am I missing anything? 

I love working with women and their families to simplify the complexity and create systems to put the right money in the right places. I love problem-solving. And I enjoy being the person who takes care of the money so my clients can do the big things they want to with their lives. 

What’s your #1 go-to resource (websites, podcasts, publications, etc) for information about your industry?

My # 1 go-to resource for information in my industry is the Wall Street Journal. Yes, I get the actual, physical newspaper delivered to my doorstep every day. I’ve found that keeping up on U.S. and world events gives me the context I need to understand the financial markets and the world. 

To learn more about Alix, visit her website at
https://advisor.morganstanley.com/alix.magner
 

  1. “Sustainable Reality: Analyzing Risk and Returns of Sustainable Funds,” Morgan Stanley, Institute for Sustainable Investing, 2019, https://www.morganstanley.com/content/dam/msdotcom/ideas/sustainable-investing-offers-financial-performance-lowered-risk/Sustainable_Reality_Analyzing_Risk_and_Returns_of_Sustainable_Funds.pdf. 

Alix Magner is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Minneapolis, MN. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management or its affiliates. All opinions are subject to change without notice. Neither the information provided nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The returns on a portfolio consisting primarily of Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) aware investments may be lower or higher than a portfolio that is more diversified or where decisions are based solely on investment considerations. Because ESG criteria exclude some investments, investors may not be able to take advantage of the same opportunities or market trends as investors that do not use such criteria.

Tax laws are complex and subject to change. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice and are not “fiduciaries” (under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code or otherwise) with respect to the services or activities described herein except as otherwise provided in writing by Morgan Stanley and/or as described at www.morganstanley.com/disclosures/dol. Individuals are encouraged to consult their tax and legal advisors (a) before establishing a retirement plan or account, and (b) regarding any potential tax, ERISA and related consequences of any investments made under such plan or account.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC.

CRC#3489389 03/2021

Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine

How to Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine

How to Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine 900 600 Kari Switala

Apple chips, hummus, Ninja warrior, the naughty list…these are not topics you’d normally connect with a content marketing company. And yet, these are some of the keywords we ranked highly for in Google searches back before we really understood keywords and search engine optimization (SEO)

Relevant keywords and good SEO can work wonders for your blog, as can consistent posting, using quality images, and visitor engagement. Without utilizing these tools, it can be difficult to get much traction. But with them, you can transform your blog into a traffic-generating machine.

First: What Not to Do

Since those early blog posts, we’ve learned a lot about the importance of optimizing our blogs for SEO. Now we can easily see why we ranked for those crazy keywords: the blogs we were writing had fun titles with analogies that drew the reader in once they got to our site, but they didn’t help people FIND us in the first place. They introduced topics that were totally unrelated to what we do. Here are a few prime examples (it’s ok to laugh…we think they’re pretty funny now too):

While these articles did cover relevant topics (smart marketing strategies, customer experience, and differentiating yourself from the competition), they weren’t written in a way that helped us attract the audience we were looking for: businesses looking for great content marketing.

Keyword Research is, Well…Key

Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine

The main thing those early blogs lacked was relevant keywords that signaled to search engines what the blogs were about. Keywords essentially represent the main ideas of your content. They are the words and phrases people would type into a search engine when looking for the topics you are discussing. When you use keywords on your page that are relevant to what people are searching for, they have a better chance of finding your content. The goal is to rank highly on search engines so that your content will show up among the first options people see when they enter your keywords. This drives organic traffic to your site. 

Before you write your content, you need to determine what keywords you want to rank for. Keyword research tools like Semrush, Moz, and Google Keyword Planner are helpful when determining the keywords that will be most relevant to your audience. These tools allow you to see what keywords are the most popular and drive the most traffic, as well as how much competition each keyword has. Ideally, you want to choose keywords that are highly relevant but don’t have so much competition that you have no hope of ranking for them.

Focus On Long-Tail Keywords

You’ll want to focus your time and energy on long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are more specific phrases—typically 3-5 words or more—and are almost always a better choice than broader keywords. They are more targeted in their approach, so they help you connect with an audience that is more likely to engage with you. For example, a person searching for “content marketing company in MN” is much more likely to engage with us, a content marketing company in Minnesota, than someone simply searching for “marketing” would be. Long-tail keywords help you find the RIGHT traffic, not just a lot of traffic.

Make a Plan For Your Content and Stick To It

Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine

To get into a good rhythm of content production, you need to lay out a clear plan. Pumping out articles just to have something on your site won’t get you the results you want. You need to know where you’re heading with your content and what kind of schedule you need to keep to get there.

Use the keywords you’ve researched to determine what topics you will write about. One easy way to do this is to start typing your keyword into the Google search bar and watch what search suggestions pop up. These suggestions indicate topics that people are regularly searching for. Or you can scroll to the bottom of the search page to the “searches related to” section for more good ideas. 

Make a list of the topics you think will be the most relevant to your audience. Then, create a schedule for yourself, setting deadlines for creating the first draft, editing, and publishing the finished content. Creating and sticking to a content schedule will help you post more consistently. And posting consistently will help you rank higher with Google and other search engines.

Create Relevant, Well-Written Blogs

Next comes the writing. Good writing is just as important as using the right keywords. Done well, a blog can help establish you (and your business) as an authority in your field. Plus, Google and other search engines aren’t just looking for keywords—they’re looking for relevant content that answers the questions site visitors are asking.

Your blogs should be well-thought-out, well-written, and grammatically correct resources for your audience. If you have a wealth of ideas but aren’t the best writer, it’s a good idea to hire out your writing (we know a great writer or two if you’re looking!). Mediocre writing won’t draw the traffic you’re looking for.

The length of your blogs makes a difference with SEO as well. Currently, the ideal blog length for the best SEO is around 2,100-2,400 words. Long-form content like this performs better in search results than short blogs. This is primarily because longer posts are naturally more keyword-rich and go into more depth on their topic, making them more likely to answer visitors’ questions or solve their problems. This, in turn, makes them more likely to get shared on social media or to get backlinks from other sites—both things that drive up web traffic. 

Place Your Keywords For Optimal SEO

Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine

As you write your blog, you’ll need to include your chosen long-tail keyword throughout the copy. There isn’t a set number of times to use your keyword in your blog, but don’t overdo it—less is more in this case. In fact, don’t focus on counting your keywords at all. Instead, check their placement and make sure they’re built naturally into your topic. Carefully work your main keyword into your title, first paragraph, a header or two, and the closing paragraph. If you’ve chosen your keyword and blog topic well, this shouldn’t be difficult to do: your keyword should resonate with or serve as the entire topic of the post.

In addition to your main keyword, you’ll also want to use secondary or synonymous keywords throughout the body of your blog. Secondary keywords are related terms that help support your blog’s main topic. For example, if you were writing a blog titled “Best Winter Coats For Below-Zero Temperatures”, your long-tail keyword might be the entire title, and some of your synonymous keywords could be “winter coat”, “parka”, “down coat”, and “cold weather gear”. Make sense?

But don’t overdo your secondary keywords either. Ultimately, search engines look for high quality, highly relevant content when ranking for keywords. So it’s better to naturally work your keywords into your content less often than to stuff them in as many times as possible.

Make Your Posts Pop With Great Images

Keywords are vital, but they aren’t the only thing you can use to boost your SEO and drive traffic to your blog. Incorporating great images throughout your blog posts can help as well. Good quality images do four main things:

  1. Help readers get a sense of what you’re writing about. Visual aids like infographics and photos invite the reader in and can help simplify complex concepts.
  2. Attract more clicks. Your post’s main photo will typically show up when readers share your post on social media. A great-looking photo will make viewers want to click on the post to read more; a dull one won’t.
  3. Offer another chance to optimize for better search engine placement. Your images themselves can be optimized to help your content show up in search results. Adding your main keyword into an image’s “alternative text” field, file name, and caption gives search engines a better idea of what your post is about.
  4. Make your content look authoritative. A post with attractive photography or well-designed infographics is more likely to be taken seriously by potential readers than one using old clip art.

A couple of notes on images: First, when choosing photos for your blog, make sure to keep an eye on the file size. Image files that are too large can make your page load slower, which search engines don’t like. Second, never use photos you don’t have the rights to: you could end up paying hefty fines. To avoid this problem, grab photos from one of the many royalty-free stock photo sites available, such as Big Stock, Unsplash and Pexels.

Encourage User Engagement

Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine

Once you attract readers, those readers can in turn help attract more traffic to your blog. Encourage readers to engage with your posts by leaving a comment (make sure you respond to comments!) and by sharing them on social media. The more engagement your post receives, the better it will rank with search engines and the more traffic you will see on your site.

Also, include an invitation to join your email newsletter in every blog post. This allows you to notify visitors when you post new blogs, which can result in even more traffic and shares. Make sure to include an email signup form somewhere in each blog post—this can be in the form of a pop-up box, a form at the end of the post, or simply a call-to-action line within your post that is linked to a signup form.

Update Existing Blog Posts

Another way to increase traffic to your blog is to optimize older blog posts for better SEO. If you have older posts that are relevant to your audience but haven’t generated much traffic, take the time to go back and update them.

Start by using what you’ve learned here to improve those old posts: include well-placed relevant keywords, add great images throughout, make sure the post invites comments and shares, and add an invitation to join your email newsletter somewhere in the post. Also, if the post doesn’t have headers throughout the body copy, add some to break up the text (and include your keywords in them if you can do so naturally). One note: when refreshing an old post, don’t forget to update any information that has changed since you first wrote it.

Transforming Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine Takes Time

Transform Your Blog Into a Traffic-Generating Machine

Your blog can be a great way to draw visitors to your website, but it will take consistent effort and time. Be patient—you likely won’t notice a huge influx of new site visitors from just one blog post, no matter how great it is. But over time, creating and consistently executing a solid plan for your content will transform your blog into a traffic-generating machine. 

And if you’re thinking, “Who has the time to do all of this?”, we’ve got your back. We know it can be difficult to find the time to create consistently great blog posts for your website. That’s why we offer blog writing services here at Wild Fig. We can do your keyword research, brainstorm blog topic ideas, research and write your blogs, find great images to complement them, and post them on your site for you. Plus, our writers are SEO pros who will make sure your blogs meet the standards that search engines like Google are looking for.

Ready to grow your blog and generate new leads for your business? Contact us today to get started!

Client Success Stories: Angie Wood of Wood CPA

Client Success Stories: Angie Wood of Wood CPA 900 600 Kari Switala

We’re celebrating a big anniversary here at Wild Fig: this month marks 10 years in business for us! Ten years of coming alongside companies to help them grow through content marketing…it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and boy, what a ride it’s been! It sure is amazing to get to do something we love and see our clients thrive as a result.

We’ve had such an incredible time working with so many amazing businesses over the years, so what better way to celebrate our tenth year than sharing ten client success stories? Throughout the rest of this year, we’ll periodically share our clients’ stories with you so you can see just how effective content marketing can be when it’s done well. To begin with, we recently chatted with Angie Wood of Wood CPA about why she chose Wild Fig and how it has benefited her business.

Wood CPA: Helping a New Business Hit the Ground Running 

Angie started her business just over a year ago in January 2020. (Little did she know she’d have a pandemic to contend with in her first year in business!) She came to us before launching her business for help getting her brand, website, and marketing strategy in place. Then, once she was up and running, we developed an ongoing monthly marketing plan for her. Over the past year we have helped her with:

Naming her business

Angie came to us with the desire to launch her new business, but wasn’t sure what to call it. We helped her brainstorm ideas and ultimately land on a name that reflects who she is and how she runs her business: warm, inviting, and with expert care for each client.

Creating a Logo

Angie really wanted something that reflected her personality and how she works with her clients, and the logo we created accomplishes that. The trees we used in her logo are Aspen trees—we thought it was a cool tie-in with their rich MN history!

Developing a Marketing Strategy

We identified the right channels and messaging to use to help Angie acquire new clients quickly and effectively.

Building a New Website From Scratch

Because people do business with people they know, like, and trust, we felt it was important to help Angie tell her story and show what differentiates her from other CPAs

Running an Automated Lead Generation Campaign

We wanted a quick and easy way to help Angie build her contact list and capture website visitors’ information, so we built a website pop-up, created a Tax Strategies Guide (full of Angie’s expert advice), and crafted emails to deliver that content as well as a few other helpful content pieces.

Setting Up Online Scheduling

We knew Angie was going to be rather busy with getting her business up and running right at the start of tax season. To help shorten her to-do list, we set up online scheduling to make it easy for her clients and prospects to book time on her calendar without her having to manage that process.

Creating and Executing a Monthly Marketing Plan

We created a monthly marketing plan to help Angie attract new clients and retain her existing clients. To best reach her goals, we’ve utilized Facebook and LinkedIn posts, an e-newsletter (to clients, prospects and referral partners), and a blog to help educate clients and prospects and drive more traffic to her website.

Holding Quarterly Strategy Sessions

One of the benefits of working with our team is our quarterly strategy sessions. These sessions allow us to get a pulse on what’s happening in our client’s world, review the results from the previous quarter, and brainstorm new ideas. We like to consider ourselves an extension of our client’s team, which means we often provide ideas and support outside of our traditional marketing deliverables. For example: creating a holiday Send-Out-Cards campaign to a list of targeted prospects, providing job posting strategies to help attract top talent, and brainstorming ways to increase efficiencies.

Implementing a well-thought-out marketing strategy does more than simply get the word out about your business. It can help you attract new clients, educate and communicate with your current clients, and free up your time to focus on running your business. It has been amazing to see the growth of Angie’s business over the past year. To know that we played a role in creating that growth is an incredible feeling!

Q&A With Angie Wood

We recently asked Angie to tell us, in her own words, what Wild Fig has done for her. Here’s what she had to say….

Wild Fig: Why made you decide to work with us?

Angie Wood: Initially, I wanted to learn more about Wild Fig because I knew Jen [Wild Fig’s V.P. of Sales], really trusted that she does what is best for her clients, and is easy to work with. Once I learned more about Wild Fig, I was really drawn to the whole-package feel. As a brand new business, I needed a lot of help and everything could be done with one company! I loved that you took the time to get to know me, my business, and my goals.

Then, that information was used to pull together my business name, logo, website, and brand. These were all things I needed as I started my business. After the setup, you pulled together a monthly marketing plan that includes social media posts, marketing email, and a blog. It has been wonderful to have that “one-stop-shop” feel.

Wild Fig: What do you like most about working with us?  

Angie Wood: The people! Everyone I have worked with has been fantastic and the quality of the work has been amazing. I really appreciate that the marketing evolves as I grow. Everyone is open to my crazy ideas and pulls them into something that is beneficial and makes sense. I love that you include some personal aspects of my life to help my clients relate to me. The reports showing what topics clients have found most interesting is very useful as well.

Wild Fig: How has our work impacted your business? 

Angie Wood: Working with Wild Fig has saved me SO MUCH TIME! I can count on you to brainstorm ideas and bring them to me, rather than needing me to come up with all of the content. I mainly wanted the website and social media posts to make my new business look as official as it is, however it has been much more than that. The content has been very relevant with the changing laws, the automation for scheduling meetings has been used by so many clients, and I absolutely love that it is all handled for me so I can focus on what I do best!

In her first year of business, Angie survived a pandemic, tons of tax law changes, PPP loans, and more…while also being an amazing wife and mother of 4 great kids! And her business hasn’t just survived—it has thrived. We are so thankful for the trust Angie has placed in our team and for the opportunity to be a part of her first successful year in business. Clients like her are what has made the last 10 years in business so wonderful, and what makes us look forward to many more to come.
Looking for help building your brand, attracting new clients, and reaching your business goals? Wild Fig can help. Schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session with Jen here.

B2B Marketing Strategy

6 TIPS FOR CREATING AN EFFECTIVE B2B MARKETING STRATEGY

6 TIPS FOR CREATING AN EFFECTIVE B2B MARKETING STRATEGY 900 600 Kari Switala

I’ve never met a business owner who didn’t want to grow their business. I have, however, met hundreds of B2B business owners on the verge of burnout from working tirelessly day after day, week after week, year after year, without seeing the results they want.  The problem? More often than not, they’re lacking a solid B2B marketing strategy.

Schitt's Creek

The good news is that it’s never too late to course-correct. At Wild Fig Marketing, we suggest integrating these helpful tips into your strategy to rock the socks off your brand and ignite your ROI. 

Tip #1: Post on your blog regularly

B2B Marketing Strategy

Your blog is a powerful little bugger…and it’s often underutilized. Did you know that your blog has the power to drive organic traffic to your website, increase your SEO rankings, position you as a thought leader in your industry and supply practical information for your prospects and current customers? 

Let’s take a closer look…

  • Because your blogs address your target audience’s questions, concerns and pain points with practical information, you attract organic traffic to your website and grow your image as a thought leader. 
  • When you add internal links and high-quality outbound links to blog posts or other parts of your website, you increase your SEO rankings which means more exposure for your brand. Check out this post on leveraging your blog for more brand traction. (Dare you not to click!)
  • Unlike social media posts, blog posts sit on your website so they’re not subject to changing search engine algorithms and they increase the time visitors spend on your website. 
  • Blog posts are an excellent way for visitors to get to know your story and your team members. 

And this leads me to the next tip I want to highlight…

Tip #2: Humanize your brand 

B2B Marketing Strategy

Gone are the days when companies do business with other companies simply because they’ve been in the family for four generations and they’re a household name. Today’s business owners want to work with businesses they can relate to or at minimum, that are human and approachable. 

So how can your business ditch the Armani suit and don the Lululemon yoga pants?

  • Tell your story. Why did you start your business? What were some of the challenges you faced getting your business off the ground? What lessons have you learned the hard way? The moment you close the curtain on authenticity, you alienate business owners who need your product or service but want to work with a relatable, down-to-earth brand. 
  • Share your customers’ stories. Build a “Testimonials” tab into your website and weave testimonials into your blog posts and other content. Publish story blogs and create YouTube videos (that link back to your webpage) where customers share how your company’s solutions drove their business’ success. 
  • Showcase your core values. What values is your company built on? How are these values woven into your company culture? How do these values affect your professional relationships? If your company gives back to the local community, what does that look like and how is that charitable contribution driven by your values? Many business owners seek out professional relationships with companies whose values and culture closely align with their own.
  • Incorporate humor and outside-the-box thinking. Just because certain emails are routine doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Dare to break the mold by incorporating memes, GIFs or other forms of humor and creativity. Here are some fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

P.S. Postal scripts are another great way to humanize your message! (See how I did that?) 

Tip #3: Utilize email marketing

B2B Marketing Strategy

Folks, this is a showstopper. If you think email is old school, think again. 

Email marketing is the single most effective way to reach your prospects and convert leads. 

  • Send out targeted emails to stay top of mind with current customers. 
  • Create a lead nurture campaign to convert more prospects into customers by following them on their journey with your brand and providing valuable information that intersects each stage of that journey. 
  • Create and distribute monthly email newsletters that educate your prospects, customers and strategic partners to increase your referral traffic.

Tip #4: Automate your sales and marketing processes

marketing automation

Automation does the heavy lifting in many aspects of your business. It saves you time while actually enhancing that personal connection. 

Engage in marketing automation with automation software (we adore HubSpot) and send out targeted communication to your prospects based on their interaction with your brand. This is much more targeted than email blasts to your entire contact list and it’s much more efficient than manually communicating with prospects in a way that is relevant to their engagement.

Engage in sales automation by scheduling routine emails that:

  • Welcome new subscribers 
  • Demonstrate your product or service 
  • Remind prospects about upcoming meetings
  • Follow up with leads that have gone dark
  • Thank new customers 
  • Celebrate special occasions such as birthdays or brandaversaries

You can also categorize hot, warm and cold leads with predetermined criteria and send those leads into separate funnels for further, relevant lead nurturing. 

Are you tired of manually scheduling meetings and all the back and forth communication that goes along with it? Calendly and the HubSpot meetings tool are scheduling software options that lighten the load for your sales reps while providing a simple, time-saving experience for your prospects and clients.

Tip #5: Create lead magnets

If your ultimate goal is to grow your base of brand ambassadors who will help you grow your company, you can’t lose sight of the first step. The most potent way to attract prospects to your brand is by creating lead magnets—valuable freebies prospects receive in exchange for their basic contact information. 

Lead magnets can take many forms but guides, checklists and ebooks are three of the most common. Learn more about how lead magnets can help you grow your business here.

Tip #6: Leverage LinkedIn for effective lead generation

LinkedIn Lead Generation

96% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for organic social marketing—the vast majority. If you don’t have a LinkedIn presence, you might as well be standing on the mainland waving to your Fiji-bound competitors. You’re missing the boat.

We know that companies posting at least once a week on LinkedIn see double the engagement rate than those who aren’t. But the lead generation potential extends far beyond this point. 

At Wild Fig, LinkedIn is one of our biggest client generators, second only to referrals. Over time, we’ve developed a solid LinkedIn B2B marketing strategy.

We…

  • Defined our target audience.
  • Determined which types of content they find valuable.
  • Post regularly with a good mix of content that speaks to our target audience.
  • Pay close attention to who’s viewing our profile.
  • Send these people personalized connection requests (without the creepy stalker factor, of course).
  • Continue to provide valuable content and engage with our connections and our wider target audience.

Learn a little more about how the Figgy LinkedIn magic happens in our recent post!

When you adopt a LinkedIn B2B marketing strategy as part of your overall B2B marketing strategy, you set yourself up for a far greater return on your investment. 

Now that your mind is bursting with fresh marketing ideas, it’s time to put some wheels on them! If you’re overwhelmed or want a better idea of how to integrate these tips into your existing marketing strategy, we’d love to help! Sign up with Jen for a complimentary 30-minute strategy session here.
Wild Fig Marketing is your digital marketing agency. Whether you’re looking for marketing help in the form of website design, sales or process automation, content marketing, email marketing or lead generation, we have the knowledge and experience to help you rock your brand.