Private Investigator Marketing for Insurance Companies

Insurance companies are hard to market to because to do so, you need to attend insurance defense conferences, insurance training events, and other “meet & greet” events to interact with the decision makers of the company. With that being said, here are the things you need to keep in mind as you begin to market to them.

Where should I market my private investigations agency?

I own a small private investigations firm in North Dakota. I have a fairly small team, 3 investigators total. I want to market my private investigations website using SEO & Google Adwords.  Should I market my website at a local level? Or should I cast a wider net to a state wide level?

As private investigators we don’t have service areas or specific regions in which we serve our clients. We’re technically limited to how far we’re willing to travel – assuming we’re licensed within that area. Because of that, you want to market your service in the areas that you can reach within your budget; City Wide, County Wide, State Wide, Regionally, or National. Regardless of your market area, you need to understand the costs associated with your decision.

I would recommend starting at a local level. Typically, this means having an SEO campaign to target “Your City private investigator”. This type of campaign makes it easy for people to find you online when they are searching for a private investigator in a specific city.

This type of marketing tends to help outsiders find your agency on major search engines. Try to place yourself in the position of a client in need: if you need a subcontractor in Arlington Texas, do you search for “Texas Private Investigator” or do you search for “Arlington Texas Private Investigator?” The chances are that you will start in Arlington since that’s the area you are looking to get covered. In general, we tend to search for very specific keywords when we’re searching for a service.

A common mistake that we oftentimes see our clients make, is geographically miss targeting their campaigns. They tend to setup their websites as a “County Private Investigator” or “South *insert state* Private Investigator“. For example, mostly everyone knows that Austin is the capital of Texas. As an outsider, when you need a private investigator in Austin, you tend to search for “Austin Texas Private Investigator”. Not many people know that Austin lies within Travis County. In this example, labeling your company as “Travis County Private Investigator” will exclude the outsiders searching for your company that have no idea that Travis is even a county in Texas. The same applies when you label your company in a region.

When was the last time you said “Let’s go to Cook County” when you were referring about Chicago Illinois?

Marketing at a county level, or state wide level does not typically work in your favor. With the advent of GPS in virtually every mobile device, most search engines are starting to focus on localized results. It would be advantageous for your company to be labeled as a local leader. Once you have established a local presence, then you can grow your website to target different cities within your vicinity. While this is typically more expensive and time consuming, the results are far better than focusing on an entire state.

Can you really afford the price of servicing an entire state?

A very important fact to consider when you cast a large net is the price associated with the cast. As an example, we’ve had clients market their services as State Wide Agencies only to realize that people are searching for their services as far as 8 hours away from home. Charging a client for mileage is simply not fair in this circumstance. Imagine if you hired a local plumber to fix your bathroom and he had to drive out to your location 8 hours away and charged you mileage. Is that your fault? Why is he advertising in your area if he’s not local? If you’re going to offer a service at a state wide level, it is usually recommended to clearly identify billing points – within reason; typically this includes all major cities. OR, you can hire sub contractors… which cuts into your profits, opens you up to liabilities, and puts your quality and “name” on other people’s hands.

In conclusion, I would focus on local oriented marking strategies and then grow your website and marketing plan as you begin to gain traction in your market area. If you need help, we can help you establish a viable and affordable marketing solution that fits your needs.


Stop Reading Success Stories. Focus on the Failures.

Most of us seek out stories of winners when deciding how to run our businesses. But losers’ experiences can be far more illuminating.

How many articles have you read in business magazines about entrepreneurs’ failed business attempts, bankruptcies, or products that went bust? Probably none. No business owner wants to talk about what went wrong. We’d all rather discuss our triumphs than admit defeat.

Likewise, if you’re on the way up, you don’t want to study a loser who went bankrupt in a year; you want to learn from a winner, get inspired, and then replicate his success. Right?

There are several large problems with trying to copy someone who has “made it”: In those success stories, what important steps are missing? What useful failures did he experience along the way (and leave out in the story)? And what makes you think the exact same process will work twice?

Welcome to “survivor bias.”

You’ll find the above term on dozens of business blogs, along with this illuminating story that defines the term perfectly: During World War II, the Allies lost thousands of bombers and airmen to fighter and anti-aircraft fire in raids over Germany. The Allied Forces hired top engineers to discover the aircrafts’ vulnerabilities — to learn which parts of the planes should be reinforced in order to bring more crews home safely.

The engineers observed that returning aircraft had suffered the greatest number of hits to aircrafts’ extremities — to the wings and tails — and the least number to the cockpit, engine, and fuel tanks. “We’re getting shot in the wings and tail,” they reasoned. “If we increase the armor plating there, we’ll keep more planes in the sky.

Enter Abraham Wald, a mathematician who made one simple deduction that the engineers had missed — and most likely saved hundreds of lives as a result: Planes with holes in the cockpit or fuel tanks never made it back. The ones that did make it back — the survivors — were the ones with no holes in the most vulnerable spots.

In this story, the real data was in the planes that were shot down, not the ones that made it back home. And in the returning aircraft, engineers needed to pay attention to where the holes weren’t instead of where the holes were. But paying attention to what isn’t there doesn’t come naturally to us.

Why Imitation Doesn’t Work

When I started Investigator Marketing, I thought I would receive inquiries from unique agencies looking to expand on their success. Instead, the clients who contacted me were mostly investigators whose agency names and websites (including content and images) were all extremely similar.

In our evaluations, we asked each agency why they so resembled their competitors, and they each provided almost the same answer: “We’re trying to keep up with the competition.”

That was a scary thing to hear. And it made us realize that a very small number of the agencies contacting us were leading the competition. Most were simply trying to keep up.

As a business owner, you automatically become a victim of survivor bias when you try to imitate what your competition is doing instead of carving out your own niche, by doing what the competition is not doing.

Some of the most successful investigators I know have become successful after dozens of trial and error campaigns. I’ve met investigators who make $200,000 a year offering only one service. I also know investigators who make as much money by offering 20 different services; both are successful, because both have tried, failed, and found self-made accommodations to help their agencies survive in the field.

A very small number of the agencies contacting us were leading the competition. Most were simply trying to keep up.

Mimicking your competition is not only going to turn you into a follower instead of a leader; it’s going to open you up to all the failures your competition had to face on their way to the top. These failures can sideline your business if you’re not prepared to face them. Better to study the failures that came before and learn important lessons from them.

The leaders of the industry didn’t start at the top. They kept on flying into the battle zone, one day at a time, and made accommodations to their flagship in order to withstand the assaults of the market. Going full frontal into the field without arming yourself properly — just because your competition is doing it — can quickly become a costly mistake to repair.

Everyone wants to learn from the private investigations firms that “made it.” They want to study the agencies that started in a garage and became multimillion dollar corporations in a matter of months. They want to follow in the paths of companies that are going strong into their 30th year anniversary.

But what about all the agencies that failed in the first year? What can you learn from them?

Abraham Wald’s genius was in predicting a combat aircraft’s vulnerabilities by considering data he could not observe directly — i.e., what caused the fatal hit to downed bombers. But what if there had been no Wald? What if the Allies had sent out all those bombers with wings and tail heavily reinforced, and with no additional protection to the cockpit and fuel tanks? They would have, quite literally, gone down in flames. They’d have spent millions fixing the wrong thing, without offering any real benefits to the crews they hoped to save.

The moral? If your business is limping, be wary of pouring money and effort into the first “simple” solution that comes to mind…especially if it’s the same “fix” most of your competitors are using.

Granted, it takes a lot more creative energy to consider what the competition isn’t doing, and to break new ground. But like Wald and all those lost planes, sometimes analyzing why companies failed can teach you more than observing the companies that survived.


Mangel, Mark and Samaniego, F.J. “Abraham Wald’s work on aircraft survivability.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 79:259-271. (JASA Applications Invited Paper 1983) Retrieved from

Portfolio Items