It’s Monday morning and the alarm goes off. You stagger out of bed and throw some water on your face. You look in the mirror and instead of your smiling face, you see your target audience staring back at you. (Don’t worry, you are manifesting them as part of your business coach’s auto-suggestion)
You know they are your target audience because they are those fast- paying high-paying clients and/or customers who appreciate the work you do. How do you know that? It is because they constantly tell their friends about you and post nice things on Yelp or to their association’s listserve.
They are easy to communicate with and you have trained them by the previous contact or through a simple website form on how to send you the assignments; the kind of assignments that you love to work and that you have trained your staff to handle satisfactorily each and every time.
They don’t pester you for reports or daily status requests, because you have a system in place that keeps them advised before they need the information.
When they receive your invoice and report, it is not the first step in negotiating your bill. They gladly pay it, because the work and reporting clearly demonstrate how you provide a ton of value for their money.
The steam from your shower slowly fogs the mirror and when you wipe it off, they are gone. What happened? Was it a mirage? Where did they go?
This visualization exercise is how simple it can really be. Clearly define who you want to attract. Ask yourself if you could have only one client or customer and replicate them as often as necessary, who would they be? Give them a name, age, occupation, or situation. Why would you want to work on their case late at night, in bad neighborhoods, or on weekends? What makes the results satisfying to you? Why would their testimonial mean so much to you?
You could do this exercise on a Starbucks napkin. Now look at what you have in place and ask:
• Does your website’s appearance and content speak to your target audience? Unfortunately too many PI websites I see cast a wide net across Professional to Professional (P2P), Business to Business (B2B), and Business to Consumer (B2C) audiences, without making a compelling argument to any of them. That’s fine if they are out in Timbuktu and are the only game in town or if they have such unique expertise that individuals, businesses, and professionals require their services, but otherwise, they are marketing to everybody and speaking to nobody.
- Do your literature and signage speak to their needs? Don’t confuse telling them what you do with talking about their problems and how your solutions can assist them.
- Are you aligning and learning skill sets to meet your target audience’s needs?
- Does your answering message or even the way you answer the phone anticipate a call from a new prospect from the pool where you fish or from the forest where you hunt? Are you inviting your target audience to talk with you?
- Too many Private Investigators use the wrong marketing techniques to convert prospects from their target audience into customers. It is akin to taking a rifle out on a boat on the ocean or carrying a fishing pole into the woods. What I mean by that is that Outbound Marketing is designed to hunt individual decision-makers whereas Inbound Marketing is designed for consumers to get hooked by your message. Are you hunting mackerel and fishing for bears?
- Want a clue as who other firm targets? Look at their testimonials page. Yet even then, you may see that firm still trying to be everything to everybody. The testimonials are a dead giveaway.
- When you finish a case for Suzie or Harry, Do you find yourself saying, “Boy I wish I had twenty more of them a (week, month, or quarter)?”
- Conversely, after chasing Betty or Charlie for payment after having worked their case on a steep discount, do you find yourself saying, “Never again!”
How do you attract your target audience?
Here is my first piece of advice. The lion that feeds on field mice will be too weak to chase down an antelope and will eventually die. The field mice are plentiful, like those court-appointed cases or being a sub-contractor
for about a third of your regular rate, but they weaken your most important muscles, i.e., the time to market your target audience. Slowly wean off the field mice and start stalking the antelope.
The second piece of advice is to consistently speak to your target audience. Start with less than 5 hours a week. 55 minutes a day on a timer is a mind hack I use. This time commitment is equally important for seeking clients (outbound) P2P and B2B or attracting consumers (inbound) B2C.
Third, finding the replicable and scalable marketing plan that you can implement is necessary. You have to keep focused on filling your pipeline with your target audience.
Four, measuring your progress and tweaking your message is important in understanding how to convert leads to prospects to customers and finally into raving fans.
About twenty years ago, I had a growing B2B investigations company doing fraud investigations for insurance companies. It was a natural fit for me, as I had worked the previous two decades as an insurance fraud investigator and as an SIU manager. I knew exactly who my target audience was. I had been a claims manager and worked SIU for years. I was one of them, but just like the Main Street hardware store when Lowes and Home Depot moved in, my customers dried up overnight.
Two well-funded companies went to the V-Ps of the claims departments and began locking down national contracts. Word came down to the local offices and SIUs to use those firms and my little four-state regional company with nine employees was now looking like a kid locked out of the candy store.
To add insult to injury, both came to me and offered me to “1099” for them at about 1/3 of my hourly rate to service my old customers.
I felt like a portrait artist being asked to paint houses. It didn’t matter that my prior customers howled about the higher bills and poorer results, the
people that paid their paychecks told them who to use and my former customers’ hands were tied.
In doing the autopsy of my business plan, I saw that those national firms targeted a different audience with a lure of a single toll-free number to make assignments anywhere in the country and they combined it with a rudimentary online dashboard, where adjustors could go to check on their cases. Combining high-level marketing and a technology competitive advantage, they soon ate my lunch and that of other solo-operators or small companies around the country as well.
55% of my business dried up in 60 days and I still had to pay payroll. I went to the specialty-risk carriers, self-insureds, and TPAs that the Nationals thought were too small or too niched to bother with.
We began marketing in my home state at the Chamber of Commerce and (BNI) Business Network International for domestic surveillance and business investigations. I even worked two days a week near Boston, helping an SIU with run-off cases after they disbanded their unit.
Luckily, my part-timers stayed with their full-time careers. My surveillance team went to other firms to do other kinds of work. Two full-timers elected to go to law school and two others decided to start their own non- competing companies. In the end, I had to lay off only two employees who landed new jobs quickly.
I became a solo-generalist. My target audience was small boutique law firms and businesses in need of general investigations around Greater New Haven, CT. I still had a handful of insurance defense law firms. I then learned how to work Criminal Defense cases on the court-appointed cases and I was able to keep the lights on.
Through time, I was able to target an audience of both trial attorneys and private-pay criminal defense firms with my old and newly-learned skill sets. I learned what to say and how to approach them in a replicable and scalable fashion. My business has grown into higher-paying faster-paying clients that rave to their colleagues about what we do for them. My website is optimized to hunt for trial attorneys and my daily calls result in a measurable method of converting warm prospects into new clients. I do
other focused-marketing of my prospect pool by attending their seminars, conferences, and association meetings. Everything about my little company speaks to their needs and desires.
Twenty years ago, I had a real gut check and looked into the mirror. I decided that I was going to figure out how to find a new target audience.
You can too.