If you’d like to dramatically increase the number of new customer referrals you get you may want to consider implementing a formal community relations program.
One way to start would be to find a person on your staff that is personable and trustworthy and ask them if they are interested taking the lead in a new initiative you are considering. I would suggest you not position this as a promotion but as an interesting new job related task that will let them get out of the store for a few hours each week. The idea would be to have this person get out for a few hours each week during slow times. I prefer a pharmacy technician wearing some other pharmacy related attire. This truly sets them apart as they visit with others outside your store.
In the short run you are simply looking for increased positive awareness with other retail owners/managers in your immediate trade area. As this newly appointed person gets out and meets with other businesses you should be thinking of logical and appropriate ways your two businesses can collaborate on some sort of inexpensive and mutually beneficial new business generating idea.
Danny Cottrell, R.Ph. owns Medical Center Pharmacy in Brewton, AL. A few weeks ago he shared an email with me about a program he supports called BEAM – Brewton Elementary and Me. Cottrell says, “It involves several things but my part is to set-up a small store in the gym every nine weeks and the kids bring a ticket if they qualify for a prize. I usually provide dollar or two items like yoyos, cars, berets, etc. This has been beneficial to me in that I seem to get all the teachers business as well as a few parents and the students are incented to perform better socially and educationally.”
I have had success working on behalf of pharmacies by working with day care centers. I visited them at the request of the pharmacy owner with a basket of private label products; hand lotion, non-aspirin pain relievers, etc. During the first visit all I did was meet the staff and let them know of a few features of the pharmacy and then capture names, phone numbers etc.
On the next visit, about a month later, I took in specially designed wallet size ID cards that entitled staff members to a 20% discount on private label items. On the next visit I gave them cards they could put in the parent’s in-box for each child enrolled in their program. The important element was that this card was to be stapled to a letter on the day care center’s stationary indicating the center had “arranged” for families of children enrolled in the day care center to get a special discount at the pharmacy close by. This is an important part of the process, it makes the card much more valuable as it is not simply an ad or coupon like they might get in the newspaper but a benefit from the day care center.
When the day care employees or patrons visited the pharmacy for their “special benefit” the pharmacist talked with them about other services the pharmacy provided, like home delivery or medication flavoring. And since these people drove by the store twice a day on their way to or from the day care center it was easy for them to become prescription customers.
The day care center loved providing the benefit, the people loved the convenient location of the pharmacy and the pharmacy loved getting new customers. All for only the cost of a special deal on private label items. A true win-win situation.
Once you start thinking along these lines you’ll soon realize that hair salons, dry cleaners, restaurants, craft stores and many of the businesses in your immediate area would love to work with you on these kinds of promotions. The real trick is having someone on staff whose job it is to get out of the store and start looking for ways to make friends with the other local businesses.
A few weeks ago I was delighted and surprised to see our dentist had just launched a new program of this type. When a current patient sends them a new patient they are entered into a drawing for a $300 gift card for the local dominant grocery chain. The grocery chain gets a nice display in the waiting room. The dentist tells me if has been effective and literally costs him nothing as the gift card is donated by the grocery chain.
While working on a project of this type for one of the major wholesalers identity programs a few years ago we assembled a note book where the person identified to do this job could keep track of which business they visited and when. Then each business had a separate page for notes on the purpose of each visit and what follow-up needed to be done. It is pretty basic but it helps with a major component of success; accountability! By filling out and working from these sheets the person working this initiative can report on what business has been visited and what happened. Then, using these sheets you and your community relations specialist can make plans for next steps and even track how many new patients you have received from each marketing partner.
Here is the point – word of mouth is wonderful, so wonderful in fact that finding new, better and more effective ways to get it could be a major source of growth. And, what’s even better is these types of things can be done very inexpensively.
Already doing something like this? I’d love to hear about it.