In our previous instalments we have looked at why it is important to market your business and how you can tap into patients’ needs. Read today’s chapter for online advice and top tips.

Web Wise

Having a website for your pharmacy is also a given these days, as it is the first place many people go when they want information, and is what Birchall calls “a key tool early in the decision funnel for customers who are researching where to spend their time and money”.

It doesn’t matter how large your online presence is – one page is fine, and you don’t have to offer e-commerce facilities – as long as it is kept up-to-date with basic information such as the contact details and opening times for your pharmacy.

However, if you do decide to include news and events then you will have to put some effort into refreshing these, at least on a monthly basis, so that content doesn’t become stale, as Valla warns: “An old website can do more damage than good”.

Social media savvy

When it comes to using social media, Birchall says there is a “real opportunity for pharmacy to connect with patients” as there are “very few that have done this well at present”. However, as social media is primarily about “having a conversation”, Spillett says that regular updates are essential to “make it worthwhile”.

Mudhar also points out that there may be cause for concern about the use of social media by pharmacy because of an “obligation to keep patient data private and confidential”, so he advises independent pharmacists to restrict their use of social media to “marketing their service and promoting their brand awareness”, but warns: “You are not in control of the speed at which good or bad news travels with social media. If you decide to proceed, you should have a clear strategy integrated with the rest of your marketing plan and be clear what you will use each of the social media platforms for, how you will use them to promote your work, what you want to achieve and how you will measure it.”

This clarity of purpose and measurement of outcomes is a useful yardstick to hold up to all your marketing activities in order to determine what you are communicating to your customers, and if it’s being successful.

In the end, the pressure is building on independents to grow and sustain their businesses, and while doing anything new – and promoting it – requires more work, doing nothing is not a viable option.

Top tips on successful marketing practice

  • Know your business, both from an internal and external perspective: how is your business performing financially; what services are you providing; who are your customers; what are your competitors doing; what are your strengths and weaknesses and how well do you staff know your business?
  • Improve your retail standards. What your customers see in your retail area will, in large part, be the difference between gaining and retaining customers.
  • You and your team are the most effective marketing tool you have. Outstanding customer service is what sets independent pharmacies apart from their competition. Recommending medicines is pharmacy’s raison d’être – offering choice is what happens in a supermarket. Make sure you recommend.
  • Use your counter staff to recruit patients. Talk to your staff about identifying patients who may be appropriate for services and use them to book your appointments.
  • Professional service panels in your window will raise awareness of your healthcare offering, the services you provide and how you can make a difference to the health and wellbeing of your community.

But how does marketing work in practice? Join us tomorrow for our case study.