December 14, 2017
How do patients view your pharmacy?
Do they think of you as innovative and tech-forward? Reliable and friendly? Stodgy and out-of-touch?
Your pharmacy evokes general thoughts and feelings in every patient. Often, they don’t know exactly why.
The why is your brand.
The image you create through your communications, operations and activities makes up your brand. It forms how patients perceive your pharmacy. And, it plays a big role in their decision to stay loyal to your business.
Many independent community pharmacies don’t think about branding. “They often stop once a logo or a logo and tagline have been developed,” said Tom Boyer, director of national accounts and member of the owners group at Hamacher Resource Group (HRG), a firm that improves results across the retail supply chain by addressing dynamic needs such as assortment planning and placement, retail execution strategy, fixture coordination, item database management, brand marketing, and analytics.
In a market saturated with national chain and big box pharmacies that have deep pockets and prolific marketing, your pharmacy needs to set itself apart with pharmacy branding. “Branding is important for all businesses,” said Megan Moyer, senior marketing communications specialist at HRG. “It establishes the personality and tone for the business. And it differentiates the pharmacy from the competition.”
Branding helps patients understand your business, how it fits their needs, and what to expect when they experience and interact with your pharmacy, Moyer said.
And if patients connect to your brand, they’ll remain loyal and tell others about your pharmacy.
So, how do you establish your pharmacy’s brand?
Start with self-reflection to figure out your pharmacy’s identity. “What do you want the pharmacy to be known for?” Moyer said. “You have to figure out what you want your pharmacy to be to your customers and within your community.”
And this identity doesn’t only mean what you want to present to the public. Think of it as the core of what your business is. “It’s a promise, a commitment to what you want your business to be,” Boyer said. “Pharmacy owners have to believe in the promise of the brand and commit to it.”
Your pharmacy’s mission statement should help define your brand identity. Without a mission statement, you can’t have an effective brand.
“It sets the standard for what your pharmacy is and what you want it to be in the community,” Moyer said. “Your branding follows that and showcases what you’re about. A mission statement gives you the groundwork for every decision after that.”
Developing your pharmacy’s mission and brand takes time and effort. Moyer suggests involving your staff, asking patients for their perspectives and talking to the healthcare community.
The heart of your pharmacy’s branding, Boyer said, starts with differentiating your operations. “Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers,” he said.
That means your brand needs to encompass more than a catchy tagline or a compelling logo.
You may have the greatest logo in the world, but if you don’t offer unique services and products that meet your patients’ needs, your brand won’t succeed. “What’s behind the logo gets to the heart of branding,” Boyer said. “What you offer that’s different from your competition is what makes people come to your pharmacy.”
Boyer suggests pharmacies answer three questions to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market:
Equipped with the answers to those three questions, you can figure out what sets your pharmacy apart and how to build a brand patients will connect with.
If you want to make your brand last, get your staff involved. Your staff should understand your pharmacy’s mission and your brand, Boyer said. Involve everyone working in your pharmacy, including pharmacy technicians, front-end staff and delivery drivers. If they feel included in the brand development, they’ll be more dedicated to ensuring they represent the brand in their customer interactions and as they carry out their duties.
After you’ve differentiated your business and established your brand, how do you know your pharmacy branding is working?
“Word-of-mouth is the ultimate measurement of success,” Moyer said. “It means your brand has permeated and you’ve succeeded at getting across what you wanted from your branding efforts.”
Word-of-mouth is hard to measure. Boyer said you can find out what patients say about your pharmacy through physician outreach, comments on social media, speaking with patients and listening at community events.
You can also use sales to measure success.
Have your sales increased since you started branding? Are you expanding your products and services to keep up with demand?
Don’t worry if your pharmacy doesn’t immediately meet your brand aspirations. For example, you may aim to be a full-service pharmacy that includes home health care products, but you may not have all the resources in place to make that happen right away. “Pharmacies shouldn’t be afraid to set what they may think of as ‘lofty’ brand goals,” Moyer said. “As long as they’re building their business to reach that goal, it’s okay if it isn’t exactly where they want it to be when they establish the brand.”
Don’t fall victim to these common pharmacy branding mistakes:
Your independent pharmacy’s name and logo matter. But they make up only a small part of branding. Incorporate all these elements to create a complete brand for your business.
Your pharmacy’s unique position in the marketplace forms the foundation of your brand. What do you offer that nobody else does?
When determining your positioning, look to your patients. What do you deliver to your patients every day? Why do they continue to come back? “Become that go-to health care destination,” said Tom Boyer, director of national accounts at Hamacher Resource Group. “Be the knowledge bank where people go. Independent pharmacies shine over their national chain competition when they offer those types of services.”
Don’t overlook how activities, like events and outreach, build your brand. Take part in the community by hosting, attending and sponsoring events that support your brand. For example, a pharmacy that sets its brand as health and wellness should host workshops or educational sessions to help patients improve health and wellness.
Your front-end product assortment reflects your brand. For example, a pharmacy branding itself as the community homeopathic pharmacy with natural remedies for every ailment should stock a large selection of natural products. “Make sure you focus on over-the-counter (OTC) or wellness-related products that complement the prescriptions you fill,” Boyer said.
Your communications need a consistent message with a unique voice that reflects your brand’s core values. And, messaging means more than marketing and social media. The signs in the pharmacy, the words on your prescription bags and your advertisements all need to reflect your pharmacy branding.
Your brick-and-mortar building should also reflect your brand. If it doesn’t, you need to update. “If your store looks and feels the same as it did 25 years ago, then you aren’t preserving your brand,” Boyer said.
Anything visual that represents your pharmacy makes up your identity. Make your brand identity consistent. Ensure it leaves patients with a good impression. Your identity can include your logo, marketing materials, letterhead, products, signage, uniforms and more.
A logo is an icon or mark that identifies your pharmacy brand in its simplest form. It symbolizes the business as a whole.
Support your pharmacy brand with a strategy. Because brands evolve over time, brands that recognize market changes and patient trends will stay relevant.
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