A Q&A with Ginny Langbehn, vice president of marketing and communications at American Associated Pharmacies, about different strategies pharmacies can use to bring in new customers.
The lull in shopping after the holiday rush is something every business owner is unfortunately familiar with and pharmacies are no exception. However, this down time can be used to take a hard look at your marketing strategy. Is it working effectively? Are there any areas where it can be improved? These are all questions that need to be answered if you want to attract plenty of customers in the new year.
Drug Topics sat down with Ginny Langbehn, vice president of marketing and communications at American Associated Pharmacies, to discuss different marketing strategies that pharmacies can use to reliably bring in new customers and keep them coming back. Check out the tips below to turn potential shoppers into loyal customers.
Drug Topics: How important is having an online presence for independent pharmacies when it comes to attracting customers, and where should they start?
Ginny Langbehn: To grow your business, you've got to get the basics set up and a website is your home base to the entire world. There are a lot of free and easy to use, builder tools—GoDaddy, Wix, MailChimp, things like that—where people can set up a basic website. With that said, some recent statistics are starting to suggest that small business websites are declining in importance, as people tend to gravitate toward their preferred social media more recently, [as well as] Google Maps and Apple maps and things of that nature.
Probably more importantly than just a website, claim your Google business profile, that's super important. Ensure that the information is accurate. I pulled some statistics and 82% of shoppers have searched for retail locations using the ‘near me’ Google function from their mobile device. Even if they're at their home, they're searching for things on their phone, looking for locations near them. So, make sure at least your Google profile is accurate with your address and phone number and contact information.
[I]f you're choosing to endeavor in social media, either have somebody on staff with that assigned responsibility, or [have] somebody with a skill and affinity or desire to keep up with regular maintenance, because social media is social. You will shoot yourself in the foot if you have a social media presence and don't interact at all, because your audience will want to talk to you. It's just the worst not to respond on social media. So, if you have somebody that wants to maintain that social media, [it’s] is a good thing to have.
Drug Topics: Are there any other ways pharmacies can increase their presence with online tools?
Langbehn:Start a newsletter. If you start a newsletter, you can use free low cost email service providers, I mentioned MailChimp earlier, but a lot of them are like the website builders, they offer templates and easy to use instructions on how to build content. Build your subscriber list by asking your patients at the counter when they come in to pick up their prescriptions or when you're engaging with them on the phone calls if they want to sign up and get your newsletter. You could actually combine that with the postcards asking for online reviews. Ask for their email address and if they want to get on your newsletter distribution list.
Send newsletters with content, like industry news or health trends. Employee spotlights are really good because it personalizes your staff. [You can] even answer frequently asked questions that you hear inside your pharmacy. If people in your pharmacy are asking the questions, then you can pretty much bet people outside would have similar or the same questions. You can answer FAQs with a segment in your newsletter. By doing a regular newsletter and communicating with people that are on your list, It helps keep you in front of them and cultivates a sense of having an ongoing relationship with them.
Drug Topics: How can pharmacies utilize customer and community relationships to effectively drive business?
Langbehn: I would say leverage…relationships with your happy customers. Ask them for online reviews. You can print small postcards. The majority of customers in pharmacy tend to be an older demographic, so you can even print small postcards with instructions on where and how to do an online review. Make it super easy for them. Focus on things like Google reviews or Yelp, things of that nature. Get your customers talking about you. It's a great way to get the value of testimonial marketing that doesn't cost you anything other than the postcards, if you choose to print them, because it's not paid advertising. People like to feel confident in who they're doing business with and positive feedback from other customers can yield tremendous value for your business.
Expand your network in your local community. Join your local chamber of commerce, Better Business Bureau, or other civic groups or fraternal organizations in your community. This can help build a robust network of positive relationships outside of traditional marketing channels. This is more…direct outreach and cultivating relationships and it heightens your visibility within your community. A lot of times these organizations will have their own events or [have] access and information about other events in the community, other opportunities for you to connect as a pharmacy with local fundraisers. Canned food drives and holidays, community food truck events, you could host one in your parking lot. Be a destination for people to come and see you.
Build a relationship with your local media. Again, not paid advertising. Position yourself to be their go to expert when they need relevant healthcare content for news segments, especially if they'll come [to the store] and do the shots and an interview if they need a healthcare perspective on any of the stories that they're doing. If they come to you, and you're their go to, that enhances visibility as well.
Drug Topics: Do you have any other marketing advice for pharmacies who are trying to attract new customers in the new year?
Langbehn: Even if have a pharmacy does no traditional marketing, if they have a limited budget or limited expertise to even do that, I would say that the two things you should definitely do is set up some sort of patient loyalty program and solicit referrals. This also could dovetail into when you're soliciting online reviews, make a referral program.Get your happy customers talking about you to their friends and family. Reward them with things like store discounts, gift cards, et cetera, for referring friends and family.
If you're going to do some paid marketing associated with this, focus on hyperlocal proximity marketing in the area around your physical location. To accomplish this, you can use digital advertising, direct mail, and even billboards around your store, depending on your budget and who your defined audience is and who you’re trying to reach.