Forming Unexpected Relationships

When you think of developing a partnership with other organizations, you might think of your local hospital, physicians’ group, or community center. But it’s prime time to think differently and act bigger, albeit in a smaller way.


First, think of your community pharmacy as a brand, which is necessary if you want to successfully compete against the chains and big-box stores. Second, think big and notice how national brands team up.

Have you bought a Legos® set, eaten at a Taco Bell®, or worn a pair of Nike® sneakers recently? These are just three brands known for creating successful collaborations with other popular brands.

Why all the cross-promoting?

“The pace of change in today’s retail market—and retail healthcare, in particular—has never been more disruptive,” said Dave Wendland, vice president, strategic relations and member of the owner group at Hamacher Resource Group, which explores and executes retail solutions for brands, retailers, distributors, and more. “When changes occur as quickly as they do today, it’s more important than ever to continually innovate and look for the next opportunity. One way to do that is through relationships and partnerships.”

Now it’s time to think local. What local or regional neighbors can you team up with?

“Test the waters by partnering with brick-and-mortar stores in your area,” advised Wendland. “Run co-marketing campaigns, feature each other’s products and services to increase sales, and host co-sponsored events to drive foot traffic. You can always start small and then build on those relationships with larger-scale initiatives.”’

Aligning Your Allies

  • Are the partner business values and business practices aligned with yours?
  • Does the partnership truly bring “new” value to your customers?
  • Do the products and services complement one another?
  • Will the partnership attract new customers and deliver differentiated products and services?

Unexpected Partnerships, Unexpected Benefits

Successful collaborations can yield profits that extend well beyond your balance sheet. You might learn new tactics, come up with innovative ideas, and work with successful businesspeople you never would have met otherwise. Even an unsuccessful partnership might at least teach you what you don’t want to do.

Most of all, think of the increased value to your patients and community. “Your patients gain confidence because you’ve done the legwork for them, which creates patient loyalty,” said Wendland. “You’re also tapping into another locally owned business, which helps your community rise.”

Take your time, do your research, and consider the type of relationship that would be mutually beneficial. And consider the partnership more as an informal, handshake agreement and less as a letter-of-the-law legal contract.

For example, imagine a partnership with your local florist. You could send flowers to patients recently released from the hospital or refer their loved ones to the shop. That florist could then send customers to your pharmacy for their healthcare needs.

“To remain relevant in any industry, companies need to stretch their horizons,” said Wendland. “My advice to pharmacy is to define where it can bring value to its customers, assess how to achieve that, fill the void with partners, and then build larger-scale initiatives.”

5 Fresh Pharmacy Collaborations

Dave Wendland, vice president, strategic relations and member of the owner group at HRG, shared some imaginative partnership ideas.

Farm to table

Invite regional growers to a once-monthly farmers market in your store’s front-end area or parking lot. You’ll underscore the importance of diet (food is medicine) and local or organic choices. As the event grows, invite local chefs to demonstrate or offer samples. You might harvest a few farmers as new customers.

Pet projects

Pet products produce pawfit! Partner with your local vet to fulfill compounded pharmaceuticals, your town’s pet store to offer health-and-wellness pet products, your independent bookstore to feature training guides, or a pet-sitting or dog-walking business (even if they’re high school students making a buck).

Back to school

Boost your vaccination business by working alongside a local office-supply store, school system, or homeschooling community. Spotlight over-the-counter (OTC) items like first-aid items, elastic bandages, or anti-bacterial wipes. You could also include information or business cards for tutors, music teachers, or activity coaches.

 Baker’s dozen

 Adding healthy treats to your pharmacy operations will make your patients smile. Work with a local bakery to come up with a dozen (or more) treats that might be gluten-, sugar-, or nut-free. You could sample them in your shop and then offer classes as part of your pharmacy’s diabetes education or weight-loss programs, as well.

Selfie station

Is a high school team going to state? Is it graduation or wedding season? Ask a local photographer to help you properly create a spot in your shop for local customers to take selfies or group photos. Gather inexpensive props and have some fun! As for competitions, it’s not just football or basketball—remember debate, STEM, dance clubs, and 4-H or FFA programs.

From the Magazine

This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.

More articles from the March 2023 issue:

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