|Digital Marketing for Community Pharmacy: An Interview with Michael Busch||| Print ||
Michael Busch has been involved in pharmacy for a long time. For starters, he has a pharmacy degree himself. Then he was the founder of Medicine Shoppe International, which he sold to Cardinal Health in 1995. Next he developed software to monitor third-party prescription reimbursements for independent and small chain pharmacies, a business that he also sold to Cardinal Health - this time in 2005 - and that is now operated under the Profit Leader name. Not surprisingly, retirement doesn't suit Busch, and he's recently brought another idea to market in the form of a company focused on social media and digital marketing called Keep Your Pharmacy Open. In this interview, ComputerTalk senior editor Will Lockwood finds out what Busch's latest efforts could mean for independent pharmacists looking to jump into social media in an effort to better market their services.
CT: Michael, first, tell us a little more about this idea and how you came upon it.
Busch: The idea for this came from an associate of mine, and a partner in this enterprise, named Suzanne Gude. What we are doing is creating a company that provides turnkey social media services and electronic marketing to independent pharmacy. We've spent the better part of a year retaining some of the best companies in the country who play in the social media and electronic marketing arena to help develop our platform. We are now live.
CT: Give us your impression of where most independent pharmacists are right now with their digital presence.
Busch: Let me preface my answer by telling you about a recent survey of some 500 executives around the country who were asked two questions. The first was: What is the most overrated marketing program today? And the answer was social media. The second question was: What is the most underrated marketing program today? And the answer was social media. I believe that pharmacists are fundamentally in the first camp of calling social media overrated, in large part because they don't have the skill set or the time to fundamentally conduct social media and email campaigns the way they need to be done.
CT: So making best use of these channels isn't quite as easy as it may seem then.
Busch: There are a ton of do-it-yourself programs out there. But in the end, it's the pharmacy owner who has to make the program work. And they simply don't have the time. So when I decided to get involved with this business, one thing I was very clear on was that this would have to be a turnkey offering. The pharmacy owner and staff are responsible for only a few, specific tasks to start with and a few maintenance tasks. None of these require any real knowledge of social media. In fact, a pharmacy owner could have never heard of Twitter or Facebook and be on our program.
CT: So what exactly does a pharmacist or owner have to do?
Busch: When you first enroll, we have you fill out an application that gives us details about your store that will help us provide the right content and messages. Next, we provide a variety of marketing materials for that we ask you to use in the store: shelf talkers, posters, and signs, for example. Then we ask you for 10 local retailer references so we can reach out to other businesses in the community on your behalf and create opportunities for co-marketing and press. These will end up creating revenue that stays with the pharmacy.
As far as ongoing tasks, we ask you to collect emails from patients - And we even provide you with a simple way of doing this using a special pad that people can fill out with their details. This is honestly information that every pharmacy should be collecting anyway. We also ask you to designate one person in the organization as the Facebook and Twitter administrator. We'll train this person, and all he or she really does is watch the posts coming in and respond as appropriate. This might require two hours a week, at the most. Finally, you need to visit our site once a quarter to review our calendar of postings and opt out of anything you don't wish to run on your Facebook page.
CT: How do you make sure the content is local and targeted for each pharmacy?
Busch: First, everything we do is in the local pharmacy's name. For example, the Facebook URL is www.facebook.com/yourlocalpharmacy/(pharmacyname). You never see our name on the page or on the Twitter feed. It's branded for each pharmacy. We build this page for the pharmacy. If they already have a page, we can take over the administration. And remember that when someone joins our program, we collect significant information on what they do at the pharmacy, which will help us ensure that the content and messaging that we create is appropriate.
CT: OK. So tell us more about how you are actually reaching a pharmacy's customers then. You've talked about social media. How are you using the emails the pharmacy collects?
Busch: These emails are critical for reaching out to customers and getting them engaged. We send out emails on behalf of that pharmacy that targets customers in a three-mile radius in three categories: senior citizens, families with children under 18, and coupon clippers. We partner with a company that helps us put customers in the right category. This first email communication, which they've opted into by providing their email to the pharmacy, invites them to register for an email newsletter and receive a $10 coupon for use in the pharmacy. This does two things. First, it creates a very solid double opt-in email list and, second, it encourages a visit to the pharmacy. Ultimately, though, our job is to bring people to the pharmacy's Facebook page, where they can learn about what's going on at the pharmacy and interact with the pharmacy. We'll also post incentives there - a coupon for a flu shot, for instance.
CT: You mentioned something earlier, about co-marketing with other business in a pharmacy's community. Tell us more about that.
Busch: That's right. As I mentioned, we ask the pharmacy to provide us with contact details for 10 other retailers in its market. We'll go to these business and let them know that they can co-market coupons on the pharmacy's Facebook page for a nominal fee each month. This fee stays with the pharmacy owner to defray the cost of our program. More importantly, this creates a strong shop-local network, which is critical for keeping money in the local economy and helping the community.
I want to mention here that we also reach out to a pharmacy's local press, with releases and story ideas that are designed to drive traffic to the pharmacy's Facebook page and then into the pharmacy itself.
CT: Now, one of the charms of social media is that it's essentially free, aside from the time it requires. You've made a persuasive case for outsourcing much of the effort need to make the best use of social media, but what can you tell us about a pharmacy's ROI?
Busch: They way we look at it, if the pharmacy can bring in 10 new customers a year, and these are average patients with five prescriptions per month each at an average cost of $50, then this will bring in $30,000 in new revenue alone. At a 20% margin, and with no incremental costs associated with servicing these patients, the pharmacy is making an excellent ROI on the program cost. And it's my belief that there's no way a pharmacy using our program won't gain 10 new patients a year, because the beauty of social media is the networking effect. When I talk about the pharmacy I just visited on Facebook, I'm reaching all of my friends who the pharmacy may not already be connected with.
Just to give you and idea that we know what we're doing. We put our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/mylocalpharmacy, up about two months ago and we currently have over 30,000 fans and more than 2,100 people talking about the page.
CT: Thanks for your time, Michael.