Five Time-Wasting Mistakes Private Investigators Make When Trying to Grow Their Businesses
Becoming a pilot has given me a new perspective on marketing: It’s a waste of time and money.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that pilots don’t earn money. I’ve been flying for a little over three years, and I’ve made a whopping negative amount of $14,692. The best advice I can give you is: don’t fall for whatever B.S. people tell you about flying for money; it’s a scam. The only people who make a living flying are flight instructors, airline captains, corporate pilots, freight haulers, military flyers, and about 20 other types of pilots who’ve trained for years and put thousands of hours in their logbooks. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it.
I don’t believe in many conspiracies, but I’m sure it’s rigged. In order to actually make money at this, I’d have to get a commercial license and instrument rating, gain more experience in the air, develop a career path, create a business strategy, and invest in an airplane. But that takes time and a lot more money than I’ve already spent.
I haven’t made any money at all. My flight instructor makes about $95,000 a year. He thinks it’s the best job in the world. “Another day in paradise,” he always says, when I hand him a check.
I recently bought a guitar. I’m about $450 in the hole for that time-wasting hobby as well. Willie Nelson is pushing $25 million using a 1969 busted guitar named Trigger.
Writing is a waste of time. No one reads blogs. However, Brian Willingham has one of the best private investigator blogs in the industry. His website has had more than a million visitors over the past decade, “and it was all because of blogging,” he says — with the huge caveat that it took a year and a half of working at it to get any traction.
Marketing is not a waste of time or money — unless you wing it.
Marketing is not a waste of time or money — unless you wing it. Take the time to build out a strategy. Keep at it. Without a roadmap and a little tenacity, you’ll end up with a website that fails to deliver value to your clients, a Google AdWords campaign with few to no conversions, and a social media presence that’s about as dry as the Sahara.
When private investigators contact us at Investigator Marketing, they’re looking for one thing over the other – rarely are they looking for a full strategy. It comes down to this: Websites without marketing = Fail. Marketing without websites = Fail. Always.
In the last decade, we learned that some things work, while others don’t. That’s why I’m giving you four legitimate time-wasting mistakes
Investigators make when they’re looking for ways to grow their businesses.
If you’re doing any of these things, we want you to please stop it right now.
1. Worrying about creating a “brand” instead of selling a service.
Don’t get me wrong, branding is powerful. It’s the reason people buy Coca Cola, Apple, or Nike vs. a competitor. There are two ways to create a brand: Spend millions of dollars a year on promoting your image, or spend years developing what you actually stand for.
If you’re a small firm, don’t worry too much about branding. Worry about creating a service that clients will love, a service that people will talk about — then sell that service, many times over. At the end of the day, sales drive brands, not the other way around.
Get started by answering these five questions:
- Why are they looking for a private investigator? Because they saw a T.V. show.
- What are your clients having issues with? Infidelity.
- Why should they trust your firm? Because I’ve helped over 700 people.
- How can you show this to them? I wrote articles to help them understand our industry.
- What are you going to do when they hire you? I’m going to help solve their problem.
Now, instead of creating a brand with a giant logo to back it up, you’re creating a service that people want and need. Here’s how you might write that up on your site:
We have worked with more than 700 clients dealing with infidelity and deception — by finding solid evidence that helps them make tough decisions about their lives. We know it’s not easy. That’s why we’ve written a series of articles to help you understand what we do and how it can inform a coherent legal strategy. Don’t fall for what you see on television; the media too often sensationalizes the work we do. Request a consultation. Find out how we can help you.
Don’t become another pretty company with subpar services. In other words, beware of focusing so much on marketing that you forget to do great work.
That would be kinda like designing a slick-looking airplane that can’t actually fly.
2. Redesigning a website without a purpose.
Before you build a website, figure out what role your site will play in your day-to-day operations. You don’t need a complicated website with all the bells and whistles; you need a site that works for your company goals. It’s not about your website looking cool. It needs to look like it belongs to you, allow users to easily find what they’re looking for, and drive visitors to do what you want them to do. It needs to load quickly and be search-engine friendly, easy to manage, and above all, mobile responsive.
At the end of the day, the goal of your website is to give your visitors the information they need while they’re in research mode and entice them to contact you when they’re ready to do business.
No two websites are the same. Don’t try to copy what other people are doing — that’s called Survivorship Bias. Do your own thing, the thing that works for you.
Regardless of how you design your website, here are 4 things you need to do:
1.) Deliver Your Message.
When a person lands on your site, they’re probably already looking for a private investigator. So you don’t need to say, “A private investigator, private detective, or inquiry agent, is a person who can be hired to blah blah blah…” You have limited time to convert a site visitor into a client. They have a problem, and they want it solved now.
Remember those five questions from branding? Answer them as quickly as possible — with spare, focused writing.
2.) Educate Your Visitors.
Write 5 – 6 pillar articles for your website to educate and help people. Don’t be afraid to give out “secrets” of the industry. That’s why articles like “Things [Insert Profession] Don’t Want You to Know” often go viral.
What are “pillar articles” or “cornerstone content“? They’re usually longer, in-depth articles meant to explain a concept or teach readers how to do something. They’re full of practical tips that people will return to again and again — in other words, they are evergreen.
3.) Create High CRO Metrics.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a fancy term for structuring your website to increase the chances a site visitor will become a lead before they leave the page. Many digital marketing firms offer this service. You can also study CRO tools and strategies yourself, then go to step 4 (below).
4.) Test & Learn.
As you start to work with CRO techniques, use the data you get from those tools to change your website. Change the sales pitch. Find better ways to deliver your value proposition. Don’t get attached to the look and feel of your website — it’s not as cool as you think it is.
3. Incorrectly setting up your PPC campaigns.
I need to bring this up to introduce our next topic (Tracking Tools). But I’m not going to spend a ton of time on this, since Scott Fulmer already did a great piece this month on Google Ads. (You can also see our Investigator Marketing blog for more on this topic.) But I do want to touch on something important here: Claiming that Google AdWords, Social Media Retargeting, Geo-Fencing, SEO, or Some Other Tool doesn’t work because you tried it once is like a client saying, “I don’t need a background check, because I already Googled the person.”
The power of a tool comes down to the know-how of the user. If you don’t set up your campaigns correctly, you can waste a LOT of money. We’ve seen campaigns with cost-per-click as high as $73. This should never happen; it’s user error, not a failure of the tool itself.
Please don’t claim that PPC Advertising doesn’t work when the real problem is you misconfigured your campaign. For those who have the budget, PPC can be extremely successful. We would be glad to give you a free audit if you contact us and mention this article.
4. Using marketing platforms without the necessary tracking tools.
Unlike traditional media, digital marketing can be tracked and analyzed down to the smallest detail. We have tools that record mouse movements. We have tools that capture real-time traffic data from your competitors. Tools that give us data and insights into how much money your competitors spend on Marketing, SEO, PPC. Use these tools to your advantage.
Here are some metrics that you should monitor:
- User Behavior by HotJar – Know how people are behaving on your website. What are they looking at?
- Exit Link Data by Google Analytics – What are users clicking on when they leave your website? At what point are they leaving?
- Landing Page Data by Google Search Console – What keywords were they looking for when they found your website?
- Bounce Rate by Google Analytics – This is when people come to your site and immediately leave. Give them what they need so they don’t leave.
- Conversion Rates by Google Tag Manager – How many people are becoming clients?
- Sessions Per Visit by Google Analytics – How many pages are your visitors viewing?
- Traffic Sources by Google Analytics – Where's your traffic coming from? How can you increase it?
Tools give you insight into how well your marketing campaigns are working. They help you improve your website layout, reduce the number of distractions, figure out where you need to spend money and time, and fine tune your strategy.
5. Casting too wide a net.
This is the biggest mistake private investigators make when marketing themselves.
There’s a misconception in our industry: The more services I offer, and the wider my service area is, the more work I’m going to get.
This could not be further from the truth. We have 25,031 private investigative agencies in the United States, about 20,000 of which have fewer than five employees. There’s nothing wrong with being a small agency serving local clients.
Some folks don’t seem to realize that. We get calls from private investigators who offer “international services” because they’re a member of an association with international investigators. Large companies and savvy customers are going to know you’re not international. Why? Because your website doesn’t look the part. Because your phone number is attached to a cellphone. Because last time you answered, your baby was crying in the background.
If your local market doesn’t know you’re a private investigator yet, you’re not ready for a national push. Join the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, BNI, or local Master Mind Groups – farm your local community. Once your community knows about you, then you can consider growing from your location.
Marketing takes time, money, patience, and trust. If you use marketing strategies correctly and provide a good service, your company will grow – in time. As I’ve learned from my piloting experience, it takes hours of practice before you ever fly solo, and years of purposeful training before you stop spending and start earning.
So if you want to soar (and earn) as an entrepreneur, stop wasting resources on the mistakes I mentioned above.
Or don’t … you’re an adult. It’s your time and money.
As for me, I want to live every day like it’s another day in paradise. That’s why I plan to keep up my flying lessons until I earn a commercial pilot’s license and flight instructor certificate. Because being a pilot is only a waste of time and money if I give up too soon, before I start seeing the payoff.