Recently, I came across a paper published on the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) website and it was titled “Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth”.
It was a paper that involved simple processes to create strong brand images.
As I read into the detail I found that if I changed some of the nomenclature it was quite adaptable to pharmacy, so what follows is the pharmacy adaptation.
It is also worthy of note that pharmacy, as a brand, had already succeeded in ticking a few of the boxes, and is the reason that pharmacy has withstood various attacks on its character and performance, but still able to rank high in polls, such as the Morgan Gallup poll, as a very trusted profession.
The paper discusses, in their terminology “Apostle Brands” such as Apple, Amazon and Starbucks and the concept of “Apostle Consumers”.
The paper relates these types of brands to an evangelical movement in that Apostle Brands inspire enduring trust and loyalty, and to their fans, followers and believers they equate to religion.
They also capture a disproportionate share of discretionary dollars.
In other words, Apostle brands do better than their competitors because of their ability to convert their followers into “Apostle customers” and this is the main reason why the “Apostle brands” are so successful.
i2P has been preaching this mission for some time through its own research in identifying the fact that pharmacy consumers break up into customers and patients. They can be one and the same, interchanging persona frequently during a pharmacy visit.
Expanding on this theme, “the customer is always right but the patient isn’t necessarily right – and needs guidance”.
In marketing approach terms, market groups and multimedia advertising will attract customers but patients need one-on-one treatment.
The objective for all pharmacies should be to recruit patients, so one strategy would be to simply attract a pool of customers on a continuing basis (through external market groups or media catalogue advertising), but to have an internal system to register as many of them that turn up in the pharmacy, as patients, to create permanency.
The importance of providing guidance is amplified when a pharmacist can explain the guidance system in the format of a “professional compass” to a patient – and have them understand and respond through mentoring, and eventually convert to “apostles” (registered patients).
Permanency is created through professional offerings that delight and create high satisfaction levels with patients – and this becomes the point of difference between all competitors (pharmacy to pharmacy, pharmacists to other health professionals, pharmacy to government, and pharmacy to predator companies e.g.Woolworths).
Apostles are also defined as “word of mouth” customers/patients.
They carry and explain the backstory of their most favoured brand and in the language of their peers, describe quality, authenticity, value and the reasons to believe.
Backstories are stories carefully crafted and documented as pamphlets, booklets or verbally in the course of a conversation.
Backstories are repeated as many times as possible in all forms of communication that emanate from a pharmacy.
Patient communication is also the reason why professional business increases when a pharmacist becomes more accessible (as in Forward Pharmacy marketing exercises).
Have you ever realised that Steve Jobs borrowed a concept from pharmacy when he set up his “Genius Bar” in the front of his Apple stores and had a range of “experts” to sell (guidance) and repair equipment (customer satisfaction maintained).
i2P described this system in an earlier article titled “Apple’s Genius Bar – an Opportunity for Pharmacy”
which is worth reading in conjunction with this material.
Steve Jobs emulated old style pharmacy counters where pharmacists listened to patient problems and then compounded their own solutions, creating “apostles” that attached themselves to each individual pharmacist.
A more modern version was resurrected through the UK pharmacy group “Lloyds Pharmacy” when they created a “Health Bar” for triaging patients internally, and attaching staff to complete a personalised experience.
i2P has previously written about the health bar concept in “A Pharmacy Industry Model” and in “Health Station Central – Rebuilding Trust”.
Both articles are worth revisiting in the context of this article.
This LloydsPharmacy group is now part of a conglomerate – the largest pharmacy group in the world – and it is following an Apostle-type market offering.
Apostle brands win on the words of their users.
The amazing thing about all these revelations is that they are not new, and in pharmacy’s case, there has never been a recognition or understanding of the full range of competitors that had to be faced.
Somewhere in the evolution from “old style” pharmacy to “modern pharmacy” the profession lost its idealism and personal approach, most of which can be attributed to the pressure of the PBS system and the lack of insight by pharmacy leaders which still persists to this day.
Go “back to the future” by adopting personalised selling to create patient-apostles and let “word of mouth” become your primary marketing strategy.
And use a mentoring system to train your people to deliver your promise.
The BCG paper goes on to distil the eight points that amplify their method of creating Apostle brands and Apostle customers.
1. Don’t ask your customers what they want (because they don’t know until you show them)
This fits in with the pharmacy goal of having a registered patient base as a measure of sustainability and that “the patient isn’t necessarily right – so needs guidance”.
The BCG paper illustrates opportunities lost in the Telco industry as a reason to support this concept, and it is worth accessing the paper’s link at the top of this article and read it at length.
2. Woo your biggest fans (because they’re absolutely worth it)
The largest component of this rule is recognition.
Acknowledge your patients and greet them by name.
If they bring in a friend, make a fuss over the friend and make them feel welcomed.
As the BCG paper points out:
“Our research supports the “rule of 2-20-80-150.”
The 2 percent of customers whom we call apostles are personally responsible for a full 20 percent of a company’s sales.
But when they advocate to friends and acquaintances and taken into account, they are responsible for a total of 80 percent of sales.
This combination of apostles’ own purchases and their recommendations to friends delivers up to 150 percent of a company’s profits.
Companies fight to capture the remaining 20 percent of sales from “strangers”—people with whom they have no apostle relationship—and they generate losses chasing this business.”
The last sentence referring to “strangers” is analogous to a marketing group franchise catalogue and the system to support it.
So if you have delegated your total marketing budget to a franchised market group, who are you fighting for, who are you competing against and what products or services are you promoting?
And more importantly, what is your cost?
3. Always welcome your customer’s scorn (because you’ll come back stronger)
This translates to designing an appropriate feedback system to encourage criticism.
Stay in constant contact with critics and use them as a form of “peer review panel” when you want to adjust offerings or introduce new offerings.
Critics are a valuable resource no matter how hostile the initial contact may have been.
Regular surveys and a unique complaints form should be developed.
Ensure that you as a business owner or senior manager look after this important market research segment, by handling each complaint personally.
And it is complaints from all – customers, patients, other health professionals, suppliers and service providers.
Objective: convert a “complainer” to an “apostle”.
4. Looks do count (because people really do judge a book by its cover)
The point being made here is that consumers will observe and retain an overall “snapshot” of your pharmacy image.
The BCG author describes the image provided by Disneyland and how their emotional image keeps attracting in different ways for a lifetime.
Design and style are the elements that need to be used and professionals should be employed to deliver your model to the best advantage. i2P has covered this previously in Evidence Based Design Will Encourage Patient Outcomes
So attention to detail to create “ambience” is a requisite in terms of shop tidiness, neat and appropriate signage, personal presentation (including a distinctive uniform) plus a personable staff person who is friendly (smiles) and engages people using a mentoring style, to establish the needs of those people.
5. Transform your employees into passionate disciples (because love is truly infectious).
The message being promoted here is that good leadership uses the mentoring style of management and encourages employees to adopt a similar style when dealing with other employees, patients or customers.
A previous i2P article covers this neeed. Read: Pharmacy Needs Education & Training – Who will fill this need?
Encourage all staff to listen, help, engage and suggest in a friendly and educative fashion to all they come in contact with.
Mentorship is a one-on-one contact at any level and helps to create passion.
Passion equals knowledge.
Knowledge equals solutions.
Solutions translate into sales.
It’s so simple but so infrequently exercised.
Read also: Patient Engagement Involves a Knowledge Exchange
6.Better ramp up your virtual relationships (because that’s what your customers are doing)
Here the BCG paper really describes a Loyalty Club type of service (called Prime) that has underwritten the success of Amazon.
And people pay a fee for the Prime service!
The consumers with the most disposable income have the least amount of time.
But they have high-speed Internet lines at home and at work.
And they want to buy what they want to buy when they want it.
What the BCG author is suggesting is that this is one way to provide a 24/7 connection with your customers/patients through offering a valued proposition.
Most pharmacies are yet to design an ideal website that reflects the total offering of a pharmacy, particularly the professional offerings, and yet connect in a meaningful manner.
And this is where most future growth will be and it also allows you to service outside of your physical catchment area.
Your competitors are already in your “patch” yet you are probably not aware as to how deeply they have penetrated.
7. Take giant leaps (because you’re not going to win with timid steps)
The BCG author says:
“There are those who advocate continuous improvement, incremental advances, and consolidation.
But no one ever changed the world that way.
No one ever really built an apostle brand that way.
To do these things, you must show foresight, fearlessness, and fortitude.
Big wins require big dreams.”
Australian pharmacy has always harboured big dreams towards expanding their professional activity and enjoying higher levels of job satisfaction.
But they have lost their initiative through allowing their leaders to control all of their thinking and forward movement.
Leader organisations have tended to take an easy way out by dealing only with government to seek out funded solutions provided by pharmacists.
Thus pharmacy has become bureaucratised with leadership based on political imperatives and vote-catching, rather than establish solid health systems based on patient need.
Such a momentum has to arise from the “bottom up”.
“Top down” is always slow, cumbersome and expensive.
The tail currently “wags the dog” and real change will only occur if you, the individual exerts “the power of one” and simply get out and do something that you have thought through, and will provide a customer/patient benefit.
Don’t ask your consumers to pay via a government – ask them to pay you directly, because you can demonstrate value.
Find out what schismogenesis means (because it will save your relationships)
The BCG author writes:
“Brands are fragile.
They are subject to the laws ofschismogenesis.
This is a term from anthropology.
It means that relationships are not stable.
Brands work according to the same law.
Brands are always moving—up, up, up or down, down, down.
But once the dark winds are in your sails, it is almost impossible to break their hold.”
What is being suggested here is that you must monitor your business, your market movements in particular, to ensure that there is a continual improvement in all metrics.
While metric collection is a system of monitoring it underwrites your strategic direction.
Most important metric ratio suggested – supporters (registered patients) to critics (unhappy consumers).
I would say amen to that – if you are not improving you are in decline.
I would suggest that this article is a reference article that should be saved for adaptation into your own business and market plan.
Read also the original BCG article “Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth” for suggestions and successes outside of pharmacy.