Although Westport is a busy, bustling community in the summer when the tourists and the cottagers arrive to soak up the sun, enjoy the outdoor festivities and drop into the town pharmacy for necessities, the local business is very important in every season.
by Tracey Phillips, Pharmacist-Owner, Westport Village Pharmacy, Westport, Ont.
Illustration by Martin Bregman
My focus continues to be on building a thriving business among the people who live here 12 months of the year. Most recently, I’ve turned my efforts to social media.
In our town, it seems like everyone, young and old, is on social media. Westport itself has a Facebook page and many residents post to this site. There is a heightened awareness of social media, perhaps because everyone knows each other, and it has proven to be an important way to convey messages and build awareness. However, until recently our pharmacy had not had a social media presence..
Start with your website
Now we have our own website and Facebook page where people can find us easily and the link between our business and the community is strengthening. This online presence enables us to promote new products, such as special arthritis gloves I picked up at the request of a local physician, as well as let townspeople know what we are doing for the town and surrounding area, including our sponsorship of MUSICwestport, a popular music festival.
Set up online med profiles for your patients
We’ve also launched an online medication profile for patients. They sign up at the pharmacy where they get their login information. Once registered, people can view a customer-friendly version of what we see in the dispensary. They can also renew prescriptions online – and as much as 80 per cent of our business is refills. This feature is a huge convenience for customers and for the pharmacy.
Harness the power of Facebook (and other networks)
In addition, we have created our own Facebook page. Here we highlight new products, offer special promotions, delve into topics related to our weight-loss clinic, and feature relevant videos and related information.
Becoming even somewhat social media savvy was a big learning curve for me – but an important one. People are turning to our web pages and our Facebook site for information, then reposting that information. This reinforces our credibility and our ties to the community.
Consider who will manage your social media
For now, I am managing our social media. I find it really exciting, and really exciting that my customers are using it. Of course, taking on more work means finding time to slot this into my day. I’ve been fortunate; my teenage children as well as store staff have helped me to set up the sites. This gives staff, particularly the younger, part-time employees, a greater connection to the store.
I hope maintenance of the sites will be less time-consuming in the future, but I am also conscious of the fact that when you become complacent with your content, your sites are least effective. Change is the essential ingredient to social media success.
It’s too soon to say if social media is paying dividends for the pharmacy, but we know it is more cost-effective than advertising. It is less expensive, the messages are targeted, and people seek out the information they need. Content also lives longer.
Support social media with action
Of course, words need to be supported with action. Our commitment to the town is both visible and sustained. Canada Day, for instance, is a big event in our town. There are activities all day, a fireworks display at night and a bicycle parade for the kids. We are one of the businesses that sponsor the event and all day we also give out free popsicles to the kids.
It’s great fun – and it’s good business.