A marketing plan is essential to any profitable business, but it is crucial to pharmacies with so much competition and tight margins. Knowing your ideal customer will help you decide where to spend your marketing capital. Marketing can be expensive, which makes mistakes very costly. Some of the best marketing is practically free. Using the right combination of both paid and free is what we recommend. There are fantastic books on marketing and advertising, such as Seth Godin’s Purple Cow and anything by Tom Feltenstein.
Your marketing plan will vary significantly based on if you are doing a startup pharmacy or taking over an existing one. Marketing for a startup is going to be heavy on name recognition and introducing people to your brand. You might find yourself needing to overcome a tarnished reputation for an existing pharmacy, or you could keep with the status quo if it is working.
It is essential to understand the difference in terms of marketing, advertising, and sales. Marketing is about your name and branding. It can also be referred to as the look and feel of your pharmacy service. Marketing can be summarized as telling people who you are and what you do. Advertising is usually about highlighting products, services, or discounts. You should advertise specifics: flu shots, delivery service, or your grand opening. Sales are closing the deal, which in a pharmacy means getting a first-time customer and then turning them into a repeat customer. Your processes, systems, and staff will be your sales team and are essential for giving your customers a truly remarkable experience that will make them come back again. For some owners, marketing will be easy. If it doesn’t work for you, get help. This is definitely an area you don’t want to fail on.
A lot of new pharmacy owners practice what we like to call “The Field of Dreams Marketing Approach”… If you build it, they will come. This is a plan to fail. You could have the best location, and the best products but if people don’t know who you are, or what you offer they will move right on by.
Below you’ll find different areas of marketing to consider including in your plan, specifying how you expect to address each area for your business that you’ve selected. As always in the pharmaceutical industry be cautious of the various legalities of each of these items.
Relationship marketing. This is building relationships with different professionals in your area by joining different clubs or organizations such as the chamber of commerce, or starting a club that attracts your ideal customers.
Telemarketing. Now I know the first thing that popped into your mind when you read telemarketing is an office full of cubicles, let me be clear, that is not what is meant. You can utilize your phone in a much more personal way. One of the traps that new and old pharmacy owners alike fall into is spending their time in the minutiae of the day vs. spending valuable time with their ideal customers and understanding them. Each day set aside a protected amount of time with a goal to contact X number of patients and X number of prescribers, for both existing and potential patients. This shouldn’t be robotic but instead an opportunity to connect and learn.
Customer Referral programs. We have seen this type of marketing work time and time again, however frequently it is overlooked in the dazzle of a marketing plan. A good customer referral program includes something of value to the referrer as well as the referred.
Social media accounts. Getting your audience to follow you on social media is a great way to connect with your customers. This is a great spot for us to shamelessly ask you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. That is where we can let you know of more great content like this as it is released. Okay, great now that that is out of the way, you can use social media as a way to let your audience know about promotions, community events you are participating in, business events, business changes, and even industry news. One major mistake many people make is either using their social media just to advertise (no one wants to follow you for that), find a way to provide meaningful content that your ideal customer will want to have.
Local SEO. This is last on the free list but definitely not least. In fact, it should probably rank right at the top of importance. This is listed in the free column because claiming your listing on Google My Business, Yelp, Yahoo, Bing, and about a hundred others are free, however, there are some critical nuances to how it’s claimed and ensuring that it increases your SEO value. There are services available that can help you set them up properly and then provide maintenance and growth. As a local business bringing traffic to you through local search is a valuable tool that can be driving patients to you even while you aren’t working.
Video, video, video. This is listed first because it is connected to all other marketing efforts in one way or another. Video has an 80% higher engagement rate than any other form of marketing right now and only growing. This could be something as simple as a promotional video telling your story about what separates you from your competition to tutorial videos for your staff and patients on your website.
Local Online Ads. There are several methods and opportunities to target your local audience from geofencing to regional audiences online. This activity will all be defined by who your audience is. For example, the fastest-growing user market for Facebook currently is the baby boomer generation.
Radio Ads. Sharing the message on the radio or having a radio endorsement from a local radio host can be a good investment depending on your audience. In most industries, it takes someone at least 8 times of hearing about or even interacting with a brand before becoming a customer. Radio is one way to share your message with a wide audience.
Direct Mail. Direct mail is seeing a resurgence in marketing based on how it is done. There are some great ways to introduce videos through QR codes, coupons, etc…
Business or Community Events. Hosting events in your community is a great way to give back and the market at the same time. One local pharmacy shared their story of bringing in a food truck and hosting a customer appreciation day. They had some small carnival games and prizes. It was a huge success in earning more business from their current customers and in adding more patients that were living nearby.
Now although a banker won’t be looking for this in your business plan, here’s a free tip… Marketing can be a difficult area to understand. You know you should do it but you don’t know if it’s working. The answer, change that, change the concept of not knowing if it’s working. There are so many ways to track if your different marketing strategies are working and it takes just a little bit of money and time to remove the cloak of invisibility. If you choose to try radio ads, have a plan to track their success, otherwise, you could be wasting your money.