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Competitive advantage. How do you get patients to switch to your pharmacy?

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Time after time it’s the same story. You look at advertising from most pharmacies and the message is always “transfer your prescriptions” or “fast, free, and easy transfers”.

 

By Andrew Schonbe, BSc.Phm.

Often we are so focused on our own internal goals of script growth that we don’t truly consider our potential patients’ perspective. This results in marketing the service itself instead of the rationale to use the service to transfer.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do most people actively look for a new pharmacy on a regular basis – especially your target market (eg. seniors)?
  2. What is your value proposition for patients to transfer? What’s in it for the customers you want to transfer and are you getting this message across?

The first hurdle is the fact providing basic prescription transfer services is not a unique offering in the pharmacy marketplace. After all, pharmacy transfers are free and must be performed when requested according to college of pharmacy requirements. It may be weak strategy to simply state you provide what everyone else does and expect customers will suddenly flock to your store.

This would mostly be effective if you are confident that the primary barrier to patient transfers is that patients don’t know that it can be done. While this can be the case for some transfers – especially for brand new pharmacies – I would argue this is not impacting the majority of customer behaviour.

Pharmacy owners will then ask: what can I do if I offer the exact same service as everyone else? There are two approaches to this problem. The first would be to provide a unique prescription transferring service itself with increased value. Think about the specific interaction and how you can take that transferring experience for your patient to go beyond a basic transfer call. It is also a good time to consider offering other unique services that appeal to your target market worth transferring for. This leads you away from being internally oriented towards a more market-oriented approach. Essentially, this is providing your customers what they want.

The other approach is to get extremely creative with your marketing. It is possible to offer the exact same service as a competitor yet market it in a way to show perceived value that others have failed to do. By now everyone is marketing their service as “free” and “easy”. Consider marketing the benefits of prescription transferring that are communicated less frequently and not just the service itself. There can be many benefits of transferring to a new pharmacy and some may even be unique to your business.

Consider Pharmacy A and Pharmacy B: two neighbouring pharmacies that both offer above average speeds for prescription service. However, Pharmacy A has utilized a marketing strategy that incorporates “fast service” as a reason to switch. Even though the pharmacies offer the exact same wait times Pharmacy A has now effectively positioned their brand in the minds of the community as providing superior pharmacy service speed.

I use prescription transferring as an example, but this thought process can be applied to many pharmacy services or retail offerings in general. While the status quo marketing strategy can certainly support generating some prescription transfers, it is likely not the optimal approach for pharmacy growth. It is important to reframe the message and go outside our internal thinking to take on an increased market perspective.

 

Andrew Schonbe is Manager, Health and Pharmacy Growth Programs for Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto.