Marketing Basics: What value do you offer?

Marketing – the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large (approved definition by the American Marketing Association board of directors in 2013).

Marketing the Value of a Pharmacist

While reading the definition for marketing, does anything jump out at you?  While printing brochures or signs for your pharmacy may be part of your strategy, the real question you should ask is what “value” are you offering to patients?  Do the products or services you provide create enough value that someone is willing to pay for them?

I had the opportunity a few years ago to advocate for pharmacist-administered vaccinations during flu season by going on a local news channel in Louisville, Kentucky and giving a flu shot live on the air.  Not only was this a fun experience, but it demonstrated the value that pharmacists (in my case, specifically Kroger pharmacists) added to patients by making it easy to get a flu shot.  Michelle was not a fan of needles but she was a good sport!

Instead of making an appointment with the physician, retail pharmacists could provide this service to “walk in” patients with no appointment and have them in and out in a few minutes.  If primary care offices weren’t so crowded and appointments with the doctor weren’t so hard to come by, would pharmacist-administered vaccinations still add value?  Maybe.  Could we still effectively market the service of vaccinations regardless of the status of primary care office visits?  Absolutely.

bottledwaterEffective marketing not only demonstrates the value, but in some cases creates a perception of value that may or may not really exist.   Use the example of bottled water.  Water, a resource that is readily available to practically every American for pennies, put into a plastic bottle can be sold in retail stores for $1-$3 per unit.  Why?  What value does bottled water add over tap water?  Do customers perceive the value of specific brands of bottled water over others?  If so, why?

As you think about these questions, try applying them to the services provided by a pharmacist.  Are all pharmacist services the same?  Any patient can walk into just about any retail pharmacy and get FREE advice from a pharmacist.  Along the same lines, any patient with access to the internet can get many questions answered via Google.  So why would a patient PAY for that same advice from a pharmacist offering a consultation at a rate of let’s say $100/hr?  What is the patient paying for?  How does the consultant sell his/her services so that the customer is getting added value or at least the perception of added value that is worth the fee?

Building additional services at your pharmacy or practice site can provide additional revenue streams and provide a service to the community at large.  However, if your marketing strategy doesn’t make customers feel like they are getting a good deal then your services may never be demanded.

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Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

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