The Sound of Pursuit Podcast returns!
Below, you’ll find audio and an edited transcript of our brainstorming session on marketing, starring Entrepreneur editor-in-chief, Jason Feifer:
Here at Pursuit, we publish a lot of stories about marketing best practices for private investigators and small business owners. Our colleagues have a lot to say about what has worked for them in promoting their business — and what hasn’t. And that’s all incredibly valuable.
That said, we thought it might be nice to check in with an expert from outside the PI industry, to find out more about the wider world of marketing and networking. Who better than the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine to help us understand how business leaders are positioning themselves, and the mindset of the customers we’re trying to reach?
ast week our editor Hal Humphreys sat down with Jason Feifer — author, journalist, friend, and editorial head honcho at Entrepreneur — to talk about marketing. We learned a ton about how to change our mindset about “shameless self promotion,” the value of sharing expertise for free, and what pro-marketers mean by “the funnel.”
In a word, says Feifer, it’s all about trust.
We’ve edited this transcript to whittle down the word count, so if you want to absorb ALL the Feifer wisdom, you’ll just have to listen.
Sound of Pursuit Audio:
INTRO: Joining me today is Jason Feifer of Entrepreneur magazine, to chat about marketing and professionalism for private investigators.
HAL HUMPHREYS: It’s a weird business. We don’t market to the general public, because we don’t (by and large) work with the general public. We work with attorneys. With en eye toward marketing, what would be the best advice you could give for someone in a one-off, strange business like private investigations?
First, A Marketing Mental Shift
JASON FEIFER: I get that private investigators may not like to market themselves. I think a lot of people feel like marketing is somehow cheapening who they are. It’s the reason why so many professionals do not market themselves in any traditional way. You don’t see doctors necessarily marketing themselves. But it can be necessary and valuable. First off, you have to go through a mind shift: By marketing, you are not hawking yourself. You are not being a cheap door-to-door salesman for yourself. By marketing, what you’re doing is you are saying, “I have something of value, and I want people to have that value.”
You have to believe in your value, and then when you’re marketing, you’re not harassing people. You’re not chasing them down with something they don’t want to hear. You are presenting them with a solution to a problem they have, and that solution just happens to be you.
When you’re marketing, you’re not harassing people. You are presenting them with a solution to a problem they have, and that solution just happens to be you.
So when you think of it that way, it becomes a lot easier to become self-promotional, because you’re not forcing it upon somebody. You are truly providing value.
And Now, How to Actually Do It
FEIFER: I would advise anybody to just try things out. I don’t know the PI industry all that well, so I don’t know how an attorney might find and select a PI to work with. If you don’t know the answer to that either, then step one is understanding that. It’s entirely possible that an attorney could not know who to hire and then stumble upon somebody in (say) an ad on Facebook, and say, “Oh! That’s the solution to my problem. I should check this person out.”
That stuff happens all the time! We make gigantic decisions as consumers based on what is really (when you think about it) pretty stupid information. On an advertisement somewhere. That means there is value in just being in front of somebody.
So it’s possible you could find value in producing some article or video about yourself and doing a targeted run to attorneys on Facebook. But there are lots of other ways to position yourself as an expert and be in the kinds of media that your potential clients would consume. And therefore, people start to see you as a person who can provide value.
Giving Away Information … for Free? YES.
HUMPHREYS: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to identify specific attorneys I’d like to work with and finding out what organizations they’re members of, joining those organizations or offering to present as an investigator-expert, and say, “If you’re looking for surveillance operatives, here’s what you should look for.” And not even pitch myself, but pitch what they should be looking for. Getting in front of those people and offering something for free is a really good thing to do. How do you feel about targeted marketing like that?
FEIFER: It’s a really smart strategy because you’re bridging the trust gap. You’re not pitching these folks in an advertising way. It’s easy for you to get up in front of potential clients and talk about the thing you know really well without having to say, “And hire me!” And in doing so, you will be seen as more trustworthy to these people. That’s the largest leap anybody needs to take.
If you’re an attorney, you could just Google “private investigator” and find a million people. But the question is, Who is smart, and who can I trust? If you have found some way to answer that question for people, perhaps before they even need you, then they’re going to come back to you when they do need you.
You can also do that without traveling to conferences. For example, are there websites attorneys read that you could be writing for? Could you create recurring content these people would want to read, because it’s useful to them? The point is not to be overtly marketing yourself, but to be writing about things they are interested in, that’s going to help them in their jobs — because you know something that they don’t.
The more you can become a trusted provider of information to them, the more they may come to you to hire you when they need somebody.
The question is, Who is smart, and who can I trust? If you have found some way to answer that question for people, perhaps before they even need you, then they’re going to come back to you when they do need you.
HUMPHREYS: Right. There are several industry newsletters and podcasts for attorneys. Would providing free content to those outlets be something you might suggest?
FEIFER: Sure. People do it all the time in my line of work. I run Entrepreneur magazine. Entrepreneur.com has a very robust contributor network — a fancy way of saying a ton of entrepreneurs who write for free. Why do they want to do this? Because it helps them position themselves for something else.
I could imagine, for example, that a CEO might want to write stories for us because they can show it to potential investors. Now they seem more legitimate. Because you have to think about the mentality of the person you’re appealing to. An investor does not just invest in the company idea but invests in the founder. One way to show, “I am a founder worth investing in” is to say, “I am a founder whose ideas and perspective in business is so trusted, that a publication like Entrepreneur will publish my advice for other entrepreneurs. That’s a great way to build trust and to prove you’re worth investing in.
And the same is absolutely true if you are an attorney, and you need a PI who understands exactly what an attorney needs.
Clearly, the more you can position yourself as a trusted, knowledgeable person in that space, the more somebody will want to work with you. You are a knowledgeable person with value to provide.
Websites, Writing, and “The Funnel” Strategy
HUMPHREYS: Absolutely. When people write for Pursuit, sometimes we get a little pushback from folks saying, “I’m a writer. I need to be paid.” Fair enough, but we don’t have a budget to pay, because Pursuit doesn’t actually make any money. But the folks that do write for PM have said over and over, “I’ve had attorneys call me and say, ‘I saw your story in Pursuit Magazine, and that’s why I’m calling you.’” That is invaluable.
My friend Brian Willingham has been blogging for 10 years, and it’s gotten him more work than anything else. It’s the best-looking and the best-written of what’s available. A lot of private investigators have these My Space-style websites that are really poorly designed. I think a website is marketing. I think it’s a way to validate the fact that, “I’m a professional.” What things do you look for in a website?
FEIFER: Let me lead into that by acknowledging the thing you said about people writing for Pursuit and sometimes they want to be paid: There’s a common phrase in the world of marketing, which is “the funnel” — what you’re ultimately doing is getting potential consumers into your “sales funnel.” That’s a nice visual metaphor for trying to reach lots of people, get them in and move them through and down to the ultimate goal, which is to become a regular client.
You need to remember what’s the top of the funnel, what’s the bottom, and not confuse what business you’re in. If you’re a private investigator, you’re in the business of serving clients. Your business is not writing. So if you are going to write, that’s a top-of-funnel thing. The same is true for a website. You’re not in the web design business. But great web design is part of your funnel.
So you should be investing in anything that can serve your funnel. All of it is part of one continuous process: to capture people, get them to trust you and engage with you, and ultimately hire you. Everything you’re doing should be serving that.
To your question about websites: I make decisions myself based on how good somebody’s website is. If somebody tells me about a company that’s doing some interesting thing, and I go to that company’s website and it looks like no consumer could possibly be engaging with this company, then I think, “OK, there’s a lot of hype here and not a lot of actual business being done.”
Same thing with writers. I hire writers all the time. I know a writer is not in the business of making a website, but a writer needs to be extremely detail oriented and very professional. And if they’re throwing crap up on the Internet to represent them, then I don’t know how they’re going to represent themselves when I hire them to go talk to people. So I’m less inclined to trust them.
It doesn’t cost that much money to make a good website.
HUMPHREYS: You can go to Strikingly, and for next to no money, have a pretty website.
FEIFER: Oh, yeah! And you could hire someone to do that, or you can carve a few hours out of your day and teach yourself Wix or Squarespace and do it your damn self. That’s what I’ve done. My website jasonfeifer.com, I built it myself on Wix. I’d say it took me about a week’s worth of time between the hours of 6:30 and 8:00a.m., where my kid was fed and before going to school, and I would sit there trying to figure out the website. And it looks great!
So if you’re not investing in your basic public face — front of the house stuff — I don’t see why anybody should trust your back of the house.
If you’re not investing in your basic public face — front of the house stuff — I don’t see why anybody should trust your back of the house.
Be easy to find. And broadcast trustworthiness.
FEIFER: Another thing that drives me absolutely insane about websites is that professionals make it so hard to contact them! I have spent so much time trying to find a great magazine writer in X or Y market. And I find someone, and their work is good, and they don’t have a website. Or they have a website, and it’s crappy and doesn’t have an email address. If I don’t know how to get in touch with you very easily, then I am not going to get in touch with you.
This is the craziest thing: people are in the business of serving clients, and they’re not making it abundantly simple to find them, find their work, trust them, and get in touch.
HUMPHREYS: You’re looking for a writer to cover a topic, and one of the concerns you have as an editor is how that person is going to represent you and your book to the people they’re interviewing. I have a notion that attorneys think about private investigators in exactly the same way, which is: Do I want to send this person out to interview people, as my agent, representing me? I think that’s another thing that’s important about the website, how you present yourself in social media, all those things — just be professional.
FEIFER: That’s absolutely right. If you’re going to hire someone and they’re going to engage with anybody else on your behalf, then they are functionally a representative of you. You need to know that this person is going to serve you well and is not going to tarnish your name and reputation.
So every single little thing you can do to broadcast that trustworthiness is going to help you get that job. People will extrapolate based on the limited information they have. If I am researching somebody I would like to hire, and the only thing I have about them is their website — I haven’t met them, I haven’t talked to other people they work with — I am going to extrapolate as much as I can from the thing I am looking at. And if it’s a crappy website, I’m going to think that this person does not care about the work that they do.
HUMPHREYS: Right. Absolutely. Jason, I can’t thank you enough for joining us.
About our esteemed guest:
Jason Feifer is the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, and the host of three podcasts: Problem Solvers, about entrepreneurs solving unexpected problems in their business, Pessimists Archive, a history of unfounded fears of innovation, and Hush Money, a series of awkward and taboo conversations about money. He’s @heyfeifer on Twitter and Instagram.