The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions for businesses across the country and has had a direct impact on consumer buying behavior. Many independent pharmacies depend on foot traffic and word-of-mouth referrals to increase their patient base. COVID-19 precautions, such as social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, have directly affected this type of dependency. To continue to reach patients at the right place and at the right time, it is crucial for independent pharmacies to adapt their marketing strategy and leverage digital channels to connect with patients.
DeCaria Brothers, Inc., a group of six stores across Ohio and Pennsylvania, has found digital marketing especially important during the pandemic. The changes due to COVID-19 drove them to start embracing digital marketing, and they have found success utilizing their digital channels to reach and connect with their patient base.
Prior to COVID-19, Eddie DeCaria, co-owner and pharmacist, knew there was a value to social media but was not fully engaged. However, once stay-at-home orders were enforced, Eddie knew he had to take action.
I didn’t get social media, but I did see unlimited marketing potential. We needed to think about the needs of our customers and the community during this time.
A Good Neighbor Pharmacy advertising manager was able to provide guidance to Eddie and his team once they made the decision to lean into digital, by explaining the value of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, particularly the digital marketing solutions included in the program.
Based on his advertising manager’s recommendations, Eddie decided that social media was the most important place to start because it would be the first place patients would look for information. However, Eddie and his team were unsure where and how to start, so they worked with their advertising manager to put together a game plan.
Of the six stores, only three had Facebook pages—all of which had limited followings. Eddie’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy advertising manager made sure all six stores were set up with official accounts, requesting ownership of unofficial pages for Eddie in some cases. She also made sure any followers and reviews on unofficial pages were merged with the new official pages.
There has been a significant increase in followers since they started focusing more attention on social media. In mid-March, their Facebook pages only had a total of 320 followers. Within four months, their six stores have grown to have a combined total of 1,500 followers.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Eddie was focused on making sure his team could deliver relevant information to their patients and communicate quickly. With his Good Neighbor Pharmacy advertising manager’s help, they took several steps to ensure their success on social media:
- They redesigned their logo so that it would be consistent across all their locations.
- They assigned a dedicated staff member to manage their social media platforms. Through the Good Neighbor Pharmacy social media and reputation management platform, SOCi, their staff member is able to create and post her own content, as well as use the professionally designed content that is continually being added within the provided libraries. Most importantly, their staff member is able to schedule content for all the stores at the same time across multiple social media platforms, which saves a lot of time.
- They gave several other staff members access to SOCi, so they also are able to post content and serve as a backup if the dedicated social media staff member is unavailable. They are also able to easily and quickly view what has been scheduled.
- They started filming Facebook Live videos that focus on their core services. This allows their patients to connect and engage with them digitally when they may not be able to in person.
- They further enhanced their digital presence by setting up Instagram accounts.
- They began posting staff-focused content for each of their stores, as many of their patients commented that they missed seeing the faces of their employees. Showing the real people behind their business has been an effective way to develop stronger connections with their community, and independent pharmacies, in general, have a clear advantage in this regard.
- They started hosting themed contests, which were an immediate hit with patients. From one contest, in particular, the pharmacies added over 300 followers in less than a week.
- They dipped their toes into Facebook advertising by boosting some Facebook posts. This has proven to be a very cost-effective way to advertise their unique services, such as compounding, curbside, pet meds, delivery and more.
Patients have shown an overwhelmingly positive response to these new digital marketing tactics. They have become more engaged with the pharmacies’ content by liking and sharing posts, leaving comments, asking questions and posting reviews. The contests have also really helped boost engagement. Patients love them because they provide a positive and fun escape during a difficult time.
The expectation is many of these new habits will become our new normal even after the pandemic passes. Now that Eddie’s pharmacies have an engaged digital audience, they can continue to stay connected with their communities, provide updates on their business and increase awareness of the various services they provide no matter what the future brings.