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Three Ways to "Future-proof" Your Independent Pharmacy

Posted by Chris Cielewich

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Mar 8, 2017 4:15:00 PM


futureproof_independent_pharmacy.jpgWe are living in the golden age of change.  In the past 10 years alone, 40% of Fortune 500 companies have been replaced on the Fortune 500 list.  If you’re like me, you find this equally fascinating and terrifying.  In my opinion, the only consistent theme that has occurred is “change”, so I’ve learned to keep an open mind and adapt to the times.

 Recently, I attended an incredible digital marketing conference, #Inbound16, in Boston and I heard a quote from the keynote speaker, Gary Vaynerchuck, that struck a chord. “If you aren’t trying to put yourself out of business right now, someone else will do it for you.” For example, some of the biggest disruptors over the last decade have included Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Uber, and Tesla.  And don’t think that retail pharmacy is immune to being disrupted, because it can be just as quickly.


A lot of customers have commoditized retail pharmacy over the past few years. After all, Amoxicillin is the same, regardless of where it is sold, and customers biggest factor on where to go falls under which pharmacy takes their insurance.  Why not have another method to differentiate yourself from the crowd?  If you truly want to set yourself apart from the competition, you need have a plan to compete with drone’s dropping off free Rx’s and find a business model to monetize it.  So how can one “Future Proof” a pharmacy and position themselves as the place to go for Health & Wellness in the community?


Marketing. Nevertheless, most independent pharmacies have yet to take the time to put a marketing plan in place that focuses on how to attract new customers. While independent pharmacies have a very loyal customer base and are consistently ranked highest in guest satisfaction, the truth is that these loyal customers are also rapidly aging.


It’s understandably difficult to create a marketing strategy when your expertise is pharmaceuticals.  However, the importance of marketing yourself to a new generation of customers, the 80 million millennials who are currently between the ages of 20-35 years old and starting families, is transparent.  Younger generations shop differently than the baby boomer population that independent pharmacists have been serving for years.  They have different expectations for personalized services and experiences when it comes to the brands they are loyal to.


Which begs the question, what does a pharmacy need to do to future-proof their pharmacy? The answer is rather simple…focus on Services, Experiences, and Relationships!


Services, Experiences, & Relationships

Services…What can a pharmacy offer?

Think about Apple retails stores. They have revolutionized the experience of purchasing a computer, and therefore changed the expectations moving forward. Apple certainly wasn’t the first retail outlet to sell a computer, but the services, experiences, and relationships formed in those stores via genius bars, apple care customer service, and ongoing classes/trainings were pivotal in turning them, literally, into an appointment based visit with personalized customer service. The same can and should be done within the pharmacy realm. There is nothing, and I repeat, nothing, more personal than one’s health and wellness.  And if you are not yet familiar with CPESN (Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network), Joe Moose, PharmD says, "CPESN Is about 'enhanced' services. Not just clinical services. It is about care coordination and medication optimization...by building pharmacy teams that work with the rest of the medical community to decrease total healthcare spending and increase quality of care." For independent pharmacies, this is definitely worth researching and becoming a part of that network.


What type of personalized experiences can a pharmacy offer? And how can it directly benefit a pharmacy?


This question is one of my favorites to answer because it can range in so many ways.  From blood pressure monitoring to pharmacogenomics to personalizing a medication flavor based on a child’s preference, there are so many opportunities in pharmacy to provide a personalized experience.  And even better, once that superior experience occurs, the likelihood of benefiting off that customer sharing their experience through word of mouth or through online reviews (Google Business Page, Yelp, Facebook, and Trip Advisor) surges. The fact is, over 90% of moms share retail experiences, both good and bad.  And when a pharmacy can utilize that marketing strategy and gain access to a customer’s network or online review sites, they are able to help their small business compete against big box retailers.  In fact, building your brand this way has such a great return of investment (ROI) because it’s merely a reflection of what customers are saying about you and your pharmacy and the experience you provide, at no additional cost.


How can you build long term relationships with your customers?

Number one, top of the list, most important, is to make sure your staff embrace your customers. Your pharmacy staff is a part of YOUR BRAND, and if you have the right brand ambassadors to greet every single customer by name and with a smile, you will substantially stand out from competitors.  For example, Disney, Southwest and Chick-fil-a are known for their customer service. You can pull a random stranger to the side and ask them what these 3 companies are known for and they will probably say customer service. They do so well because they are building that relationship with the customer. 


Another method to build those long term relationships is through the use of social media. By engaging your customers and presenting yourself as a brand, you can build deeper relationships that help differentiate you from the pharmacy across the street. To expand on social media, Pinterest, is another great tool to utilize. Pinterest is becoming the poster board for health and wellness and now includes tabs on healthy recipes, exercise, yoga, and mental health exercises. Overall, the pharmacy’s that are engaging the millennials are doing it online. However, there are other opportunities outside of social media as well: find influencers in your community and sponsor them or by collaborating on a project are other great ways to attract a younger generation.  Millennials are now, more than ever, speaking out on what they believe in and their friends are listening. Getting into that network can be very beneficial to your brand.


In closing, and to go back to Gary Vaynerchuck’s speech in Boston, he also noted that, “the television is turning into the radio, and your smart phone is turning into the new television. The four major network stations that used to be NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX are now called Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.” This tells us that more digital content is being consumed on smart phones and tablets than ever before. Why not tap into those networks and start a dialogue in your community or find ways to incentivize your existing loyal customers to share testimonials on their social networks?


Pharmacies that are taking advantage of these marketing opportunities to provide pharmacy services, create exceptional experiences, and build relationships with their customers are the ones who have the best chance to “Future-proof” their pharmacy and delight customers for generations to come.


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Topics: Pharmacy Marketing


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