June 7, 2018
Inside: Like all small businesses, most independent pharmacies are guilty of a few pharmacy marketing mistakes. Get your pharmacy marketing back on track with expert advice from marketing pros.
Your pharmacy has more competition than ever today.
You compete for the same patients with national chain pharmacies, big box stores, mail order, supermarket pharmacies, and other local community pharmacies.
And as your competition increases, marketing your pharmacy becomes even more important.
How are you marketing your pharmacy? What methods do you use for marketing? Are you even marketing your pharmacy at all?
“‘If you build it, they will come’ isn’t true for any business, especially in the digital age and with regard to local consumers,” said Ross Clurman, Digital Marketing Director of COMNIO, a digital marketing agency that focuses on the health and wellness, technology, finance, and non-profit sectors. “They now have the ability to search for, research, and discover your business before they decide to try or buy. If you’re not marketing and trying to find these local consumers, they won’t be able to find you.”
And even if potential patients do find your pharmacy, you have to prove to them why they should choose your pharmacy over the other options.
Otherwise, they’ll go to the pharmacy down the street.
Like all small businesses, most independent pharmacies are guilty of a few marketing mistakes. Usually, because they don’t have the resources or the expertise they need to do marketing right.
But you’re doing your business a disservice if you keep making these pharamcy marekting mistakes for too long.
“Yes, you can probably build and manage a website, setup and launch campaigns, and ‘market’ your business, but your time is much more valuable when applied to the operation and management of your team, company, and roadmap,” Clurman said.
Hire an employee to handle marketing or use a marketing agency.
“Start by talking to a marketing professional, or by educating yourself if you’re more of a do-it-yourself type,” said Andrew Becks, the co-founder of 301 Digital Media, a digital marketing agency with clients in the pharmaceutical industry.
“However, it’s important to keep in context that marketing in the digital era is becoming an increasingly sophisticated job that requires equal parts data scientist, campaign analyst, web developer and creative chops. So, outside expertise is often necessary for scaled and technologically-measured success.”
Keeping up with the latest marketing technology is almost impossible if marketing isn’t your full-time job.
“Many business owners hear buzzwords and catch wind of new tools and spend far too much time researching (and even investing in) these new tools or techniques,” Clurman said.
“Instead, rely on the tried and true principles of marketing, and stick with the best tools and techniques for your industry, market, needs, goals, and budget.”
If you don’t measure how your marketing is doing, then you won’t know how to change or adjust it to improve results.
Simple digital tools like the analytics offered on Facebook and Twitter can help you track the results of your social media efforts.
And, Google Analytics is a great tool to gauge the success of your website. It can track how many visits you get to your website, where those people come from (search, social media, etc.), and what people are looking for.
If you hire an employee to handle marketing or use a marketing agency, these marketing professionals can help you track results.
When it comes to marketing and advertising, don’t copy the national chains.
“Advertising budgets for national and regionally-based businesses often have a lot of abstraction in how their return-on-investment gets calculated,” said Zack West, Director of Marketing at Novomotus, a digital marketing agency. “Running an ad for a certain brand of toilet paper being on sale might lose them money, but that loss might be offset through peripheral contracts with that toilet paper manufacturer.”
The financial concerns of a national chain aren’t the same as your local pharmacy. So, don’t assume your pharmacy’s marketing goals should be the same as theirs.
“Local businesses should focus on understanding what works for their business model, their budget, and not get caught up in following in the footsteps of other successful marketing campaigns,” he said.
When it comes to marketing, you might need to reset your mindset.
“If you think of marketing as an expense, like an electric or gas bill, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful, and you’re less likely to stick with it for the necessary amount of time,” Becks said. “Building a brand and brand awareness requires a lot of effort and isn’t something that usually happens overnight.”
Instead, Becks suggests independent pharmacies focus on building affordable and sustainable long-term marketing plans with built-in measurements. That way, you can “ensure that every dollar spent on marketing can be measured and tied back to sales, revenue, and store traffic goals.”
It’s tempting to look for the easiest (and cheapest) methods to marketing your pharmacy. But don’t make that mistake.
“Businesses should forget about looking for the easy way to do anything,” West said. “If something’s that easy, everyone else is already doing it. And, that business’s efforts will be little more than a grain of sand in an entire beach of mimetic attempts.”
“Doing something hard well can be much more effective than doing something hard poorly,” he said.
Marketing well takes time.
“If you’re not willing to commit one to three hours a day to your marketing strategy, then hire someone to do it for you,” Clurman said. “Marketing is a full-time gig and once you start, it’s imperative you don’t stop. You don’t need a full-fledged marketing plan, but know your strategy, tactics, how you’ll measure success (analytics), and what ‘good’ looks like. So, you know if you’re making forward progress.”
It’s time to ask yourself what makes your pharmacy different or better than your competitors. That way you can show patients those differences through pharmacy marketing.
“Marketing can help you differentiate your business from the big guys and other local competitors,” Clurman said. “Marketing helps you define your brand, build customer loyalty, nurture prospective relationships, and build a larger audience online and off.”
Use these simple ways to set your pharmacy apart with better pharmacy marketing.
One big way all independent pharmacies are different from national chain pharmacies and big box stores is they’re local.
“National brands and household names aren’t able to communicate on a community level,” West said.
“For example, a national pharmacy could run ads targeting people of a certain town based on their location. But it could never address local perspectives at scale,” he said. “They aren’t going to be able to say things like, ‘Stay Hydrated During the Founder’s Day 5k with Sports Drinks on Sale for 50% Off.’ Local businesses are aware of local events, needs, and concerns of their citizens. Rolling that into their marketing can help them demonstrate their value to a community or area.”
You can use pharmacy marketing to differentiate your business by telling your unique story.
“A small pharmacy is never going to be able to compete with the big guys when it comes to marketing scale,” Becks said. “So, it’s important that they focus on telling memorable stories and highlighting genuine experiences with the brand (local customer testimonial, custom referral programs, etc.) to create a compelling reason for prospective consumers to engage with your pharmacy.”
Social media is a great option to market your pharmacy’s story.
Don’t overthink it. Use pharmacy marketing to tell patients the benefits of doing business with your pharmacy.
“A local pharmacy may offer a delivery service, membership discounts, or other special services not offered by large-scale competitors,” West said. “Marketing campaigns for small business should really focus on communicating the experience of doing business there, the personal touches they offer, and the advantages a consumer would find in doing business with them.
“Personal stories about community-related topics, customer testimonials, and detailed descriptions of services that set them apart should be the focal points of any small business,” he said.
Pharmacies that ignore marketing won’t survive because patients will, in turn, ignore those pharmacies. If you don’t market your pharmacy, new patients won’t know why they should come to your pharmacy, and current patients won’t see a reason to stay with your business.
“Working to understand how and why a business’ customers choose them is essential to successful growth,” West said. “For example, the majority of people visiting a local pharmacy may do so simply because of location. To compete with a national pharmacy across town, a local pharmacy may find it to be a more cost-effective strategy to invest in a second location on that side of town, rather than spending $1,000s each month to target residents that live there. If a small business doesn’t know why their customers choose to do business there, they should ask.”
As the pharmacy industry consolidates, large chains continue driving costs out of their businesses and passing those savings on to consumers, which puts downward pressure on small pharmacies’ margins, Becks said
“Even with good marketing, small pharmacies face an uphill battle when it comes to survival at a macro level. Marketing done well will likely be the key to success or failure in an increasingly consolidating pharmacy chain world,” he said. “Especially when you consider that grocery stores and Amazon both continue to make inroads in the market, further eroding the potential market share for small pharmacies.”
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