June 15, 2018
Inside: When a competing pharmacy closes down, an opportunity opens for your independent pharmacy to get more scripts and new patients. Learn how to make the most of it before its too late.
When a competitor closes its doors, yours should open even wider.
A mass of current patients in your area actively looking for a new pharmacy doesn’t happen every day. Snagging even a small percentage of those patients could dramatically improve your business.
“Increasing script count is your primary benefit,” said John Beckner, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). “But there’s also an opportunity to sell a lot of ancillary and front-end products. So, you’re hopefully getting a total customer in terms of prescription customers and the opportunity to service their over-the-counter needs as well.”
Before a pharmacy closes down, it has to serve a notice to its patients 14 to 30 days in advance, depending on the state board of pharmacy’s regulations. When that happens, you have an open window to reach patients as they scramble to transfer their prescriptions.
“There’s going to be an exodus,” Beckner said. “That’s the period of uncertainty that you can take advantage of.”
It’s a golden opportunity. “You’re marketing to customers who’ve been forced to go somewhere else,” said Gabe Trahan, Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing at NCPA. “They’ve been forced. So, the advantage is yours.”
If an independent pharmacy closes down, you have an inherent advantage over national chain pharmacies.
“You may have first shot at those customers because they’re used to the independent environment, they’re used to having a relationship with their pharmacist, and they might be more inclined to transfer their prescriptions to another independent,” Beckner said.
Even if a national chain buys the pharmacy and keeps those customers, the opportunity still remains.
“A lot of times when a chain takes over, they’re not ready for the influx of new customers and the wait times get ridiculous,” Trahan said. “So, it makes for a great opportunity.”
Caring for a sudden influx of patients will test your pharmacy’s capacity. You’ll need the staff, workflow, and infrastructure in place to handle the needs of numerous new patients.
“Be prepared to succeed,” Trahan said. “You have one attempt to make that first impression.”
Take everything into consideration. Do you have enough parking to accommodate more patients? Are you staffed enough so patients don’t wait in line? Do you have enough inventory to fill all their prescriptions?
And, preparation includes providing more than prescriptions. Competing against national chains for those customers means you also need a healthy front end.
“You don’t have to match them,” Trahan said. “But you can’t have onesies on the shelves; you can’t be out of the best sellers.”
You should also prepare a singular message. Trahan suggests writing a script. That way every staff member communicates the same message to new patients.
“Everyone has to be on board. When a new customer comes in, what exactly are you going to say to them? Because everybody has to say the same things. From the clerk to the truck driver to the tech to the pharmacist,” Trahan said. “What will you do to make everybody seem excited that a new customer’s coming in?”
Get your message out because you only have one shot to attract those new patients.
“When you do your marketing, make sure you say three things: You have a choice. We’re ready for you. And, in just one call, we’ll take it from there,” Trahan said. “Because customers have no idea how to transfer prescriptions.”
Also, reach out to doctors. “It’s always good to have an outside entity advocating on your behalf,” Beckner said. “If you could get the medical community on board with what you’re doing and the services you offer, that’s a very important piece.”
NCPA provides a marketing toolkit to help patients capitalize when a competing pharmacy closes down.
The toolkit includes:
Trahan also suggests getting a banner printed that you can hang outside your pharmacy right away.
And, Trahan said to prepare a marketing budget before you begin your campaign.
Trahan and Beckner also emphasized the need to promote what makes your pharmacy different.
And they said to be specific in your message. Don’t spout general claims about being family owned or having great customer service.
“You have to define exactly what makes you good,” Trahan said. “That’s how you’re going to change customers’ experience.”
Patients also look for continuity, Beckner said. “For these people who are forced to find a new pharmacy, there’s a little bit of trepidation involved. They have to establish a new relationship. They’re worried about their files getting lost or where they’re going.”
Once you succeed at getting a patient to walk through your doors, you still have work to do. Often, patients meet the clerk or technician first, and they never speak with the pharmacist. Trahan and Beckner said pharmacies need to give patients an official introduction.
“Making sure the pharmacist has an opportunity to meet and greet every new customer from the competitor is extremely important,” Beckner said.
Don’t wait to capitalize when a competing pharmacy closes down.
Want more pharmacy business tips and advice? Sign up for our e-newsletter.