Marketing costs money, so be sure to spend wisely.
Pharmacy owners are inundated with marketing tips and all of the dos of what they are supposed to follow to make their pharmacy a success, but it’s just as important that they understand the don’ts of marketing and know the pitfalls to avoid.
After all, marketing costs money, so it’s essential that pharmacy owners have a way to track their success and understand what’s working and what isn’t, otherwise they are simply throwing money away.
Dat Nguyen, PharmD, pharmacist-in-charge at Pharmedico Pharmacy in Sarasota, Florida, explained that being truthful in marketing is a must—and that includes what is written on social media sites, as well as in any ads or promotional material. “You never want to have misleading advertising,” he said. “A pharmacist must always avoid making false claims about products or services in advertising or promotions or this can shine a bad light on the pharmacy, and you can lose customers.”
Another possible pitfall is overpromising to customers in marketing materials. It’s important to be realistic about the services a pharmacy offers and not to promise things that aren’t possible. “When you overpromise and can’t follow through, you lose the trust of your customers—and, most likely, their business,” Nguyen said.
Jay Williams, director of marketing and communications for CPESN USA, has 30 years of experience marketing independent community pharmacies. Williams shared another mistake that pharmacies can make when advertising on social media: “Keep your social media social and local. Too many pharmacies trust national posts on health care topics and annual awareness days/weeks/months—such as November is Diabetes Awareness Month—and don’t keep their focus on community.”
Additionally, he added, pharmacies can scare off perspective customers with a bad website. “Make sure your site clearly reflects your brand and provides details on your pharmacy services,” Williams said. “Link your referral sites to your website and spend a small bit of money for Google keyword search on services your pharmacy offers. This marketing effort can go a long way.”
It’s also a good idea for the pharmacy owner to delegate the task of social media posting to someone else on the team who may have more time to post, and be better able to demonstrate the connections to the community.
According to Joe Moose, PharmD, owner of Moose Pharmacy in Concord, North Carolina, you can’t just put your marketing on autopilot and expect things to go smoothly.
“You have to add catalysts to get people talking and get non-customers to be customers,” he said. “We put energy around promotion of word of mouth, and not just hoping it will happen organically without us asking for it. We ask for Google reviews and other platforms that people post on. They usually don’t mind, and if you ask them, they usually will do it.”
Tiffany Capps, manager of marketing and social media efforts for CPESN USA and operations manager for 2 Galloway-Sands Pharmacy locations near Wilmington, North Carolina, said that another blunder that pharmacies often make involves not having a staff that’s properly trained. This may not seem like a marketing problem, but most certainly is.
“The last thing you’d want is to promote your pharmacy as a healthcare destination that provides excellent patient care and services, then not be able to deliver or seem disorganized,” Capps said. “Communicate all marketing efforts and promotions to the entire staff so everyone is knowledgeable and ready to support it.”
If a pharmacy advertises that a particular service offering or special offer going on, and then staff member knows nothing about it, the customer is going to rethink future marketing efforts.
Other pitfalls to avoid when marketing your pharmacy include making sure your materials aren’t violating and privacy laws or HIPAA regulations.
Nicolette Mathey PharmD, RPh, owner of consulting firm Atrium24, which helps independent pharmacies with marketing efforts, and herself an owner of Palm Harbor Pharmacy in Palm Harbor, Florida, has heard many stories of pharmacists who have made marketing mistakes.
“One main thing is that they don’t have consistency in their marketing; you have to be committed to it and do it with regular frequency,” she said. “A lot of pharmacy owners will get caught up in the whirlwind of being busy, so they won’t always follow-up and follow through.”
Rebecca Jones Sorrell, RPh, co-owner of Ritch’s Pharmacy in Mountain Brook Alabama, shared that one mistake she made early on in her marketing efforts involved buying space in programs for little leagues. Although it might be a good idea for teams local to the area, many times, teams coming in and looking to sell ad space are from out of town; when multiple pharmacies are listed in a program, customers tend to visit the one that’s closer. Now, she pays close attention to where the team plays and how the ad will appear.
The biggest thing that Moose has learned through the yearsis to not just sell, sell, sell, and remember that your marketing needs to reflect your commitment to the community as well.
“You can’t just say ‘Buy this, buy [that],’” he said. “You need to show you’re a trusted partner in health and are there to help [patients] navigate through all the clutter to best serve them.”