Sometimes, paid advertising isn’t the best way to get the word out.
Independent pharmacists are always looking at new marketing opportunities and searching for ways to get the word out about their products and services to their wider community, but advertising isn’t always the best choice. Providing care, building relationships, and being an active part of the local community are all ways that pharmacies can maximize their marketing reach.
Dat Nguyen, PharmD, pharmacist-in-charge at Pharmedico Pharmacy in Sarasota, Florida, explained that marketing an independent pharmacy within in the community and leveraging partnerships are crucial to attract and retain customers. He suggested building a strong online presence with a professional website and social media accounts that provide information about the pharmacy such as services and hours of operation, as well as positioning themselves as a trusted voice on sites where people can ask questions.
“Regularly post about health-related topics and promotions to keep your followers engaged,” Nguyen said. “Develop a loyal customer base by offering personalized services such as medication therapy management, home delivery, and vaccinations. You can also create health-related events such as flu shot clinics and blood pressure screenings.”
Leveraging partnerships is also key to success. Building relationships with health care providers in the community, such as physicians, nurse practitioners, and dentists, will increase the likelihood of them referring their patients to the pharmacy and keep the pharmacy top-of-mind to many in the local neighborhoods.
“To maximize the pharmacy’s reach, it’s important to build relationships with other local businesses as well, such as gyms, health food stores, and medical offices,” Nguyen said. “Consider offering cross-promotions or discounts for customers who use both businesses.”
But if the pharmacy really wants to be assimilated within the community, it’s important to participate in local community events such as health fairs and charity events. “This will help you to reach potential customers and build relationships with other local businesses,” Nguyen said.
Volunteering in the community is another great way to get your name out there while doing something to help the local area. “It’s always a good thing to volunteer your time and resources in community organizations such as schools and non-profit organizations,” Nguyen said. “This will help you to build relationships with community leaders and increase visibility for your pharmacy.”
Joseph Lutmer, RPh, owner of Tischbein Pharmacy in Cincinnati, Ohio, noted that strong word of mouth in a small community or suburb goes a long way and can get a pharmacy immersed in local happenings. This starts by talking with local businesses, being friendly with customers and offering top-notch service.
“It is important to show how you do things better than your competition,” he said. “Do you offer delivery services, are you a compounding pharmacy, do you offer vaccine services [or medication therapy management] services? Is the pharmacy owner-operated? As a pharmacy owner, we have to make ourselves available on a continuous basis and patients want to see the face of the pharmacy. The independents are untouchable when it comes to service. Therefore, make sure you have well trained staff members who understand the meaning of service.”
He also suggested creating a relationship with the assisted living homes nearby, advertise in church bulletins and sponsor neighborhood events to show that the pharmacy wants to be part of the community.
“Around the holidays, we send small gifts to the offices we [frequently] hear from,” Lutmer said. “They very much appreciate us keeping them up to date about the availability of meds and of the course the gifts.”
Rebecca Jones Sorrell, RPh, co-owner of Ritch’s Pharmacy in Mountain Brook Alabama, has a unique way to strengthen her reach in the community: She appears on the local news channel for short segments about health-related topics.
“The news crew come in, ask us a question for an informative piece, and that’s all there is to it,” she said. “All you really need to do is contact your news source and let them know you are available as a resource. This has been a great way to earn trust in the community and costs us nothing to get our name out there.”
Sorrell also partners with the local Jewish Community Center and several nearby churches, going to underserved areas in the greater Birmingham area to provide vaccines, immunization information, and anything they can do to reach someone new.
Tiffany Capps, operations manager for 2 Galloway-Sands Pharmacy locations near Wilmington, North Carolina, recommended reaching out to local organizations, schools, and churches and joining the local chamber of commerce to build partnerships with other local businesses in the area. Galloway-Sands Pharmacy partnered with the non-profit Brunswick Wellness Coalition, which allows it to network with other area healthcare providers and share services.
“The coalition holds several community health & wellness events and partners come together to participate and offer support,” Capps said. “One event example is called ‘Walk into Wellness, where a healthcare expert gives a quick, educational presentation and then joins attendees for a walk. On the walk and through this event, our pharmacists can engage with community members and build trust.”