Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Marketing Tips for Private Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on July 2, 2011

There’s numerous marketing tips out there, but tips are like cars—a Buick might be a great fit for one driver’s needs, but not another’s. To market your PI business, it’s important to first identify customers you want to attract, your budget constraints, your edge over your competitors. After using that information to identify and schedule your marketing tasks, give those tasks some “added juice” with follow-up actions.

Identify Your Customers

Identifying your customers helps you decide where to commit resources and what promotions to use.

There are dozens of specializations in the private investigations field. An infidelity investigator, for example, may want to attract two types of customers: people in the general population who suspect a partner or spouse of cheating, and lawyers who specialize in family law. Legal investigators want to attract lawyer clients, focusing on firms that handle their investigative specialization (such as criminal defense or personal injury)

Set Your Budget

Decide how much money you want to spend on marketing. There’s plenty of free options you can explore, some of which are covered in this article.

Define Your Edge Over Your Competition

Unless you have a very unique, narrow investigative niche, there are other investigators offering the same services as you. Think about how you excel in comparison—for example, do you provide a faster turnaround, specialized training, or state-of-the-art equipment? Emphasize your edge in your marketing.

A Few Online Marketing Ideas That Cost Nothing

A 2010 Pew Research Center survey states that 79 percent of American adults go online, with 66 percent of their searches to buy products or services. Take advantage of those searching online for services! Below are a few free online marketing suggestions:

Update Your Website. Web crawlers for top search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! love updated content. It doesn’t take much to update—add a new photo, personal recommendation, original article.  Don’t have a website? You can build one for free through such sites as, and

Start a Blog. Websites promote your investigations business, whereas a blog lets potential customers “see” you in action—your investigative advice, how you recently solved a case, and so on. You can easily build a free blog through WordPress, Blogger, and As with your website, update often.

Register Social Media Accounts.  According to the University of Maryland Smith School of Business, in 2009 sixty-one percent of businesses attracted new clients via social media. It’s easy to register an account on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, other social media sites. You can manually post to these sites, or set up your blog (such as WordPress) to automatically post your articles to social media sites.

Write a Press Release. Plug your services, the launch of a blog, a speaking engagement or other event to a regional audience through an online PR release. You can submit free press releases through such sites as, and PRcom.

Schedule Your Marketing Tasks

Scheduling tasks helps you stay focused and not get distracted, or lose sight of, your marketing plan goals. It can be as easy as jotting notes in a paper calendar or typing ideas in a free online calendar, such as Google calendar.

Schedule for any period of time—for example, when we started our agency we scheduled an intensive four-month marketing plan to gain visibility and attract potential clients. These days, we might do a one-month marketing blitz during slow times. Some investigations agencies schedule small, year-round marketing tasks.

Add Juice to Those Tasks

For each scheduled task, add some juice by following up on it.  For example, follow up a letter campaign with phone calls, follow up a website launch with an electronic PR notice, follow up blog post with a Twitter message.

Example: A Turbo-Marketing Plan for an Infidelity Investigator

Potential Clients: Local adult population, family law attorneys.

Budget: Limited (free, when possible).

Competitive Edge: State-of-the-art digital video equipment and undercover cameras, overnight delivery of video/photos.

January 20: Launch a WordPress blog that has region, service, business title and phone number in name (“Great Lakes Infidelity Investigations: Call Smith Investigations 555-555-5555 for Free Consultation”)—web crawlers will pick up/post the information in this blog name. Blog plugs state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. First article builds on this, titled “Why You Want a Technically Savvy Infidelity Investigator.”

Add Juice: Jan 20: Blog automatically posts to my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn accounts. Jan 21: Write a free, electronic press release using announcing the blog launch.

February 1: Mail letters (that describe business services, edge over the competition, contact information) to family law firms in the area. Hand-deliver some to selected firms (opportunities to meet prospective clients in person).

Add Juice: Call each law firm a few weeks later, explain I’m following up to my letter, do they have any questions about the rates or services? Opportunity to network with attorneys and paralegals. Keep conversations professional, courteous, and brief.

February 15: Contact local groups (via email, letter) potentially interested in infidelity investigation services (divorce/dating groups, others) and offer to be a guest speaker.

Speaking Events: Distribute business cards at the event, and bring a sign-up sheet for people to enter their names and email addresses.

Add Juice: Send a follow-up email to the attendees. Thank them for attending, include a link to blog/website, a reminder about types of investigative services I offer.

You get the idea. It’s about customizing your marketing to fit your needs, then adding juice to reinforce your message.  You can be the world’s best investigator, but unless you market your services, who’s gonna know?

(Article written by Writing PIs’ author Colleen Collins, originally published on


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