Marketing in the Investigative Arena

by Douglas O. Crewse, CFE

An excerpt from his book The Business of Private Investigations

 Whether you are just getting started in the business or are evaluating your long-standing investigative practice, there are several things that can be done to fine tune the services that you offer. I suggest making a list of the top ten specific investigative services that you can do or have expertise in conducting. Then make a list of the top three to five types of cases that you have a deeper interest in doing over the next several years. Now take those lists and do several things in your approach to this newly defined scope of services that you want to offer.

 Marketing for New Clients vs. Expanding Your Current Client Base

We all know or can imagine the time and cost of obtaining new clients is time consuming. First, you must reach those potential clients through costly advertisements, yellow pages, mail outs or other means. The small percentage of returns and the time to educate and convince a potential client to try your services is a never-ending process. However, if you approach the marketing of your services in the following way, new opportunities are already at your beckoning call.

 For example - would you rather take the time and expense in obtaining a brand new client or obtain additional work from a current client that already personally knows and trusts your services? The answer is obvious. You would rather have increased work from your established clientele. To illustrate this point, simply fill out the following chart, illustrated in the following table, identifying your clientele in a matrix that indicates what type of services you currently offer versus what the client currently uses you for. For example, assume you offer pre-employment background investigations (PEBI), civil process service (CPS), domestic surveillances (DMS), asset locations (AL) and witness location and interviewing (WLI). You can fill in the blanks with your current client list and check the boxes of the category of cases you do for them. The blank cells or squares stand out as golden opportunities where you can market, in writing or personally, reminding your current clients of your capabilities. You will be surprised at the positive results obtained.

 Clientele vs. Services Utilized Matrix








ABC Company







Jones Law Firm







XYZ, Inc.







Davis Law Firm







Smith Corp. (Potential Client)







 Based on the results of your analysis, you can now focus on marketing the following additional services to your present clientele:

 ABC Company:  Civil process, domestic work, asset location and witness location and interviews to the General Counsel.
Jones Law Firm:   Pre-employment background checks, asset location and witness location and interviewing.
XYZ, Inc. Pre-employment background checks, civil process, domestic cases and asset location. Of course we realize that most corporations do not have a need for domestic surveillances. However, key management personnel that know the investigator¹s capabilities may have a need or end up referring other individuals to the investigator.
Davis Law Firm:   Pre-employment background checks, civil process, asset location and witness location and interviewing.
Smith Corp.:   This potential client has a need for pre-employment background checks and civil litigation support.

Resume¹ and Curriculum Vitae¹

A detailed curriculum vitae¹ is essential if the investigator is working towards being a consultant, an expert witness or marketing for a higher level of complex investigations. The curriculum vitae¹ is more than a resume and is considered the academia version of a resume. The vitae¹ would include such topics and categories as listed below.

Seminars and Continuing Education

Whether or not you are a new or experienced investigator, it is extremely important to keep abreast of the changes in your profession. This includes new and pending litigation affecting the investigator to changes in the laws as well as new and improved techniques for doing investigative assignments. This applies to all investigative topics regardless whether or not you actually provide that type of service. By keeping abreast of new ideas and understanding other types of investigative cases, an investigator will be able to provide better consultation, sound quality advice and identify numerous pitfalls to avoid. Will Rogers is quoted as saying, ³You might be on the right track but if you sit there long enough you will get run over.² Peter Drucker, a management guru is noted as saying that in this ³turbulent society² that if one does not grow and learn and move forward the world will soon pass you by. Both of these sayings are so true in the investigative business, either public or private.

 I highly recommend any investigator to actively do the following to reach a higher level of competency.


(a)       Attend seminars on a wide range of topics.

(b)       Constantly network with your colleagues. You will be surprised at the referrals you end up passing between yourselves. The knowledge gained from another investigator is just as valuable as attending a seminar.

(c)        Constantly read books and articles on investigative matters. Build your investigative library and refer to these reference books whenever possible.

(d)         Join professional organizations

By doing the above listed steps several benefits will come your way, which include the following just to mention a few.

(a)        Your investigative knowledge in a number of topics and areas will definitely increase.

(a)         Sharing information, contacts and techniques with other investigators will enhance your reputation and credibility.

(c)        You will decrease not only your liability but also the liability of your client by understanding the liability issues found in your increased knowledge on investigative topics.

(d)        Even if you do not conduct certain types of cases that you learn about in seminars or your reading, you are in a better position to discuss these issues and understand your client¹s needs. You will be able to educate the client about those issues and as a result potentially obtain more investigative assignments. These assignments may be referred to other investigators or accepted and conducted within your organization. This complements your goal of being the source of information and contact that you clients will appreciate. Wouldn¹t it be nice to have all your clients call you when they have an investigative question regarding any topic and you are able to confidently discuss that issue, educate the client and get the assignment? It is music to my ears when I hear a client tell me that as soon as they realized there was a problem or a question they immediately thought of me and called me to discuss it. Isn¹t that why we are in business to have clients and potential clients call us? When they trust your investigative knowledge and expertise they get in the habit of calling you to solve their problems. Your credibility with your client will be enhanced by your personal and professional growth though your continuing education. The majority of the work of the more experience investigators comes from repeat clients and referrals from those satisfied clients.

Keep these principles in mind as you market your business and you will find that you will become more efficient, more productive and hopefully increase your bottom line.

 About the Author

 Douglas O. Crewse obtained an engineering degree from the Unites States Military Academy, West Point, New York and was a special agent federal criminal investigator commanding units in the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations. After Doug obtained his MBA from Texas Tech University, he founded Investigative Associates, Inc. specializing in corporate, legal and financial investigations. Doug is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and has been a guest lecturer for police academies and numerous investigative associations for over 20 years. He is the author of several books and a frequent contributor of investigative articles in a wide variety of topics to numerous investigative journals. He is the owner, founder and manager of Investigative Associates, Inc. He currently resides in Flower Mound, Texas. He may be contacted at or you can contact him through his website at