How one community pharmacy built an online audience from scratch in 6 months
We caught up with Jackie Hamilton, proprietor pharmacist at Cromwell Pharmacy. With just over six months of focus, she has grown her online community to 1000+ Facebook followers, 950 people on an email list and 243 Instagram followers.
Getting your pharmacy online is an ongoing process. First, there’s the hurdle of making a website for the first time. And then, there’s the ongoing task of developing an audience for that website and providing regular opportunities for them to engage with your business.
This doesn’t have to be hard, and in fact, it can be fun! We caught up with Jackie Hamilton, proprietor pharmacist at Cromwell Pharmacy. With just over six months of focus, she has grown her online community to:
- 1000+ Facebook followers
- 950 people on her email list
- 243 Instagram followers
These digital connections help her keep Cromwell Pharmacy top of mind, but Jackie isn’t the only winner in this case study. Through their online connections, Cromwell Pharmacy is giving back; adding real value to peoples’ lives by providing useful information about health, wellness and medicine.
Here’s how Jackie transformed the digital footprint for Cromwell Pharmacy and what it means to her:
Cromwell Pharmacy had an online presence for years, but it was fairly flat until 2016. That’s when Jackie outsourced her social media to an external company. She paid attention to the changes that were made and the posts they were creating, and it wasn’t long until she started to get a feel for how it all worked.
While hiring a social media manager was a step in the right direction, Jackie eventually found it more useful to take the reins and manage her online presence herself. She did this for a couple of reasons:
- She could post much faster, reacting to events or customers instantly. No longer was there a multi–step approval process for each post.
- She could nail her unique tone and voice every time, because every post was coming directly from her! She helped create a digital personality for the pharmacy, and it’s the same personality customers were seeing when dealing with Jackie in store.
Main takeaway: Produce the social media content yourself. You know your business better than anyone, so you’re best-qualified to move quickly and get your tone right, every time.
Write what you know
By taking control of the content, Jackie found that it’s actually not that hard to whip up an article to post or send to her customers. "I’ve lived and breathed in the pharmacy business for so long that I can easily pull things together."
In practice, this means that Jackie is able to create content based off the wealth of knowledge she has from her time in the industry. Cromwell Pharmacy’s Facebook page shows the variety of content Jackie posts, she has content that covers areas such as:
- Medicine recommendations
- General health news – like an app to check for breast cancer
- Tips on wider health issues, like health literacy or sugar
- Pharmacy information, about staff, products and events
- And, of course, community based posts about what’s going on in Cromwell
With how busy the pharmacy can be, there’s the odd week where time can be quite limited, but Jackie gets past this by simply repurposing content. For example, she writes a weekly column for the local paper. This gives her a "base" of content to work from. She can draw from it during the week and write posts and emails about similar issues. Or she repurposes an old article, then goes back to creating new content the following week.
Main takeaway: You already know a lot about pharmacy, you just need to put it to use and turn it into online content! Take the information and advice you are giving in store as a starter.
Focus on email
Jackie started out with Facebook and Instagram, and while she still uses these platforms, her main focus is email marketing. While social media platforms help with initial outreach, "it’s like living on borrowed land". Facebook can quickly change the algorithm, and suddenly no one sees your posts. Reaching her audience is at the whim of Facebook, which doesn’t lead to a secure feeling.
Email, on the other hand, is a direct relationship with her audience. There’s no algorithm in the way, deciding about who gets to see what and when a customer clicks on an email, they are much more engaged with the content.
The flip side of this is that she needs to work hard to ensure her email content is worth reading. Otherwise, people will unsubscribe, and once they’re gone, they’re not coming back easily. So far, emailing has been extremely successful – 99% of the people on her list are happy to get an email, and open rates are 35% – which is 15 percent more than the average retail open rate of 20%.
This doesn’t mean she’s ignoring other channels, like Facebook and Instagram. She still posts content on these channels – but her overall goal is to get peoples’ email addresses, so she has a way to connect with them directly.
Main takeaway: Use other channels to get peoples’ emails; then use email as your main channel to talk to your community. A direct, informative email is much more engaging than a post on Facebook.
Connect offline and online
A ‘digital’ and ‘physical’ business are not separate, rather, they are just different avenues allowing you to better serve your community. The people Jackie emails, interacts with on Facebook and talks to in the store are the same people she runs into at community events, at sports games or even in the supermarket.
Jackie makes sure she is seen in the physical community, by doing things like showing up at community events and sponsoring local sports teams. Then she posts pictures of these events on her social channels and includes them in emails.
She also makes sure to promote other local businesses – again, both online and offline.
Whether you know Jackie from her Facebook posts, her news article, her community involvement or even from the pharmacy itself, the variety of connections to her local community, keep Cromwell Pharmacy and Jackie top of mind.
Main takeaway: Be active offline – then use this activity to create online content.
Make an easy habit
Online marketing for a business that doesn’t provide ecommerce can be hard to measure, but Jackie has definitely seen a positive impact. For example, when she posted a video about smoking cessation, she had an increase in in store queries about related products.
But the results aren’t that important with how easy it is for Jackie. Jackie estimates she spends two hours a week on her online activity. That’s posting content, sending emails, replying to comments on social media and so on. That’s not a very large investment! So she only has to reach a few people per week to make it worth her while.
What’s more, the wider effect of being active in her community is an enormous improvement for both the pharmacy and the community. In today’s world, there is so much information online that it is difficult to know what to believe, especially with health information. What Jackie has done is become a trusted, recognisable face to her community, while offering them free, trustworthy information.
Through Jackie’s hard work and immensely positive interaction with her community, she has helped the pharmacy to become an integral part of the culture in Cromwell.
Main takeaway: Look at an online presence as an opportunity to be able to better serve your customers. Provide them with as much information as they can handle and engage with them in a positive way. Create a personality for the pharmacy, and if you are brave enough, become the face of it! Having a trusted face goes a long way. By dedicating a few hours a week, you will begin to see a return on your investment and that is priceless!
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