I am lucky enough to live in a town where shopping local is a part of the culture. In fact, the main offices of RMS sits right in the middle of downtown Olympia, WA, where we are surrounded by independent boutiques, shoe stores, bike shops, fantastic local restaurants, an independently owned grocery chain, a great famers market and a local coffee roasting house with more coffee stands in the downtown area than there are Starbucks (4 to1)! Having grown up here, I do my best to frequent these local shops. Each store has something special that keeps me coming back, be that a unique product line, exceptional customer service or just a way of doing business that sets them apart from the national retailers.
I know that without these diverse merchants, Olympia would not be the same. Just as cities and towns across the U.S. would not be the same without their local independent pharmacy. As I talk with pharmacy owners, managers and technicians from around the country, I am reminded of how much dedication it takes to succeed. There is something exceptional about each pharmacy that, like the unexpected flavor combinations and great service at the local sandwich shop (an Olympia office favorite), keeps customers coming back for more.
However, despite the “Think Global, Buy Local” culture that is becoming more prevalent, many people just don’t know about the great locally owned businesses in their hometown. They’ve seen the local pharmacy on their way home from work every day for the last 5 years but never stopped in. It’s not that they really enjoy shopping at the big box stores; it’s that they just don’t realize how much better your pharmacy really is. So how can you spread the word about what makes your pharmacy stand out from the crowd and encourage support of local business in your community? Here are some ideas for promoting your small business in different ways.
- Don’t be afraid to capitalize on the fact that you are an independent business. We ran across this posting that strikes all the right chords for why many customers will choose an independent over a big box store.
- Make your pharmacy an integral part of your community. Sponsor a local softball team, set up a booth at the community fair or help out at charitable events. Customers can feel good about money they spend at your store, knowing that part of it is going back to the community and something they care about.
- Partner with other local businesses. One of the boutiques in Olympia actually displays product from a shoe store down the street. They are separately owned but found common ground to support each other. Perhaps the doctor’s office will let you put flyers in their waiting room in exchange for putting their business cards on your counter.
- Provide services that large chains don’t. For example, many RMS customers have instituted curbside delivery with the EvolutionPOS mobile, handheld, point-of-sale solution. For elderly patients that have trouble getting around or the tired mom dealing with sick children, not having to get out of the car to pick up prescriptions will be a service that they will not soon forget. And they are bound to tell others about their experience. One innovative customer has even instituted curbside flu shots!
- Hold classes and seminars to educate your customers. Sharing your expertise with patients does not have to be limited to counseling them when you fill their prescriptions. You could bring in a specialist to teach some basic at home fitness moves, or have a class to talk about the different products to help patients quit smoking. Think outside the box on these opportunities. A collaborative seminar with another local business owner is a great way to open the door on other business opportunities.
There’s a seemingly endless list when I think of all the things that make independent pharmacy a clear choice over big box store competition. I hope these tips help to get the wheels spinning on how you can use your pharmacy’s unique attributes to your advantage. As always, I’d love to hear how you make “Buy Local” work for you so leave your comments below!