photo by Carrie Plummer
Growing Your Private Investigations Business with Effective Marketing
For private investigators, marketing can be a challenge.
A lot of PIs I meet enjoy the investigation part of their business and neglect the marketing side. They consider marketing a nuisance, a distraction, or simply an unknown. Many come from law enforcement backgrounds where there no need to sell their services. But when you run your own business, if you don’t go out and get customers, you don’t stay in business very long.
Being a successful business owner means adopting the right attitude about marketing. The fact is, in the investigations field, there is little leverage—basically, all you have to sell is time. Sure, if you’re really good, you can charge on the high end for your hours, but no matter what, your time is finite.
With marketing you can get a return of your time that is 2x, 5x, or 10x the time you put in. Imagine landing that large company or law firm. Not only can the initial sale be high, but if you measure the lifetime value of the client it may be 7 figures worth of business! It’s important when marketing not only to compare the investment against that first billing, but knowing the lifetime value of your average client.
Another consideration is this: Selling yourself isn’t something that you do just once. Marketing, in order to be effective, must be an ongoing effort.
Even when results don’t seem to be coming in, planting the seeds is critical. Some investigators will dip a toe into a marketing plan, get overwhelmed or discouraged, and stop.
Selling your company is like taking your meds—you don’t stop doing it once business (or your body) is suddenly strong and healthy. When new clients are coming in the door, it means your marketing strategy is working. Keep it up!
Direct Response vs. Brand Marketing
There are two basic types of marketing. To understand brand marketing, think Apple or Coca-Cola. Creating a global brand requires years of effort and, usually, lots of money. But for a small company (like a PI firm), your name is your brand.
Building a brand—in essence, your reputation—isn’t a magic trick, and it won’t happen overnight. You can’t trick people into believing you’re something you’re not. It’s about being real, and putting in the time. Some of that costs money, but some of it just costs hard work.
First and foremost, deliver excellent service. Underpromise and overdeliver. Produce well-written reports, communicate well with clients, and refer them to someone else if you can’t give them when they need.
Next, share your expertise: Publish articles in industry newsletters, speak at conferences, or write a book. Contact media outlets and make yourself available for interviews. This will usually be unpaid work, and results are hard to measure. But when you make the effort to expand and share your knowledge, the value to you can prove immeasurable.
Direct Response Marketing
Direct response marketing is the most simple and cost-effective way to reach your target clients. And with today’s technology, it’s simple to calculate the return on investment of your marketing dollars. Whether you use Yellow Pages, pay-per-click advertising (PPC), ads in community papers, direct mail, telemarketing, or email, results for all can be tracked. Here are some ideas:
- Use unique call tracking phone numbers.
- Use PURL (personalized URL’s) for direct mail.
- Create unique landing pages for PPC campaigns.
- Use coupon codes in newspaper advertising.
No matter what technique you use, the important action you should take is to measure the results and test variations. We did a Google consumer survey and asked people who’d hired a PI how they found the investigator. Interestingly, both Yellow Pages and Websites garnered an equal 10% response. However, women were 50% likelier to use Yellow Pages, while men were more likely to find a PI online.
How can you use that information to target your clients?
When you think about marketing, break it into 3 parts: before, during, and after the sale.
Before the sale is where you generate leads. It’s what most people think of when they use the word marketing, but it’s only the beginning of the process.
One of the most important parts of this is simply answering the phone. Unfortunately, reaching voice mail is a common complaint from people wanting to hire a PI.
During the sale is all about the conversion process. I highly recommend Neal Rackham’s book SPIN Selling. Instead of memorizing a sales pitch, Rackham instructs readers to listen to a prospect’s problems and convert them into solutions that you can offer him.
And finally, don’t neglect after the sale marketing. Keep in contact with prospects that didn’t hire you, and follow up with former clients. As any PI knows, the #1 source of new clients is referrals. Create an orchestrated referral process to make it easy for people who have hired you to refer their friends and colleagues to you.
Marketing is a science. Learn to do it well and you will have a very profitable PI business.
About the author:
Paul Beauchemin is the President of PI Profits, a marketing agency for private investigators that is results-oriented for PI marketing, sales, and customer service. To sign up for great marketing tips via email, visit PIProfitsAgency.com, or call 1- (888) 344-0434 to schedule a complimentary best practice marketing investigation briefing.