Mindset: The sooner you start thinking of yourself as a business-person selling investigative services and not as an investigator with your own business, the sooner the marketing medicine will go down easier and your business will get healthier.

Why did I say yes? I’m sitting on a custody battle surveillance. It’s nearly midnight. The wife suspects the ex-husband of leaving their toddler alone to score drugs. He hasn’t moved since the wife dropped the daughter off this Friday at 4PM. It has to be the hottest most humid night of the year. No air is moving. My car is like a steam bath. 

The attorney gives me big cases with nice retainers and asked me for a favor. His client is a family friend and he bragged about my skills to her. It doesn’t help that my surveillance rate is about half of what I normally charge for investigations. 

I’m hot, tired and underpaid, but I can change my mindset. I didn’t sub this out because my attorney wanted me to help him. I am sharing what I love to do for somebody who will appreciate that I took the time to take case on as a favor. He’s a regular at the local bar association festivities. More than once, he has thrown his arm around me with a drink in his other hand and extolled my virtues to a group of other attorneys who should’ve taken a taxi home that night, but didn’t. How many referrals has he made to me over the years? How many testimonials has he given on the list serve?

Like this story, the key to marketing is mindset. 

From my self-publishing guru, Joanna Penn comes the best explanation. “Marketing is sharing what you love doing with people who will appreciate hearing about it…. You’ve got to find ways to connect with people who want your (services). It’s about authenticity and getting people to know, like and trust you. It is not scammy, or sucky or awful.”

Tip-If you take that one sentence about marketing is sharing…. and put it where you see it everyday in your workspace or on the back of a business card in your sun visor, you will gradually come to embrace it. I promise.

In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell Is Human he explains how the world has changed, and how the job of ‘salesman’ doesn’t really exist anymore outside of used car lots. We are all involved in selling every day.

Joanna finishes with, “You are responsible for your own success. You need to do the marketing” in the services you offer to your customers or clients.

Benjamin W. Glass, III writes in Renegade Lawyer Marketing How Today’s Solo and Small Firm Lawyers Survive and Thrive in a World of Marketing Vultures, 800-Pound Gorillas and Legal Zoom. “If your practice isn’t everything you deserve at this point in your career, if there’s stress on the home front because of inconsistent and disappointing income, or if you’re overstocked with bad customers because you don’t feel confident in turning them away (even though your and your staff know it will cause heartburn), you can choose to make changes.” I think that quote speaks to PIs as well.

Lawyers are the most risk-adverse animals on the planet. Like doctors, they see themselves above this marketing stuff or better put, it’s beneath them. I can tell you firsthand, because I went to Ben’s four-day course, but that story is for another day. He had to first make them believers. All it took was some before and after examples of TV ads, billboards and how their own law firms answered their phones to get their attention and open their minds. Given that they travelled from all over the country and turned off their cell phones for all the presentations, Ben had gotten their attention, but he had to earn it every day of the seminar to keep it.

I want to give you some examples of a mindset shift specific to the profession we all work hard at:

An investigator named Bill might say, “I don’t do that.” and turns down the job.

A provider of investigative services named Paula will say, “I’ve got the perfect guy for you, let me call you back.”

Bill takes on a case with very little triage. He wants to narrow the investigative objective; one that he will succeed at and one that doesn’t have too many moving parts. He follows the KISS method.

Paula does a little more triage and finds out the the client really needs 1, 2 + 3 to go along with  A, B + C, which translates into more billable work. Paula might suggest a background check or an asset check before starting the field work ,which is another form of up-sell, making sure that they do add value to the client and not just more shekels to her purse.

Bill gets the assignment done and send out a report and bill. He moves onto the next job, just like when he was on the Police Department.

Paula does the same, but recommends additional steps and follows up with a phone call.  Better still, Paula calls with the good news and suggests the additional steps before sending the closing report.

Bill hits a home run for the client, circles the bases and gets ready for the next case.

Paula hits the home run and after the bill is paid, calls the ecstatic client and asks for a testimonial or a referral.

Maybe it is a successful case for a one-time customer. After they get paid, can Bill or Paula tell them that if they refer them to anybody else, that person gets a 10% discount? It plants the seed that the happy customer can be an evangelist for you. They feel good telling somebody else about you and they are glad that they can provide a discount for their friend.

Bill fills his day up with field leads.

Paula fills her day up with field leads, after she leaves five marketing call messages that are scripted so well that she gets at least four call backs during the day.

Paula is so practiced at this that she scribbles down the leads names and phone numbers in her appointment book and makes the calls from her car before she turns on talk radio or her favorite podcast as she drives to the first lead for the day.

*I used to listen to shock jocks Howard Stern, Ron and Fez and Opie and Anthony when I was beating the mean streets New York City and  Long Island. instead, I now listen to podcasts or audio books on marketing. I know the content is not as funny as those chuckle-heads, but I do get ideas that help me market my company.

With changing your mindset, don’t expect it to happen overnight. Just remember:

  • Taking in an assignment is a sales opportunity.
  • Writing a report is a sales opportunity.
  • Doing good work and not just the basics is a sales opportunity
  • Sitting on a surveillance watching the grass grow? You remember that you did a great job for a client a while back, call them up and ask them how things worked out and ask them if they have anything on their desk right now or know anybody that could use your services.
  • Pony up the money, bite the bullet and go to a PI conference and saddle up to the bar, buy the first round and ask people from other geographic areas how they attract clients.

Since this is the surveillance issue, I guess I should get back to the story.

I’m ready to leave, but it’s not time yet. I am a pro. I will stay to the end and take video of my dashboard clock for the time when Cinderella’s coach turns into a pumpkin. Just then, a sketchy guy walks up to the triple-decker where hubby resides and knocks on the door. Video starts.

Hubby walks out and the two of them leave on foot in the direction of a nearby park. No one had come to the house during my surveillance, so the toddler is home alone. I video them walking to the middle of the park to where they hide behind a trash dumpster next to the basketball court. I move my car to a spot where I video them lighting up the pipe. They linger for a bit before they go their separate ways. I get back to my original spot just in time to catch hubby going back into his crib. The porch light goes off. 

I will charge and get paid for an eight-hour surveillance like I have done hundreds of times over my career. However, the wife will get supervised visitation for her child. I have a client that continues to swear by me and I have a story that I can tell prospects and now you.   

*true story


Mindset is how you think about what you do. Get into the marketing mindset.