Map Out Your Pharmacy Marketing Plan for the Year Ahead


Use this simple promotions calendar to help keep your pharmacy business growing year round

Start 2014 with the confidence that you will drive traffic and increase your business by having a 12-month marketing and promotions plan.

Value of a Marketing Plan

“It’s critical for a pharmacy to have a roadmap,” said Liz Tiefenthaler, president of Pharm Fresh Media, which offers marketing solutions to independent pharmacies.

With a well-structured marketing plan, she believes, you won’t spend too much or realize at year’s end that you spent too little and no one new is coming in your doors. “I think most pharmacies way underspend [on marketing],” said Tiefenthaler, who recommends devoting 1.5–2% of gross sales to marketing.

A marketing plan should highlight your:

  • Specific goals (e.g., retain over 90% of existing business, gain 10% new business)
  • Target market(s) (e.g., geographic areas, socio-demographic factors, etc.)
  • Budget
  • Promotion schedule
  • Efforts to tracking the impact of your marketing so you can determine which efforts pay off and which you should discontinue

As you schedule your marketing and promotions, think through everything you will need to do. Using the example of immunizations, Tiefenthaler recommends planning:

  • When to order vaccines and when you will receive them.
  • How you will pre-sell by calling on businesses and senior living facilities.
  • What signage you will use.
  • How you will promote the service in the store and to people who aren’t your regular customers.

In determining your budget, include everything: online marketing, offline marketing, and contributions to community groups. Remember that social media isn’t necessarily free; there is a cost to you or a staff member spending time to post content.

By having a detailed marketing plan, you can decide what to focus on and how to allocate your budget — to which activities at which time of year. With a plan you can also set aside money for unexpected opportunities, or decide to repurpose money that was initially reserved for something else. “When we do a roadmap, that doesn’t mean things can’t change,” Tiefenthaler said.

Check the Calendar

Having trouble knowing where to get started in creating your marketing plan? Work backwards.

Start by checking out the designated days, weeks, and months for various health observances. Click here for the one we’ve developed. You can find something to celebrate and promote every month, from Thyroid Awareness Month in January through National Handwashing Awareness Week in December.

Next, use this health observance you’ve chosen to generate a related promotional theme for your pharmacy to implement. For example, for February think about what type of activities and products you offer to encourage Heart Health in your patient, drive more patients in your doors and increase your purchases.

  • Identify OTC items that fit with this promotional theme (e.g., aspirin, Omega3 supplements, low-fat snacks) and create a dedicated Heart Health endcap.
  • Determine what services you provide that you could promote (e.g., blood pressure screening, nutritional counseling).
  • Consider hosting special events at your store (e.g., cholesterol testing) or helping to sponsor an activity in your community (e.g., a 5K for the whole family).
  • Select reminder items with your store branding that you can give away (e.g., stress balls in the shape of a heart, water bottles with your name and logo).
  • Choose the best communication tools to help you get the word out about what your pharmacy is doing (e.g., emails to your customers, posts on your website, a contest on your Facebook page, a special banner in front of your store, flyers at local community centers or offices, etc.).
  • If you plan to advertise in your local media, plan ahead in order to develop the ad and meet submission deadlines.
Planning Calendar

Download this free Independent Pharmacy Promotional Planning Calendar. This spreadsheet includes:

  • Links to many national health observances during the course of the year. Often the sponsor for an event will provide materials you can customize for your store, such as educational handouts.
  • Seasonal activities and holidays.
  • The ability to overlay local community events by month, such as a hospital health fair or trick-or-treating at a local mall.

It also includes prompts to plan and manage your promotional activities.

All together your marketing efforts add up to a great community health promotion activity, which can be an excellent opportunity to offer yourself and your pharmacy as an expert source to reporters and producers looking for a local angle. (See “Becoming Your Community’s Go-To Health Expert.”)

Plan Local Commitments

You don’t have to participate in every national health promotion. Choose the ones that mean the most to you, to your community, customers, and business. For example, if you are trying to reach young families, Tiefenthaler said, take part in a back-to-school event and offer something that appeals to both parent and child. (Read “Promoting to Kids to Build Relationships with Families” for a great example of how Eden Drug Health Mart’s free backpack program helped them attract more young families to their pharmacy.)

Consider donations to nonprofit groups and local charities as well. Groups often ask pharmacies for contributions, Tiefenthaler said, and you don’t have to give without expecting some type of reciprocation. For example, instead of simply writing a check, one pharmacy donated $5 for every 3-point basket made by the local high school’s boys and girls basketball teams. Each time someone made a three-pointer, the pharmacy’s donation was mentioned. And at the end of the season, local media covered the pharmacy owner presenting an oversized check for $550 to the athletic department. “I don’t think we should be ashamed of having some earned media,” she said.

Make educational events part of your plan too, whether you host a monthly program for diabetic patients or deliver speeches to outside groups. Places such as senior centers are always looking for speakers, Tiefenthaler said, so she encourages pharmacists to find a topic they are passionate about and offer to share their expertise.

Extend Your Reach with Partners

Remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself when marketing a health program. Look for other organizations that match your values and goals, and find ways to work together.

One pharmacy in a small town collaborated with the local police department on a drug take-back program. Working alone, the pharmacy couldn’t legally collect controlled substances, and the police department didn’t have a system to log and secure drugs it took in. As partners, the pharmacy could take in controlled substances and the police presence offered extra protection during the event.

Also, take advantage of any materials from affiliations you have. For example, members of the National Community Pharmacists Association can receive digital content through RxWiki’s Digital Pharmacist program.1

Of course, you also can hire a marketing expert to help with aspects of promotions, freeing you to focus on pharmacy operations. (Discover more ways to promote your business in “Create Buzz for Your Pharmacy.”)

Remember to include your staff members in your marketing and promotional plans. Pharmacies that participate in Pharm Fresh Media’s “Marketing of the Month Club” hold monthly meetings with their staff to review the materials being used ahead of time, discuss what each person is responsible for, and learn how to promote products and services to customers. That way, Tiefenthaler said, every person is on the same page.

So, as you gear up for 2014, think of the role that marketing can play, consider putting a year-long marketing plan in place, and determine the role that various health-related promotions can play in driving traffic. Then, use tools such as the Planning Calendar to help you think through and organization your promotions.

Note: The information provided here is for reference only and does not constitute legal advice. We make no representations with regard to the content’s comprehensiveness. You are solely responsible for investigating and complying with all applicable laws that govern the operation of your business.
 1 “Community Pharmacy Goes Digital,” National Community Pharmacists Association, May 29, 2013.