Generating revenue along with the buzz.
John Edgar Lacher owns the J.Edgar Investigation Agency and is an avid reader of this blog. Recently, he left the following comment on one of my posts, “Using Social Media to Test Your Idea Before You Try to Sell It.”
The social media thing such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others have done nothing for me. Personally, I think it is all just another money trap. I have spent thousands of dollars on marketing such as SEO, adwords, etc with little or no results. Everyone has got their hand out but no one has the ability or the experience much less the interest to help someone. Everyone is wrapped up in their own little world tweeting and facebooking. I have better luck with face-to-face meetings and referrals from people that know me. I would much rather spend the time and money with a face-to-face meeting than anything else.
In part because I think there are a lot of people who feel the same way Mr. Lacher does, I decided to contact him to discuss his experiences.
It turns out he is a licensed private investigator with an office in San Diego. In business since 2008, Mr. Lacher, 64, started the agency after being laid off by American International Group at the start of the Great Recession. He specializes in insurance claims investigations, but he also investigates fraud, theft, property damage, or elder abuse. And if you think your spouse has been cheating, he can look into that, too.
Private clients have been his biggest source of revenue, but things are rough right now (he has been supporting himself with his Social Security checks). He knows he started his business at a difficult time, and he says the competition in California for P.I. work is intense. “There’s a lot of retired law enforcement, ex-military and former F.B.I. agents who have come to this area,” he said, “and it’s hard to compete with their credentials.”
So far, he hasn’t found social media to be of much help. He canceled his Facebook page, because he felt it was more personal than business, and he didn’t think he needed to be there. “I had a lot of people who would ask questions about how I do private investigations, but I never got a single client from it,” Mr. Lacher said. “I got a bunch of stupid comments from people, which was really annoying.”
He is on Twitter but has only tweeted a few times. He has had the most success with LinkedIn, where he has a premium account that costs $24.95 a month. He says he invested in it because business has become global. “I started using LinkedIn a year or so ago, I am a premium member so I can see the profile of people that I would not have access to. I have 650 connections to date. It’s a great asset for me to be able to do business intelligence. I have not been getting any business from LinkedIn yet, but I am hopeful.”
A year ago, he invested $94 a month in a Web site he got through Web.com. Disappointed, he pulled it down after six months. Then he decided to build his own site, which is still up. Six weeks ago, he gave a webinar on GotoMeeting.com, offering a session on Investigation 101. He was thrilled with the attendance but didn’t win any business from that, either.
He has thought about trying Google AdWords, but some of his colleagues in the business cooled him on the idea. “I was concerned about doing Google AdWords because people were commenting on an industry listserv that competitors were clicking on the ads from other private investigators to drive up the budget.” So he hasn’t tried that yet.
After discussing his frustrations, he asked me. “Where do you start first? Where do I put the money at?”
There are five steps that I think everyone should take if they are serious about using social media as a marketing strategy, but there are always a few things to consider. Social media marketing is a long tail strategy for a small business — it can take a lot longer than six months to see results. And it starts with a strong Web site.
Even once you have connected with someone, social-media-networking takes considerably more time than face-to-face networking. I believe it takes seven quality contacts before you can start talking commerce, but I’ve read industry estimates as high as 21 meaningful contacts before you can close business. Here are the five steps I suggested for Mr. Lacher.
Invest in a real Web site: Mr. Lacher’s site is not helping his brand. Just as you would never call a plumber to do a carpenter’s job, you have no business developing your own Web site (unless that is your business). Hire a professional. For $500 to $1,500, you can get a basic WordPress Web site or blog site that will represent your business well. Your site should have helpful content and at least three to five ways to engage potential customers, including offering an e-book download, newsletter sign-ups and free webinar sign-ups.
Know your keywords: No search-engine optimization campaign will work if you don’t have the right keywords. You need to know how your target customers search for services online. Free tools like Wordtrakker and Google Keyword Tool can help.
Use a listening strategy: As a small-business owner, you can’t be everywhere in social media, but where you should be is where your target customers are hanging out. LinkedIn is the right place for Mr. Lacher. Keep spending time there, start using the Answers area to demonstrate expertise. Join groups where target customers belong, and share helpful information. Post your webinar materials through SlideShare to amplify your content.
Start blogging: Once you get your site fixed, start blogging. The best way to demonstrate your expertise is to share techniques and success stories. Be sure to use your keywords in your blog posts.
Share helpful content: One of the best ways to attract clients with social media is to position yourself as a resource. And don’t just share your own content — be generous and share the information of others in your industry. It’s a great way to build strategic alliances and make friends.
Mr. Lacher wants to grow his agency to the point where he could hire two people full-time who would be licensed under him. Right now, he is looking for a bilingual woman to help him with marketing.
What have you found difficult to do in getting started in social media? Have you been able to figure it out?
Melinda Emerson is founder and chief executive of Quintessence Multimedia, a social media strategy and content development firm. You can follow her on Twitter.
Posted by Outbound Excellence
Written By MELINDA F. EMERSON
New York Times 8/18/2012