*** While Internet and Social Media Marketing is a great way to create not only awareness about a business but also spark discussions and even debates on a subject of interest for the audience, there are many industries where strict regulations simply prohibit them from using the Internet for marketing their product or service. These highly regulated industries mostly fall into the realm of financial services and health care.
The Tied Hands of Highly Regulated Industries
Being subject to these stringent regulations means that sales representatives are forced to only use the sales resources that have been explicitly approved by the management and fully comply with the industry regulations. Unfortunately, too often the marketing tactics that are allowed include only the traditional ways such as making cold calls to leads off a purchased list, distributing company brochures and flyers using direct mail, participating in trade shows or, even worse, standing in malls and trying to get walkers-by to talk to them. Let’s face it: the effectiveness of these methods is diminishing, and this is happening fast. It seems that in the last 3 years (since 2010 which was the year around which businesses all of a sudden started noticing the changes) there has been a strongly pronounced shift away from the popularity of trade shows into the world of social media where live discussions between businesses and their online fans have dominated the web sphere.
So, are the Highly Regulated Industries keeping their hands tied with their stringent rules?
Let us look at today’s common behavior in order to understand why strictly following the regulations may be too limiting in terms of marketing efforts used by the highly regulated industries. Taking the health industry as an example, today when someone is looking to find out what particular symptoms that they are experiencing may mean in terms of their health, they most likely go on-line and search for information. In fact, as many as 75% of us do this, and we base our health decisions on what we learn on the Internet. Then that same 75% of us go online in search for remedies that we can use to cure whatever it may be that bothers us, and when we find that health product that we need, we buy it on-line!
Why aren’t these highly regulated industries doing anything to tap into this hidden market and online communities in order to profit more?
Untying the Hands of Highly Regulated Industries – Without Ignoring the Rules
So how can sales people, businesses and organizations in Highly Regulated Industries use the Internet to raise awareness about their services?
Take, for example, a dental clinic. Dental clinics are highly regulated and can only use certain ways to distribute their information. How then can a dental clinic increase its popularity through the use of the Internet to bring in new patients and expand its business?
I have spoken with my own dentist recently and asked her if she was using the Internet to market her dental clinic. Her answer was that she relied upon word of mouth spread by her own patients. Meanwhile, she is the only dentist working in her dental clinic, the other two fully equipped dental offices in her clinic are empty and have not been used ever since the clinic was opened, and she pays full rent every month!
So what can she do in order to increase her clinic’s visibility on the Internet, build popularity of it within the community and beyond and bring in new patients as a result?
From blogging to Facebook, the opportunities are endless. Continuing with our dental clinic example, and without thinking too hard, we provide some examples of how the Internet can be used in this situation below.
- Social media communities can be built and nurtured with the view of providing opportunities for fans to participate in interesting discussions and share their own stories, posting tips about dental hygiene, educating on the subject of diet and dental care to facilitate the healthy mouth…
- Building a fun blog with dental comics for kids and even having kids submit their own dental comics into a contest for a prize!
- Writing interesting content in a blog – anything from sharing information about the dentist’s job, interesting facts about the often so alien dental equipment, to educating the public about how to prepare your kids for a visit to the dentist and so on.
The Conclusion and the Eye-Opener
The key is understanding the target market’s needs, fears, struggles, challenges and providing content and generating discussions where the needs are answered, fears are uncovered and diminished and challenges are made seem not so challenging! As soon as this content is live and has been indexed by Google, people will start finding it on the Internet and the dental clinic will gain popularity, authority, be positioned as caring and an expert and will see the rise in the number of patients!
There is no doubt that if these regulations exist, they have a solid ground to stand upon. After all, there must have been and still are reasons for their existence. But working in a highly regulated profession should not mean that the Internet is the forbidden ground.