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how to increase pharmacy revenue

How to Increase Pharmacy Revenue

The Pharmacy Show 2023 marked a pivotal moment for the Pharmacy Mentor team as our CEO, Saam Ali, took the stage to share a wealth of knowledge on navigating the intricate landscape of digital marketing for pharmacies and how to generate revenue as an independent prescriber. Saam’s extensive experience as a Pharmacist and digital parcticioner formed the cornerstone of a comprehensive presenation, primarily aimeed at prescribers.  It not only provided tips to elevate profitability but also underscored the significance of digital marketing practices in the dynamic world of pharmacy business and online prescribing – which is booming right now.

 

Pharmacy Show Presentation Transcript

The following is a transcript of the presentation given. To download the slides, be sure to sign up to The PM Academy!

Who else is growing a bit tired of seeing the doom of the NHS and pharmacy on the news right now?  Headlines like “Record numbers of pharmacies closing”, or “Call to save struggling pharmacies on ‘precipice of collapse”.

I think I’ve just grown numb to it now, and even though I know it’s great clickbait, and I’m inclined to read it, I scroll past. It’s bloody depressing! I think the important thing to note from all this propaganda is that with the likes of AIM and the PSNC trying to change things at a government level, which I absolutely back and needs to happen, pharmacies have to take things in their own hands.

Because I don’t believe it will get any better on that side of pharmacy. Even if we get a cash injection, it still won’t be enough.

So, we’ve got to innovate.

We’ve got to find new ways of making it work. That’s what business is all about.

My names Saam, and I’m the CEO at Pharmacy Mentor. It’s our mission to improve access to healthcare through pharmacies, and we’re working with a growing number of pharmacy owners and independent prescribers to help them harness the power of their IP qualification and the internet.  Over the next 20-minutes, I’m going to talk to you about the massive opportunities that exist for you in the digital space right now.  I’m also going to take you through exactly how a click on the internet turns into a patient for you, and what tools you need to make that happen.

Let’s get stuck in.

Let’s take a moment to talk about where we are today as pharmacist IP’s in the UK. Years ago, we were essentially dispensers. Today, however, our role has become increasingly clinical.

We’re now diagnosing and treating conditions from hypertension to diabetes, and much more. It’s reported that 26% of all Pharmacists are now IP’s. I remember when I was practising…I could name only a couple of IP’s I knew personally.

But today, every 2nd person we speak to at Pharmacy Mentor is an IP.

Not only has our scope expanded, but so have our settings.  You can find IP’s in community pharmacies, hospitals, GP surgeries, and deeply integrated within the NHS framework. But it’s not all smooth sailing.  While the clinical role expansion and revenue streams offer great opportunities, we are also wrestling with regulatory complexity and the need for continual skill development.

Looking forward, what’s exciting is the promise of even greater autonomy.

Picture this: more digitalisation, more telemedicine, AI integration, and potentially, a broader range of medicines we can prescribe.

The next five years are set to transform the way we practise and the opportunities available to us.

Now some IP’s are already capitalising on this.  And they’re capitalising big. You’ll have seen a growing number of online pharmacies out there, selling POMs for a variety of conditions. They’ve amalgamated their skill set with a digital ecosystem that allows them to prescribe online, dispense and generate revenue. It’s a great model and a model that millions of people across the UK much prefer to use instead of going to see their NHS GP.  Why? Because it’s massively more convenient and it’s inline with how patients behave today.  As an IP,  the biggest opportunity lies in the digital ecosystem you create, not only to generate wealth, but to provide better access to medicines. In this next segment, I’m going to show you how it should be done. And the way I’m going to show you is by going through each of the steps a patient takes from the point of problem identification, to them receiving their medication, supported by the tools and techniques needed to enable a successful journey.

The successful patient journey for this type of website is as follows.  It starts off with The Search. And then they go through a series of events before they end paying for a treatment, and engaging with your company some days after.  Let me take you through each of these steps individually which will help depict exactly how you should be setting up a strategy that will drive revenue.

The first and most important stage is the ‘The Search,’ or as I like to call it, ‘Existential Crisis 101.’  In the infinity of the digital realm, if you’re not searchable, you’re as invisible as a chameleon on a rainbow.

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So how do we overcome this crisis?

Targeting keywords

Now I’m not going to get into the thick of what these are, but, think of these as your “breadcrumbs”. The better you are at dropping them, the easier it is for customers to find their way to you.

And there are 1000’s of them.  Some big, popular ones, like “viagra for men”, and some smaller ones like “does viagra make you last longer”. The more keywords you can target, the better.

But how do you know what keywords to target?

Using online tools like SemRush. That’s what we use at PM. This beautiful software helps us understand how big and popular these breadcrumbs are.

Ok cool. So I know what kind of breadcrumbs I need to target. But where should I be dropping them? 

Everywhere is the simple answer. On as many digital channels as you can. But you should be dropping 90% of them on Google. That’s where most of your patients initiate the search and find them.

Ok – so HOW. How do we get these keywords on Google?

First up, and my absolute joy in the world, SEO – your North Star.

If you’re not investing in Search Engine Optimisation, you’re not just playing hide-and-seek; you’re hiding while everyone else is seeking…elsewhere.  Please understand that this is THE most important marketing tactic for online pharmacies, and every other pharmacy business out there. It is THE tactic that will help build sustainable and consistent website traffic and it THE tactic you should be giving precedence over all other marketing strategies. And for SEO to work, you need a website, naturally, and you need to develop optimised content on your website. So all of your product and condition pages need to be technically optimised, and you should be creating new optimised content in the form of blogging, very regularly and consistently – at least once a week.

I’m not going to go deeper into the realm of SEO right now. But take note, SEO is business critical.

 

 

Another powerful way to help people find your breadcrumbs is via Paid Advertising, again, on Google.  Think of Paid Ads as ‘boosters,’ like a SpaceX rocket, propelling you quickly but at a cost.

Effective? Absolutely.  Sustainable as your only strategy? Unless you’ve got Musk’s wallet, probably not.

Furthermore, the Google Ads Police don’t really like pharmacies, because your drug dealers.

Navigating Google Ads for online pharmacies is like walking through a minefield blindfolded while juggling flaming torches. One small change on an advert or your website can see a well-performing campaign get blocked, halting any conversions from happening.  So, let’s say you’re spending £10,000 per month on that campaign and you’re generating £25,000 a month.

Gone in space of milliseconds.

That’s why I’m so heavily against businesses relying purely on this form of advertising. Luckily, we at PM have been through these painful experiences and know best how to navigate them.  Therefore, if you need guidance in this area of the business, we can certainly help.

So, to wrap this up—’The Search’ – it’s about spreading those breadcrumbs and showing up in search results when the patient needs you.
But, in this vast digital sea, it’s also about showing up like a VIP.

Q: As a user, if you’re looking to “buy propecia online”, which one of those search results are you more inclined to click on? 

We’d probably click the top one there right?

In fact, this exact result outranks the other by about 7 pages on Google, in reality. The bottom result is pretty much invisible, and the top one is driving tonnes of traffic and revenue.

This is pure SEO.

SEO is what makes that top result look so desirable to click, and comes up on page 1 when you search for that term.

Following the click, the patient moves into the next stage: Consideration and Engagement.

Picture this as the ‘first date’ after you’ve caught someone’s eye. They’re interested but not sold yet.

How do you turn that tentative curiosity into real engagement? Let’s stick with the example from before, where someone is looking to “buy propecia” online. If your SEO is good, they’ll more than likely land on your product page. As always, content is king. So this has to be the main focus. Help people learn about the product and condition with the most up to date information.

Include videos where you can, and help readers understand that a medical professional, for example, you, has curated the content.

Product reviews and social proofing play a big role too.  It’s like asking a friend about a restaurant before booking a table — you want to know it’s worth your time and money. Testimonials, user-generated content and badges of authority help assure the patient that “Yes, you’re in good hands”.

Price naturally influences people so ensure you’re remaining competitive. And one feature that I absolutely love on a website is Live Chat – and I think it’s essential for sites like these.

I’m a patient and I want to know I’m being looked after.

If I have any burning questions about the medication I’m about to buy, I want to chat to someone from the team.  And finally, is the overall experience I’m having good? Is the site slow or fast? Is it easy to navigate and find what I need? Are you sure it’s mobile friendly?

To sum up, Consideration and Engagement is all about convincing your customer that they’re not just making a choice, but the right choice.  It’s about moving from ‘maybe’ to ‘let’s do this’.

And when the patient has now committed to you, they’ll begin a consultation process before they go ahead and select their preferred treatment.

Again, note the words “User Experience”. With a site like this of course, you’ll need to ensure that compliance is adhered to at all times.

But when it comes to conversions, you’ve got to think of it from a user’s perspective.

They want the quickest, most streamlined sale possible.

So keep the consultations clear and concise, and as short as you possibly can.

Obviously, we can’t cut corners on patient safety – I’m not saying that.

However, I’m talking with my marketing head on right now and UX is such an important factor for conversions.

 

 

So, how do you make sure you’ve got the smoothest UX?

Ideally, you need to work with a development agency who understands UX design.

But, it’s also a continuous development to perfect it – it requires taking on relentless patient feedback.

Now, at this stage of the patient journey, we at PM believe that once the patient has completed the form, it’s at this point when they should sign up to the site too. They won’t want to fill out the form again and they’ve already committed to you in their heads, so they’re more likely to sign up.

Again, it’s all about UX.

And this is also when the email automations kick in too – an incredibly important stage. When a system like this is built, an email marketing solution should be developed alongside it.

It’s one of the ways you’re going to keep your future patients engaged and drive more revenue.  So, your sign up process should include a marketing opt-in feature – this will give you permission to send promotional materials to them down the line.

Following the treatment selection, we enter the checkout and payment confirmation stage.

Offer multiple ways of paying, and if you can, offer Apple – Google Pay. Hugely popular and it’s the preferred way of paying these days.  And we need to make sure the patient is able to track their order through the stages, and contact you if they have any concerns.

Once we’ve processed the prescription from our side, we’re either going to send it by Royal Mail, DPD or the likes.

Or, they’re gonna pick it up in your pharmacy, maybe from your 24/7 collection machine if you have one, or an amazon locker.

Make it as convenient for them as possible.

But the journey doesn’t stop there. Far from it. What most businesses fail to do is infuse marketing at every single touch point of the patient journey. But those that do take their business to the next level.

In the packaging of the medicine, include a marketing leaflet where the patient can scan a QR code to leave a review for you online. And, why not offer them a 10% discount on their next order?  It’s all about continuous, tactical engagement. A day later, send them a follow up email too.

In that email, provide them with a link to review you online. So you’re attacking the patient from both sides to leave you a review! We underestimate the power of reviews – they’re a major influencer in patient purchasing, but they also act as a powerful tool to help you build a better business.

Getting a bad review is just as good as getting a 5-star review, because your customer is telling you what you need to do to be better next time.

And, if you’ve got email marketing set up, you can send out automated emails to your new patients, by setting up an automation flow. Email is still a super powerful tool to keep your patients engaged in the long run, and keep them coming back for more.

So there you have it.

We’ve just gone through the typical steps in the patient journey, and the enablers for those.

And ultimately, if you can get those right and your patients are happy with the service you provide, you’re gonna experience growth.

That’s the law of business.

And let’s not forget the ‘spice rack’ of our marketing kitchen – those other ingredients that can add depth and flavour to your whole strategy.  I’m gonna rapid-fire through these.

Firstly, PR. If you can develop a relationship with a big online healthcare organisation, and get a backlink in a publication, that’s gonna be super powerful.

Social Media – you’ve got to at least have a presence on the major channels, but if you have the budget, then I’d spend it on TikTok.

Affiliate Marketing – This is the ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ of the digital world. A robust affiliate network can act as an extra set of hands, pulling customers into your ecosystem.

Influencer Marketing – They’re not just selfie experts; they’re niche opinion leaders who can give your product the royal seal of approval.

And last but not least, Local Marketing. If you’re brand new to the online world, and particularly if you’re a Community Pharmacy, then you can start off with marketing locally, and spread further from there.  Or, you may not want to go National and target locally anyway, for example, your city. We can hone in on that.
I mean, if you’re a business in Sheffield, that’s 500,000 people you can target – it’s pretty big.And it’s definitely worth mentioning some detours and potholes that can derail your journey.  Think of this as your GPS warning you about traffic jams and road closures.
First up, the ‘Quick Win Mindset.’ This isn’t a sprint; it’s more of a marathon – a very hilly and unpredictable one. If you’re looking for instant gratification, you’re in the wrong game. Quick fixes often lead to quick failures.
Persistence and consistency is key.
Secondly, adopting a No-Marketing or Single Marketing Channel approach. That’s like trying to row a boat with one oar – you’ll just go in circles.  Your marketing strategy needs to be multi-faceted, just like your audience.

Also, please work with a developer or agency who know pharmacy. Imagine going to a dentist for a foot injury; they’re both doctors, but the expertise doesn’t translate.  This will end up costing you more than it’s worth.Make sure you choose the right payment gateway, otherwise, you could see your payments system drop at any given point.

Another common blocker is the content of your website. Who’s going to be uploading the products to the site? Do you have time to do this? Do you have the images?  Make sure you have a plan for this, otherwise, it could drag on forever.

And lastly, Not Adapting. The digital landscape is as stable as a leaf in the wind. If you don’t evolve, you’re obsolete. It’s that simple.

 

 

So how can we help at PM?

Well, we’ve been in the pharmacy marketing and website space for around 7 years now, and specifically the online prescribing space for around 4 years.

This has been a big focus of ours due to the increasing demand of systems like these. But we also know where pharmacy is going and how important this is for its future. It’s why we built the Ultimate Pharmacy Website, or the UPW.

You can learn more about the system on our website but it essentially allows IP’s to begin trading online, and has been built around the ideal patient user journey we’ve been through today.

It’s a product that we’ve already built, to help you get set up in the quickest way possible. However, we know that one size does not fit all.  And that’s why we build bespoke online prescribing systems too, which are developed to your exact requirements.

In terms of marketing, we’re highly experienced in driving growth through system like these, in particular with SEO, Paid Ads and Email.

And we’ve been through the marketing pitfalls that you can easily come across, especially with Paid ads – so we’ve developed protocols on how to avoid these.

We’re also partnered with Rushport Advisory – so we’re always at the forefront of compliance.

And if you already have a website of this type, then you can check if it’s compliant or not, completely free, using an online tool that we’ve co-developed.

Please do check it out.

 


Once again, be sure to download the slides in The PM Academy.

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Digitise your Prescribing Clinic & Revolutionise your Pharmacy

In this presentation, delivered at The Pharmacy Show 2022, Saam will show you how you can turn your PGD or Independent Prescribing status into £10,000’s per month. He shows you what digital tools, mechanisms and formulas you need to adopt to make it work.

 

 

The presentation has been transcribed below:

Slide 2

After she said those words and shot me down in front of a room full of people, I did something that would change the course of my life forever.

I got up, adjusted my tie, and said “I won’t do this anymore”. And walked out.

That was the last meeting I ever had with them, back in 2012.

I was working for one of the big corps and I had a very well-paid job. But towards the end of my time there, it felt like I was wearing a straight jacket to work instead of a suit jacket.

I had so many ideas for growth, but they just didn’t get listened to. I understood, of course. It’s tough to get anything through the big corporate red tape.

But I needed to grow.

And the only way I could do that was to break free and personally innovate.

Slide 3

As much as I love the NHS, I see it as a bit of a straight jacket for Community Pharmacy.

It’s very restrictive.

The market for prescriptions is heavily saturated, you’re getting paid less, and you don’t set the prices.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t focus on driving item numbers – it’s always gonna be part of your business model.

But, I’m sure you’ll agree, things a getting tighter.

But because you’re an Independent Pharmacy where no red tape exists and where you make the decisions about where your business goes, there are no boundaries like I had all those years ago.

You’ve got room to innovate.

And that tightening NHS grip can loosen if you put more time and energy into offering private clinical services.

It’s incredible what pharmacies can offer today.

And, with the help of the brilliant companies in this expo, you can become, I believe, the most powerful, diverse health hub in your city.

There’s so much potential for growth down this route.

Slide 4

Yet, like my store manager all those years back, I’m still hearing these sentences from time to time.

The way of the NHS has been a habit.

But these comments don’t stand any more, and here’s why…

Slide 5

I’ve broken it down into chunks:

  • Your sphere of Influence
  • The Boom in Private and Digital Healthcare
  • How our behaviour has now altered
  • Your ease of access to training
  • Revenue Potential
  • And Digital Marketing

Slide 6

When you go down the clinical route, your sphere of influence….the rest of this content is available in The PM Academy! Sign up for free here to download all the slides and the transcript 🙂