Customers care about consistency. Three experts share tips for building your independent pharmacy business, delighting your customers, and establishing a successful brand.
According to businessdictionary.com, a brand is a “unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.”
After speaking to a small focus group of WSPC members and branding experts, we discovered what branding means to them, as well as some of their best practices for a successful brand. We found a brand isn’t just an image or a name, but a true reflection of a business. A clear theme emerged from these conversations: a brand is only as strong as the customer service offered at each location. We spoke to some of our members who own multiple locations, including:
Why is it important to have a consistent brand?
Ayk— “A brand provides familiarity for doctors and patients. A common store name provides a strong and consistent front to the community. For patients and the general public, it appears that the business is successful and shows growth.”
Kerri— “A consistent brand gives our customers a level of security and comfort, knowing that no matter which location they shop at, they will receive the same quality of service.”
Marc— “Tangibly, a brand encompasses your company colors, logo, uniforms, stationary, and people. Intangibly it’s your customer service, the pharmacy’s level of innovation, as well as the culture and values of your company. Without consistency of brand, it’s much harder for your customers to form a loyal connection with the people, products, or services you’re offering.”
“A consistent brand gives our customers a level of security and comfort, knowing that no matter which location they shop at, they will receive the same quality of service.” —Kerry Okamura
What goes into a brand and marketing plan for an additional store?
Ayk— “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel for marketing for an additional store since the familiarity is already there.” Ayk suggests having a marketing and graphics employee on staff. He explained that pharmacists get so busy that, while they may think of marketing ideas for their businesses all the time, they get busy and distracted with patients and running their businesses. To have someone on staff designated to implementing those ideas is a goal of Ayk’s.
Kerri— “A brand and marketing plan for an additional store should be based on the needs of the community and their specific demographics.”
Marc— “It takes vision and commitment. While a marketing professional can focus solely on marketing activities, a pharmacy owner’s role is much more complex. They have to wear multiple hats, including HR, compliance, accounting, billing and collections, marketing, and business development. While building a brand isn’t always about making a drastic change, it does take intuition, research, assessment, and open communication. It means creating a clear vision of what your brand stands for and how it will grow with your business. If branding or marketing is foreign to you, I’d highly suggest using a branding or marketing agency to help guide the creative process. Interview agencies of different size to find the right fit for you.”
”It means creating a clear vision of what your brand stands for and how it will grow with your business.” —Marc Inouye
How do you finance the opening of an additional/ new store?
Ayk— Ayk recommends having a partner to finance a new store. “Have a strong, positive relationship with that partner. Bringing on a partner lessens the financial burden of opening a pharmacy. Also, don’t do too much in the beginning. Take things slow, learn how to delegate, and see what works and doesn’t work.”
Kerri— “We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with our bankers.”
Marc— “At Pharmacare we went with a complete rebrand for our company. However, we took this project on in phases of implementation. Your largest costs are your agency or graphic
designer fees, and the printing and installation of your signage. When you look at the entire project it becomes costly, so you could create phases for the project.”
Should all of the stores under the same brand look the same?
Though the stores may have some differences the message should be the same for each location. The message should always be consistent, but the mission can be different based on the business model. “For Dr. Ike’s store’s their message is “It’s customer service and we care.” —Dr. Ayk Dzhragatspanyan
Ayk— “All of the stores should have a somewhat consistent look, but each location has to be tailored to the community. Though the stores may have some differences the message should be the same for each location. The message should always be consistent, but the mission can be different based on the business model. “For Dr. Ike’s store’s their message is “It’s customer service and we care.”
Kerri— “Definitely. Again, it provides our customers with comfort, familiarity, piece of mind and security.”
Marc— “We have one store in a supermarket and others inside hospital facilities, some with sufficient front-end space and others with no space at all. The key for us was finding a visual logo or graphic pattern that could be implemented across all locations, so everyone knows they are stepping into a Pharmacare pharmacy. Our identity travels from our stores and also through many other channels like Rx pads, stationary, advertising, social media, our website, and how people talk about our company. At the end of the day, one can never do enough to create consistency of your brand. It’s an ongoing effort and involves your entire team.”
Adelina Ardelean, an Advertising Manager for Good Neighbor Pharmacy® explained, “it’s not just about the brand, it’s the experience. There needs to be consistency at every store. You may have a strong brand name, but if the service levels aren’t consistent at each location, it will have a negative impact on your brand. The whole customer experience is the big picture.”
The nationwide branding of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, alongside their multiple wins and recognitions from J.D. Power, can help to elevate and support your brand. “First and foremost, your brand must be the star of your stores. The next step is to bring on a “co-brand” that has strength and is well known, like Good Neighbor Pharmacy” Adelina explained.
For more information on how to brand your store, please contact your Good Neighbor Pharmacy Advertising Manager, your Business Coach, or your WSPC Strategic Business Manager.