Marketing and Sales for the Independent Pharmacist in LTC
The independent pharmacist must be a jack of all trades; proficient at operations, finance, human resources (especially his/her own), information technology and, of course, in pharmacy and therapeutics. So where does marketing and sales fit? Unfortunately, too often they are pulling up the rear. Independent pharmacists understand the need for retail marketing; how else would the business generates sales? LTC marketing – building awareness and generating leads – is different; it is a business-to-business, or B2B model. And that “sales” stuff? Most pharmacists grit their teeth, roll their eyes and practice active tolerance. This situation simply doesn’t have to be so! There is no more magic to LTC marketing and sales than to any other business discipline, and we all sell something – or if you prefer, exercise influence over others.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
Alice in Wonderland
The first important distinction to be made is this: marketing is the management of the awareness of, and preference for your business – your brand. Sales, on the other hand, are the behaviors associated with influencing others to select your service as opposed to another’s. Marketing is intellectual, while sales is behavioral.
The first task in developing a marketing plan (and it’s always good to start with a plan*) is to identify which audiences or segments are to be targeted: consumers, institutions and / or payers.
- Consumers include age and otherwise qualified target populations in the marketplace area which you are or intend to serve.
- Institutions include nursing centers, rehabilitation centers, home health agencies and other designated provider organizations within your marketplace area. This list would also include organizations that serve the targeted consumers (above) which might be area agencies on aging, PACE programs and many others.
- Payers include those organizations directly responsible for funding, or managing payment of care provided to the targeted consumers. This would include insurance companies, and a wide variety of managed care plans. This market segment would also include value based payment models, which are relatively new organizations such as affordable care organizations (ACOs).
With the segments you would like to attract identified, it’s relatively easy to assemble targeted lists of those who should be aware of, and ultimately have a preference for your services. For example, the executive directors of the skilled nursing centers in the marketplace area are a primary target for the independent pharmacist who would like to develop an LTC business. Their names, telephone numbers and physical addresses are easily found in state directories and on the Internet through a Google search. You can also learn about nursing centers in your area by visiting Nursing Home Compare. With some persistence, you can create a targeted list of prospects in each of the institutional market segments, e.g., skilled nursing facilities (SNF), home health agencies (HHA), residential care facilities (RCF), prisons, etc. This same procedure can be used to develop targeted market lists for the payers market segment. The consumers market segment is of course much broader and more fragmented. Lists of age, income and otherwise qualified individuals in your marketplace area can be purchased from list brokers such as AccuData America.
With your targeted audiences clearly identified, the next step is to develop messages for each of your targeted audiences that will build awareness of, and create preference for your brand. Of course the messages that would be effective with SNF executive directors will be very different from those that will be effective with ACOs. The question to ask yourself in developing marketing messages is, “What are the most important problems or challenges that this audience faces, and how does my service offering reduce or eliminate those problems?” It’s also important to be aware that changing pharmacies for organizations such as SNFs and RCFs involves quite a bit for your prospects, so the decision cycle may be lengthy. The critical task is to build awareness and to maintain this awareness in your targeted audiences so that when they encounter problems with their current vendor, or dissatisfaction arises, your business is top of mind and you are invited to discuss how your solution can address those problems. This, then, becomes a sales situation, which I will address in part 2.
Click here to read part 2 - Sales Skills for the Independent Pharmacist: Necessary Evil or Exciting Opportunity
* For an excellent marketing plan model, see: Knight, P. (2004) The Highly Effective Marketing Plan: A proven, practical planning process for companies of all sizes. London: Pearson Prentice Hall Business.