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4 mistakes independent pharmacy owners make

For over a decade, our team has been working with independent pharmacies. For many of our clients, running the business oftentimes comes second to being the pharmacist. To help those who struggle with the business-side of things, we have put together the four most common mistakes that we have seen independent pharmacy owners make.

Making Assumptions

I’m sure you’ve heard the proverb, ‘when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me’. Over the years, we have heard the same assumptions being made by pharmacy owners nationwide. All assumptions that, with time, can be damning.

- “My customers know what services we offer.”

Active patients change on a continual basis. People get older and become frequent flyers, some take on caregiving for aging parents or grandparents, others may be snowbirds you only see 6 months out of the year. By assuming all your patients know all your services, you are failing to set your pharmacy up for the long run. Additionally, this industry changes constantly. New products to offer, new services to improve adherence, improvements to technology – all things that may or may not impact your patient, but without providing consistent marketing communication, there is no way to ensure all your patients know what you want them to know.

- “All the providers in our town know about us.”

What happens when a provider retires, or a new provider is hired on. How many new providers have come to town in the past year? Do new providers in your area know about you? Do they know what products and services you offer? Do they know your level of customer service? Do they know your availability for questions or how long and well you have served your community? Do you communicate with all the providers in your area on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis? How do you KNOW they know about you?

If you can’t answer all these questions with 100% certainty, it would be well worth your time to schedule out calls or visits to local providers to ensure they do have all the information you hope they do. Additionally, it is important to ensure you know all the things they also struggle with, so you and your team can provide a solution.

- “We’re in a small community, we don’t need to do marketing.” The average size of a small town in the US is currently 6,500 residents. If your pharmacy is in a small town, what percentage of your population do you service? If you are in a large city, what percentage of the population within 5 miles of your pharmacy do you serve? There is always room for growth – even if it isn’t within prescription sales. Many pharmacy owners are shifting focus to clinical services or front-end products to boost revenue. What are some ways that you can get people into the pharmacy that won’t include a doctor’s prescription? I encourage you to check out our blogs on ways to get more involved in your community, and pharmacy services to implement in 2023 for some inspiration.

Weak Leadership

Weak leadership can refer to a variety of struggles that pharmacy owners face. Being a strong leader does not mean doing it all yourself, it also does not mean you need to micromanage or, on the other end, it doesn’t mean you need to be everyone’s friend. The best leaders establish the business plan and direction for the company, communicates it consistently to the team, and then inspires them to take on responsibility to help the company thrive.

Being a strong leader also doesn’t mean you neglect your own self-interest. By taking care of yourself and finding balance in your personal and business life – you show your employees that all work all the time is not the goal. Keep yourself organized and delegate out what you can to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.

Finally, have a plan but be flexible. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many pharmacies had to radically shift their workflow and business models to keep their doors open while also keeping their team safe. Additional reasons you may need to adapt include changes in the economy, changes in state or federal laws, changes to keep up with your competition or implementing new products or services. Strong leaders don’t avoid change for the sake of simplicity. Strong leaders face a challenge head on and find a solution to overcome it.

Poor Communication

Failure to communicate to your team, internally, and failure to communicate to patients and providers, externally, will both significantly affect your business performance. The pharmacies that have consistently seen the most success with our marketing program, are the ones that get their team fully involved and up to date on what is happening. Make sure that your team is aware of, and can recite back to you, your pharmacies mission, your goals for the quarter/year, what marketing you are engaged in, what your services are and how the help the patient, and what their job expectations are.

External communications are also oftentimes neglected by pharmacies. If you don’t communicate regularly with your patients and providers, you are missing out on the opportunity to showcase your team, your products, your services, and your achievements. It doesn’t take much to make an impact. For providers, sent out a monthly or quarterly update letter or a thank you card for their continued support. For patients, send monthly emails, post to your social media regularly, create bagstuffers, and encourage your front-end team to promote your marketing efforts at checkout.

No Clear Marketing Strategy

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes that independent pharmacy owners make is to not have a clear marketing strategy. Oftentimes, we hear that you don’t know what to do, what messaging to use, what avenues to pursue, etc. However, the one thing you can do is start small and simple and grow from there. Post to your social media (check out our blog on how to plan, write, and schedule social media posts for help there), try advertising in your local paper or radio station, utilize bagstuffers or doorknockers or send monthly emails to patients. Don’t be afraid to have your marketing fail and just because something doesn’t work the first time out, doesn’t mean it won’t work at all. Finding a successful marketing strategy takes trial and error. The key is to keep it consistent and ongoing.

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