Well folks, 2020 is coming to an end and to be honest this is not how we imagined our 10th year in business would go. To say that COVID-19 has shifted the landscape of pretty much everything would be an understatement. Luckily, the pharmacy industry is no stranger to adapting to change and, overall, pharmacies across the US were able to navigate the shift with grace.
In what seemed like an instant, we all needed to radically alter our business and marketing strategy. So, in this month’s blog we are going to look back on the year as well as the decade, to review what has changed and what lessons we learned.
Lesson One: Marketing is an investment.
This is something that many pharmacies have learned over the past decade, with 2020 throwing it into more of a necessity. While “marketing” as a concept is a bit vague, it encompasses things such as social media, client communications, website/SEO management, community outreach and education, and so much more. Unfortunately, many companies cut marketing during times of financial difficulty, which often leads to reduced sales. As Henry Ford once said,
“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.”
Consider this, if your pharmacy did not do any marketing, where would you stand on the following:
Would patients or prescribers know what services you offer?
Would your pharmacy gain any new patients outside of referrals?
How would you compete with chain pharmacies and mail order?
How would people in your community know that you exist?
Along these lines, when was the last time the chains stopped advertising? Every chain pharmacy is constantly trying to lure your customers, and if you stop competing, they win.
While it may be harder to directly attribute specific marketing campaigns to sales, without it, you are relying solely on current customers and referrals. By shifting your mindset to viewing marketing as an investment, you can stay ahead of those who view it as an expense and improve the overall effectiveness of your efforts.
Lesson Two: Stay flexible.
While pharmacies have been repositioning for years, 2020 required a larger and faster shift. Since 2010 pharmacies have been gradually implementing more clinical and wellness services due to increased DIR fees and reduced revenue from prescriptions. In the past few years alone, pharmacies have repositioned themselves as health and wellness destinations. A place where patients can take advantage of services such as weight loss/management, point of care testing, wellness screenings and immunizations.
Enter March of 2020 and pharmacies once again shifted to become a resource for immune boosting supplements, PPE suppliers/distributors, a source of hand sanitizer and other cleaning products, a place where people can feel safe getting their healthcare products delivered or via curbside pickup, and a source of trusted information regarding the state of the health of their community.
With regards to marketing, we have also seen a radical shift in how businesses approach customers. With the expansion of all things digital, customers are more empowered than ever. With the ability to do their own research, people are demanding better and more relevant content from their sources before making decisions on who to trust and where to do business. Additionally, consumers are adopting new technologies at a staggering rate.
According to an article from LinkedIn:
From 2010 to 2019, the number of global social media users rose from less than 1 billion to nearly 3 billion. At the start of the decade, 42% of U.S. adults were on at least one social media site; by early 2019, that figure was up to 72%.1
From 2011 to 2019, mobile internet saw a 504% increase in daily media consumption.1
Throughout 2020 most pharmacies relied on social media and email communications to provide interaction to their customers about how their business has changed/adapted to COVID-19 and state regulations. Additionally, a significant number of pharmacies are expanding their online presence by updating their websites, embracing social media and geofencing advertisements, and working to boost email subscribers. By adopting newer technologies, independent pharmacies are showing their communities that regardless of what is happening, they are here to help and will continue to do so regardless of what the world throws at them.
Lesson Three: Always have a plan
As a business, you should always have annual goals and a plan to achieve them for your pharmacy. While pharmacies could not possibly have been prepared for a global pandemic, we spoke with a number of pharmacies who ended up throwing their goals out the window in 2020. Instead of scrapping them altogether, they should have simply altered how the approached them. I know most people went into survival mode for a good chunk of the year, but it is important to take some time to figure out what your next move should be.
Want to grow med sync/packaging patients? Shift your messaging to focus on fewer trips to the pharmacy, easier access to needed medications, and the addition of immune boosting supplements to medication regimen.
Want to boost OTC sales? Consider developing an e-commerce site for your OTC products. Set up sidewalk or window displays to promote popular products. Utilize social media to highlight popular products and tie in a digital shopping list.
Want to get new patients? Show your community what you have been doing to help keep patients safe and healthy during the pandemic. Offer to host fundraisers or food drives to help those who lost their jobs. Start utilizing video to put a face and a personality to your business. Educate your community about PBM abuse and how shopping local helps your community.
So, here is to the end of a wild year. May 2021 bring you peace and serenity and reduced blood pressure. From all of us here at GRX Marketing, we wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year, and we thank you all for helping us achieve a decade of service. It has been an honor to work with such a dedicated and passionate industry. We look forward to serving you for years to come.