Author: Ryan Haddock, Content Marketing Strategist
Marketing is all about reaching people. You find the people who need what you have, and you explain why they should get it from you in the simplest way possible. And if it were that easy, anyone could do it. However, as many independent pharmacists find out, there is a reason why marketing — even for smaller businesses — is often a full-time job.
So, as an independent pharmacist, how can you get the most out of your marketing efforts? Where should you focus your time, your energy, and your dollars?
Let’s make a plan.
What Is Your Marketing Objective?
While identifying the objective of your marketing efforts may seem simple — drive more business, of course! — it’s actually a bit more complicated. Yes, the objective of any kind of marketing and advertising is to drive more business to your pharmacy and increase your revenue. However, you need to determine how you want to do that before you can really zero in on a marketing strategy.
What exactly are you trying to do? Are you trying to:
- Attract more patients to your pharmacy?
- Inform the community about new clinical services?
- Remind patients about timely services you provide (like flu shots)?
- Advertise a particular sale or seasonal offer?
- Establish relationships with new prescribers?
Once you determine what your goal is, you can then dive into developing your strategy. You can’t do the latter without completing the former; if you don’t establish a goal, you’ll never know if you accomplished it.
Form Your Pharmacy Marketing Strategy
Now that you know your objective, it’s time to make your plan. What kind of marketing do you want to do for your pharmacy? Here are the options you can consider:
While traditional advertising methods are the mostly broadly seen, they also provide almost zero accountability. You have no way of knowing how many people have seen your advertisement, or if they’re the type of people you’re targeting with your marketing campaign. Let’s break it down further:
- Newspaper ads: Advertisements in the local newspaper are a great way to reach an older demographic, but there aren’t any reliable ways to track who has seen your ads. And while newspaper advertising isn’t expensive, its reach has also declined over the last decade.
- Radio ads: Same with newspaper ads, except you’re likely to reach people in their cars during their commute or while they are out running errands. While you can do some audience targeting based on the station you advertise with, it’s still a spray-and-pray approach, which isn’t usually the best use of your marketing budget.
- Television ads: Like both newspaper and radio ads, TV commercials cost money to produce and more money to air. Local ad costs can vary between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, and it’s difficult to measure its effectiveness. Like radio, you can target your audience based on the channel and its programming, but there’s no real guarantee that your target audience will see your ad. Also, as streaming options grow in popularity, advertisements for local businesses are growing scarce.
- Direct mail campaigns: When you send out mailers, you can target specific zip codes to ensure that the people of your community know about your pharmacy and what it has to offer. Of all traditional advertising options, this is probably the best and most cost-effective option. With direct mail, you can reach a larger number of people who are more likely to come to your pharmacy. And, unlike newspaper ads, radio ads, or TV ads, direct mail doesn’t miss key demographics. Last time we checked, everyone, regardless of their age, still checks their mail.
In short, while traditional print and over-the-air advertising is still a staple for many businesses, that doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your likely limited marketing budget. Be careful, and be selective, and you can still see success with this method.
It didn’t take long after the internet became public for it to become a marketing tool. But, with its tracking and segmenting capabilities, it’s one of the best marketing tools for a small business. With online advertising, you can narrow down exactly who you want to target, whether it’s middle-aged men, parents of small children, or people who have recently turned 65 and are eligible for Medicare. But the tools to do so do require some tech savvy, so take that into account. Here are a few examples:
- Search ads: You can create text ads on Google and Bing that target the keywords people might use when searching for your pharmacy (or any pharmacy) online. Do you want to be the first result that pops up when someone searches for a pharmacy in your location? Paid search ads are how you do it.
- Social media ads: Putting ads on social media platforms takes it a step farther. With social media ads, you can target specific demographics, including age, gender, location, and even occupation. Because you’re reaching out to the general public, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are your best bets. (LinkedIn is a networking platform for professionals; you’re more likely to connect with other pharmacists on there than potential patients.)
- Email campaigns: While it might be tough to reach new customers via email, you can definitely keep your current customers in the loop on what’s happening in your pharmacy and why they need to stop in soon. You can advertise new services, promotional deals, and even loyalty rewards for frequent customers. With certain software platforms, you can even automate and personalize that outreach, giving your patients the personal touch without taking time away from the counter.
In order for online advertising to be effective, you must have a website. And not just a website, but a website that is updated on a regular basis. Make sure your store hours and business address are prominently displayed and up to date, and consider adding photos of you and your pharmacy staff so that prospective patients have a chance to get familiar with you before visiting.
Sponsoring & Participating in Community Events
Sometimes, you just have to get out there. There are lots of different ways you can drive business to your pharmacy in the community. Maybe it’s by becoming a sponsor for your local high school football field. Maybe it’s by contributing a prize to a community event, like a fall festival or a block party. Maybe it’s by sponsoring a float (or a pickup truck “float”) in a local holiday parade. There are all kinds of ways to get your pharmacy’s name front and center in the community; it’s a matter of staying informed about what is going on in your community and — most importantly — finding out how you can help.
When Your Pharmacy Marketing Budget Is Practically Nothing
Brooke Barney from Pharm Fresh Media, a marketing company that specializes in marketing independent pharmacies, recommends that pharmacy owners allocate anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 percent of gross sales to their marketing budget. But let’s not kid ourselves; sometimes, that marketing budget is closer to zero. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t market your pharmacy. Here are a few options to consider:
Regardless of other marketing efforts, content marketing is something you should be doing anyway. As a pharmacist, you have a wealth of knowledge on a subject that many people simply don’t understand. And while we’re certainly not advocating for you to give out that knowledge for free, you and your pharmacy can benefit from educating the public and answering basic questions that they have about medication and clinical topics. Content marketing is a way to put your pharmacy’s brand out there in the community (and the world) and position yourself as a trustworthy thought leader in your industry.
You can include a blog on your website, or you can upload videos to YouTube. Be sure to be conversational and speak or write using common terms and as little jargon as possible. It may be hard, but try to stay away from the dozens and dozens of acronyms for which this industry is so well known.
Organic Social Media Marketing
Once you start creating content, you need a way to get it out into the world. The best way to do this is to create social media accounts and start posting regularly. Join local small business groups and network with other local business owners. Include your social media information in your store and on flyers that you send home with patients. Write about and comment on community events to raise awareness of your page. But, most of all, post the content that you’re creating for your website on your social media accounts. Ask your patients to follow you and share content if it resonates with them.
Even with all the paid ads and marketing opportunities out there, nothing beats solid word-of-mouth.
How Business Intelligence Can Help Your Marketing Efforts
Marketing doesn’t just mean paid ads and email campaigns. Sometimes, marketing is simply knowing who to contact at the right time. When you use a business intelligence solution like MyDataMart by EnlivenHealth®, you can use targeted patient reports that allow you to reach out to brand new patients, missing patients, and even patients by health plan.
Recently, an insurer sent letters to one pharmacy’s patients stating that the pharmacy was no longer preferred and recommended other pharmacies in the area. Once the pharmacist discovered this, she used MyDataMart to create a list of patients under that health plan, and she personally reached out to them. In the end, she saved those patients from needlessly switching pharmacies.
When you’re running an independent pharmacy, both time and money can be tight, which can limit your outreach capabilities. When that happens, you need to make sure you’re spending that time and money reaching out to the people you really want to connect with. Business intelligence can help you segment your marketing audience and pinpoint who needs to hear from you most.
Marketing can be tricky for an independent pharmacy. Where national chains and big box stores have marketing departments and dedicated resources, you have… you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compete. If you’re smart with your resources — and if you follow your plan — there’s no reason why you can’t run successful marketing campaigns for your pharmacy.