We, the Independent Pharmacy Owners, will pioneer the way to a more profitable future. We will not get tied up in negative headwinds, but will focus on stronger solutions for our profession and our customers. Furthermore, we will not compete with chain pharmacies on pricing, products, location, or promotions, but will differentiate ourselves from the crowd. We will do this by providing better value, stronger solutions, easier accessibility and enhanced education.
Our community of family, friends, and neighbors deserve the best and as independent pharmacy owners, we will continue to help them on their path to improved health & wellness for years to come. – Chris Cielewich, “A Declaration for Independents”
The 4th of July has come and gone. Although you’ve probably set off all your fireworks, it’s still Independent Retailer Month, a month-long celebration of local businesses.
Independently-owned pharmacies are the heart of their communities, yet the patients in these communities may be unaware of the services and value you have to offer.
These days, you no longer need a radio spot or ad mailout to attract new customers. The key to generating more buzz about your pharmacy is in the palm of your hand – the social media apps on your cell phone. Creating a profile for your pharmacy is free, which puts more money in your pocket you would have otherwise spent on ineffective ads. This is a creative way to approach your business, a strategy all pharmacy owners need to adopt, according to FLAVORx’s Chris Cielewich.
During his presentation titled “Four Ways to Rethink Your Pharmacy’s Marketing” at Connect 2017, Chris educated PioneerRx pharmacists on new ways to approach marketing their pharmacy.
First things first, you need an audience. Who else is going to like and share your posts? Mark Mula, owner and pharmacist-in-charge of Mula Family Pharmacy and Gifts, has been using Facebook since the pharmacy opened its doors in 2015 in Abbeville, LA. “Of course, we started out by getting our friends and family to like our page,” he explains. “Then, as we posted, we invited the people who were liking and commenting to follow our page.” A little incentive goes a long way when trying to gain followers. Offer a prize drawing or a free service (a free medicine flavoring, perhaps?) to encourage more people to follow your pharmacy’s page. It also helps to entrust the job of posting content to one or two staff members. If that’s not you, Chris recommends trusting a social media-savvy tech or staff member with this project. “The benefit is two-fold,” he says. “You’re empowering an employee and learning from them at the same time.”
Once you build a following, it’s important that your content engages your followers. What kind of posts usually grab your attention? Chris says that keeping it local helps balance personal with informative. “If your posts have local ties, like writing about local allergies or when flu season is expected to hit your particular region, that is something of value that will draw more followers and customers to you,” he says. Knowing your audience demographic can help you tailor your posts and even your pharmacy’s services to your customers. Thanks to Facebook’s advertising tools, Mark noticed that his audience was mainly women ages 35-64, which are typically the decision-makers of the household. The Mula Family Pharmacy page is full of photos of children playing in the Kid Zone, advertisements for the gifts they sell, and the “Toot and Scoot” service for busy mothers who prefer to have their prescriptions delivered to their cars. The likes, comments, and shares prove that Mula’s customers like what they see. One particular commenter said, “That’s it, we are switching to Mula’s” in response to a post about their FLAVORx service.
Never underestimate your pharmacy’s impact in the community. After all, it’s what separates you from the “big box” chains. “I tell pharmacists all the time that they are the brand,” Chris says. “Their store’s history and their innovative view towards health care can help tell their online story.” Independent pharmacies do so much for their communities, and these stories often go untold. When south Louisiana was hit with catastrophic floods in August 2016, Mula Family Pharmacy was the only pharmacy in the surrounding area that opened its doors, and social media was the only way they could alert their patients who needed their prescriptions filled. Mula’s staff continued to help by collecting toys for younger evacuees and donating 400 gallons of bleach to flood victims – all orchestrated by Facebook. Mula Family Pharmacy was later voted the #1 Best Local Pharmacy in south Louisiana, proving its online reach goes beyond the patients the store currently serves.
The marketing you do inside your pharmacy should be making an impact outside your pharmacy. Just as our forefathers disrupted the “norm” and worked towards independence, it’s time for your independent pharmacy to be a disruptor in the healthcare sector and social media. Meet your patients where they already are, and let your pharmacy’s story do the marketing for you.
Call all independents! Now that it’s trade show season, it’s the perfect time to find and partner with vendors and colleagues who are fellow “disruptors.” Keep an eye out for us and other partners like FLAVORx who are ready to help you make your own impact.