Strong relationships in your life, are not built overnight, the same goes for your pharmacy and its relationships with their local community, says Sarah Rendell.

If we look at it logically, would you prefer one customer to visit once and spend $50.00 or a loyal customer who fills every script they are prescribed at your pharmacy? I assume the later and the key to building such loyalty is through community engagement. You must have the mindset of connecting rather than only advertising or selling. Advertising and selling do play a key role in marketing however, connection is king.

Be a good neighbour

Where your pharmacy is located matters. What your pharmacy does for the community matters and how your pharmacy is perceived as a neighbour is crucial. There was a reason you selected the location of your pharmacy, it might be because it’s in a new suburb or a part of a small shopping centre. There was something about the location and the community that drew you in. Now it’s time to be a part of that community and give back in a unique way. Why? Because you will build loyalty.

Take the time to properly get to know your neighbours. Make the effort to visit and foster relationships with those around you. This includes other local businesses, sporting clubs and schools. Educate the community about your pharmacy and how you can help. Get to know the people around you and how you can directly assist them. If you’re an active participant in the local culture and people the loyalty will follow. Show that you care and want to make a difference in the community.

How can you demonstrate that you’re a good neighbour with social media?

The cool thing about content social media, is you can create a local identity for your pharmacy. Take the time to support your local community by following their pages and profiles on various social media. Engage with them online, share their posts and like their photos. You will also discover what is happening in around your local area from social media and other local websites. By keeping tabs on what is happening around you, it will build authority for your pharmacy (and will help you with your own content).

Understand your community and how your pharmacy can add value

Understanding your local community to a higher level provides your pharmacy with a competitive edge. For example, if you have a big box discounter in your local area, their marketing is always based on price. However, if you’re taking the time to understand your local community, you can tailor your services.

For example, you become involved in the local netball club and become a sponsor for the netball association. From this you learn more about women within your local community. You identify the need for more education on women’s health from pregnancy through to menopause. With this information you implement a young mothers group and a menopause wellness program. These services are not only beneficial to your pharmacy but to the local community as it’s something they relate to. Concentrate on your community and offer solutions to their problems.

There is an opportunity for pharmacies to connect with their customers through health services. Rather than randomly selecting some services to promote, investigate what would truly add value to your community. There are some pharmacies who are pushing services that are great in theory but just not right for their local demographic. Ensure that you understand your community and how your pharmacy can add value.

How to use content to add value to your local community

Content just like services can add value to your local community (if its relevant). Utilise your knowledge and create content that is helpful to your local community. Social media and video is a clever way of engaging with the community. For example, if you’re in an area where there is a lot new mothers share videos and social media posts discussing the topic. Become the health resource for the local community.

Work together with other health professionals

The pharmacy industry in Australia has shifted in recent times. It’s vital that pharmacy owners now create health destinations. However, the concept of building a health destination does not have to be purely internal. It also is an opportunity to create further connection with your local community. Furthermore, community engagement shouldn’t solely focus on your customers but also other local businesses. Connecting with other local health professionals has a wealth of benefits.

Any exceptional pharmacy will have its patient’s best interests at heart and it’s great having others to support you with this vision. For example, you have a patient who has suffered a serious back injury who comes in after visiting their local GP. They visit you for their prescriptions and pain management options. Imagine if from there you could refer them to a physio in your local area who works together with you on treating this patient. Together you could monitor the patient’s treatment and recovery. Furthermore, the patient could then take information about their injury management plan to follow up appointments with the GP. The patient would benefit from having a team of health professionals looking after them.

Asides from patient treatment connecting with other local health professionals also creates a great referral system. Imagine having a team of trusted advisors in your local community promoting your pharmacy? Other local health professionals would be communicating with your target audience daily just like you. So why not use that to your advantage! Think of ways to connect with other local health professionals from dropping in to introduce yourself to organising a quarterly catch up. These long-lasting relationships add value to both your pharmacy and its community.

How to use digital strategies to engage with other health professionals

After you have reached out to other health professionals in your area, you can use digital strategies to develop the relationship. You could connect with them on their social media platforms and sign them up to an email newsletter. The key however, is to use digital channels to create a partnership with them. Invite them to write a guest blog article, post about them on your social media or ask them to work on a collaborative video. That way they begin to see why this is a mutually beneficial relationship.

In Conclusion

To succeed you must understand how to create a high level of connection with your community. It will build long term relationships with your customers. I know that I am more likely to purchase and utilise services from someone I know and trust. Your local community will be the same.

Homework

This week put aside an hour to do some intense research about your local community. List all the local sporting clubs, associations and businesses. From there start thinking of a strategy on how to reach out to them. Remember that digital should never replace face to face communication. Therefore, your strategy needs to involve both digital and meeting people face to face.

Sarah Rendell is client communications manager at Peak Strategies, Pharmacy Specialist Chartered Accountants Australia