By Steve Coleman – Perivan Solutions

Can regulated firms do digital marketing?

Content marketing…responsive, mobile-friendly websites…social media. Any marketer knows that digital marketing is the most relevant and talked-about channel at the moment.

Why?

  • Because we live in a digital world – people expect to be able to get the information they need via the web – and increasingly, on their phone or tablet while on the move.
  • Relationships are built and nurtured on social media platforms.
  • Content marketing is a highly effective way to win advocates and ultimately clients, by providing your contacts with regular, relevant thought pieces and news.
  • Digital marketing is immediate, playing to the growing expectation that companies and their customers can communicate in real time.
  • And – very importantly – digital marketing is highly measurable. In digital, marketers have found their holy grail: a way to quantify the effectiveness of their activity and refine it instantly based on results.

So using digital marketing channels should be a no-brainer. And for many industries, it is. But some firms in regulated industries – sectors like banking, pharmaceuticals, insurance or professional services – are still reticent to embrace it.

Digital marketing challenges for regulated industries

In many ways, this is understandable. If you work in financial services, for example, you’ll know that all your financial promotions need to comply with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s requirements. This means rigorous compliance checks before any marketing material goes out the door – not always conducive to the fact-paced, reactive world of digital marketing.

So if you work in financial services, or another regulated industry, like the legal profession (regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority) or pharmaceutical sector (regulated by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical industry) it may seem that digital marketing falls into the ‘too difficult’ box.

Challenging the perceptions of digital marketing in regulated sectors

And yet, as in almost every sector, there are firms that challenge this belief. These so-called ‘challenger brands’ are the upstarts in your industry, the new firms carving a niche for themselves, often taking industry veterans by surprise.

Often, these firms are harnessing digital marketing to create a presence for themselves, disrupting the established industry and claiming a disproportionate share of voice. They recognise that brochure-ware and traditional marketing strategies no longer cut it in a digital world, something as true of regulated sectors as any others.

How can you emulate these firms, the ones who are managing to reap the benefits of digital marketing despite working within the constraints of regulation?

The good news is that there are ways financial services and other regulated industries can make it easier for themselves to use digital marketing – whether you’re an agile start-up or a slower-moving corporate.

Here we list some of the strategies for success used by regulated firms who are embracing digital marketing – and achieving results.

Strategies for success

  • Understand the constraints of regulation in your sector. Whether you are regulated by the FCA, SRA, ABPI or another body – understand the rules. Knowing what you can and can’t do is a key first step.
  • Work out what you need to do to make digital marketing a reality within those requirements. This means:
  1. Identifying which channels are your priority, and which are the easiest to get started on. Focus on getting one area right – if your firm is nervous of social media, start with email marketing. Find a way to show that one aspect of digital marketing is possible, and once you can demonstrate success, expand.
  2. Get senior buy-in. Support from the top of the firm is vital to a successful digital marketing strategy: your leadership needs to understand why this is important. They may be wary of digital marketing and need your help to appreciate its value.
  3. Make sure your firm structure supports content development. Who do you need to tap into – product developers, your consultants or sales team? Work out how to build a pipeline of relevant content so you have a good bank of material ready to go.
  4. Build an effective workflow for the production of content. Digital marketing doesn’t need bottlenecks. Getting content out quickly is key.
  5. Swift compliance approval is essential. Work closely with your Compliance team so they understand what you’re trying to achieve, and the importance of timeliness in digital marketing. Consider whether automating your processes could help.
  6. You need a close working relationship between Marketing and your Compliance or Legal teams. Too often, Compliance and Legal are seen as obstacles, rather than allies, in regulated marketing. Get them on side and work together – you have a common goal here.
  7. Think about the talent in your team – do you have the skills you need to identify and produce content? Are you able to create videos, infographics, blogs and other data-driven content efficiently? If not, identify the skills you need to develop within the team. Consider working with an external agency if you want to capitalise on expertise from outside the business.
  • Once you’re up and running, make sure you evidence the effectiveness of a digital approach. One of the best things about digital marketing is its unmatched ability to make marketing activity measurable. You can evidence that what you are doing is driving traffic to your website; creating new contacts; delivering leads and new business. Make sure you capitalise on this by sharing the results of your efforts with your management team.

Digital marketing may be daunting for regulated industries, but it’s certainly not impossible. Those brands that get a head start on social media and innovative content sharing will steal a march on their more staid competitors. Follow our strategies for success and you can make an effective digital marketing programme a reality, whatever your challenges.

If you want to make a start on social media, but are unsure how to begin, Perivan Solutions ‘10 best practices for compliant social media’ will give you a good grounding. It’s free, and you can download a copy here.

Want to find out more about Perivan Solutions? click here.