What can Process Servers and Investigators do to Increase Revenue and Efficiency in the New Year?
A new year is fast approaching once again. For many process serving and investigation companies, business slows down for a few weeks allowing you to take the time to consider what you can do to improve business next year. At ServeNow.com and PInow.com, we talk to hundreds of process servers and investigators on a weekly basis about their advertising and marketing initiatives.
There are endless things you can do to improve and grow your business. But there are some very basic concepts, most of which don't cost anything, that you can apply to benefit your business in 2007.
1. Answer your phone!
At the risk of offending or being redundant, we are going to say it again. Answer your phone. If you have read our marketing articles in the past, you have surely heard this before. Making sure your calls get answered is the easiest and least expensive way of gaining more business. You may have to forward your calls to your cell phone, invest in a more sophisticated phone system or even hire an office assistant, but if calls go unanswered you are missing out on business.
"It's a concept that seems obvious. But when I really started to make a conscious effort to answer every single call that came through, it made a noticeable difference for my investigative agency," said Rebecca Krichevsky, owner of Alliance Background Investigation of Colorado, LLC.
We have heard people say, "I don't answer blocked calls" or "I don't answer calls from out-of-state", but if you are doing ANY form of advertising this thought process is very flawed. These could be calls from potential clients.
2. Expand your Service Offerings
You or one of your employees is at the courthouse on a weekly basis. Are you also providing document filing and retrieval services? You are also a notary public. Could you offer your customers a mobile notary service? You are a private investigator. Are you also providing legal support services such as process serving to your law firm clients?
If you are not offering your customers a full suite of legal support or investigative services, you could be leaving money on the table. What do your clients need that you can offer? If you don't know the answer to this question - ask them. It's possible your clients have needs that you are not aware of which you could monetize by spending little to no additional time.
Below is a list of services that you should consider, if you don't already offer them:
* process serving
* private investigations
* skip tracing
* document filing and retrieval
* notary services
* courier/messenger services
* bail bonds
3. Understand Marketing Basics
The only difference between you and the most successful companies in your industry is how you market your company. There are a lot of inexperienced and unprofessional companies in the process serving and investigative markets that are highly profitable simply because they understand the benefits of marketing. Marketing is what gets your customer to pick up the phone and literally touches every aspect of your company including:
* your company's name
* how you answer the phone
* your pricing
* company branding and brochures
* your web site
* company correspondence (emails, reports, invoices, letters)
If you have a few extra hours over the holiday season, pick up a book on marketing basics. Even if you have a degree in marketing, keeping a book like this handy will prove to be useful. Additionally, there are numerous e-newsletters and blogs you can find on the web that have great marketing ideas and tips. Spending just a few hours per week on marketing can have a dramatic impact on your business.
4. Advertise when business is good
As long as you are in business, you should always continue to market your services. It doesnt matter how well-known you are, you constantly need to have your brand in front of the buyers of your services. This is why you will see Budweiser, IBM and other Fortune 500 companies investing in multi-million dollar ads during the Super Bowl. A major component of marketing is brand recognition. When your customers see your company advertised on other web sites or trade publications, it helps build trust in your brand and the perception of a successful company. Additionally, continuing to advertise can help you land that dream client that is high volume, high margin and most importantly, low maintenance.
5. Advertise MORE when business in slow
The first thing people tend to cut when business is slow is their sales and marketing. This knee-jerk reaction is often an effort to save money, but can be counterproductive to the success of your business. This is when you should be marketing the most, not only because you need to increase business, but you have the time to reevaluate your marketing and advertising options. Take this time to identify new places where your customers may be going to locate service providers and think about additional marketing initiatives such as mailers, visiting potential clients, growing your referral network and so on.
If you are just starting to market your business, don't get frustrated if your marketing does not work overnight. Statistics show that it can take seven or more exposures to elicit a buying reaction from your potential customers.
6. Get involved in State and National Associations
Supporting national and state associations is critical to your livelihood as a process server or an investigator. Associations help educate you on what is happening in the industry and most importantly, they fight legislative initiatives that can negatively impact the profession. Associations are also a key component of your marketing mix. Inevitably your fellow members are going to refer enough business to your company over time to pay for your dues many times over.
7. Ask Your Customers for a Referral
Sometimes the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth marketing. Chances are that if you do a good job, your customers will refer you to their colleagues without being prompted. However, it does not hurt to ask them for the names and numbers of people who they feel could use your services. Being able to use your clients name when calling these firms dramatically increases the likelihood that you will get business from these referrals. If your client's firm is big enough, they could refer you to multiple people within their office.
8. Contact at least Three New Potential Clients Per Week
No one likes to make cold calls, but sometimes the only way you get business is by asking for it. Set aside just one hour per week to call on at least three new potential clients. Stop by their office when you are in the neighborhood or pick up the phone during down time to talk to a decision maker. Have brochures or printed material you can hand or mail to them. It may take multiple conversations to convert them into paying customers, but over time your persistence will pay off.
9. Improve customer service and communication with customers
One of the most common themes we hear from the buyers of legal support services is that they are not communicated with properly. Too often, they feel they have to check on status. As an investigator or process server you can remedy this by being over-communicative. Whenever service is attempted or there is a new update on a case, pick up the phone and let the customer know what that status is.
When it comes to customer service you should "under-promise" and "over-deliver." Never make promises you may not be able to keep. But when you exceed on your customers expectations you will have a very happy client.
10. Raise your Prices - Compete on Service, not on Price
Would you rather manage 50 serves that make you $10 each, or 10 serves that make you $50 each? On the investigation side, would you rather work 10 hours at $50 per hour or 5 hours at $100 per hour.
If you are not making a good margin on your services, raise your prices and let someone else work their tails off for the high volume low margin services. In an ideal world, you have a handful of customers who consistently send you business and are willing to spend good money for good service.
Sounds great, but how do you achieve this? The answer is to stop competing on price and start competing on service instead. Have better customer service, communicate with your customers more effectively and be available for them. By treating customers how you want to be treated, we have found that many customers -- not all of them -- are willing to pay a premium for excellent service.
11. Delegate Tasks
You can't do everything yourself and continue to operate a growing business. Eventually, you need to bring in help with bookkeeping, collections, data entry and other administrative tasks. Whether you get the help from a part-time employee or a family member, you need to delegate time-consuming tasks to others so you can focus on managing your business and managing your customers. If you already have additional human resources in the office, look at ways in which you increase efficiency by assigning specific tasks to your employees.
12. Use Technology to Improve Efficiency
With software and mobile technology, we now have the ability to run our businesses from our home, hotels and even the road. Smart phones and broadband cards for your laptop are becoming "must-haves" for investigators or process servers that spend a significant amount of time out of the office.
Additionally, many software packages exist that were developed specifically for process servers and investigators. These applications enable you to manage jobs, communicate with your clients, automate your billing and much more.
Take the time to do an audit of your daily operations. What tasks are the most time-consuming? Chances are that technology exists that can help you automate some of these processes, saving you time and money.
13. Build or Update Existing Web Site
If you don't have a web site yet, you need one. If you already have web site, but you haven't updated it in a few years, take the time to go through it to make sure all your information is accurate and up-to-date. You should be doing this at least a couple times per year. You should also avoid putting anything on your site that will require frequent updates such as a news or newsletter section. Chances are you will not have the time or resources to keep this current.
Use your web site as a tool to sell your company as experts in your field. The main goal of your web site as a service provider is to get customers to pick up the phone to call you. Your web site should be professional, clean and precise. Make sure your phone number is clearly visible at the top of each page.
14. Charge more for Private Individuals
Law firms, corporations and private individuals are all important to your business. Naturally, private parties are going to be less knowledgeable and ultimately, you are going to spend more time working with the private person as opposed to the law firm or corporate client. Many investigative and process serving firms have higher rates for private parties because of these reasons. Additionally, private parties are less likely to be repeat customers.
One way to make the process of working with private individuals easier is to provide them with a document that outlines what your service entails and when they should expect to be contacted by you. You may also want to consider putting this on your web site so it can be easily referenced.
15. Set, Plan and Track your Goals
To be successful in anything you need to have goals. To reach your goals you must have a plan. To make sure your plan is working, you must track your progress.
If your plan for 2007 is to double your business, what do you need to do to achieve this? Do you need to advertise more or hire more people? Make a plan to achieve this goal then check in on a monthly basis to see where adjustments need to be made. Just by being cognizant of your goals and your progress, you will put yourself in a positive mindset to help you achieve them.
We hope that this information helps you with your planning for 2007, or at least gives you something to think about. Not all businesses are the same and not all of these ideas are right for every company, but we all have room for improvement. If you are a ServeNow.com or PInow.com customer, we invite you to contact us at (877) 737-8366 or firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about your marketing and advertising in 2007. Additionally, if you have feedback for us regarding how we can improve our services, we would like to hear from you!
The ServeReport is an email newsletter that focuses on the latest news, events and legislative changes in the process serving and private investigation industries. Read past newsletters here: ServeReport: ServeNow.com Process Server Newsletter Archive