research

Case Study – Intelligence / Investigative Analytics

Over the last seven years, and for more than 12,000+ investigative hours, I’ve worked as a intelligence/investigative analyst. I use both intelligence and investigative because the position goes by either.

Technically, I’m an All Source Analyst because I use both open (OSINT) and closed source data points. An intelligence analyst researches, gathers, and evaluates data from a variety of sources. They specialize in data mining. An investigative analyst works on, you guessed it, investigations.

Typically, there are three divisions: military, law enforcement, and insurance. Often, we use similar databases but with different levels of security clearance. Law enforcement is more concerned with digital forensics and cyber investigations. Military locate and track terrorists. Insurance investigates claims. All three have similar skill sets: we are cyber sleuths. It should be noted that there are also Cyber Security Threat Analysts that are also similar (they search systems and networks).

The insurance side of things deals a lot with insurance companies and law firms, and often works alongside law enforcement. Some of the cases I’ve worked on include money laundering, rape, assault, kidnapping, and shootings. Several of them have gone international (Mexico, Spain, Canada, Guatemala, etc) , and have included all forms of insurance: liability, work comp, property loss, FMLA, and life.

Before I continue, it should be noted that a background investigator is not the same as an analyst. Yes, I may do a simple social media sweep or a pre-employment search, but that’s the extent of what a background investigator does. They collect a bunch of data, but make little to no attempt at evaluating it. They don’t go beyond the confines of a search engine. Additionally, a copy service retrieves documents such as court records, birth certificates, and camera footage from an intersection, but that is only the “other” duties of my job function, and not what I do the majority of the time.

So, what do I do? I piece puzzles together in order to paint a clearer picture. I work on skip traces, SSN traces, heir searches, asset and business searches, employment checks, social media archives (which may include metadata) and criminal/civil checks, and a host of other case types. I launch bank account searches, comb through DMV records, and run vehicle sighting reports. I might triangulate the location of a cell phone or create a family tree in Ancestry.

Yep, I’ve read thousands of police reports, traffic incident reports, birth certificates, property deeds, property transfer detail reports, vehicle titles, death certificates, autopsies, bankruptcy documents, articles of organization and incorporation, statements of info, and marriage and divorce records. I conduct geofences, match data points, and watch body-cam and surveillance footage. I then conclude my findings by compiling a legal document for court purposes.

My toolkit is vast. It includes a host of software and online databases. And it’s not something one ever truly masters. You’re always learning, adapting to some new trend or security feature, and uncovering new methods for solving cases. You’re on the frontlines in combating the $1 trillion a year industry known as fraud. And rarely are two days alike.

Your coworkers have no idea what it is you do. The certificates you get are often the same ones military and law enforcement receives. And you’re even eligible to test for and receive a PI license! It’s a job that includes lots of tech, sometimes being on call for a court appearance, and is rewarding in and of itself. I mean, I get to work on some really interesting cases and see things few others can ever testify of. We see a lot, learn a lot, and the feeling you get when you crack a case…it’s amazing.

So whether it’s a dude claiming to be a vegetable who is using dummy LLCs in a real estate pyramid scheme, another dude who claims to be broke to sneak his way out of lawsuits while he liquids his assets, transferring them to Canada where he happens to be a multimillionaire, or it’s finding a mother pretending not to know the identity of the father so she can collect all the life insurance on her deceased toddler, the cases are never the same.

Eight years ago I didn’t know this position even existed. I was experienced in marketing, sales, writing, customer service, and project management. I started out in data entry, did some editing, and then stumbled into a super fun and wildly different day job. It’s perfect for the writer and mystery lover in me. And I can’t wait to take it to the next level.

Case Study – Marketing 101

I once described the definition of marketing as the implementation of effective branding in order to create name and/or product recognition. I argued that people didn’t buy Apple products so much because of clever ad campaigns, but because of name association. You hear “just do it” and think Nike or “loving it” and think of McDonalds. Marketing builds rep and establishes trust.

Of course, the person who asked informed me I was wrong, and that the definition of marketing is sales. Nothing more, nothing less. To this I still say no. Marketing is a sales tool, and the two often work hand in hand, but marketing is a much different beast. In order to prove my theory, I set about to do something my company had never done before: create a marketing plan.

I previously worked on international marketing strategies for Irongrip Barbell and Slotline Golf as an intern. Additionally, I worked as a graphic designer for a billboard advertising agency. I wrote my first business plan at the age of 16, and felt my strengths as an analyst served me well in creating an appropriate strategy for my company that would work in the 21st century.

Any good marketing plan begins with a thorough survey of the current industry. This means understanding current trends, market demographics (and target audience), and conducting evaluations of competitors. This also means identifying current company strengths and weaknesses, and using data to create a vision for where you want to be as a company in the next 5-10 years. Research is king and correctly interpreting data is the difference between success and failure.

Once I laid a proper foundation, I was able to formulate an appropriate strategy that would unfold in a series of well thought-out phases. Like Kenpo, where every belt builds upon the one that came before it, each phase of the marketing plan builds upon itself like a stack of blocks.

Of course, I started with a social media marketing campaign that began with a redesign of the company website, proper execution of SEO, and a complete social media overhaul. At the same time, I worked on an updated design of the logo, and a swath of new material: bi-folds, pamphlets, flyers, business cards, and mailers. I also identified all key conferences to attend, and which ones would be ideal to sponsor. In addition, I updated the event material and mapped out a plan to create a stronger conference presence.

I don’t want to go to into too much detail, but other elements of the plan included press releases, redesigned quarterly reviews, a company newsletter, and new ways to create a tighter sense of community between us and our clients.

I was even allowed to implement portions of the strategy, tracking stats via Google Analytics and other metrics. Data is king, and because I was already becoming versed in data analytics, it proved to be a major factor in moving forward with a proper implementation of my strategy. The results were strongly positive.

I have always felt that a good marketing strategy needs to remain fluid and dynamic. If something isn’t working, you must have the flexibility to adjust as needed. So what are the results of my marketing strategy?

I laid the foundation for a strong social media presence, had several press releases published, wrote a successful newsletter, revamped much of the company’s stale marketing material, and managed to produce an uptick in metrics concerning e-mail blasts.

While I ended up transitioning into intelligence and investigative analytics, the strategy I put into play is only still being realized, years later. It’s crazy to think how ahead of the times it was. A marketing plan that predicted the future of the industry would be almost entirely digital and would be founded upon data. Years later, and that’s exactly where we are. I consider that a massive success in and of itself.

From this project I learned the importance of research, the gathering of data, the proper interpretation of data, and using data to create effective strategies and accurate prediction of market trends. It also became another exercise in the value of strong writing ability as I put together an effective marketing plan, marketing material, newsletters, and press releases.