Bruce Kneeland
Bruce Kneeland

My son is a partner in a marketing agency called Cult. The name is meant to be provocative. The agency’s goal is to help companies find ways to impress customers so much that they become fans. Cult claims this can be done without increasing advertising budgets. The most frequent changes the agency recommends focus on helping employees take better care of customers. The idea is that when employees take better care of customers, the customers will recommend the company’s products to their friends.

The idea is so simple that most people think it won’t work. Cult points to Harley Davidson and asks, “When was the last time you saw an ad suggesting you buy a “hog”? Now ask, “When was the last time you saw someone wearing a leather jacket or t-shirt emblazoned with the Harley Davidson logo?”

Here are a few principles that Cult says contribute to a cult-like following.

Be Remarkable

One idea for a pharmacy would be to have an organized and carefully choreographed new customer program. This could include making sure the new patient gets a warm greeting and a carefully rehearsed explanation of things the pharmacy does that people appreciate, such as delivery or compliance packaging. They should also be introduced to the pharmacist, who comes out front to say hello. Then perhaps a handwritten thank-you note that includes a gift certificate for something that will get the new customer to come back to the pharmacy as soon as possible.

Have A Noble Purpose

Everyone on your staff should understand that your pharmacy is a place where people get the products and information they need to live a healthier life. The power of a noble purpose is enormous. While working for a paycheck is central to their job, the more your staff members believe people get better care in your pharmacy than in any other, the better.

To illustrate, consider that during World War II, Uncle Sam’s recruitment efforts relied heavily on the idea that we were fighting to protect our freedom and the American way. Sure, we paid our soldiers, but they were willing to eat crummy food, sleep in foxholes, and charge machine gun nests because they believed in the cause, not just for the money.


To help build a team, reinforce your noble purpose and find more ways to be remarkable. You need to spend time together and with other positive people. Get team members involved in community events, invite a key staff member to join the downtown retailer’s association, hold weekly staff meetings, and get together to celebrate major accomplishments. If at all possible, take a staff member to a wholesaler or buying group dinner meeting. The point is to build positive attitudes by creating ways your team members can share positive experiences with each other, and with others.

Treat Team Members With Respect

Asking staff members for ideas, listening to these ideas, and actually implementing some of them is a great way to build respect. Make sure everyone on your team knows you are looking for practical ideas, ones that can be done within current budget constraints. Most people will understand they work in the real world and that work schedules must be met, customers taken care of in a timely manner, and the cash register balanced. Remember, people like to be liked, and they need to be needed.

These ideas are tried, tested, and proven. But they must be done artfully and sincerely, or they could backfire. Still, finding ways to build a cult-like following for your pharmacy will pay off in happier employees and a better bottom line. Here’s hoping something you read here will help you do more and be better. CT

Bruce Kneeland is an independent pharmacy veteran, author, and podcaster. He can be reached at and listened to at