How do I Market my Private Investigation Agency to Insurance Companies?
I’ve built two companies on Worker’s Comp and Liability Defense Investigations; one in Lafayette, Louisiana in the mid to late 90’s (that I sold) and my thriving PI agency in Pensacola, Florida. Our best clients were not always the insurance companies themselves but the law firms that represent several insurance companies at a time and the Third Party Administrators (TPAs) that handle claims on behalf of self-insured entities like big corporations and local, county and state governments. We, of course, do work directly for several insurance companies like State Farm, Liberty Mutual and a few other national providers as well, but we usually landed those clients as a result of our work with the law firms and TPAs.
Your marketing approach will depend upon whom you are targeting:
If you are targeting insurance companies directly, you will want to make connections with the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of each of the major insurance carriers and get on their “Preferred Vendors” list, which usually requires nothing more than submitting proof of professional liability insurance (some insurance companies want to be listed as an additional insured), a copy of your agency licenses and some documentation about the company’s history, geographic area covered and perhaps a reference or two.
Finding SIU departments can be a bit tricky. You can easily find some SIU units on the Internet, http://www.geico.com/claims/claimsprocess/special-investigations-unit and http://www.sc-ifi.org/board.htm for example, but most will require some leg work, research and a bit of patience. Start with your own auto insurance agent and ask him for the name or number to the claims department, when you get a claims representative on the phone ask them to be transferred directly to SIU. If you reach someone from SIU, introduce yourself and ask them how to get onto their preferred vendor’s list.
While many insurance companies prefer that you work and communicate with SIU employees, don’t overlook the claims adjusters; we do a great deal of work for State Farm and never, not once, received an assignment through their SIU department! Just like marketing to the paralegals and legal secretaries at law firms, rather than the attorneys, focus your efforts on the decision makers. When it comes to suspicious claims, the people on the front lines of ferreting out fraud are the claims adjusters; they’re also the ones who are assigning surveillance as well. Use a little imagination and I’m sure you can get a few adjusters’ names when you call the claims department. Market to those persons specifically, keeping in mind that these people are in high volume, high pressure positions and your marketing message should clearly communicate why using your agency will be easy and how it will it make their jobs easier.
I prefer to be much more proactive in my marketing and find TPAs and law firms much easier to find and target; zeroing in on attorneys that specialize in liability defense is EASY. Leave the yellow pages alone and don’t bother with an internet search. A quick trip to the court house or, better yet, a check of the county courts online records (where available) is all you need to get the best marketing leads available. Do an index search on any one of the insurance companies’ names you can think of and you will find thousands of cases listing them as defendants in civil lawsuits.
Who is representing the insurance company in these lawsuits???
It took my office manager less than 30 minutes to collect well over 75 specific names and a couple dozen law firms representing several of the biggest insurance companies in the market. If you do a little more research and actually open a sample of the files at the courthouse, you may even come up with the names of the paralegals and legal secretaries who prepared the documentation! The rest is really Advertising 101.
What about the Third Party Administrators?
Every state of which I am aware requires TPAs to be licensed, usually by the Department of Insurance. Most of the states in which we work made these licensee lists available to us (at a cost) through an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. That made it pretty easy to get some marketing material into their hands. Keep in mind that most large metropolitan areas and states have claims adjusters associations, too. Join as an associate member, go to the lunches, advertise in their publications and set up a vendor booth at their conferences.
I really should discuss pricing your services and package pricing when dealing with insurance companies but you will find out pretty quickly that the insurance companies will tell you what they are willing to pay in your area. While you are likely to get paid directly by the insurance company while working for a law firm, inexplicably there seems to be more latitude in what they will pay and how quickly they will cut you a check – which I’ve found to be a good thing.
Don’t overlook requests for bids occasionally issued by various federal and state government entities looking to procure investigative services and service of process providers (that is another 7 or 8 paragraphs on the subject and a little off topic) but we landed one of our best clients, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, through a public request for bids.
Lastly, I would like to make one more observation… don’t be fooled into thinking that the national surveillance companies are taking up all of the available surveillance business! As a result of some negative experiences many insurance companies are going back to the smaller, local firms; I’ve heard this directly from the horse’s mouth on more than one occasion.
I honestly could go on and on but I think that this should give you a great foundation on which to get started. Hope this helps and best of luck in your endeavors!