How to Prepare & Plan for a Pharmacy Event

October 15, 2017By Articles, Independent Pharmacy


Written by and published in Elements magazine, September 15, 2017

Have you thought about hosting an event at your independent community pharmacy?

Hosting a pharmacy event is an important part of promoting your business, said Dave Wendland, vice president, strategic relations and a member of the owners group at Hamacher Resource Group (HRG), a firm that improves results across the retail supply chain by addressing dynamic needs such as assortment planning and placement, retail execution strategy, fixture coordination, item database management, brand marketing and analytics.

Hosting in-store promotional events can:

  • Attract new shoppers
  • Reward current customers
  • Introduce new offerings or services.

If pharmacies don’t focus on promoting their businesses, they run the risk of falling behind.

“Independent pharmacies are in the crosshairs of competition,” Wendland said. “On one hand, it’s an enviable position because every national chain today wants to be local and personal, like independent pharmacies. But, the national chains and e-commerce vendors realize small businesses operate under constraints.”

For example, small businesses don’t have the pricing advantages, the assortment variety or the versatile hours of operation that national chain pharmacies do. Instead, independent pharmacies have connections with consumers and their community, which they can enhance through in-store events.

“When an independent pharmacy connects with consumers through an event, it can be a game changer for them,” Wendland said. “It reinvigorates the customers, the community and their staff.”

Planning the event

Wendland said the first step when planning an event is deciding to hold an event. “I’ve seen many independent pharmacies scratch their head and say, ‘Wow, it’d be a great idea to have an event. I wonder if we should.’ And the answer should always be ‘yes.’ Hold an event,” he said. “Once you’ve committed to it and you follow through, you’ll get energized by it.”

After deciding to host an event, you need to select the theme and the date. Those factors need to correlate. Then, the planning can begin.

Wendland doesn’t recommend pharmacies hire outside help to plan and execute the pharmacy event. Instead, he suggests first asking for volunteers from among your staff. “The most underused resources that most pharmacists fail to recognize is their own staff and the individual talents they have,” he said.

You may have to pay employees overtime or give them a special gift of appreciation. But those tokens cost far less than hiring an outside firm.

Wendland does recommend pharmacies seek out expertise. For example, Hamacher Resource Group authored an event planning e-book for Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc., called Promotional Event Planning Made Easy.” It covers best practices of event planning for a pharmacy and provides ideas and examples to attract customers and the community to your store.

Additionally, Wendland said pharmacies need to talk to other pharmacies and organizations and ask questions about the events they’ve held to gain insight on what works and what doesn’t. “Stores talking to stores is still the absolute best source of information,” he said.

Partnering with local businesses

Work with other local businesses to cut costs and expand the reach of your pharmacy event. “The more businesses a pharmacy can get involved, the more reach they’re going to have,” Wendland said.

Partner with a non-competing organization. Choose organizations that complement your business and that can provide services or entertainment.

For example, look to other area health care professionals or social service agencies in your community. “Say you’re hosting an eye health event. Maybe, an optometrist in town could provide eye testing at the event,” Wendland said. Or, if it’s a diabetes event, get in touch with the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association. “Not only do they have literature, oftentimes they have personnel who would be willing to give a talk on a related subject. Or, they might have a means of promoting it to their constituency,” he said.

Wendland also recommends partnering with businesses that can enhance the experience. For example, a local bakery or a florist can provide products to improve the atmosphere for your guests.

Promoting the event

For people to come to an event, they have to know about it.

The top ways for pharmacies to promote an in-store event:

  • Word-of-mouth
  • Bag stuffers
  • Free publicity

“Get everybody in the store talking about it to their friends and families,” he said. “Make it relevant and make it something the community is buzzing about.”

Pharmacies also need to have promotional materials at the event, such as goodie bags and other giveaways.

Wendland suggests soliciting free product samples as giveaways. “If you’re doing a diabetes awareness event and you contact a blood glucose manufacturer or a sugar-free candy distributor, chances are they’d be more than willing to support you with some free product as samples to share with your guests,” he said.

Pharmacies can also work with their drug wholesaler to create a goodie bag. Or, you can create your own using unique items and private label products in your store, Wendland said. Also, provide educational materials related to the theme of the event.

Spread the word about your pharmacy’s event to the community with these marketing ideas.

How to market your pharmacy event

  • Send postcard or email invitations
  • Create a Facebook event
  • Use a paid online advertisement
  • Put banners or signage in front of the store or in store aisles
  • Leave flyers at neighboring independent businesses
  • Use bag stuffers in prescription bags
  • Call your top customers and invite them
  • Call neighboring professionals and invite them
  • Contact the local media
Measuring success

Many businesses hope to use sales as a measure of success. But Wendland said too many mitigating factors exist to base success on a sales uptick.

“I would look for some other less sales-related goals and be specific about them,” he said. “If one of the pushes within the store is to get people to sign up for a store newsletter, set a goal to get 50 new contacts on your email list as a result of the event.”

Neighborhood goodwill can also signal success. “If patrons get exposed to the operation and walk away with a good feeling, and if they’d like to come back and do business with you, that goodwill is hard to measure but diffcult to replace,” he said.

Regardless of the event’s success, start planning the next one shortly afterward. “Any event should be a test-and-learn,” Wendland said. “Even if the measurement of success was less than stellar or didn’t reach the goal, you’ll miss the boat if you don’t hold and plan another event.”

Additionally, pharmacies should follow up after the event to ensure its continued success. “If you asked people to enroll in a class and you said you’d let them know when it will take place, be sure to follow up with them,” Wendland said. “The momentum has to keep going. An event is not a flash in the pan. An event is part of a continuum.”

Types of Pharmacy Events

Want to be the life of the party? Consider these pharmacy event ideas.

Health awareness event
Plan a pharmacy event around national health observances.

  • American Heart Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • American Diabetes Month
  • National Influenza Vaccination Week

Vaccination event
Host a travel vaccination event for people heading out on trips.

  • Pre-cruise planner
  • Mission trip planner
    College trip planner

Seasonal event
Plan pharmacy events to celebrate different seasons. And, use them to sell your seasonal products and services.

  • Sunny-side up
  • Back-to-school
  • Winter solstice

Community event
Host an event in conjunction with celebrations, activities and holidays in your community.

  • Sidewalk sale
  • Founder’s Day
  • Holiday parade