How many times have you heard about a Private Investigations business that started up and closed within a year? It happens so often that it doesn’t even catch my attention any longer….

My personal opinion is this: It is due to a lack of business acumen. Take a look at the internet and you will find hundreds of advertisements for “P.I. Schools” (which is a topic in and of itself). These correspondence schools tout teaching skills of investigation and aspects of this “new and exciting career field,” but you’ll never see anything about the business aspects of the job. How many retired Public Service Detectives, turned Private Investigator, do you know that have an M.B.A. from Harvard?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met anyone that went into business for themselves in hopes of going broke! To make money you have to provide a quality needed service or solution at an affordable price. And, you have to market your services or solutions to the correct target group of potential clients to obtain the assignment of a case or task. Furthermore, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get your sales pitch out there.

Also read The 5 benefits of email marketing

Here’s a few things you can do free or on the cheap to generate some good marketing:

In this day and age of the internet it is imperative that you have a website. It doesn’t have to be 30 pages long and have all manner of bells and whistles. It needs to be informative painting a concise picture of who you are and what you are. In essence it is your worldwide business card and yellow pages listing. You can build a free website using several services like www.webs.com or www.weebly.com . It also needs to be appropriately submitted to search engines so that their “crawlers” will reference it correctly. A great tool to assist you with your website is Google Analytics.

Now let’s talk on the subject of business cards for a second. They’re your most basic form of advertising. They will need to have your complete contact information upon them and some indication of the type of business you do. You can get cheap or free business cards at places like www.businesscardsusa.net or www.vistaprint.com . I once met a P.I. that was a season ticket holder for a professional baseball team. They had the practice of throwing a handful of business cards into the air as confetti every time their team hit a homerun. Hand them out every chance you get. Leave them on tables at restaurants. Make sure they get stapled inside court case files. Had them out to everyone that provides you a service (i.e., the drycleaner, the car detailer, the bartender, the barber or stylist, your doctor, the local librarian, etc.).

An often overlooked form of information dissemination is the good old fashioned press release. Traditionally press releases were mailed or faxed to reporters or newspaper editors, television news rooms, or other pipelines for public relations to let folks know about something news worthy. However, I am of the opinion that you could and should craft properly formatted press releases and broadcast them as often as possible. You can even send them out over the internet for free using sites like www.prweb.com or www.pressking.com . Many P.I.’s are in fact bound by confidentiality, but it is possible to get your client’s permission to divulge your success in solving their case or assisting them with their issues.

If you’ve done some cursory research of your potential clients and have developed a list of their email addresses you can send a monthly email marketing campaign. Perhaps you could use this form of marketing to provide useful information that may stimulate your clients or keep them updated on information that pertains to them or them or their profession. Maybe you are offering a special “2 for 1” deal or a “flat rate” service as a special monthly promotion. The use of this tool is limited only to your imagination. You can find several free services out there by doing a Google search. One such site I found was www.mailchimp.com .

What about this stuff called, “Branding?” First of all branding is more than a trademark or symbol on a sign. It’s your logo, name, slogans, company color schemes, your phone demeanor and practices, and possibly even a uniform. Branding is all of these things and more that come together in a showcased manner to provide your clients and potential clients with the confidence in your company and overall good feeling that you can be of benefit to them. I’m not saying that you have to have a fancy logo made by an overpaid graphic artist. Keep it as simple as your company name in classy script on your business cards and letterhead. Also, I have yet to find any substantial research that neon yellow websites attract more clients. Would you feel good with a doctor that answered their phone by saying, “Yeah! Hello! Say something?” Yeah, I wouldn’t either. Neither should you talk in police type codes. It confuses potential clients by being too cryptic. How many P.I.’s out there can decipher this statement, “Standby 1-2 Henry’s. I’ll 21 you later when I go 98. I’m 10-6 on a code 5 in the jungle.” Enough said (pun intended). As we all know it is not always appropriate for a private investigator to wear a uniform. Many times its just not conducive. However, it is appropriate to look, act, and be professional.

As well, I will elaborate on the Hollywood images of P.I.’s. Characters like “Magnum P.I.,” “Jim Rockford,” or “J.J. Gittes” (my personal favorite) are fictitious. Floral Hawaiian shirts are out! Come on…where they ever really in? Meeting an old guy on a pier to openly discuss your confidential case details and drop a line in the water? There’s no way in God’s green earth to make money that way. Once again, it is appropriate to look, act, and be professional. It sends a message to your clients about your competence and trustworthiness.

Finally, I will leave you with this thought. Word of mouth marketing is in my experience the best and most cost effective form of marketing you have. For example, it can come as a conversation from former clients to other potential clients in the form of a testimony and recommendation of you and your services. It can be a social media site like www.facebook.com or www.myspace.com . Heck, tell your family and friends to exploit you and your services in every respectable place and every professional manner as possible. And, when they do, take care of them! Send a thank you note. Buy them flowers. Buy them lunch for crying out loud and let them know you appreciate their help!

Overall, marketing is like a recipe for a good martini. You have to have the plan for what you want the cocktail to taste like, all the right ingredients, and then you have to stir or shake it well. Sometimes you have to make 2 or 3 before you get it all right. But, when you do it is classy and smooth producing the desired euphoria!

Klaas

Business Marketing for the Private Investigator (Free or Cheap solutions)

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