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You didn’t get into pharmacy to become an accountant, a human resource executive, or a marketer. Your passion probably started with pharmacy itself, and the business side is just a necessary evil. The key word here is necessary.

The LTC pharmacy space continues to get more crowded. There are more than 3,000 pharmacies with a primary taxonomy code for long-term care pharmacy. That number continues to grow every week, which means you may have competitors you aren’t even aware of. Since they’re new, they’re probably hungry for business. Remember those days?

Whether your goal is to grow or to simply maintain your current level, you need to turn your attention to marketing. If that thought sends terror through your heart, along with visions of lots of money invested for an uncertain return, perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at digital marketing for your pharmacy.

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the sum of all marketing that depends on the internet for execution. It also goes by the name online marketing and includes channels such as email, search engine marketing, social media, and blogging. The tools of digital marketing are relatively easy to access, and the learning curve can be short or long depending on how sophisticated you make it.

Effective digital marketing is generally much less expensive than traditional media but requires as much work, or more, to make it effective. Traditional marketing relies on tools like direct mail, newspaper and trade press advertising, trade shows, and cold calling potential prospects. These methods can be expensive and aren’t all easy to track. That doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Many top-notch marketers use a mix of digital and analog marketing techniques to their great advantage.

Making It Local

Marketing your LTC pharmacy is a local effort. If your pharmacy is located near Philadelphia, you probably don’t care much whether nursing homes or home health agencies in San Francisco know what a wonderful partner you are. So, how does that affect how you do marketing?

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer. If the nursing home administrator is sitting at her desk wondering where to find her new pharmacy, she would likely start with a Google® search with a query like “LTC pharmacies near me.” If she did that, would she find your pharmacy listed in the first page of search results? That’s an important question, since 75 percent of searchers don’t look past the first page.

This highlights the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the science and art of demonstrating the relevance of your website or social media posts to specific search queries. The major search engines (e.g., Google, Bing) are always refining their algorithms to deliver the most relevant results. Keeping your website relevant takes consistent attention.

Your Pharmacy’s Website

The core of your digital marketing strategy is your website. While statistics on pharmacies are difficult to find, about one-third of all small businesses still don’t have a website. That’s unfortunate since people looking for a product or service typically begin their search online.

Your website should be the hub where all your digital content is located and all your marketing efforts end up. Whether your marketing connects to your home page or to a landing page, you want customers to come to your site for relevant information.

Digital Marketing Tools

In addition to a website, the digital marketing arsenal includes email marketingpodcastingwebinarsblogsnewsletters, and an ever-expanding suite of new technologies that helps keep you in front of potential customers.

The possibilities of digital marketing are nearly limitless but, like any discipline, it requires work. Technology must be learned, content created, results tracked, and experiments designed (that is, trying one marketing tactic, then trying another to see which works better). It all takes time…and money.

Budgeting for Digital Marketing

Speaking of money, it’s funny how little actual data exists on what pharmacies typically spend on marketing. Various experts focus on percentage of revenue, suggesting 5-8 percent. Most pharmacies likely spend far less.

The upside to all of this is that if you decide to make the investment, you will have relatively little competition and probably a strong return – but you will need to be persistent and budget for the long haul.

X Factors for Success in Digital Marketing for Pharmacies

  • Do a search for LTC pharmacies near you. Do you show up in the search engine results? Do your competitors?
  • Look at your website. Is it optimized for potential customers? A great way to help answer this is to have friends, family, acquaintances, employees, or existing customers offer feedback. You might be surprised by what you learn.
  • Create a basic marketing plan – no need to get too deep. What is your intent? What tools should you begin with to follow through on this intent? How would you measure success?

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Written by: Paul Baldwin, Baldwin Health Policy Group
Paul’s pharmaceutical industry experience in public and government affairs led to becoming Executive Director of the Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, helping lead the industry through the Medicare Modernization Act and creation of the prescription drug benefit. Paul was VP of Public Affairs for Omnicare before founding Baldwin Health Policy Group.

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