June 20, 2018
Inside: Learn the networking ideas you need to know to exponentially grow your pharmacy business. Discover tips specifically for networking with prescribers, industry professionals, and patients.
The word “networking” makes most small business owners cringe.
At worst, it feels completely self-serving. At best, it feels like a waste of time.
You got into pharmacy because you care about improving lives. Not because you want to schmooze people into using or partnering with your business.
But networking is essential for growing your business and attracting new patients.
And when you network correctly, you’re helping out others as much as they’re helping you.
If you want to grow your business and attract more patients to your pharmacy, you need to network.
Here are four ways networking can grow your pharmacy like nothing else can.
You can’t reach everyone through marketing your pharmacy. Statistically speaking, advertising might reach half of your intended audience on a good day.
And that’s if you know how to optimize digital marketing.
But networking broadens your reach faster.
The branches that sprout from a single networking connection can spread to multiple people quickly.
Conversion means turning a potential patient into an actual patient. Basically, gaining a customer.
Advertising and marketing have notoriously low conversion rates on people who’ve never heard of a product or company.
On average, advertisements only convert 2 percent of people who see them. That number is even worse for email marketing and print advertisements.
When you reach people through an ad, you’re essentially conducting a digital “cold call.” But if you reach that same person through your network your chances of converting them go way up. Whether it’s through their prescriber, another business owner, or a friend. That’s because they’re hearing from someone who they respect and trust.
The conversion rate is also higher because your referrals reach your targeted audience. Most people at a physician’s office will need a pharmacy. So, raising awareness at those offices will work better than posting an ad in a general space, like a newspaper or online.
You’ll get new ideas you may never have thought of by networking with other pharmacy owners and industry professionals.
Whether it’s a vendor with a robotics company or a pharmacy owner who’s been in the business for 50 years, you’ll learn something to help your business grow.
Being an independent pharmacy owner is challenging, especially in the current landscape. It can feel like you against the world.
But a network of other independent pharmacy owners can offer encouragement and support in today’s challenging environment.
And, pursuing a venture alongside others works better than pursuing a venture solo. People who meet regularly with peers who are aiming for the same goals find more success than those who blaze the trail alone.
By building a network of fellow pharmacy owners, you’ll get a community that can:
Networking is hard work. But with the right networking ideas, you can build strong connections to grow your business.
The most important principle to remember for networking is reciprocity. Everyone should genuinely benefit from the relationship. If they don’t, it won’t last.
Build mutually beneficial networks with three types of people:
2. Industry professionals
Each of these connections will create business opportunities in unique ways. And each of them requires a unique approach to networking.
All prescriptions flow through prescribers. So, building a wide network with prescribers at hospitals, nursing homes, and private practices can drive new patients to your pharmacy.
But getting a chance to network with prescribers is easier said than done. Like you, they’re busy all day with patients. But like everyone, they likely enjoy free food.
Take a cue from pharmaceutical reps and visit prescribers at their offices and hospitals during lunch.
These meetings can range from casual to formal. For some prescribers, you may want to use 15 minutes to simply discuss your pharmacy and the prescriber’s needs. For others, you could use the time to showcase your expertise with a short, informational session.
Or, you could simply describe a service your pharmacy offers and ask prescribers to let their patients know.
Over time, consider hosting lunches with multiple prescribers in your area. You can exchange ideas and discuss the industry together.
Other networking opportunities with prescribers include:
Prescribers benefit from a good pharmacy. Better patient outcomes improve their pay-for-performance results.
To win over prescribers, prove exactly how your pharmacy can help their patients. Explain the additional services you offer, like medication synchronization and wellness screenings. The more evidence you can provide for your quality of care, the more likely the prescribers will refer you to their patients.
Most importantly, spend more time asking about their work and their needs than talking about yourself.
The better you understand them, the better you can persuade them. And, nobody wants to feel like they’re only the means to your ends.
Lastly, keep your discussions short. Prescribers’ time, like yours, is precious.
This broad category of individuals includes anyone involved in the pharmacy industry who you could benefit from. Because your pharmacy is a small business providing health care, you benefit from a variety of professionals.
Industry professionals to network with include:
A good network of industry professionals will keep you up-to-date on the resources, products, and technology that can improve your business.
How to meet pharmacy industry professionals:
Conferences are the best places to meet industry professionals.
Conferences bring a diverse set of professionals together and create opportunities for networking. And, the majority of people attend industry conferences specifically to network.
Also, take advantage of professional social networking on LinkedIn.
Connecting online gives people an opportunity to view your profile and get to know you initially if you can’t meet them in person. You won’t have time to meet everyone, and online networking is better than none at all. And, on you can join groups, ask questions, make blog posts, and send direct messages to others on LinkedIn.
Talk with different individuals at conferences about your pharmacy and its needs.
After your meeting, follow up with the individuals you’re interested in talking with more. Send a note, an email, or give them a phone call. Networks established at conferences can quickly dissipate if you don’t keep the connection warm.
Patients are the end goal of networking. Go straight to the source and build your network of patients from the ground up.
The best way to network with new patients is to participate in the community.
Volunteering provides a great opportunity for conversation and comradery. Serving a greater purpose together creates a unique connection and gives you a lot of time for natural conversation. Your interactions in those spaces will be genuine and free from the self-serving nature of traditional networking.
Ways to network with patients:
Networking with patients is trickier than networking with other professionals in your industry.
With prescribers and industry professionals, everyone benefits from promoting one another’s businesses. When you’re dealing with individuals, you need to convince them that they can benefit from your products and services.
You’ll find the most success winning over patients if you demonstrate two things:
1. That you genuinely care about them and your community
2. That you can meet their needs better than the national chain pharmacies and big box stores
Also, who each person how your pharmacy can meet their unique needs. For example, if you discover a person struggles with a chronic condition, explain how your medication synchronization program can make his life easier. Or, if you discover someone travels frequently, tell her about your travel vaccinations.
Also, remember that every interaction with other people is a possible networking opportunity.
The clerk at the grocery store, your neighbors, the teachers at your kid’s school will all likely use a pharmacy. Don’t be afraid to mention your pharmacy. And make the most of every interaction.
Start using these networking ideas today to grow your pharmacy business.
PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is an independently owned pharmacy services organization based in Kansas City, Mo., that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, distribution services, and more.
PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.
Want more pharmacy business tips and advice? Sign up for our e-newsletter.