Build your business through targeted online marketing.
- Customers are overwhelmingly turning online for health care information.
- Independent pharmacies have an advantage over chains in localizing their reach through social media.
- A targeted approach makes social media marketing manageable.
The most common uses of the Internet today are social media, email, and searching websites for healthcare information. Customers are online, and your pharmacy needs to be there too.
Advantages for independent pharmacies
The good news is that the Internet offers independent pharmacies a marketing advantage over the big chains, allowing you to be very targeted. “You can make your online marketing as local as you want,” said Elizabeth Estes, chief idea officer at Meraki.Social, LLC, a business and marketing strategy company.
For example, you can purchase an ad on a social media platform to reach people within a few miles of your store who are interested in a particular healthcare topic. “Walgreen’s is never going to be as local as you can be,” Estes said. Online marketing is “the best opportunity for a local pharmacy to level the playing field.”
Make online marketing part of what you do
Don’t look at online activity as something different from what you already do. “You have to think about it as a local extension of your pharmacy,” she said. That includes ways to both advertise and engage your customers.
Target whom you want to reach, focus your spending on reaching those people, test ideas, adapt, repurpose content and engage your audience.
Instead of worrying about whether to be on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, think about what you want to do and then choose online tools as part of that. “It’s not about the platform,” Estes said. We may have no idea what the hot platform will be six months from now.
Marketing goals and tactics
Your marketing goals will determine which avenues you use. Goals might be to increase awareness, heighten consideration, drive conversion, or boost loyalty or advocacy—with different tactics for each.
One important tactic: Produce content once and use it in multiple ways. For example, video is very important now for engaging viewers and being listed in search results. Facebook live video streaming is a great marking tool. A 15-second health tip video, which demonstrates you are part of a customer’s healthcare team, can be posted on your pharmacy’s YouTube channel, played on Facebook, and be a link in a quarterly email to customers.
Target your online marketing
Allow what you know about your customers and community to guide your decisions. For example, if a major local employer switches to a health insurance plan your pharmacy serves, you can buy a targeted ad on LinkedIn to reach employees of that company.
Estes notes that we are just scratching the surface of what is possible with targeted online marketing given the evolution of location-based information from health tracking devices to mobile wallets.
“It’s about knowing where people are every minute of the day,” Estes said. In the near future that type of technology can allow you to reach out to potential customers near or inside your pharmacy.
Build your online presence step-by-step
With so many options for marketing online, one danger is doing nothing instead of something. “It’s not rocket science, and we don’t need to make it rocket science,” Estes said. She recommends this prioritized list for improving your pharmacy’s online presence:
- Optimize your website for mobile viewing. That’s how most consumers are looking at the Internet these days, rather than on desktop computers. The website doesn’t need to be complex, but it should include the pharmacy hours and directions to reach it. Having a blog on your site helps increase your listing in search results.
- Manage digital listings. Ensure potential customers can find you when they search online. Be sure you have all the basic information accurate, including hours of operation, your phone number, and a map to your location. (Discover how to manage digital listings in “Would you turn down a free billboard?”)
- Create a content calendar. Develop a plan for what you will post online and when. Think about the content first and the platform on which you will post it second. “Spend two hours on a Saturday afternoon and look at your calendar,” Estes said.” You know what you’re going to do in your store. Mirror that.”
For example, you may already have planned promotions related to American Heart Month in February. Start with those dates. Then look at what is happening in your local community that you can tie to, such as the annual gingerbread competition. You might post information about the dangers of children thinking that pills look like candy and the need to keep medications safe.
Ask, “What do you want to be known for?” Estes said. That will guide you in the content you create. For example, if you want to be the go-to pharmacy for people with diabetes, you might create a series of short videos to help people manage that condition.
- Develop a marketing database. Have a database, separate from your customers’ protected private health care information, that you can use to reach out to them at least quarterly with emails and other marketing efforts.
- Place digital ads. Use your ability to target people, for example, within a certain ZIP code, who are interested in diabetes information. “If you’re going to do an ad on Facebook, never do just one piece,” Estes recommended. Because they are relatively inexpensive, you can test what works best. For example, post two ads with the same photo but different headlines. Because Facebook owns Instagram, you also can place an ad on two platforms with one purchase.
- Engage your audience. Interact with your community by posting, commenting, and responding to your customers and potential customers online.
All of these avenues give you options for analyzing the results and adapting your approach to make it more effective. “Test and learn,” Estes said.
Find more help at the Health Mart Marketing Hub, including content, campaigns and a dedicated support team.