Over-the-counter and health-and-beauty care marketers have been struggling to find ways to harness the communication power of pharmacy to help them build their brand equity. The path to achieve this goal has been for consumer packaged goods companies to develop pharmacy programs designed to educate and capture the attention of pharmacists so that pharmacists may communicate and educate their patients about their products at the point of decision-making.
The question is: Are marketers getting the desired effect their programs were designed to deliver, and are consumers getting the right information regarding product efficacy, mode of action and benefits? In some cases, yes — but more often, no. Here are five ways marketers can harness the full communication power of the pharmacy:
1. Understand that pharmacy programs are unique collaborative account marketing programs. Successful pharmacy programs are comprehensive, customized retailer-specific marketing programs. Too often marketers “add on” a pharmacy program using OTC/CPG-oriented materials that have strong consumer-sell positioning. This approach does not win the “hearts and minds” of pharmacists. Presentations made to the pharmacy division need to be designed for the pharmacy division and speak to its motivations — not simply a replay of the OTC division presentation.
The pharmacy division is motivated by a professional service orientation, with the pharmacy taking a more active role in the overall health and wellness of its patients, growing loyalty and retention by being a trusted provider of healthcare services.
The OTC division is focused on classic retailer procurement practices, viewing medicines as CPG products and using the conventions of category management and shopper marketing to measure unit and dollar sales and profits.
2. Pharmacy time is valuable. The above chart illustrates the cost differentials that should be considered.
The high cost of a pharmacists’ time can be offset by effective utilization of pharmacy technicians and pharmacy associates, by assigning two levels of messaging based on the skill set of each group. Pharmacists should primarily fill a support role (i.e., “reactive”), counseling, providing education, recommending product and answering questions on an exception basis. Pharmacy technicians and associates should fill an awareness role (i.e., “proactive”) at either the prescription drop-off or pick-up. Messaging should take no more than 30 seconds for a pharmacist to complete in a typical patient encounter, and 15 seconds for an awareness message by the pharmacy technician.
3. Develop collateral materials that will actually be used by the pharmacy team. Message communication at the pharmacy needs to be different than the traditional OTC/CPG approach. Marketers need to speak to the patient through the learned intermediaries in their language. Tone and positioning matter — pharmacists consider themselves unbiased healthcare professionals who want to focus on the health and wellness of their patients, and provide educational information and guidance for their medication choices. Collateral materials should include:
Patient collateral material should provide understanding of the relevant condition, a condition management segment that includes the brand as a suggestion for symptom relief, tips for lifestyle changes and prevention, and an offer that is customized on a retailer-specific basis.
4. Develop easy-to-understand performance criteria with reasonable and well-defined goals that are agreed on by pharmacy management. Here are six elements to consider:
5. Measure it. When people know the program is being measured, compliance levels are higher. Here are five program compliance measurement elements: