THREE WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR REVENUE
There are basically three ways to increase your revenue:
Raising your rates: This is a very difficult decision in tough economic times. a lot depends on how long you’ve been in business. If you’re relatively new it’s probably not a good idea. However, if you have a long and successful track record, you have probably developed good relations with your client list and they know the quality of your work. I’ve been in business over 30 years and during that time I have raised my rates six times. Each time folks have told me“ your going to price yourself out of the market.” Guess what, In that time I’ve only lost one client because of a price change. Good attorneys know that price is not a substitute for quality Selling based on price is never a good thing. There’s always someone who is willing to do the job a “little cheaper”
If your heavy on insurance clients, it is very, very difficult to raise rates at any time. They like the cheap and they constantly have people soliciting their business who will work cheap!
It might do you well to do some research as to what other firms are charging for similar services. You might be surprised at where you fall in the rankings.
Getting new clients: “Half the business is getting the business.” No matter how good the economy you should have marketing plan and stick with it. There’s an old saying, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail
A marketing plan doesn’t have to be a 26 page cumbersome (usually unworkable) document, but it does need to cover the basics I’m a firm believer in the KISS approach, (keep it simple stupid); Don’t dilute the plan with 20 or 30 priorities. Keep your focus on the main points.
Develop a “hit list” Pick ten attorneys or insurance companies that you’d like to get business from. Do your research, know what kinds of cases they do the most. Find out what their rates are. Devise a strategy for getting to the right person and then present your services in the best light you can.
Lay out your prime objectives and create a realistic time line for doing them
Don’t procrastinate about writing your plan. Don’t wait “till you’ve got time.” If you’ve “got time” you probably waited too long! Get a first draft and get started. You update it as you go along. Basically a business plan is a fluid thing, it changes as your business changes.
Don’t worry about formatting. No plan ever failed because it wasn’t color coded, or properly bound etc. If you’re going to use the plan to go to the bank for a loan that’s the time for more attention to format and appearance. That’s also the time for financial projections, but for now stick to the basics of what you’re going to do to increase business and how you’re going to do it.
DIRECT MAIL - I do about six direct mailings a year to existing clients and to ones I’d like to get, but with the cost of printing and postage this has become a fairly substantial investment about .70 per unit. with a mailing list of over 200 this represents about $140.00 to $150.00 per mailing. But, I have never done one of these mailings that I didn’t get a follow up call from an existing client with a new case. Good investment.
I am currently exploring a service called “Constant Contact.” For $15.00 per month they will do an Email of up to 500 addresses. I won’t know how effective this is going to be for at least six months. Right now I am collecting all the email addresses of clients. On the surface this would appear to be a good idea and the two people (not PIs) that I know that are using it say it’s been as productive as their direct mail and a whole lot cheaper.
Obtain a list of the Casualty Adjusters guide. This will give you the names and email addresses of insurance adjusters in your area. Your insurance agent should be able to get one for you.
There are also Insurance Claims Associations in various parts of the country, get a copy of their directory for your area.
WEB SITES- If you don’t have a web site you should consider having one. My web site has produced over 75% of all my new business over the past three years. Most of it from out of state, but a substantial amount from the Texas. More and more attorneys and insurance companies are using the internet to find vendors.
A note of caution. If you are contemplating a web site do your homework. Look at other sites that are already on the web. Pick out those things you like and don’t like about them Only after doing that should you start looking for a web designer. By all means see examples ore their work! When you meet with them, make sure they understand the nature of your business and who your target audience is. Be careful of overselling, you don’t want to be looked upon as a “jack of all trades, master of none’ operation. Stress those things you are most qualified for and that you do best.
NETWORKING - Networking can be very productive. Organizations like TALI and NTPIA offer you exposure to other PIs all over Texas. Meeting them in person at seminars and conferences helps you establish personal relationships that later on can be business relationships. Many times you can refer business to other PIs on cases that are outside your geographical area, or not within your areas of expertise. This also works on reciprocal referrals from other PIs.
Take a look at your local organizations. Almost every community has some kind of lawyer’s organization. There’s the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association on a state wide basis, but many, many communities have a county criminal defense bar group, same thing for civil lawyers (is that an oxymoron?), there’s the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and there’s also numerous county associations. Check with your clients, ask them what groups they belong to, see if you can speak at one of their meetings (usually a luncheon type affair). Caution, don’t try to turn this into an “infomercial” for your company. Sell the profession and how it can help “maximize” cases.
Check with civic groups, Rotary, Kiwanis etc. they’re always looking for luncheon speakers. Talk to them about identity theft or personal security, have a simple one or two page handout for them.
There’s a Masonic group in Dallas that has a luncheon meeting once a month and I’ve been invited to speak there three times on different topics. In that group are several law enforcement officers and lawyers, these have proven to be invaluable contacts at various times.
CROSS PROMOTION - Consider services that you might cross promote with a firm outside of the investigation area. One good example that I ran across recently, was an investigator, who teamed up with an insurance agent, to do a mailing to the existing list of the agent to tell people how important it is to document your household belongings in case of fire or burglary. They then offered to provide this service. The PI did the inventory on video and still photos and gave a copy, on CD Rom, to the client and another to the insurance agent to put in their file. This way if there was a fire, the list would not be destroyed. The insurance agent also had forms available from his carriers for the people to do a written inventory, with serial numbers etc. Very good response.
SELL ADDITIONAL SERVICES- Consider what services your main clients, use and what else you might provide for them. If you don’t do service of process, consider taking the TALI one day course in that area and then offer that service to your existing clients. They already know and trust you so there’s always the possibility of getting their process work.
Data base services are a staple in any law firm, but we all know they are not always up to date. Offer to “back up their data base,” with in person follow ups. Also, few law firms, of medium to small size, have access to as many data bases as most investigators do.
If you do insurance surveillance work, it is not a far reach to do domestic surveillance, and this could open up a whole new source of business for you.
Many time within a law firm that does criminal defense work, there are lawyers who do family law. You already have entrée to the firm, just get your client to introduce you to the other appropriate members of the firm.
If one of your clients is in a relatively large firm, suggest a luncheon meeting in their conference room. You spring for the catering, and you have all the other attorneys in the firm present for a presentation on the different ways PIs can be utilized. Keep it short, but make your point that you can help in various fields. Think out side the box! Especially “Jack in the Box!”
Will Rodgers once say “tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
The Small Business Administration has numerous suggestions and services available.
Thomas Publications has several books on marketing for PIs at www.pimall.com
Paul Purcell offers free marketing tips at www.thecasefile.com
Nominations for best and worst web sites can be found at www.webpractices.com
To view a large selection of PI websites go to www.PIwebsites.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J.W. Jack Murray has been a licensed investigator in Texas for 36 years. He has an MBA, with a major in marketing, from the University of Connecticut. Murray is the author of eight books in the investigative field. Based in Dallas, Texas he specializes in accident investigation and reconstruction. His web site is: http://www.accidentinv.com/
Many moons ago, I told someone a day will come that every TV show ever made, every movie ever produced, every book ever written, every song ever recorded and every magazine and newspaper article ever done will some day be available to you instantly through digital technology and the iPad is about to make all that happen. The iPad might seem like small step for man but I think it's a giant leap forward to reach the goal of the statement I just shared and we are almost there!
Are there any drawbacks? Like most things in life there are. Now everything can be obtained in a digital form yet. Some movies, music, newspapers and publishers are still resisting the change but it's not going to take long for them to either adapt to it or die. Oh yea, and neither the iPhone or the iPad supports Flash graphics. They think it's a security risk and think that it will soon be replaced by something that is not. They are likely correct but I still wish these devices had it.
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