Staying in your comfort zone may stop you from finding out how high your business can soar.
by Marc Garza
The term “2.0” in marketing circles connotes a feeling of “improved” or “better” in most industries. How does the 2.0 idea apply to your PI and security consulting businesses?
For me, it’s a constant reminder to stay out of the comfort zone.
If you want to develop your business and move to a new level of income, you can’t rest on your laurels. A big part of improvement and development is moving out of familiar territory and doing something you aren’t all that comfortable with. Some people spend a lifetime in the comfort zone in business and personal life, without significant improvement. That may make for an easy life, but you’ll also never find out what you’re truly capable of.
Below are my takes on some statements or concerns I’ve heard within our industry about areas of the business that often provoke anxiety or discomfort in investigative entrepreneurs:
Distaste for Self-Promotion
Comfort Zone Statement: “I hide because I am an operative.”
One controversial topic I’ve discussed with colleagues many times is overt marketing in the private investigations business. Some PIs will not post ANY information about themselves either on social media or their websites, citing safety reasons or the need for surveillance operatives to maintain anonymity. Some have even told me that self-promotion “feels” wrong or unprofessional, and they worry they’ll be criticized by their colleagues for it.
I understand the thinking. I was a cop for more than 20 years, often working undercover, and I felt the same way about discussing my work in public. (Fortunately, cops don’t need to market their services.) But every private investigator knows that if someone wants to find you, you can be found, whether or not your picture is posted on Linkedin. And thanks to the wealth of free online resources available now, it’s not even that hard to learn personal information on just about anyone.
I’m in the private sector now and I own a business, so my thinking has changed. Failing to promote my business for whatever reason only hampers the potential for my company to grow. As for questions of discretion and professionalism, I believe there’s a right and wrong way to promote yourself. You don’t have to be pushy, annoying, or rude, and you don’t have to compromise your safety or anyone else’s.
If you have a business, you have the potential to make an excellent income in the private investigations and security industries. But the only way you can do that is to let people know you exist AND are a player in the industry. If you don’t, then you’ll be overlooked by potential clients.
Successful businesspeople are usually quite proactive in promoting their businesses with passion and excitement. You must have followers if you wish to be successful, and that means you must show potential clients your business through promotion.
Trying to Be All Things for All Customers
Comfort Zone Statement: “I offer a wide-variety of services.”
One of the easiest things you can do to improve your business is to specialize. Find a niche that suits your professional training, experience, or interests. Long gone are the days of “we offer a wide variety of investigative services.” Obviously, if you are new to an industry, it’s difficult to turn or refer business away, even if it’s not the kind of work you prefer. But at some point, to move forward, you must turn away assignments not within the scope of your specialization.
You can specialize in a specific customer or client, particular geographical market, or particular investigative service. When you specialize, you can also increase your fees and hourly rates because you’re an expert in a certain investigative field. I have found by referring business to other PI’s, it helps me keep my focus and clarity on the real areas I want to work in. Plus, other investigators happily refer me business within the scope of my expertise.
Cold Call Fear & Loathing
Comfort Zone Statement: “I don’t do cold calls. I’m not a salesperson.”
If you’re currently busy with referral business only, congratulations! You are in the top 10 percent of professionals in our industry. You probably don’t need my marketing advice. I’m speaking to the “bottom” 90 percent of the business owners grinding it out every day to bring in clients, a percentile which includes me.
In my business development training, one of the first questions I ask clients is, “What do you do for a living?” Invariably, they respond with canned answers, or they’re confused by the question.
I usually respond with “You are a Lead Generator and Salesperson.” To be successful, I remind them, you must constantly sell your services to people you don’t know yet. In essence, you are “cold-calling” or in sales terminology, “prospecting.”
One obstacle for many people in approaching someone they don’t know and asking for their business is simple fear of rejection. Nobody enjoys hearing the word “no.” And we enjoy even less facing the possibility of rudeness, disapproval, or criticism when courting potential clients. Guess what? It gets easier. The reality is that 80% of sales calls or inquiries will end in a “no,” but the NOs hurt a little bit less each time.
In this business, you must be proactive and persistent, not reactive. You have to be where your target market is and introduce yourself to people who might hire you, if only they knew about you.
One easy and effective method I’ve used in my marketing efforts is to make at least 50 contacts a week. A “contact” can be defined as a business meeting, sent letters to target market prospects, or phone calls to referrals given to you. For instance, whenever I work with an attorney, I ask for a referral to another attorney who may need my services. I usually follow through on this by having my client send a short introductory email to the colleague with me cc’d so I can reply to the email to request a meeting or brief phone call. This method alone has doubled inquires for my services on a weekly basis.
Stepping out of your “comfort zone” in the realms of marketing and specialization, say, is critical to improving your “2.0” business. Being comfortable is overrated! It will give you the illusion of security and will not cultivate your true potential as an entrepreneur.
I can’t make absolute guarantees that if you exit your comfort zone, you’ll see an immediate leap in profits. But I CAN promise you this: If you stay comfortable and change nothing, your income probably won’t change either.
About the author:
Marc A. Garza is a licensed private investigator in San Diego, California. He owns GRI Consulting Group and is the VP of Investigations and Business Development for Sentry, Inc. He is a retired police sergeant with more than 20 years of service in San Diego. Prior to his law enforcement career, he worked for two financial services corporations, in sales and marketing.