What you’ll learn in this episode:
About Ted Lau
Ted Lau is the owner of Ballistic Arts, an award-winning high-touch digital marketing agency that focuses on growing sales leads for small and medium sized businesses.
He leads a team of creative professionals in digital marketing strategy, video production, graphic design and web development to provide effective ROI for businesses that want to raise brand awareness and garner tangible leads for their business growth. Ted is also a host on Canada’s #1 marketing podcast Marketing News Canada where he discusses the latest insights on all things marketing, advertising, and communications with today’s brightest minds in the industry.
Small and mid-sized B2B companies may not draw as much attention as B2C companies, but their business makes up the majority of North America’s economy. While their marketing may not be as flashy, B2B companies still need no-B.S. strategies that generate leads. That’s where Ted Lau, founder of digital marketing agency Ballistic Arts, comes in. He joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast to talk about the importance of the digital marketing funnel; why tracking is the key to generating qualified leads; and why likes, followers and impressions mean nothing if they don’t increase revenue. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Welcome to the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast. Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome Ted Lau, founder of Ballistic Arts, a digital marketing agency. Ted is speaking to us from Vancouver, Canada, although they have an office in Bellingham, Washington and they work all over the West Coast. Ballistic Arts combines innovative, creative storytelling with leading-edge analytics so they can really move the client’s needle. Ted leads a team of experts in design and branding video production, web development and lead generation. We’ll hear all about this and more today. Ted, welcome to the program.
Ted: Thanks, Sharon. Happy to be here.
Sharon: So glad to have you. Tell us how you got where you are.
Ted: That’s a long story. I’m starting to age a little, hopefully in a good way like fine wine. Basically, right after university, I started the business. I was trying to get into the film industry. I graduated four months or so after 9/11 so nobody was hiring, so I thought, “I’m just going to freelance and what not.” I worked on an indie film. I met the director at the time, and he and I got along quite well. He was like, “Do you want to start a business together?” I was kind of naïve in my early twenties, and I was like, “Well, yeah, how hard could that be?” There you go. We started setting off on our journey. We started as a video production company, and then one thing led to another. A lot of our clients were SMBs, small and medium-sized businesses, that didn’t have the wherewithal or the budgets to hire large agencies to help them do all their marketing.
This is, again, in the early 2000s. I had to make DVDs that people could stick into their machines, and a lot of them said, “I don’t even have a TV in here, but I notice that you design your own brochures, and it’s quite lovely. Can you design mine?” In your early twenties, you’re like, “Well, yeah, I’m starving. I’ll do whatever. Yes, I can do that.” So, we immediately got into the graphic design biz. A few months after that, people said, “Ted, this web thing, this interweb, the internet, I don’t think it’s going away. I noticed that you designed your own website. Can you help us?” I was like, “Yes, I think I can.” We started becoming a full media marketing agency, and we did creative work up until probably 2018 or 2019.
Then I bought out my business partner, which is whole other podcast if you want to talk about that. Then I wanted to start helping small and medium-sized B2B companies. That journey I had, that first 15, 16 years in the business, we went from small and medium-sized businesses to large companies. We worked in healthcare. We worked with a lot of large real estate developers. They got larger and larger. These are multinational companies, some of them, and it became a little bit—financially it was rewarding, but it didn’t feel like we were helping the little guy anymore.
I wanted to get back to our roots, and I noticed that a lot of business-to-business folks aren’t supported by the marketing world. They don’t actually have the inclination to seek out marketing, and marketers don’t really want to work with B2B. They find it boring. It’s not Lululemon. It’s not the L.A. Rams. They want to work with those companies typically, so I noticed that B2B companies were underserved. If you look at the stats, B2B, small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the North American economy. They’re like 89% of the economy. So, I thought there was a good opportunity for us to support that, and we got into lead generation digital marketing for a lot of SMBs, a lot of B2B professional service companies, a lot of B2B distributors and manufacturers.
They don’t really need all this huge marketing, branding, blah, blah, blah. They need business. They need sales. So, I was like, “What if I helped you get leads?” That really perked one of my clients’ ears, and he said, “You know, Ted, if you could get me leads, I’ll never leave you.” That was basically it. Again, I didn’t really know how to get there, but I had a vision where I thought if we could marry the data and the creative and focus on one goal, not vanity numbers, but really focus on actually getting people business, leads, solid, qualified leads, not garbage tire-kicker leads, there was a place in the marketplace for that. It’s been very rewarding over Covid.
We actually started this division, I want to say, six or eight months before Covid, and not because I had a crystal ball thinking the world’s going to shut down with the global pandemic. It was simply me wanting to serve a particular community. I think Covid, as disastrous as it was for many people and as devastating as it was for many businesses, it was very helpful for us to be in a position to support these businesses. That division grew very rapidly over Covid because people were like, “Oh my goodness, we’re shutting our doors, but I got a little bit of government money. Can you help get me business and keep my doors open?” I was like, “O.K., no pressure.” We set goals. We created strategies and tactics around that and supported them in generating revenue, and it’s been very successful.
Sharon: Did you think about jumping ship and going back to the film industry at some point?
Ted: That’s a great question. I think the film industry, like of a lot of industries, is much more glamorous on the outside than it is on the inside. Like they say, this is how the sausage is made in the factory, whatever that saying is. I started noticing many of my friends who were in the film industry starting to get burnt out. They were working 12, 18-hour days, a lot of overtime, a lot of low pay, and it was a lot of grunt work. It took 10, 15 years to get into any kind of leadership role because there are union rules and whatnot, not to say there’s no place for the union.
I just found that it was very tiring for a lot of these folks. A lot of them ended up having marital issues because of it, relationship issues, health issues, addiction issues, and I thought, “You know what? This is not really for me.” I was tied to the hip by a lovely girl back in my college days, and I wanted to make sure I was able to seal the deal, as it were. Funny enough, she is my wife of 17 years. We got married in 2006. We started dating in 1999, got married in 2006. It’s 17 years this year, and after I bought out my business partner a few years ago, I brought her in as a 50-50 partner. We’ve been partners in life and partners in crime for a number of years now.
Sharon: Pretty good. It sounds very fulfilling.
Ted: It is.
Sharon: You do a lot of different things. How do you define digital marketing? You say you’re a digital marketing agency. That could mean a lot of things.
Ted: Yeah, absolutely. Great question, Sharon. The first thing is that, for us, it is anything that is online for the most part. I think a lot of folks will do PR and outreach and influencer marketing, those kinds of things. Those are not our forte. Our forte is around helping folks on things for the digital funnel. If you don’t understand the funnel, it’s top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel.
The top of funnel is where you get the awareness. People who have never heard of your business before don’t know you from Tom, Dick or Harry. You’re just like every single person in your industry. Getting awareness is top of funnel, and activities like that that we support are things like digital ads, be it Google, LinkedIn, Facebook. We’ll even do Snapchat and Twitch and Pinterest. We’re exploring TikTok for some B2B companies. So, that’s getting the awareness out, but you also have things in top of funnel like SEO work. You have PPC, which is part of the Google landscape, blog writing to support the SEO efforts, video ads, YouTube ads. Whatever those things are just to get the word out.
Then the middle of funnel is the consideration phase. People have heard of you. It usually takes about eight to 10 touches for them to even realize you exist. Once they actually convert and come to your website, that’s the consideration phase. We need to have really good, thoughtful content on a website. Gone are the days when if you look pretty and half-decent, they’re going to just call you. You need to actually provide value. So, we do a lot of work around supporting website content creation, creating marketing strategies and actually executing on them. Maybe we’ll have video content that is not a video ad, but it’s something that educates the end user, the client’s client or prospective client about how they can improve their X, Y, Z in their life and business.
We then go to the conversion step, when they actually go, “O.K., I’m going to buy,” or “I’m going to at least consider talking to you and actually getting you to submit a quote.” That could be things like call-to-action improvement, conversion strategy management. It could also be email automation and those kinds of activities where they might come to your website but they leave. Remarketing, which is part of Google and all the other ad platforms, is when someone comes to your site and then they leave, and then you can creep them online, basically, for the next two weeks with ads. That’s another way of getting folks to consider you while they’re doing their day-to-day life.
That’s kind of what we do. We’re a full, encompassing agency, and everything we do is in support of generating qualified leads. We do a lot of A/B testing. Lots of folks will say, “I get a lot of leads, but they’re not very good,” so we have to actually do testing. We don’t just send out one ad. Gone are the days of posting an ad in the L.A. Times and you get one shot. If you got the pixel wrong or misspelled something, too bad. With digital, you can launch 10, 15 different ads in one go, and then the algorithms and the ad optimization work we do will be able to discern which ads are performing better and which ads are not. Then with the feedback of our clients, they’ll tell us, “O.K., this batch of leads, 50% of it was garbage and this 50% was O.K.” Then we’ll go, “Well, let’s look and see. The garbage ones, where do they come from? They came from this click through on the website. They came through this ad. They hit this article. They watched this video.” So, we’ll modify some of the messaging and tweak it, or maybe we’ll just turn off some of the ads and focus our money and improve on the so-so ads. Then over time we’ll iterate, and the next batch will get better. Turn off some ads, modify the so-so ads, get to the better ones, and then you get from better to best. It becomes this cycle, and we track everything.
From a marketing standpoint, traditional marketers don’t feel the need or the accountability to get qualified leads. It’s more about brand awareness, and there’s room for that in the marketplace. I think that’s totally fine, but for us, because I’m a small business owner myself, anything I do, any dollars I put it in, I’d better darn well see a return. I thought if I put myself in my clients’ shoes, if they’re thinking exactly like me, they’re going to want their marketing to actually provide a return. That’s really what we do.
Sharon: Do you still think there is a place for—you call it traditional; I call it regular—but the billboards and the Yellow Pages and whatever? Do you still think there’s a place for it?
Ted: I don’t know where you get the Yellow Pages, the actual book. I don’t think that exists anymore. I feel like they filed Chapter 11 a few years ago and they’ve gone digital as well. But to your point, TV, Super Bowl, billboards, all that kind of stuff, if you have the budget, it does help get the top-of-funnel awareness. I’m not going to say it doesn’t. If you have the budget to do it, great, but most of our clients don’t have the few million dollars to place the ad at the Super Bowl. Yes, you can do that. It’s expensive and you can’t track it all that well. If you look at all the Super Bowl ads that came out recently, if you go on YouTube—I’ve seen most of those funny Super Bowl commercials now as ads on YouTube, the one with Jessie Pinkerton and Walter White eating PopCorners—I think they’re called PopCorners, those chips. They did this spoof and it was great. It was one of the funniest this year from the Super Bowl. I’ve seen that ad several times now on my feed when I’m on social media. So, you can repurpose it.
Again, if you have the budget, sure, but if you have a limited amount of dollars you can spend, that’s probably not where I would go first. You can’t track it. It looks nice. It’s very vanity-like, it’s very ego-driven, but that’s probably also why I work with a lot of B2B folks. A lot of B2B folks are no B.S. types for the most part. They want to get the job done. If you’re looking for vanity metrics, yeah, put your logo on Center Ice or have, like I said, an ad on the Super Bowl or something like that. But I think for most SMBs, it’s not the way to go today.
Sharon: That’s interesting. When you said Yellow Pages, once a year we used to get their version of the Yellow Pages, which was so small I’d immediately toss it. Anyway, that’s dating myself I suppose, because today I would go right online. I guess with social media and Facebook and all of that today, aren’t websites a little dated? Are they?
Ted: It’s funny you say that. I remember going to a marketing conference. It was probably three years before the pandemic, and the keynote speaker was arguing the point that websites were going to become irrelevant. His kids were in high school, and they were creating a thought-out marketing campaign of some sort. They made up a business and did the marketing, and he asked, “Where’s your website?” They’re like, “Why would we need a website? We’ll do everything on Instagram.” That was very interesting. At the time, I thought, “Oh man, he’s right. Maybe websites are going to get irrelevant.”
My wife finds a lot of things for products on social media. For instance, I don’t know if you’ve seen the Super Puff jacket that’s been around the last little while. It’s kind of cold in L.A. It’s been windy, so all the soccer moms, all the women wear these super huge, Super Puff jackets. My sister is an anti-social media person, and she was like, “Why am I seeing all these women wear these jackets? Where are they getting them? I haven’t seen them.” She actually had to google it. My wife is like, “No, people have been following these people on social media. It’s on social media. It’s not on a website.”
To answer your question, there’s that part of it, but for a lot of folks, a website is the main point where you get to interact with your potential customers. It’s a way for you to show how great you can be. Yes, you have social media, but there are comments and all kinds of stuff. You do need social media; I’m not saying you don’t. You absolutely, 100% need social media, but there’s absolutely a place for websites. There’s a place where websites are not going to be irrelevant.
For instance, me and my wife went on a couples retreat just last week, over Valentine’s week. We looked at this beautiful resort online, and everything they said was spelled out on their website. The entire experience starts there. It in fact starts with their advertising and whatnot, but we had heard about their name and the property for a number of years, and we always wanted to check it out. We ended up going on the website, and it was like, “O.K., we’re sold because of the pictures, the content, the tone it sets, the videos.” There’s absolutely a need for websites.
We have a lot of clients that are distributors and manufacturers that manufacture a product and distribute it all over the country. Our job is to communicate effectively why this product is going to be important for this customer’s business. They sell permeable paving products. They sell them to parking lot developers and people that own construction companies and stuff like that. You’re not going to find a lot of opportunities to talk about that on Instagram on a regular basis. It’s a product you install and that’s it. This is not the B2C Hayabusa boxing gloves, where Mike Tyson is coming on and demonstrating the gloves. You’re not going to get a lot of that hype. So, you still need a website. Even a lot of B2C companies that are very, very prominent on social media, at the end of the day, you need someone to convert. They have to go to a place like a website to buy the product, to book a meeting, to book their vacation, whatever it might be. Websites are 100% going to be here to stay.
Sharon: That sounds interesting. I think that’s true, especially for places that might not do as well on social media like law firms or CPA firms. You get a referral, and the first place you want to go is the website. If they have an educational video, that’s wonderful, but that would be the first place. I think there’s a lot of room for that.
Ted: Absolutely. Speaking of law firms—I know this is the law firm podcast—we work with a lot of professional service firms, and a lot of the time there is the referral. There’s word of mouth, but what’s the first thing you do when you get word of mouth? You’re going to find them online. So, the website is the credibility piece. You have to look the part. Looking the part means how you to project yourself into your industry. A lot of law firms will talk about their practice areas, the expertise they have. A lot of content they produce and publish is really important. We were speaking to one of our clients out of Culver City, and they were thinking, “What if we promote webinars to have people come to our actual location, our office?” One, you get to see the office and get the atmosphere, but two, you get to hear from the partners about their particular expertise as to what to do, what to look for, how to avoid certain circumstances. It’s a way to build trust.
Ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do these days in marketing. Long gone are the days of the hypodermic needle theory, which was—there’s an ad. What was it? Lucky Strike Cigarettes. “They taste delicious,” or whatever it is. They inject it and now you’re thinking, “I’ve got to buy these cigarettes.” Long gone are those days. The power is now with the buyer. The power is with the consumer, the person that is going to invest the dollars for a particular service or product. So, we have to build that trust and position our clients as much as we can as the thought leaders in their industry, so when someone comes to their website and sees their content and follows them, they start thinking, “Oh man, they’re almost a pseudo-celebrity.” We’re doing a build in our basement right now. We’ve been following this interior design company for some time, and by the time we met them, there was a little bit of a sense of, “Ooh, we’re meeting the superstars.” That’s what you want to do. You want to start building up into this almost pseudo-celebrity with a follower, fan-club-type deal.
We have a lot of content on ballisticarts.com, our website, about marketing. Sometimes I’ll come onto a Zoom call or a webinar, and people actually say, “My goodness, your website has helped me because of all this content. I really understand how you guys work. You’re giving this information out for free. I can only imagine what you would do for me if I was paying.” That’s what you’re trying to do. You’re giving away almost the whole farm but keeping back enough that they want to hire you. To be honest, you could give away the whole thing and most people are not going to have the time or desire to do what you do, especially with law firms. You have to be licensed. You have to be called to the bar to actually practice. There’s no harm in providing more information than not so long as you cover all the legal liabilities when you’re publishing things. You’re giving away expertise and showing that you’re a thought leader and you’re trusted in your industry. We all know there are always bad players, bad apples in every industry. Every industry has a bad reputation of some sort. It could be home remodelers. It could be law firms. It could be marketers. There’s always a guy selling snake oil. So, how do we differentiate ourselves? That’s what we need to do.
Sharon: How do you differentiate yourself if you walk into a meeting of partners or lawyers, and they’re all skeptical and have heard from 14 companies like yours? How do you differentiate yourself?
Ted: That’s great. I’ll talk about myself a little bit later, but given this is for folks in the legal space, I would say—and this is what we do for a lot of our clients. We want to really understand who your persona is. Who is your target buyer? You could be in family law, but maybe your focus is child custody, and maybe it’s African American women between the ages of 28 and 42, and they live in this part of Southern California and do this kind of a job. These are the kinds of things they like, these are the kinds of brands they speak to, these are the kinds of things they do for fun. Once we build that particular persona, then we ask, “What pain are you trying to solve? What is the number one thing they come to you for time and time again that you can solve better than most?” A lot of our clients are like, “Well, we’ll serve anybody.” Yes, I know you can serve anybody, but who would you want to serve? Who are the ones you can do really well with, the ones you love serving? Then find out what problem you solved for them, and then from that, you find out the pain they have. People buy emotionally. They might seek you out logically, like, “I need a divorce lawyer,” “I need a child custody lawyer,” but they’re going to buy emotionally. They’re going to be like, “This person will help me get to my goal because of X, Y, Z. They will help me solve this problem.”
We talk about pain a lot in our marketing. What is the pain we’re trying solve? There are two different kinds of pain. For instance—this was the early, early days in my business. We were trying to incorporate the company nationally, and we were working with a lawyer. It took the guy almost a year and he did the incorporation incorrectly. He was somebody I knew, someone who was going to give it to me “cost effectively,” but it took, Sharon, a year. The sum total of a year. I was so angry that it took this long. I didn’t know anything. I was in my mid-twenties then. We were a partnership until 2005, and then we incorporated. I was so naïve, I didn’t know. I thought this was just the way it was. Then I found out that no, incorporation doesn’t take that long at all.
My pain was that I needed to find a competent person that wasn’t going to hide behind all this other stuff and give me excuses. So, I met with somebody else. We had lunch. We talked about my pains. She listened, and at the end of the day, she did the work. Then she introduced me to another lawyer when she moved on, and now my lawyer is an old friend of mine from college. We lost touch for 10 years, then all of a sudden, he resurfaced in the firm I was using. He became my lawyer, and he’s been my lawyer for the last 10 years now.
What I’m trying to point to is that if you can actually address that person’s pain and tell them, “This is how I’m going to solve it,” you’re going to win. Think about it. Tylenol and Advil have never said, “We’re doing mass layoffs because of the recession.” No, because they’re painkillers. The only kinds of companies that are recession-proof are the painkiller-type companies. If you can position yourself as a painkiller rather than a vitamin—a vitamin is like a Peloton. That’s why Pelotons were doing so great and now they suck. There’s nothing wrong with the actual business or the operations. It’s because they’re not addressing pain; they’re addressing an aspiration. That’s really all it is. If you’re able to address that and you know this is specifically who you’re targeting, then every piece of communication you do is based on communicating to that one person.
For us at Ballistic, we position ourselves talking to 11 to 50-plus employee-type companies that are B2B. They can either be professional services or they can be distributors and manufacturers. Because we know that, when we come into a situation where we’re meeting with somebody who is talking to three or four other people, I can actually address specific pain points we’ve crafted and talked about internally forever. We address it, and we know it works because these are the same pains that all my clients had when they came looking for us. That’s one. Two, like I said, we focus primarily on the results. Everything we do is about the actual conversion.
Another client of ours, they build playgrounds. They distribute out of Montana and all over the West. They put in playgrounds for schools and municipalities. When they came to us, they were like, “Ted, I want to do a podcast,” and I went, “You build playgrounds and you want to make a podcast? What’s the total adjustable market share?” I think it was maybe 300 to 500 people that buy playgrounds. “So, your entire, total, maximum audience is 300 to 500 people.” “Yeah.” “Why do you want to do this?” “Our main competitor started a podcast and we’ve got to do one.” I’m like, “Do you think a podcast is going to make you any money?” Immediately the VP said, “I don’t think so.” I’m like, “What if we helped you get business?” and they’re like, “Well, we’re pretty busy already. Every year we want to grow. We’ve kind of plateaued, but we’ve done what we’ve done. It’s all word of mouth.” I’m like, “Well, what are your goals?” When you sell a playground, you don’t need a ton of leads because each deal is like five, six figures. The average order size is much larger, so they need two orders a month. “How can you need two orders a month? What’s your conversion rate?” “What do you mean by that?” “Conversion rate. When someone comes to you, what are the chances of them signing with you? For every 10 people that come in, how many would you need? How many would sign?” They’re like, “I think it would be 20%. I think one in five would sign with us.” I said, “O.K., you need two new deals a month, and you need 10 solid leads a month?” “Yeah, I think that’s it.” Immediately, “I could do that. I can get qualified leads coming to your website.” So long as we can track that, they can then track back how much revenue they have.
We have a client out of Seattle. They’re a data research company, and they sell to Amazon and Nintendo, large, large companies. The work we’ve done for them, they can actually track back how much business has been attributed to us. We have another professional consultancy. They sell to hotels and golf courses and whatnot. They help people open new restaurants, and we account for 70% of their new business. It’s because everything we do is tracking towards revenue growth.
I don’t know about you, but if I had a golden goose that I could put a dollar in and I got five back, I’d probably want to work with that firm. That’s really what I’ve done. I present the case to a business, “O.K., we’re going to put our feet to the fire. We’re going to work with you, and we’re going to get these results. It’s not about any numbers, not about impressions, not about likes. Those are nice, but they’re not going to pay the bills. You can’t eat on likes.” That’s what we’ve done, and that’s our unique selling position. That’s the blue ocean, as it were. I found that a lot of marketers aren’t willing to take that risk with their clients, and we do.
Sharon: You say you’re no-bullshit marketing. That’s no bullshit you’re saying right now.
Ted: Yes, ma’am, that’s exactly it.
Sharon: When you have a roomful of CPAs, lawyers, professional service people, and they’re skeptical right away but they don’t even know where to start—a lot of people right now are very interested in redesigning their website. If they want a website, where do you start the process if they don’t know where to start or if they’re doing it themselves?
Ted: That’s a great question. I think in a lot of CPA firms and law firms, there are a lot of partners. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so what we want to do is help them visualize. Any strategic meeting you would have with leadership is used for marketing, to talk from a business standpoint. I’m a businessman at the end of the day. I tell them, “I don’t care what you do. You don’t even need a new website.” A lot of times, companies come to us and say, “Why do we need a new website?” I’m like, “Actually, you don’t. Your website’s fine. You need some tweaks. You need business. So, let me ask you, what are your business growth goals this year?” That crystalizes everybody.
For the most part, especially the founding members, the entrepreneurs, the ones that grew this from nothing, they always have their eye on the ball, what the capital is like, what they need to hit their monthly goals and what they need to hit their annual goals. If they haven’t put it down on paper, they at least have some idea. Any successful businessperson needs to have that. So, I tap into that. I cut right to the point. I ask, “Forget the website or this and that. What amount of money do you need to make in the next 12 months for this to be a success?” They’ll tell me. They’ll tell me about percentages, or they’ll tell me about money. Either way, we find out what that is. It’s usually, “I need another million dollars.” “O.K., another million dollars. How many deals is that?” “I don’t know, maybe 10, 20 new deals a year.” “Let’s say it’s 24 just for math’s sake. You need two new deals a month.” I do the same thing, just backwards. “How much revenue is a deal?” “They can range from $5,000 for an initial engagement to $50,000 plus.” “Well, on average, what is it?” “On average, it’s $100,000.” Then they do the math themselves. “$50,000 because we’re doing the math for a million.” “So, you need 24 $50,000 deals.”
What kind of client is that? It’s this kind of client, the middle-age businessowner that is struggling. We’re talking about a CPA firm. Maybe they’re struggling with their CFO or they’re having cash flow problems. I don’t know; I’m making this up. O.K., what does that person look like? What are they like? Can you execute on that? I’ll actually ask them, “If I got you exactly that person, can you actually execute?” “Oh yes, absolutely.” I actually ask them. I fundamentally need this question answered: “If I brought you this amount of business, can you actually support it?” Because the worst thing that can happen is I open the floodgates and you can’t handle it. That’s going to mess up your reputation, and it’s not going to work. It’s like going to the gym and saying, “I can lift these weights,” and you actually can’t, and then you injure yourself. You can’t have that. So, I actually ask them, “Can you support the business?” “Oh yeah, we can definitely support the business,” or they think about it and they’re like, “Actually, we can’t.” It’s basically a financial proposition before anything else. “Based on this, you need a $100,000 a month. Our fee is X. Based on your margins, can you handle that?” and they go, “Well, yeah,” and I know they can.
Then, “Let’s work backwards. Now that your goal is this amount of money and this number of people, let’s do a digital marketing strategy plan to get you there.” It’s like visualizing running a marathon, but you don’t eat properly. You don’t sleep properly. You don’t know how to actually go to the gym. So, let’s create a workout plan for you. That’s exactly what we do. The first step we do is a digital marketing strategy plan. It is very inexpensive, but there is enough of an investment. It’s not going to break the bank one way or the other.
Then we create a full-out plan. It’s the next three to six to 12 months depending on the plan. This is what we’re going to do to help you hit your goal, and it’s very much spelled out. Based on their goals, this is the persona. We’ll do a competitive analysis. These are your three major competitors. We look at their strengths and weakness, and then we exploit the competitors’ weaknesses. “Well, they’re not good here, so this is the opportunity. This is where we’re going to go.” Based on the weaknesses of their competitors—maybe all the competitors have crappier websites than they do, so we don’t need a brand-new website right now. It’s basically the strategy we need to do based on the landscape and the goals. Then we create all the strategies and the tactics, which are in service of that. No vanity, no fluff, just straight to the point.
Sharon: If everything is in place and a professional service firm is doing all of that, videos, web development, graphic design they did a long time ago—maybe they refreshed it—how do you track it? Do you go back into the website? How do you track that?
Ted: We say, “O.K., great, you’ve done all this stuff.” Most CPA firms and law firms have a logo. They have a website. They might have dabbled in YouTube and they’ve tried some social media, but they’re coming to us because the results aren’t happening. It’s like, “I keep self-training, and I keep coming in last place or get no results in my marathon.” Now it’s time to hire a professional trainer. In fact, those are the folks we want to work with because they understand there’s a need for marketing, but they don’t care enough or know enough about marketing to make it work.
I know that as my business, I need a CPA; I need a lawyer. I’m not going to do it myself. I know I need one. When we first started, we set up our own books. Oh, my goodness, that was horrible, Sharon. But we did it ourselves because it was all we needed to do, and we didn’t have a whole lot of money. When we started making money, it was like, “How can we make the best use of our time?” For us, it all tracks back to results: what has worked, what hasn’t. If they go, “Nothing has worked,” then we’ll go back again to what your goal is.
It could also be something around messaging. Maybe everything looks great and it would be fine, but the messaging doesn’t ring true to the end buyer. Remember we talked about pain. Maybe the messaging is like, “We’re a law firm in L.A.” O.K., and? So? What can we do to make you different? What can we do to make you stand out and speak to that specific buyer? That’s ultimately what it is.
Sharon: What if this lawyer or CPA says, “O.K., now I want to see your results in terms of leads”? What do you show them? What do you show them in terms of revenue?
Ted: You mean after we’ve worked with them?
Sharon: Yeah, after you’ve worked with them. Let’s say six months down the road.
Ted: Oh, we track that. This is my company, and I have very, very talented folks that work at Ballistic Arts. I myself don’t do much anymore. I myself go on podcasts and talk to people like you, Sharon. That’s kind of what I do. I don’t even have Adobe or the software on my computer. I have very talented people do this, but I’m a leader. I make sure my team executes as well as they can, like the head coach. Sean McVay, head coach of the Rams, does not throw a football. He has to coach his team on how to throw the football, what the strategies are, what the plans are.
Every week, I meet with all my account managers and go through all their accounts, and I go, “O.K., what’s working? What isn’t?” There’s an actual lead goal, a number, for every client that is different. Some clients need 50 a month; some clients need five. Then we track. Based on that, is it red or green? Green means it’s on track. Red is off track. I go, “O.K., that client has been off track for the last three weeks. What are we doing? What strategy are we putting in place?” Then we chat it through. Again, because I’m not the super smart one, I just make sure they understand that this is priority, and they brainstorm. We have a brainstorming process in-house they go through. They do some A/B testing and all that kind of stuff to pinpoint where the issues are.
More often than not, it’s great. The results turn up. What you measure matters. I think that’s the saying. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. What I’m trying to say is I make sure I keep my team’s eye on the prize. They’re not just doing stuff for doing stuff’s sake and then getting compensated. Their bonuses are all tied to results for the clients.
Sharon: I know you have a very talented team. It’s clear just looking at your website. If everybody is doing their job right but it isn’t resulting in the $50,000 or the $100,000 or whatever you need a month, what do you do? What if everybody’s doing their job right?
Ted: If they were doing their job right and it’s not working, we have found some clients are not skilled when the leads come through from a sales standpoint. So, we’ll track. “We’ve gotten 15 leads a month for you”—or whatever the goal is—”and you’re saying they’re not any good.” Depending on where they come from, we can actually see the quality of the lead. We’ll go through everything and go, “O.K., this is what they gave you.” Clearly, it’s a qualified lead.
I’ll give you an example of a client we worked with early on, the one that said, “Ted, if you do this, I’ll never leave you.” We saw a bunch of good leads, so I’m calling him to congratulate him on the great business he’s getting. He’s like, “I haven’t signed any business yet.” More often than not, we double the lead counts. This client only needed five, so we got him 10. “What do you mean?” “I don’t know. I emailed them. They didn’t email back.” “Well, did you pick up the phone and call them?” Oh, I have to call them?” “Yes, you do.” This is something Ballistic is looking into. It’s probably not going to be something in the next year or so, but how can we support our clients from the sales standpoint? I can only lead a horse to water. I can’t get a horse to drink. That’s what can happen.
We do have clients where I ask them, “What have you done?” but they don’t have any formal sales training, either. They’re really good technicians, but they don’t have any formal sales training. I am considering sending some of the folks in my network for sales training, but I’m trying to think of how we can support these clients. It doesn’t happen all that often because most of our clients we work with have to be established. Like I said, 11 to 50 employees.
You’re not a startup, usually, with that much of a headcount—well, you might be if you have good financing, but we don’t work with startups. We have tried, and that, in fact, is something we’ve steered away from because startups are attractive, but their model hasn’t been proven to the marketplace. It’s a great idea, but is the market taking to this product, to this service? We have seen that the entrepreneur starting the startup is very excited about their idea; they have to be. But they might not objectively understand that the market doesn’t want their product or service. I can bring in all the leads I want, but people aren’t going to buy it. They don’t see the value. That’s not something I can support because that’s a business model flaw, not a marketing flaw.
Sharon: Well, you certainly do a lot of things, Ted. I’m sure you’re very busy, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.
Ted: Absolutely, Sharon, it was a pleasure talking with you. If any one of your listeners has any questions, by all means, they can reach out to me on BallisticArts.com. We have a lot of resources they can tap into and listen to and watch and read so that they can educate themselves to be better marketers for their business. You can always find me on LinkedIn. There’s only one other Ted Lau. I think he’s in Hong Kong, and he’s a photographer, I think. There is a doctor in Hong Kong as well that is named Ted Lau, but he’s not me. So, you can find me on LinkedIn.
Sharon: Thank you very much.
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