Oftentimes, when I speak with a pharmacy owner about what marketing they have done in the past, I am met with, “I tried X and it didn’t work”. After digging deeper, sometimes the marketing failure stems from only trying it once, other times it is simply because the marketing avenue they chose was not the best choice for their market and/or goals for the campaign. Marketing is an ever-changing tool – and something that worked well in the past, may no longer be the best option for your needs.
There are pros and cons to both digital and traditional marketing avenues. Digital avenues are typically more affordable, have greater reach, and are easier to track ROI. Traditional avenues are best for building your branding, raising awareness, is harder to ignore, and are easier for your audience to process and recall. Let’s dive into some of the most popular digital and traditional marketing avenues to see which ones will work best for what your pharmacy is trying to achieve.
a. Pros: Email marketing is an incredibly affordable marketing avenue. Typical email platforms for under 10k costs less than $100 per month – even less the fewer subscribers you have. Additionally, it is a great tool to get information out to your database quickly. With simple drag and drop platforms you can create a nice-looking email and get it sent out with very little time spent creating. Email platforms also provide good insight into how many people open your emails and click on your emails so you can measure engagement over time. For pharmacies, email is a great tool to promote new products and services, send out store updates such as holiday hours or event promotions, happy birthday emails to patients, or general health newsletters.
b. Cons: The unfortunate side of email blasts is that very few will open all your emails. Oftentimes emails get lost in the mass of emails that get sent to people every day. According to Constant Contact, the health and wellness industry averages an open rate of 27.44% with a click rate of 0.75%. To increase your open and click thru rates, it is crucial to provide content that is thoughtful and practical, which takes time and thought to implement. If they come across as too sales-y people are more likely to unsubscribe.
a. Pros: Geofencing is an avenue that is very customizable. You can specifically target people based on age, geo-location, website searches etc. Your money will be spent going directly to those people most likely to convert, increasing your ROI. You can also develop ads and messages that specifically focus on your target audience. Additionally, geofencing is one of the only ways to target your competition’s patients directly. It is very measurable with information on impressions (how many times your ads are viewed), clicks (how many times your ad has been clicked), and weighted actions (how many people come to your pharmacy after seeing or clicking on your ad). For our clients, the most successful geofencing campaigns have been targeting chain pharmacies promoting easy transfers, superior service, free delivery, and reduced wait times.
b. Cons: The biggest downside of running a geofencing campaign is that it takes some time for the campaign to learn and adapt to find those patients most likely to convert. Typically, we don’t run any campaign for fewer than three months, but the longer the campaign is running, the smarter it gets. Additionally, digital ads often get overlooked by most people so even if someone sees your geofencing ad, they might not remember it if you ask people about it.
3. Social Media
a. Pros: Social media advertisements are a great way to interact with patients who are already connected to your pharmacy. Within Facebook, you can target those people who follow your business page to educate them about new products or services they might be interested in. Conversely, you can also target people who don’t follow your page to encourage them to transfer to your pharmacy. Additionally, you can collect and monitor feedback through comments, likes, and shares. Social media advertising is also a rare avenue that allows you to directly interact with your audience by responding to questions or messages within the program. Finally, social media advertisements are very cost effective compared to other avenues. Some pharmacies that we work with only spend $20-$50 per month on ads.
b. Cons: The downside to social media advertising is that it can be time consuming. If your goal is to target current patients, you will need to spend time and effort to boost up your following before advertisements will become an effective tool. Social media is also a platform that contains significant competition. Since it is such an affordable and accessible tool, any competitor can also advertise within your community. There is also a bit of a learning curve to successfully advertising on Facebook and if you don’t successfully set up your campaign in an optimal way for your goals, it could end up costing you in the long run. Finally, social media ads do require a bit more upkeep so you will need to dedicate time each week to respond to any comments or questions that arise from your advertisements.
4. Google Ads
a. Pros: One of the biggest pros of Google ads is that you are specifically targeting people who are looking for your product or service. When setting up your campaign you can select the keywords you would like applied to your ad and only people searching for those keywords will see your ads. Additionally, you can have multiple ad groups and ads running at the same time. For example, you could have an ad group for flu vaccines with on ad targeting mothers, one ad targeting employers and one ad targeting seniors.
b. Cons: There are a couple of major cons to Google Advertising and unfortunately, they are both money related. First and foremost, to advertise on Google Ads, as a pharmacy, you are required to attain an online pharmacy certification which requires an annual renewal fee. See graphic below for more details. The other primary cost is the actual cost of advertising. Google ads are among the most expensive digital advertising avenues. Through this system you are competing more with the big chain pharmacies, insurance companies, and manufacturers. You can narrow down by your targeted area, but the chains are targeting your entire state so they will still be competing. Additionally, google ads are shown based on keywords used and the more popular the keyword, the higher the cost. For example, targeting the state of Iowa with keywords such as pharmacy, medication, and drugstore – the top of page bid ranges from $1.80 - $3.40 on the low end and $11.30 - $21.70 on the high end. Meaning you could end up paying close to $20 per click. If you are interested in running a Google ad campaign, plan on spending at a minimum $500 per month – more if you are in a more populated area. Lastly, Google ads requires careful monitoring to ensure you are still performing well. You will need to go in on a daily, at most weekly, basis to review your campaign and adjust as needed.
1. Direct Mailers
a. Pros: Direct mailers allow you to target a very specific audience with a personalized message to increase the chance of your message being received and remembered – such as letters to patients 65+ during open enrollment. Additionally, using direct mailers allows you to provide more specific and detailed information. This is especially helpful when providing information on more complicated products or services. Oftentimes pharmacies pair direct mailers with digital advertising to hit their audience in multiple avenues to optimize success.
b. Cons: There are three main costs to direct mailers, the list, the prints, and postage. If you do a mailing for a larger list, the costs add up quickly. If you aren’t using a patient list from your dispensing system, there are lists available for purchase that grant you access to the data for one year – as well as single use lists. Also, some vendors only guarantee a certain percentage of accurate addresses, so you may need to be prepared for numerous returns to sender. Be sure to know the facts and read the fine print before purchasing any address list. Additional disadvantages include that it is a time-consuming avenue, may be perceived as junk mail and tracking ROI is difficult unless you include a redeemable coupon.
a. Pros: Depending on location, billboards fall somewhere in the middle with regards to costs associated compared to other traditional advertising avenues. However, they provide some unique advantages that other avenues do not. With billboards you can choose a specific location to place an ad that is larger than life. Doing so allows you to be exposed to a large, and oftentimes diverse audience. Typically, billboards are up and running for at least a month so you can increase the frequency of which your ad is seen without incurring additional costs like you would with radio, TV, direct mailers, and other forms of traditional advertising.
b. Cons: Like the advantages, billboards also pose specific disadvantages not typically seen by other avenues. For instance, exposure time is incredibly brief – you have about 8 words to capture attention and encourage action since most people viewing your billboard are driving by and can’t dedicate significant time to reading. There can be visibility issues if it is dark or foggy, additionally if there is a large truck between the consumer and the billboard that is also a missed opportunity. For the most part, billboards cannot target specific audiences so if your message does not apply to all or most, you will have wasted reach.
a. Pros: Advertising via television is a great way to really grab the audience’s attention. You can combine site and sound, include specific information, foster emotion, empathy, and inspire action – all in the span of 30 seconds. Television ads give credibility and personality to your brand. Television is also able to reach a wide audience but can also be tailored to a specific audience as well such as daytime spots to cater to older generations or stay-at-home parents. To reach the Latinx market, buy spots on Spanish speaking networks.
b. Cons: Like direct mailers, television ads also come with a variety of costs which lead to television being the most expensive ads to produce. Production, ad creation, video editing, plus the time to rehearse and shoot are all significant – on top of the fee to run the ads. Because of this, many small businesses can’t afford to run television ads. Additionally, if you want your television ad to run more frequently, your price will increase exponentially with each additional day or spot. Finally, with the increase in streaming platforms such as Hulu, Disney+, HBO, etc – your options, and audience, may be more limited than in past years.
a. Pros: Compared to television ads, radio ads can be recorded, produced, and begin running very quickly and for less money. Additionally, you can also target certain markets based on each station’s primary demographic. Options such as news/talk, oldies, rock, or popular music will all cater to vastly different audiences. You can also focus on different times of day to reach your desired audience more effectively.
b. Cons: The downside to radio advertising is that the key times to advertise are during morning and evening commutes, so if you want your ads heard by the greatest number of people, the cost will be driven up. For many of those commuters, the radio also serves as a source of white noise, people often turn it down or tune out during commercials – reducing your chances of exposure. Because of this, you will need to run your ad more frequently to make a significant impact. Additionally, radio can be a poor medium for high involvement goods or services that require additional explanation or detail for people to understand.