Social media and Internet marketing has been a boon for a great many businesses today, and provides an opportunity for brands to develop their network of connections, entertain and inform a targeted audience, deepen the level of engagement with prospects and clients, establish itself as an authoritative source of useful information, and communicate their value in a meaningful way.
Well over half of Business-to-Business buyers search for information on social media, and companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms. Email marketing, the “old gray mare” of Internet marketing, is very competitive in terms of performance and cost; and marketing to existing customers costs one-fifth the price of developing new customer relationships.
So, the evidence is clear: your customers are there on social media, your competition is there, and your employees and new hires expect it. Your business, we are told with increasing intensity, needs to include social media. Why, then, are some companies in highly regulated industries reluctant or unwilling to engage in social media and Internet marketing?
In his May 8 blog post, Content Marketing in Highly Regulated Industries, David Meerman Scott – Marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of 8 books including The New Rules of Marketing & PR, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead and Newsjacking – speaks of the erroneous belief held by many in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and financial services industries who want to avoid risk at all cost, that laws like HIPAA and regulations like those from FINRA and the SEC forbid them from creating valuable content on the Web or engaging in social media.
Scott describes the absurdly paradoxical relationship that exists between the socially-disengaged health care institutions and practitioners and the 80% of Internet users who look up health information online, or the more than three out of four people who use the Web to make healthcare decisions.
He maintains that organizations can ill afford such a disconnect, and holds up a shining example of Chris Boyer of Inova Health System, Northern Virginia’s leading not-for-profit healthcare provider, as one who is doing a terrific job as Director of Digital Communications and Marketing for the health care system that serves more than 1 million people each year. The full blog post about Chris Boyer is well worth reading and learning from, but I particularly liked the insightful comments that were left by other contributors to the discussion, and the advice to the fearful.
- The rewards of humanizing a brand in a highly regulated industry can be many
- The early adopters will have more than a critical advantage – they will have built such a loyal tribe that none of their members would even dream of looking elsewhere.
- The professionals who are engaged with social media in an effective way are well on their way to building a strong and vibrant business and leaving their colleagues in the dust.
- What was previously avoided out of fear, can now be embraced as a competitive advantage
- Staying away from risk by doing nothing only might create an even bigger risk
- More companies need to understand that measuring risk is looking at the complete eco-system not looking at just the negative perspective of things.
- As a mental health professional, boundaries and HIPAA are real concerns. However, they are not barriers to marketing online. They are just parameters that need to be effectively addressed.
- Thank you for highlighting this issue and specifically referencing health care professionals. We are professionals that are sorely in need of technical support and guidance and there are too few of us actually offering that in an effective way
Though focused on health care practitioners and the systems that contain them, David Meerman Scott’s blog post applies equally well to those in the highly-regulated financial services industry. What advice does Chris Boyer and David Meerman Scott provide to other professional service marketers in the financial services industry? Here are the five silver bullets:
- Start small
- Don’t be afraid to fail
- Celebrate your successes
- Measure, measure, measure
- Remember, there are no such things as “silver bullets”
I would add that it helps to have a knowledgeable and experienced professional services marketing agency to help you navigate safely through the challenges and rewards of social media and Internet marketing for highly regulated industries.