Digital Marketing For Independent Pharmacies Using 6 Key HIPAA Compliant Apps and SEO Marketing For Independent Pharmacies $1299/mon
What Makes Independent Pharmacies Appealing To Potential Customers?
The number of independent pharmacies has been growing over the last decade, with opening more every year with their numbers approaching 20,000. Many potential customers believe by visiting a large retail chain pharmacy, like CVS or RiteAid, they will get the medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter, that they need to get better. However, this may not be the case, as some big retail pharmacies may not be able to order certain medications at times. Many people are turning to independent pharmacies for a variety of reasons, including:
- Experience – Many independent pharmacies are owned by pharmacists or those wanting to build a long-term team. Retail pharmacies may see pharmacists move in and out frequently as they seek other positions.
- Improved Selection – Many retail pharmacies are limited by contracts with their vendors in the everyday items they can provide. An independent pharmacy can get in what a community wants or needs. They also may have previous long-standing relationships with some vendors that allow them to get hard-to-find items.
- Improved Service & Reduced Wait Times – Independent pharmacies often develop relationships with their customers. Customers will often find they have a more positive shopping experience with staff that remembers them and often faster fulfilling their medications.
- Trusted Advice – The staff at an independent pharmacy are often a resource for their regular customers. The pharmacists and staff are also usually more available, approachable, and quicker to give expert advice to their regular customers.
The number of independent pharmacies decreased in the 1990s as people embraced large chain retail pharmacies. The concept of a locally owned, independent pharmacy was seen as old-fashioned and inefficient compared to a national chain, an idea that was aggressively marketed by these chains. However, as these retail chains expanded, service began to falter, and people became more dissatisfied. Several significant chains went out of business in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many were regional discount drug stores that had bought out other independent pharmacies in the 1980s and 1990s only to find themselves bought out by other national chains or went bankrupt. There are over 36 defunct pharmacy chains that have gone out of business or have been bought by others in the last two or three decades.
With that in mind, there has been a resurgence of independent pharmacies. Much like other healthcare businesses, they need a high-quality medical marketing plan for their business. They need to compete with big chain pharmacies, like CVS, RiteAid, or Walgreens, and the major department and grocery stores that offer pharmacy services. However, they can stand out in a community and grow if they have an effective marketing plan. Below are some medical marketing strategies independent pharmacies can use to help their business grow.
Step 1. Google My Business Page
An independent pharmacy should see its services as more akin to an urgent care center than a primary care provider. When a potential customer needs a pharmacy’s services, they will not make an appointment. They will want to find one right away, and that search will generally start with a search on Google.
When google search results return, people will be given Paid Results, Local Results, and Organic Results. Appearing in local results is vital for an independent pharmacist. 97% of people learn more about a business from online searches. Many will not return to organic results if they find what they are looking for. Appearing in those local results and on Google Maps is critical.
A Google My Business Page is the place to start for a business to appear in local results. Creating or claiming a listing will allow it to appear in these results and on Google Maps. For an independent pharmacy to claim its listing, it must be verified. Verification can come from an automated phone call or a physical postcard mailed to the location. With that in mind, verification should begin once a pharmacy knows it can receive mail and easily take phone calls. Once verified, it needs to fill out vital information that matches the information on their website:
- Name of pharmacy
- Address, including any office or suite numbers
- Phone number and (if applicable) fax number
- Site URL
- Hours of operation
Once completed, the profile can look even more professional and authoritative if photos from the location are added and more fleshed-out descriptions of the services available are uploaded.
Step 2. SEO Marketing
As important as it is for an independent pharmacy to appear in local results, it is just as crucial for it to appear in organic search results. Good organic search results often help increase the chances for it to appear in local results. SEO marketing, also known as search engine optimization marketing, is a proven way to improve a website’s organic rankings. There are several aspects of SEO marketing an independent pharmacist can refine to increase their organic rankings.
First, and often the first thing that comes to mind with SEO, are the keywords for independent pharmacies to focus on. When someone is looking for a pharmacy, they will often begin their search on Google with a query. An independent pharmacist must first develop a list of the most likely keywords someone will use when searching for the services and products at a pharmacy. Those keywords are placed throughout the content of a website. This will help search engines determine how relevant, authoritative, and legitimate a website is when organically ranking them. That said, keywords need to be appropriate for the pages they appear on. Placing every single most important keyword on every content page will be ineffective and may even negatively impact a site’s organic ranking.
When selecting keywords, an independent pharmacy must have a nice mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords are three words or fewer, while long-tail keywords are four or more. Short-tail keywords bring in traffic and cover broad topics but have lower conversions. Long-tail keywords have higher conversions and cover more specific topics but often bring in lower traffic. Long-tail keywords also play an essential role in voice searches from smart speakers or digital personal assistants. A nice mix will help ensure a steady rise in an independent pharmacy’s organic rankings.
Another important but sometimes overlooked aspect of SEO is site speed. How fast a website loads and is functional can dramatically impact a site’s traffic and organic ranking. Generally speaking, a website needs to load as quickly as possible, within a couple of seconds, or someone is increasingly more likely to return to the search results. The faster a site loads, the better. Unfortunately, site speed can be something that independent pharmacies need to remember to maintain. Just because a website is fast one month does not mean it will be as fast the following month. They also need to ensure it is fast not only on desktop computers but also on mobile devices. 85% of users expect the mobile experience to be even better than the desktop version of a website. Constant testing and monitoring are required. Broken images, incorrectly sized images, broken code, and videos playing directly from a website are the most likely reasons a site suddenly becomes slower. Some of these problems are easily fixable by a novice, and others require more skilled technical know-how.
Step 3. Content Marketing
Another way to increase the organic rankings of a website for an independent pharmacy is with content marketing. Search engines eat up content and they especially like a website that is kept up to date with new content. With that in mind, an independent pharmacy should frequently review its website to update, refine, edit, and add content to the site. When updating content, a pharmacy should avoid updating all of its content at once and instead do it bit by bit. Updating an entire website with new content too quickly can confuse search engines into thinking it is an entirely different website, impacting the site’s overall organic rankings. Minor updates throughout the year will constantly show a search engine that a site is being kept up to date and, therefore, will improve organic rankings.
For a pharmacy whose website is already as up-to-date as possible, consider starting a monthly blog. This content will be fresh and valuable, and search engines will eat it up. The content of the blog post should be helpful and authoritative and have links for readers to explore. Aiming for a monthly blog post is a good pace for most independent pharmacies rather than a weekly post. It is much easier to write 12 individual posts a year compared to having to write 52. Blog posts also make for great content to share across social media channels and email marketing newsletters.
Step 4. Secure Messaging
A critical service an independent pharmacy will offer their target audience will be refilling their prescriptions. While it is certainly preferred that refill requests are put in ahead of time, it is common for someone to realize they need their prescriptions refilled immediately. An advantage that independent pharmacies have over their retail competitors is that they can often complete refill requests much faster. While many requests may come in over the phone, sending refill requests over a website is becoming much more common. With that in mind, as per HIPAA regulations, encrypted messaging needs to be secured. There are many straightforward ways for an independent pharmacy to do this.
The first would be a secure contact form on their website. From this form, patients would enter their contact information, prescription information, and, likely, when they would like to pick up their medication. For those who need it right away, it would be ASAP, but those who realize a refill was needed ahead of time could select a time and day of the week to come in and pick it up. All of this information needs to be sent with HIPAA security in mind. It must be a more secure submission form other than a simple form that sends data to a Google Form. The information must be sent over a secure connection and stored on a HIPAA-compliant dashboard. This dashboard limits who has access to the information, records who accesses it, and what they do with that data.
Another popular way to communicate is via text message. Almost everyone has a cell phone today, and nearly every cellphone plan will come with text messages. Many people today prefer using text messages to communicate than calling on the phone or emailing. It is only advantageous for an independent pharmacy to take advantage of this trend and give their customers the ability to text them. However, much like contact forms, it needs to be HIPAA compliant. People can not text a pharmacist’s cell phone or a phone that is easily accessible to staff. There needs to be a record of who accesses this personal health information, when, and how that data is used. Fortunately, today’s technology allows all text messages to be sent to a HIPAA-secured dashboard. From there, a pharmacist can look at the request, fill it out, and then securely message the person back from the dashboard.
Step 5. Secure Ecommerce
Unlike other healthcare businesses, like primary care doctors or urgent care centers, an independent pharmacy also may want to sell things online. Anything they carry in their store could be available to sell online. These items could then be available for in-store pickup or mailed to those customers. Some pharmacies even offer at-home delivery of medications and could include these things as part of their home delivery. This is just an additional service to help cultivate loyalty among consumers and an independent pharmacy, especially if the prices, delivery fees, and arrival speed is competitive.
Offering this service does require an independent pharmacy to have a secured site for e-commerce. The site must be encrypted, and any orders must protect the consumer’s credit card or debit card information. It will significantly hurt the online reputation of an independent pharmacy if payment information is compromised. A pharmacy must also have a way to track and process orders and keep track of inventory. A customer will have a negative experience if they purchase something online only to find out a day or two later that it is currently out of stock. A secure eCommerce system with accurate inventory tracking is a must-have for an independent pharmacist to have an effective eCommerce website. Considering the available products and quickness Amazon has, there is a lot of competition. However, having a readily available but hard-to-find list of products and at-home delivery with medications will give a pharmacy an edge that Amazon will not.
The experts at PatientGain.com are available to help you create a high-performance website for your independent pharmacy. Our variety of apps and marketing strategies can make it very competitive with other local independent pharmacies as well as retail chains. Contact us today, and let us show you what we have done for other practices across the country!