17 ways to market your independent pharmacy

March 6, 2020By Focus on the Pharmacy Front End Blog, Resources focused on Independent Pharmacy

By Jen Johnston, CHHC, senior marketing services account manager

No matter how well known your store is in your community, you must continuously market your business to retain current customers and attract new ones. Below, are 17 ways that your independent pharmacy can spread the word about your business.

The list might seem overwhelming at first glance, but the goal isn’t to add every single one to your marketing plan. First, determine your marketing budget for the next 12 months, from there you can determine which media and promotional outlets will give you the most “bang for your buck.”

Solicit good reviews online – no cost

Weeks ago, my kids’ swim school emailed me to ask for a Google review. I have had such a positive experience, I was happy to oblige. When one of our printer partners reached out for the same thing, I did it for them also. Being in the marketing field, I know every positive review helps strengthen a business’s reputation and that the quantity of good reviews contributes to higher search rankings.

Elements magazine recently ran a good article on the topic of how to achieve 5-star reviews for an independent pharmacy business.

Direct mail – mid cost

While electronic forms of media have raced forward in recent times, direct mail can be a way to stand out. Consider creating promotional postcards that contain coupons or special offers to attract new customers or sending birthday or holiday cards with special incentives to reward current shoppers. If you have the talent, you can create these yourself. You could also enlist the help of a design student, local freelance designer, or a company that specializes in the independent pharmacy market, such as PharmFresh.

Social media – low to mid cost

It costs nothing but your time to manage a social media presence if you do it yourself. Some people choose to hire a student intern or a company that specializes in this type of marketing. In my opinion, Facebook is the most important channel for independent pharmacies, followed by Instagram and Twitter. In recent years, Facebook has taken great strides to engage businesses to streamline their target markets and help get their messaging out.

You can also advertise through these channels by targeting specific groups in your community. Want to get more millennial customers or looking to reach baby boomers? Social media can help you isolate them.

For tips on social media marketing for independent pharmacies, check out this post on the McKesson blog.Pharmacist

Your website – low-mid cost

In 2018, Elements Magazine published this cool post called “9 Things Your Independent Pharmacy Website Has to Have.” It is completely worth the read!

Here are a few questions for you: Is your website serving your customers well? Do you have a blog that keeps people returning for your expert health and wellness content? Is your website appearing high in search engine rankings for “Pharmacy + Your Town” or “Pharmacy Near Me?”

If even thinking about these questions seems over your head, see if there are any local meet-up groups that discuss these topics. Can you work with a local SEO entrepreneur? Would they be willing to swap services or barter? Perhaps there are students in the area who could assist.

Email Marketing – low cost

If you have a blog, email marketing is a no brainer. You have content at the ready. Capture those email addresses and distribute a monthly newsletter to your customers with your best posts. Did you know there are free services such as Mail Chimp which allow you to create and distribute visually pleasing newsletters to your shoppers?

Guest blog posting – no cost

Have you ever considered guest blog posting? Contact other businesses in your area that host blogs on their website and ask if you or a member of your team can provide a guest post on a health or wellness topic. Not only does this increase your search engine rankings when they backlink to your site, it increases the exposure of your pharmacy name and sets the author (such as the pharmacist) up as a healthcare expert.

Door drops – low to mid cost

Your business is probably surrounded by homes, and door drops are a cost-effective way to offer a special incentive to your closest neighbors. Remind your neighbors about the convenience of walking to pick up their prescriptions, front-end items, and gifts, if you have them.  And what a heartwarming gesture it would be to create small gift packets around the holidays.

Community events – low to high cost

When you get involved with enough community events, people think about your business as a pillar of the town. For example, I live in an area with a lot of real estate agencies, but one independent agency has done things right – they have participated in so many community events that their name is now synonymous with the name of my city. There is also an independent toy store near me that has done the same thing, and I know other independent pharmacies can follow this same approach.

From sponsorships of health events to having a booth at a local festival, there are lots of opportunities. Speeches, presentations, raffles, demonstrations, giveaways – the idea is for your name to appear wherever people in your community gather.

Giveaways – mid to high cost

Speaking of giveaways, it may seem like an “old-school” approach, but placing your store logo on a giveaway with staying power is a way to keep your business at the forefront of people’s minds. Some good examples are pens, magnets, water bottles, reusable cloth bags, calendars, lip balm, and bandage packets.

Bag stuffers – low cost

Bag stuffers are not used nearly often enough. You can drop in a flier about an upcoming event, a coupon or rebate offer, or a customer survey.

Direct customer contact – no to low cost

This refers to the one-to-one conversations you or your staff can have with current or prospective customers. In store, this can take the form of surveys, product recommendations, or general conversations. Here is a great resource for survey questions to ask your customers –  Business 2 Community.

You can also achieve this through periodic phone calls to check in on patients who have been ill. Getting to know your customers and being attentive to their needs pays off as these folks will be more likely to tell their friends and family about their good experiences. People like to do business with people they like.

Posted promotions – low to high cost

Posters, store signs, and billboards. It may not be cost effective to place an ad with the local billboard company, but it’s free to put up a poster at the public library! And don’t forget to use the extra wall or window space in your own store.

Reading material – low cost

Are you taking advantage of your waiting area? Give your patients something to read while they wait – pamphlets, newsletters, brochures, tip sheets, and health alerts are some ideas that come to mind. Reach out to the manufacturers of the brands you carry – some will be able to send you free materials that educate consumers on health topics or about their brand.

Newspaper ads – mid cost

How is the newspaper faring in your area? Many communities still reply on the area newspaper to keep people up-to-date on local news and events. Consider taking out an advertisement to offer people an incentive for moving their prescriptions to your pharmacy.

Radio and TV ads – mid to high cost

If you live in an area with targeted, localized viewership or listenership, a radio or TV ad might be a way to reach a large, multi-generational audience.

Business partnerships – low to high cost

It could be as simple as swapping bag stuffers with a neighboring business, putting up each other’s posters, or housing each other’s business cards. Or you could jointly run a community event that draws in business for both of your establishments. My colleague Steve Choate wrote a whole post on this topic a few years back you may like to check out. Consider joining the local Chamber of Commerce to help garner these relations.

Cross-platform public relations initiatives

Newspapers are looking for op-eds, local TV and radio stations are looking to cover news about your area. What public health announcement can you deliver? Could you call into a talk show to discuss a health issue? Perhaps the news outlet would be willing to house an “Ask the Pharmacist” column or spot. If not, why not try doing your own YouTube show like HB Pharmacy?

This is a new year and a new decade. It’s time to get creative with your marketing approach and think outside of the box!