Most independent community pharmacists will admit the need and desire to attract new customers and keep patrons coming back not only to benefit their bottom line, but to improve the welfare of the community’s overall health. Patients who choose national chain pharmacies state their decision is usually based on the price they pay for prescriptions. Community pharmacy must differentiate itself from national chains by marketing the services it offers as a customer’s pharmacy home with a personal touch, versus a store that “may” provide a lower price, but focuses on the quantity of customers served and not necessarily the quality of service provided.
Why Customers are Loyal
One of the best places to start with a marketing strategy to attract new customers, and maintain the business you already have, is to survey your current customers. Their insight, responses and critiques are critical to developing your campaign. There are a number of online vendors you can use to develop a survey. The tools provided allow you to sort responses in a number of different ways to help you get the most value from your research.
To give you an idea of the type of information that can be gathered, according to a survey of 33,000 of their subscribers, Consumer Reports magazine identified three key areas where community pharmacies outperformed national chain pharmacies. These areas included speed and accuracy, courtesy and helpfulness and pharmacist knowledge. A closer look at the survey showed that 94 percent of community pharmacy patrons gave their pharmacist high marks for their knowledge. These customers are much more likely to have discussed their prescriptions with their pharmacist versus those of national chain pharmacies. They also stated they were much less likely to be required to wait on a prescription compared to those who have their prescriptions filled at a national chain. Only seven percent of customers visiting community pharmacies reported that a prescription wasn’t ready when it was promised, and just four percent complained of having a long wait time. In comparison, 19 percent of national pharmacy chain customers found their prescription wasn’t ready when promised, and 21 percent complained of having a long wait time.1
Once armed with the reasons your current customers are loyal, you will know which strategies to include in your marketing campaign to promote your pharmacy as home base – the place customers keep returning. This information will also allow you to identify very strong customer advocates, to which your prospective customers can relate.
Know Your Neighbor
Your marketing campaign to attract new customers depends largely on the demographics of your pharmacy’s neighbors. For example, if your pharmacy is located in a business district, you may want to market, or start, a prescription delivery service. Those of you located near a school may want to consider joining and/or sponsoring the PTA or sports booster program. Pharmacies located close to a company with a large number of employees may benefit from providing onsite immunization clinics. If your pharmacy is located near a large senior-age population, consider offering your location as a site for support group meetings for those with rheumatoid arthritis, heart and respiratory disease or diabetes. If your pharmacy is located near a residential neighborhood, consider joining the neighborhood association. This will allow you to participate in, or sponsor, their organized events. Each of these instances present an opportunity to draw attention to your pharmacy, encourage prospective customers to visit and remind current customers of the benefits they have by patronizing a community pharmacy.
Testimonials and Customer Referrals
If you conduct a customer survey, and have identified a number of customers who are willing to share their pharmacy experiences with others, these testimonials can be powerful content when used on your website and social media. You can also offer a referral program, which may include special promotions and discounts for both your current customers and the prospective customers who are referred to your pharmacy.
People like to do business with companies that are engaged in their community and go the extra mile to help others. Promoting and supporting local charities in your area, especially those that focus on medical conditions, can go a long way in making a difference for those organizations as well as your business. Consider a promotion where your pharmacy will donate a percentage of monthly revenue to a particular charity during its awareness month (i.e., Breast Cancer Awareness in October).
Networking is essential when working to attract new customers and introduce them to your pharmacy and the services you offer. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations in your community. The fellow members will most likely help you market your services. You could also sponsor health screenings or patient education seminars for the chamber members and their families, friends and employees.
Social media is the current king of networking. Use Facebook®, Twitter®, etc. to engage customers in dialogue and show what’s happening in your pharmacy.
Establish a Web Presence
An online presence is critical to attracting new customers to your pharmacy and also serves as a valuable resource for existing patrons. In addition to asking for pharmacy references from friends and colleagues, people search the Internet to identify a pharmacy that addresses their needs. Once you have their business, it is important to provide the technology and online tools that are expected in today’s digital world. Here are some possible features for your website:
Online refill request and patient portal – The ability to request refills online is arguably one of the most used features of pharmacy customers. Offer a patient portal to allow both patients and caregivers to access relevant medication history and request refills for themselves and those for whom they provide care.
Directory of services – Provide a detailed list of all the services offered. Keep this list updated and promote a “Coming Soon” section to share future offerings. If you host support groups, or provide educational seminars, this is a great spot to advertise those as well.
Link to your medical community – Provide links to hospitals and physician’s office websites from your website for easy access. Identify which health plans impact your customer demographics, and include links to their websites as well. Being this type of resource will encourage prospective and existing customers to bookmark your site for future use and increase your site’s search optimization.
Content is key – Your knowledge is invaluable. Create a blog and link to it to further maximize the effectiveness of your content. Make educated product suggestions and share advice. Also, link customers to additional helpful information, like websites regarding weight loss, diabetes, smoking cessation and FAQs on medication adherence, drug-to-drug interactions, etc.
For information on how QS/1 can assist with establishing your web presence using CornerDrugstore.com®, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800.845.7558, ext.1471.
Consumers are bombarded with chain store options. So, whether you choose to incorporate a few of these recommendations in your marketing strategy, or have other ideas in mind, remember that you are not only marketing your business. You are also showcasing your experience and knowledge as a respected healthcare professional. It is your ability to offer exceptional customer service and specialized services that affect the well-being and overall health outcomes of your community that set you apart from the competition. You can stand out among the cookie-cutter stores on the corner and make your pharmacy — home.
1 “Finding the Right Pharmacy.” Consumer Reports. January 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2016. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/03/finding-the-right-pharmacy/index.htm