Going Viral: Create a Competitive Edge With Strategic Marketing

Total Pharmacy JournalTotal Pharmacy March 2023
Volume 01
Issue 02

Help your independent pharmacy stand out in a world of retail chains.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many independent pharmacies saw new customers walk through their doors. Since then, savvy pharmacists have continued to add to their client base by using innovative—and beefed-up—marketing strategies.

Neal Smoller, PharmD, owner of Village Apothecary in Woodstock, New York, noted that independent pharmacies have 3 things that chains and big-box stores don’t have: agility, creativity, and a deeper community connection. However, pharmacy owners can’t rely on that knowledge alone; it’s necessary to market these attributes to ensure customers see the difference.

“It’s important to market yourself as being able to creatively solve problems quickly and with the betterment of the community as your top priority,” Smoller said. “You can’t be afraid of self-promotion. Tell [patients] what you can do for them as often and as loudly as possible, deliver on those promises, and encourage your patients with success stories to amplify your message throughout the community.”

Joseph Poling, PharmD, president and COO of Good Day Pharmacy, which has several pharmacies throughout Colorado, operates with the mindset that most patients don’t know about their local independent pharmacies—and the only way to change that is to get your name out there through marketing. “Like most independent pharmacies, we’ve always done bag stuffers, well-lit signs on the side of the building, big block pharmacy letters, and more traditional [strategies such as] advertisements in the newspaper [and] some radio and social media,” he said. “The goal is to reach new customers and become top of mind.”

As chain pharmacies face staffing challenges, Poling explained that now is the best time to hit marketing hard and bring some new customers into independent stores. Poling’s pharmacies are also working with the local post office to have flyers inserted inside all mailbox kiosks, which is an affordable way to distribute handouts out to the masses in a targeted neighborhood; no postage is required, and the cost is minimal.

William Drilling, PharmD, co-owner and pharmacist at Drilling Pharmacy in Sioux City, Iowa, is a big believer in TV advertising, which have made the biggest difference in bringing in new customers. “It’s also important to have a good social media program,” he said. “We hired a firm to help manage it for us.” Drilling also sends out what he calls “Bill’s Tuesday tweet” each week, which contains information about the store or something to do with pharmacy that he thinks people would be interested in. “It’s important that people get a feel of our pharmacy, and not just from our TV advertising, and feel what Drilling Pharmacy is all about,” he said.

The Rise of Geofencing

Poling has also experimented with digital advertising and implanted geofencing, a location-based marketing initiative where GPS, radio frequency identification, and Wi-Fi or cellular data are used to define a virtual geographical boundary and trigger a targeted marketing action when a device enters or exits that boundary. “Any time a customer walks into a chain pharmacy in a geographic location near us with their cellular device, when they are on their phone or computer later, they will see advertisements from us with calls to action— typically about transferring prescriptions to us,” Poling said. “We’ve seen some good traction there, and we’ve had good click-through rates on the ad.”

Going Viral

Although viral isn’t usually a word pharmacists are happy to hear, in the context of social media, it’s something that helps with marketing efforts. Pharmacists are experimenting with Facebook and Instagram posts with the hope of going viral and reaching millions with their videos.

Good Day Pharmacy also plans to join in on the TikTok craze later this year. “We’re going to be putting TikToks out every day for a couple months to try [to] draw an audience,” Poling said. “People want these quick little videos, and that’s something we [can do] to help.”

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