Your Words Matter

A few years ago while I was helping a friend start his private investigation firm with nothing more than the borrowed money for licensing fees, we talked about how to grow the business with no starting capital in the height of the economic downturn.

We had no option but to get creative. I put my skills as a writer and researcher to use. We pitched press releases and feature stories to local newspapers. We pitched ourselves and developed relationships with local journalists, who in turn came to us for resources and quotes when they were writing a story related to our industry. We also weren’t afraid to connect them with other experts when we didn’t have access to the information they needed. Eventually, when money was flowing in, we even bought some radio advertising and were guests on a morning radio show. That was an interesting adventure.

Money from the first case he landed, he reinvested some of it into joining the local Chamber of Commerce. We connected with other members, business leaders in our community and attorneys. We sent letters to these attorneys telling them about his work. We even had a few in-person meetings from that and landed some great cases. We went to events and networked.

And we wrote a lot – letters, RFPs, website copy, blog articles and eventually pitched stories to PI Magazine, an international trade magazine for private investigators, lawyers and other investigators. This month my article on “Understanding the Characters of a Pedophile” is the cover story. This is the fourth cover story I’ve landed, and I think the 15th article I’ve written for them since 2009. The good part is PI Magazine pays me for my work. These articles have turned into podcast appearances and radio and newspaper interviews, and most important a great relationship with a wonderful magazine.

Looking back, we grew our business with great messaging and nothing more. Practiced elevator speeches for networking events, written letters and articles and great website copy. We worked hard to get to the top of the first page of Google and are still there.

The lesson for us is the same one I have for my current business clients. It doesn’t take a lot of money or start-up capital to become a well-known expert in your field. But it does require paying attention to what you say and how you say it. It does require a willingness to get uncomfortable and to think about what your audience needs most. It does take caring about what you write and say.