How many times have you brought a new product or service into your pharmacy, only to have it sit on the shelf? At ATRIUM24, we hear it all the time from our network of pharmacy owners. We’re even guilty of it here at Palm Harbor Pharmacy. We’ll see the latest and greatest from other stores or vendors and we’ll want it for our own community! The problem many of us face, while caught in the whirlwind of day to day pharmacy ownership and the endless minutiae sprinkled with some global pandemic chaos, is this: we lack an executable strategy to successfully launching new products and services.
While it may seem daunting, there is a blueprint we can all follow to ensure a smooth launch of our new “thing”. As an example, let’s use compression socks. Not the sexiest thing, but it’s a tangible item and we’re not giving away the juicy details of the innovative products and services our ATRIUM24 pharmacies are bringing into their businesses.
First, we must research the different vendors that offer our item. We’ve started digging by going online and also through our old trade show materials (remember trade shows?! Oh, how we miss them and seeing all of you!!). Anyhow, back to making our stores awesome again. We’ve narrowed the vendors down to three: Sigvaris, VIM & VIGR, and Sockwell. From there, we contacted the sales reps to determine minimum order quantities, specials, where they’re shipping from and transit time, reorder details and minimums, etc. We also look into our local competition and where these brands are carried. Additionally, you may have local opportunities for marketing such as post offices or hair salons to think about. Who is your customer base? What do they want? What is a comfortable price point and margin? Spoiler alert, if we’re not seeing healthy margins nowadays, we’re not putting in a ton of marketing efforts to promote it! The PBMs are forcing us to be savvy businesspeople and marketers (but this is a happy blog, so we won’t say that dirty word again).
Test Your Product
Next, we always consider how many pairs of socks we have to sell, in this case, to make back our initial investment. Minimum orders for socks to open an account are around $750. That’s a lot of sock sales we need to execute, and it will make any pharmacy owner sick to see this shiny new inventory arrive and sit, and sit, and sit on the shelves! If you’re a high roller and $750 is no big deal, imagine $4,000 worth of private label supplements, or $14,000 of a concierge compounding subscription. Everything needs a blueprint for success.
So, let’s start selling socks! Not so fast. Once we choose a vendor, we need to choose the patterns, sizes, and quantities of each SKU to order. Then when the order comes in, we need to enter the vendor and invoice into our pharmacy software. At Palm Harbor Pharmacy, we use PioneerRx, and it’s a critical task to properly input the invoice, cost, retail price, tax, and insert it into an appropriate “category” that will allow us to track these OTC items that we’re actively promoting. It goes without saying, but make sure you follow the proper workflow when you bring something new into the store: double check that it will ring up at the register for the proper price, tax, and margin on your back-end reporting.
After that, we need to set up our store display. This includes affixing price stickers (we love our price gun) and printing some cute shelf tags with our logo to indicate these are special items, not your run of the mill primary wholesaler stuff with skimpy margins. Another time, I’ll dive more into “small touches” for displays and packaging when a customer buys, and how it makes all the difference for your customers’ experience, but let’s get back to selling socks.
Now, we market! No, no we don’t… I’ve made this mistake time and time again. We get so excited that it’s go-time, and we may even have a few patients on the Wish List who were waiting for these things to come in, but we both must write on the blackboard over and over: I will not market a new product or service until my team is ready. Dunce cap optional.
Aligning Your Internal Team
Once the item is in stock, loaded, displayed, and ready for prime time, how are we going to train our team and ensure they’re feeling comfortable starting conversations about the product or service? What tools, handouts, and education are we arming them with so they can confidently answer patient and prescriber questions about the socks? Can the sales rep from the vendor we chose come in to educate our team and teach us how to measure? Is the sales rep quick to respond and easy to work with? This may be the deciding factor as to which vendor we choose! Nowadays, many reps are doing Zoom meetings for us and sending in a Panera Bread lunch, for example (this is really happening for our food sensitivity test company next week).
Finally, we can start marketing our shiny new socks and start returning the investment so the pharmacy owner can chill out! Depending on your store, your team, and resources, you’ll want to start with letting your existing customer and prescriber base know about your new item. This key step is often overlooked, but oh so important! This can be accomplished by designing and printing custom handouts that go on every ready prescription for 30 days.
If you’ve ever sat down to write out all the verbiage, choose flattering and sharp photos with the proper resolution, file type, and pixels for print and online, and added your logos, colors, and custom branding to a marketing piece, you know it’s a thing. It takes serious time. It is absolutely necessary though! Remember we are competing with the big chains and Amazon, so we have to look the part. Branding matters. One of the many benefits of ATRIUM24 Membership is our custom branding. We have a ton of marketing materials for patients, prescribers, specialists and more that we custom brand for each of our pharmacies, and we’re constantly adding more. Plus, our members can use us as their “in-house marketing team”. If they need a flyer or marketing piece, they just let us know. Our designers already have their Brand Kits loaded, so we can easily turn around any new piece requests, usually next-day. We handle everything from the verbiage, to the photos, to the logos and contact information.
Other ways to promote your offering is via social media posts. If you’re not using a social media scheduling tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite or Social Pilot, go check out our recent blog series on social media marketing. It’s a real game changer! Consistent, hand-curated posts with relevant content are essential for your pages. Just Say No to copy/paste health articles posted for hundreds of pharmacies. Increase the traction and reach with giveaways, if people like and share your post.
If you really want to succeed, enter your new items on your pharmacy’s eStore, and post the link to buy the item on any social media posts. Our pharmacy is seeing increasing success with our eStore items, and it really excites us to see orders come through! ATRIUM24 also helps with eStore setup and best practices, as there are many landmines we’ve already discovered in that space.
There are a number of additional ways to market your shiny new thing even more, such as local business marketing strategies, IVR hold messages, in-store TV infomercials, in-store signage, drive-thru displays, local brand ambassadors, the list is endless. If you’ve had success with other ways, please let us know! The goal of ATRIUM24 is to bring a network of innovative pharmacy owners together and offset the negative pressures we’re all seeing in the field.
It’s always a good idea to hold monthly team meetings and recap what happened last month, what the plans are for the upcoming month, and to give the team praise and love. This also offers perspective for the pharmacy owner. We can’t be everything to everyone, and we need to take comfort in reminding ourselves that growing a pharmacy doesn’t happen overnight. Take a look at which new items you brought in last month and what we plan to bring in next month. If we haven’t seen a return on our investment for a new item yet, let’s double down on our marketing efforts and wait to bring in anything new. It’s OK to put more products and services that you, your team, your doctors, or your patients would like you to bring in onto a Wish List, and limit yourself from putting too much money out there, or overwhelming yourself or your team by trying to do too much at one time.
Good luck out there! If ATRIUM24 can help you sharpen your business and shorten your runway to success, please visit our website and leave your information on our contact page and we’ll be in touch.