Your customers are spending more time online than ever before, curating content on their favourite platforms. Think about traditional channels like TV. Unless the Bake Off is on, how often do you watch a programme on TV instead of logging on to Netflix to watch your favourite show ad-free? We’ve also seen a decline in other forms of traditional media. For instance, the a steady decline in newspaper sales, with many users checking Twitter to get the latest news for free.
It is clear that today’s consumers have shifted their attention to digital media and digital channels, which is why forward-thinking companies are choosing to invest in digital marketing to reach their target customers.
What is digital marketing?
Broadly speaking, digital marketing is the use of digital channels to promote your brand, products, and services to consumers. Digital channels can include email, your website, social media channels, and even paid online advertising.
Can digital marketing really help pharmacies?
McKinsey surveyed 100 Medtech companies across the US and Europe and found that in 2021, most companies spent more of their marketing budgets on digital channels. In fact, 1 in 5 companies redirected at least 50% of their marketing budget to digital channels in 2021. Experts at McKinsey expect this shift to continue, with the average digital marketing budget to take up at least 40% of the overall marketing spend.
But why are companies dedicating more resources to digital channels?
1. Your customers are already online
Ireland is home to a population of 5 million people. At the start of 2022, it was estimated that 99% of Ireland’s population was online and 79% of the population was active on social media. What are they doing online?
When HubSpot asked companies what was the most common way people found their company’s website, marketers reported that organic search (17%), social media (16%), and email (14%) were the top three channels. This indicates that consumers are going online to search for solutions to their problems, discovering new brands along the way. Social media has also become the most common way for people to build relationships with brands.
As for older citizens aged 55 and up, Google found that they’re going online to stay in touch with friends and family (91%), organising their finances (87%), and improve their health and wellness (73%).
For marketing strategies to be successful, you need to be present where your customers are and these numbers indicate that your customers are already online.
2. Targeting the right audience
Digital channels offer more focused targeting compared to traditional channels. Take a TV or newspaper ad for example, apart from selecting which TV channel or newspaper section to place your ad, you have very little control over who sees your ad. If your pharmacy offers a wide range of services, a newspaper ad might end up listing all the services you offer without being able to go into much detail about who each service was designed for. Conversely, an ad that’s too focused could end up being relevant only to a small group of readers while being irrelevant to the majority of readers.
Unlike traditional forms of marketing, digital marketing channels give pharmacies more control over who sees what message. For example, with Facebook’s advertising capabilities, you’re able to target users based on their location, interests, age group and more.
For instance, if you’re promoting a flu shot for children, you can target parents who live within a 25-mile radius of your pharmacy. Greater accuracy in your targeting also means that you’re able to customise your message to each audience group which should yield better outcomes for your marketing efforts.
With such granular targeting comes a great amount of measurement too. Unlike traditional ads where you can’t measure the number of people who have seen your ad and booked an appointment or bought a product based on that ad, you can do so with digital channels.
With social media ads, you can track the number of times an ad has been shown to your target audience and track click-throughs, which is the number of people who clicked on the “Book Now” or “Shop Now” button on your ad.
The same can be done on your website too. You’ll get a clear view of the number of website visitors, where they come from and what they’re clicking on. Combine these insights with booking data from your booking system or sales revenue to get a clearer view of your return on marketing spend.
4. Lower costs
Digital marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. A basic subscription to a website builder can cost as little as €20 a month for all the features needed to set up your virtual storefront. Most starter subscriptions include a custom domain name, basic measurement tools (also known as analytics) and free website templates to get you started.
When it comes to social media marketing, setting up social media accounts is free. There’s no cost for creating a business page on Facebook, Instagram and Google My Business. It’s also free to post photos, updates, and add your pharmacy details such as the address of your pharmacy and your opening hours.
As for advertising online, whether that’s through search or social media channels, again, it doesn’t take a lot to get your first ad up and running. More accurate targeting also means more efficient use of your marketing budget.
When done right, Google and BCG found that digital marketing efforts can increase revenue by 20% while decreasing costs by 30%.
Types of digital marketing
Digital marketing covers a broad collection of marketing efforts and digital marketers use a mix of channels to achieve their business goals.
According to HubSpot’s Marketing Trends Report 2022, social media was the top channel for marketers when it came to helping them achieve their business goals. Websites or blogs ranked second while email marketing and content marketing ranked third and fourth respectively.
We’ll go through the most popular types of digital marketing channels and share ideas for how to use them for your pharmacy.
- Your pharmacy’s website
- Website design & optimisation
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Paid search/ PPC
Your pharmacy’s website
Your website is your virtual storefront, your own little slice of the internet to showcase your pharmacy’s brand, and the products and services you offer.
As we talked about earlier, most of your customers are online and searching for information to solve their problems. Having a website allows you to share your solutions to problems potential customers might have. For example, someone searching for ways to manage their pet allergy might find their answers in a blog post you’ve written about common allergies or common allergy medications.
Your website is also the anchor for all your digital marketing efforts. This means that your marketing efforts should always point back to your website where you have all the information to turn potential customers into paying customers. For example, a social media post or promotional email about an upcoming Vaccination Drive should link to a page on your website that talks about the Vaccination Drive and include ways for people to book their appointments.
There are also a lot of ways to improve your website’s performance. The first is to increase site traffic and there are a few ways to do this. If content marketing is part of your marketing strategy, optimising your website and blog for search can be valuable. If your website gets a decent amount of traffic but not many people go on to book an appointment or purchase a product, you should then optimise your website for conversions.
How to design and optimise your pharmacy’s website?
Not sure what to add to your website? Every pharmacy website should have all the information potential customers need to book an appointment or purchase a product whether that’s online or in-store.
Here’s an overview of pages your website should have:
- About us – A page that summarises your pharmacy’s brand and values. You could also introduce your team on this page.
- Find us – Share your contact information and your pharmacy’s address. Include your opening times too!
- Services – An overview of all the services you offer in your pharmacy. If you have more than 5 services, consider creating a page for each service. Don’t forget to include information about how to book these services. Include a booking widget if you have one.
- Patient Portal (If available) – If you allow patients to access their records online, include a Login area for patients.
- Shop (If available) – If you have an online store, be sure to integrate your store into your website for a seamless shopping process.
Don’t forget to embed reviews on your site! Encourage happy customers to leave a review on your Google Business Listing and embed those reviews to your website to build trust with potential customers.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing refers to the promotion of your brand, products and services on social media channels.
For most businesses, being present on social media is a quick and easy way to build your presence online. Creating a Facebook page or Instagram account for your pharmacy takes minutes to set up with no costs involved. Posting and sharing updates on these platforms also cost nothing and it’s a great way to let followers know about new products and services you’re offering. That said, a majority of platforms are now prioritising video content which can be tricky to create if you’re just getting started.
It’s also incredibly important to note that in most companies, social media marketing is a full-time job with a team of people creating content specifically for each platform. Do not be discouraged if you’re just starting out and have limited resources! The first step in developing your social media marketing is to look into your target audience and find out what social media platforms they use. That way, you can make sure your content is reaching your intended audience!
How to use social media marketing for your pharmacy
When it comes to social media, there’s no need to jump onto all the platforms available. To get started, pick two to three social media profiles to focus on. These should be the platforms where your customers are most likely to be.
Once you’ve decided on your platforms, set up your business profile. Check that your address and opening times are correct. If you have a website, make sure it’s added to your social media profiles too.
Posting consistently is important to growing your social media presence so creating a realistic social media schedule is important. You can also use the same video or image across all the platforms, just remember to tweak the captions accordingly to suit each platform.
If you can’t post every day, aim for once or twice a week. To help you out, use a social media scheduling tool like Buffer to schedule your posts in bulk and have them automatically published at your chosen time and date.
Lastly, don’t forget to engage with your followers and respond to comments. With positive comments, like or respond where it seems natural. If someone leaves a negative comment, take a deep breath before responding in a respectful and kind manner (no matter how nasty the comment might be).
Content marketing is the use of content, such as webinars, videos, blog posts, ebooks, and podcasts; to attract potential customers to your brand, and gradually educate them about the products or services you offer.
It starts with a simple search
Great content marketing materials answer the questions users have. Most people turn to a search engine like Google and type in a question such as “How do I prevent bloating” or a string of words like “prevent bloating after dinner tips”. A good piece of content answers these questions as thoroughly as possible, without too much jargon or buzzwords. A great piece of content also includes advice that never gets old, something content marketers call “evergreen content”.
If your content matches what users are searching for, Google will show your content on the Search Engine Results Page or SERP. If more people click on your content, it signals to Google that your content is relevant to a specific topic. Over time, as more people click on your link, you are likely to rank higher in the SERP, which can lead to your overall website ranking better too. This also gives your other content pieces a better chance to rank better and appear at the top of a SERP.
Generating leads for your business
Most pharmacies use content marketing to increase site visits and reach new customers or, in marketing talk, “generate new leads”. At the end of every blog post, pharmacies should add a clear “Call-To-Action” (CTA) that directs readers to the next step of the buying process. This could be a call to download a free health sheet or ebook in exchange for an email address, or it could be a call to book an appointment or purchase a product.
Content marketing truly excels in lead generation and when paired with email marketing, can be a powerful way to generate new business for pharmacies.
How to use content marketing for your pharmacy
The quickest way to kickstart your content marketing is to build a blog.
First, create a list of topics to write then set a schedule that works for you. Writing takes time so consider starting with two blog posts a month and ramp up your publishing schedule from there. When in doubt, remember that quality always beats quantity.
Before publishing your article, make sure your title reflects the content and keep titles short and succinct. Remember to write a short meta description of your article too. These are the two things that appear on the SERP and will determine if readers pick your content over others.
After publishing your articles, remember to share them on your other marketing channels such as Facebook to notify followers of your latest content. If you send regular email newsletters, be sure to include your latest blog posts too.
*Note: Before creating your content calendar, have a look at Ireland’s laws and guidelines for pharmaceutical advertising.
Email marketing is one of the most important tools in a digital marketer’s toolbox. It allows businesses to communicate directly to potential and existing customers by sending promotional messages via email.
According to Litmus’ 2021 State of Email Report, 79% of digital marketers ranked email as their top three channels for effectiveness. On average, Litmus found that for every $1 spent on email marketing, businesses get $36 back in return. For retail, ecommerce, and consumer goods, that ROI increases to $45 for every $1 spent!
But why does email marketing work?
Firstly, it is more likely to be delivered to your intended audience. Did you know that 90% of emails get delivered while only 2% of your Facebook followers will actually see your posts in their feeds? This is because social media platforms tend to prioritise a certain type of content over others (these days, it’s video content), and will more likely show your posts to users who have previously interacted with your content.
Your email subscribers have also opted-in for your email marketing, they’ve asked to see your content. It’s common these days, on any website, to see a message that says “Sign up for our newsletter to get 10% off!”. It’s how businesses get people to hand over their email addresses and grow their mailing lists. A more content-driven approach could be to offer a lead magnet such as a free ebook or health sheet in exchange for an email address.
Email marketing is also a great way to drive conversions and sales. According to MailChimp, the average click rate is 2.62%, which is the percentage of people who open the email and click through to view your offer. This is a much higher click rate compared to paid ads on Twitter at 0.77% or Instagram at 1.08%. Facebook, Google, and TikTok have much higher conversion rates, but they also cost more to advertise compared to email (which is free).
How to use email marketing for your pharmacy
There are a few things to do to get your email marketing up and running.
First, you’ll need to pick out an email service provider to simplify sending emails to a large group of people. There are a lot of options available on the market including MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, MailerLite, and so on. Alternatively, check if your pharmacy’s booking software comes with built-in email features. For example, HasHealth’s email tool enables pharmacies to send individual emails to patients or mass marketing emails too.
Next, make a plan to build your email list. How will you convince people to give you consent to send them emails? Chances are you already have a list of contacts’ emails in your records. You could start by first emailing these people to ask if they would like to opt in to your marketing emails. You could also publish a lead magnet or offer a discount for people who join your mailing list.
Finally, create an email content calendar outlining what you’d like to promote and how often. You could opt for emails that are sent in regular intervals, like a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter. You could also opt for seasonal promotions, where you only send emails to promote seasonal offerings like a Summer Sale or a Vaccination Drive in early autumn. Find a balance that works well for you and your team and start sending some emails!
*Note: Before you dive into email marketing, familiarise yourself with General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. The HSE has published an FAQ here.
There are two ways to advertise digitally, namely social media advertising and paid search advertising.
Social media advertising
Nearly all social media platforms offer paid advertising. Popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all offer paid ads where marketers can define their ad audience and create custom messages for each audience group.
In 2022, top social media platforms for advertising were Facebook (79%), YouTube (69%), TikTok (65%) and Instagram (63%). In terms of ROI, companies ranked Facebook to offer the highest ROI, followed by Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok.
Paid search advertising
Search engines like Google and Bing offer marketers the ability to bid on keywords or relevant search terms. Bidding allows marketers to indicate how much they’re willing to pay for their ads to appear in the first position for an associated keyword or search term.
Search engines will also assess the quality of the ad and the linked website page (also known as a landing page) to determine who shows up in the first position. Google calls this their Quality Score.
Brands that have the highest Quality Score and the highest bid will have their ad show up in the first position when a user searches for that keyword or search term. Paid search is also referred to as Pay-per-click or PPC as marketers only pay when a user clicks on their ad.
How to use paid advertising for your pharmacy
You can experiment with paid advertising for as little as €100. Boosting a post on social media would be an easy way to get started. Choose a post that you’d like more people to view, and simply click on Boost Post either on Facebook or Instagram.
Then, you’ll be asked for details about your ad, mainly about its goals and objectives, target audience, your ad budget, and ad duration (how long you’d like to run the ad for).
Paid advertising is a great way to reach a larger audience but there is a steep learning curve when it comes to navigating the different ad platforms. Luckily, there are a tonne of tutorials and resources available for free online to help you along the way! Check out this comprehensive guide to get started.
Where to start?
We’ve covered a lot in this article and if you’d like to kickstart your pharmacy’s digital marketing journey, here’s where to start.
1. Start small
Cover the basics first, that is to say, get your website, social media profiles, and Google My Business listing set up. These are the most common channels potential customers will find out about your pharmacy online. We’ve previously published a website builder comparison, which you can check out to find the best website builder for your pharmacy.
Remember that you don’t have to execute all forms of digital marketing at once either. Focus on channels that can help you reach your customers most efficiently and build strong foundations there.
2. Get the right tools
Apart from the costs of your marketing tools, consider how these tools work with one another. For example, to start your email marketing strategy, you’ll need to create a form to capture email addresses, add these new email addresses to your email service provider, and then add them to the right mailing list before you even start writing your email. An all-in-one tool like MailChimp allows users to create forms for their website, create a basic and free website, manage mailing lists, create and send emails, and measure performance.
Other useful all-in-one marketing tools include HubSpot (they have a good “always free” option) and sendinblue (also offer an always free option, with a lower price tag for a starter subscription). If you prefer using a few different tools together, check that they integrate with one another. You could also use a tool like Zapier to connect and automate repetitive work between your other marketing tools.
To find the best tool for your team, sign up for free trials and test out the key functionalities of each tool.
3. Work with templates
Whether it’s establishing a consistent social media posting schedule or crafting a catchy promotional email, there is no need to reinvent the wheel or try something new (unless you want to!). For most marketers, we rely on tried and true formulas and templates as the building blocks for our digital marketing efforts.
The internet is filled with templates that you can download for free! For visual content, Canva has a tonne of great templates for social media, ebooks, checklists and more. For creating social media content, Buffer has a great collection of templates to help you create a calendar, copywriting templates, and even social media reports. Need help with your content marketing, HubSpot has a great content marketing template too.
If you’re interested in kickstarting your content and email marketing, I highly recommend you download lead magnets from other companies and experience how these strategies work first-hand.
4. Dedicate time to your marketing efforts
Unfortunately, there’s no quick and fast way to grow your digital marketing efforts. Going “viral” isn’t the answer no matter what some people might claim. Digital marketing when done right can bring a world of change to your pharmacy, but it requires consistent time and resources to grow.
Digital marketing is an ever-evolving practice and the more you do the work, the more you learn and develop new practices that work for your pharmacy.