Do the Free Stuff First

digital marketing

Do the Free Stuff First

Digital marketing offers us the ability to reach out to potential customers at very little cost. Creating a website, optimizing your content for search engines and creating blogs, email newsletters and social media posts are nearly free.

Improving your digital marketing content visibility doesn’t need to cost much. You can do much of the work yourself if you are willing to invest the time.

You can also spend money like Amazon if you have the resources, which most of us don’t.

Outsourcing vs. Do-It-Yourself

The advantage of outsourcing your marketing to pros is that the folks running your marketing have already made most of the mistakes you’re going to make when you do it yourself. Mistakes are the price of admission to marketing success, so there is some value in learning by doing.

There is a middle ground. You can do several inexpensive and simple things that a pro can do without dipping into your retirement fund. Just about all these things have great leverage; meaning that the improvements you will see far outstrip any effort you make to achieve them. Consider these:

  • Optimize your web site: This isn’t just a search engine overview but look at your web site as someone who will be a visitor. Most visitors spend precious little time on your site. If they find it through a Google search they will quickly leave if they don’t see what they’re looking for on the top part of the page. Looking at my own Google analytics, most people land on my home page and spend less than a minute before either leaving or locating another page that might be helpful. I have work to do, and maybe you do as well.

  • SEO:       After looking at your site from the visitor’s perspective, go to the trouble of doing search engine optimization (SEO). This is not a mystical journey. The major search engines will help you. When you sign up for Google Analytics you will get plenty of advice from them on improving your visibility. You can also search for tips from Google and Bing, as well as most other search engines. Seems they are very willing to help you.

  • Email Analytics: Every major email distribution service (e.g., Mail Chimp, Constant Contact) will tell you how your newsletters are performing. Check how many recipients opened the mail, how many clicked on the content, how many unsubscribed and how many bounced (sent to invalid email addresses or emails returned by the server). By carefully looking at your click report you can see what content your readers found most interesting.

  • Social Media Tracking:                    LinkedIn is probably the best social media format for healthcare professionals who are looking for business-to-business (B2B) prospective customers. There may be exceptions, but business customers looking for your expertise are more likely to be active LinkedIn members. Make sure your profile is up to date and the description of your expertise is visible.

Free Isn’t Easy, but Can be Better

The best thing about taking personal charge of your digital marketing efforts is that you gain more understanding of how digital works and how your content and platforms work together to drive potential customers to your site and, ultimately, to your service. It’s not easy and it takes a commitment of time, but you will come away with a new understanding of what works and what doesn’t and how to make your marketing better.

Once you become super successful you can farm out more of the details to contractors, but my bet is that you will want to continue to manage most of the details yourself. It soon becomes nearly addictive in providing useful feedback.

What are your customers’ pain points?

We part with our money only when the benefit received, or the pain avoided, is worth more than the money. If the pain or benefit is equal, we tend to hold on to our money. Until we spend it, money (or time or our attention) has nearly limitless possibilities. Once it’s spent, the only value we retain is the product or service we traded it for.

Value is in the Eye of the Customer

Would you normally pay $50 for a quart of drinking water? No. However, if you were near death from dehydration (think three days in the desert without a canteen) you would gladly give up the money (or more) because the water is worth much more than the money you part with to obtain it.

The majority of our transactions aren’t nearly as clear as this. The key to being a helpful marketer is understanding what potential benefits your product or service provides that are more valuable to your potential customer than the money they will spend to get it.

In the healthcare arena this has become something of a lost art. Perhaps we’ve become so used to having others foot the bill (insurers or Medicare/Medicaid) that we don’t take the time to consider what pain we’re trying to respond to.

Confirm Your Value Proposition

As we deal with other players in the healthcare industry, such as nursing homes, home health agencies, physician practices, hospitals or even individual consumers, we will discover that the answer is not the same for everyone. For example, one customer may be overwhelmed with responsibilities related to compliance with state and federal standards. If your product helps reduce their compliance burden they will be attentive. Another customer may not be concerned about their compliance burden (maybe that’s someone else’s responsibility), but would like to be able to make life easier for staff. If your solution consumes less staff time you’re on your way to success.

Most marketers buy into the idea of customer pain, but don’t take the next step to confirm their intuition. If we believe our customers are primarily interested in reducing compliance time and build our entire campaign around that theme, we will be disappointed when we discover that employee workload is the primary issue for most of our prospects.

Talk to your Customers

Fortunately, there are tools available to us as digital marketers to help us understand our customer pain points, many of which we will feature in future blogs. However, the easiest thing to do right now is to talk with current customers and ask them to rank the importance of your service based on a number of factors (e.g., cost, reduced compliance burden, ease of use, popularity with their customers). While not definitive, this exercise will help you begin to better understand what will make other potential customers eagerly trade their money for your service.

Make Your Movie

Having  defined who you are as a business, next take the time to think about who you want to become. If you had the ambition and drive to start an enterprise, you probably don’t want to stay as you are. You want to grow (in financial success and mission success) and become more valuable to your audience and customers.

If you were a little discouraged after your exercise in defining who you are, try to let that go. If you did that right, you probably realized you’re not as good as you hoped you were. That’s OK. Entrepreneurs need to develop the habit of facing facts honestly and squarely. It’s fine to say “OK, I’m not doing as well as I wish, but I have a vision of what I want to be and I will work on getting there.”

Create Your Movie

We’ve been using words to describe our value proposition, our ideal customer, our products and services and our unique place in our industry. Words are good. Words are cheap (pixels are almost free!). Words, as good as they are, don’t paint a picture as effectively as sight, sound and emotion. We have video for that.

I stumbled upon this truth years ago when I came across a video created by Corning Glass–the company that likely makes the glass on your mobile phone and tablet. The video is called “A Day Made of Glass”. Go ahead and take five minutes and watch it. I’ll wait.

If you’re like me (and maybe you’re not) the appeal of this video is that you visualize yourself being able to use all the great innovation displayed here  and perhaps wishing you could have it now! That’s what you want your potential customers to be able to see and experience.

The Magic of Showing

Whatever you want your business to become, it’s much more effective to show it rather than just talk about it.  So, suppose you had the budget (which you may not, more about that later) to create your own video showing what you plan to become, what would it look like?

Suppose you dream of a pharmacy that outdoes everyone in the area of customer experience, technical excellence, never-fail delivery, customer integration or innovation. What would the movie look like? If you could show your customer, or prospective customer, your dream, what would you show? That’s the aspirational vision.

Start with One

It’s easy to get carried away at this point. “I want to be the best at everything!” is a noble ambition, but even the very best companies in the world aren’t the best in every category of their industry. The best ones take the time to learn what’s most important to most of their customers, or potential customers, and focus on one or two of those things.

In talking with prospective customers, you may find that nursing home administrators get stomach cramps when their annual survey comes due and they hope and pray that their pharmacy won’t let them down (again). Or, perhaps the Directors of Nursing feel like every conversation with pharmacy is like going to battle.

The key is to find out what’s important to your market and resolve to become the standout performer in that area. There are wonderful tools available to do that, including automated survey tools, web forms and solicited feedback. We’ll cover these tools in a future article, but also think about just talking with your customers (and future customers) about what one thing they would like to see their pharmacy do better. Just one thing! You may be surprised to find what they think.

Make Your Movie

This doesn’t have to be an actual video (but it’s best if it is). Try making a story board. This is a tool used by movie and video producers to outline a story. There is free storyboard software available along with tutorials on how to use it. We will do a video on how to use one of the products in a future edition. Take a look at Storyboard That, or Cartoon Brew

When you build a storyboard you can help put your dream in a visual format you can transmit to your staff, your advisers, your friends and eventually your customers.

Most important, you will begin to build the video in your mind and you can measure what you’re doing against the video that plays in your head.


Define Who You Are: Then Do it Again

If someone shoved a camera in your face and asked you to describe your business, what would you say?

If your response is: “We’re a long-term care pharmacy”; that’s a start. Most people have never heard of a long-term care pharmacy and would only have a vague idea of what you’re talking about. If you answer “We’re a nursing home pharmacy” that might make more sense, but would it be accurate? Do you serve assisted living residents or residents of group homes? Seems more than just nursing homes.

Defining Your Business is Critical to Success

Defining who you are is not the same as defining who you want to be. That comes next, but there are practical reasons why you need to get a clear idea of who you are, what sets you apart, and why your customers do business with you.  It’s entirely likely that the view from your customers’ eyes is different from your view. Knowing who you are, warts and all, keeps us from having unhealthy illusions.

Defining Your Business Takes Work

This process is not easy. We tend to look for validation (my, aren’t you good looking) rather than truth. We need to constantly validate our hypotheses and learn to cherish people who tell us what we need to hear, rather than what we want to hear.

How to Start

The first step is relatively painless. Ask your employees to write a one-sentence statement that describes your company’s business.  Be prepared for some surprises, but take it as an opportunity to engage the people you work with. You can go further and ask what the company’s strengths are and what are its shortcomings. In order to elicit candid responses, let the answers be anonymous.

Dig Deeper

This part is harder. Go talk to your customers and ask them the same question. “How would you describe my business?” Be prepared for some answers you may not want to hear. A customer who will tell you the truth is worth his/her weight in gold.

If you have one follow-up question, try this: ” If I went out of business tomorrow, who would you use?”  If the same name keeps coming up, your next objective should be obvious.

Up Next:  Defining The Business You Want to Become?

How to Map Your Prospective Customers

Let’s say you have a long-term care pharmacy located in Central Ohio. You probably have several nursing facilities on contract in your service area, but how do you define your service area and have you made a customer map of where your high-potential customers are located?

Perhaps you are thinking of expanding your customer base by addressing a new market– which I hope is the case. For example, you may want to team up with home health agencies or hospitals. You may even have a list of where these facilities are located. So, wouldn’t it be nice to have a map that shows you where they are located?

Do I have to be a techie to do this?

No.Fortunately, this is easy to do with a Microsoft Excel file and Google My Maps.

Check out our video on constructing a custom map

In this video we show how to find a list of all the nursing homes in the United States, download the file, clean it up and create a new file containing the addresses you want to map. Next, we go to Google My Maps and import the spreadsheet and….we get a very useful map.

What You Need

The Value of Your Maps

How is this helpful? Draw a radius with your pharmacy at the center. Look at the map and see how many prospective customers are within that circle. How many are current customers?

What to do With Your Map

What you do next is obvious. Gather a list of the pharmacies within that circle that could become your next customer and use that as your primary target list for your marketing campaign.

The map tells us two important details: the name and location of your new prospects; and confirms that they are within a serviceable delivery distance of your location.

Let me know how it works.




Your Web Site-Part 2

web markup

Initial Considerations

The first post on this subject discussed the importance of spending time on thinking about what you want your web site to do. Once you decide that, you need to make some basic decisions on technology choices. For instance, do you plan to outsource the development and maintenance of your site, or do you plan to manage it yourself. You can also get a professional to design the site so that you can do the maintenance and updating. Let’s look at the basic options.

Do It Yourself Options

It’s possible to create a credible web site with no technical knowledge. Online tools, such as Wix, and Squarespace. Let’s take a look.

You could also save yourself some time and take a look at this piece from Cloudwards that does a terrific job of taking you through the website builder arena.


Wix is a robust drop and drag model that allows a novice to put up a useable website quickly. The free version comes with the disadvantage of using a wix subdomain in the universal resource locator (URL). With the free site your site would have the address This is less professional that the premium version, which has a normal url. Wix has an impressive catalog of apps, such as a calendar, photo gallery, scheduling application, forums for customer engagement and contact forms.

Your Wix site can also be updated by anyone with the authority to edit. So, if you come across an important piece of information while you’re at the airport and want to upload it before you board, you can do it on your laptop in the departure lounge. You don’t need to choose a separate hosting option, since both Wix and Squarespace host their own sites.


Squarespace is another very popular choice for creating a web site for non-technical people. It has all the features of Wix, but doesn’t offer a free version. However, basic business plan pricing begins at $18 per month.

Like Wix, the site can be edited by anyone with editing authority, and both Wix and Squarespace can be optimized for search engine optimization (more about that later).

Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, have much in common with the drop and drag site builders, but require a bit more technical knowledge to create. As CMS, they allow an administrator to authorize others to edit, publish and moderate content on the site. The development tools associated with CMS sites are robust and these platforms power major corporate and non-profit websites.

It’s difficult for someone with no web development skills to create a great CMS site. Although these sites use design templates and great plugins that add almost unlimited functionality, each CMS has its own quirks that require a bit of knowledge to use effectively. Many companies pay a consultant to create the site and then hand it over to the client (you) to manage the content. Professional WordPress, Joomla and Drupal designers typically charge $5,000 to create a robust site. You will also need to budget a time commitment to ensure that the designer knows exactly what you need early in the process. is built on a WordPress platform, which is the most popular CMS option in use today.

Creating a Site from Scratch

Creating a robust web site without template-based help, as described above, require basic knowledge of a few fairly simple scripting skills. These include hypertext markup language (html) which includes placing tags around your text to make it appear in a web browser. The next skill you need is CSS, or cascading style sheets, which is a formatting language. If you want to create text boxes, color your text, insert images and videos and control how they look, you will need a basic understanding of CSS.

The next set of tools are scripting languages, most important of which is javascript, which sends instructions to the users browser to allow interaction. The final language you will need is PHP, which is a server-side language that allows the designer to incorporate a database. WordPress is a robust example of the use of PHP.

Although the learning curve to self-design can be steep, the languages are not especially difficult to learn and the tools required to use these languages are free. The big advantage of a self-designed site is complete flexibility. You can design a site that is exactly what you want without the limitations of templates.

Buy or Build or Both

You run an LTC Pharmacy-related business. Your basic business is not web design. This argues for, at the very least, using a CMS to get your web site online and operating. However, since all business is becoming dominated by digital platforms, knowing the basics of web technology gives you an advantage in knowing what is possible and how the various technologies work together to provide the best user experience.

Your Web Site–Part One

To abuse an overworked metaphor, think of your digital strategy as a building. This building’s foundation is the web site. It holds everything else up and
supports all the other elements. If you prefer to think of your digital strategy as a wheel, think of the web site as the hub, where the spokes radiate out
to include your blog, email marketing campaigns, webinars, eLearning modules, social network elements and everything else.

If this notion makes sense, then you’ll agree that it makes sense to spend some energy putting together a web site that can support all the functions you want and be fairly easy to navigate. While aesthetics are important, don’t spend a lot of time thinking about layouts and graphics. There are literally thousands of templates available in whatever platform you work with that will look great. The trick is to make the site functional, which means useful.

What to Avoid

We have become so accustomed to working on the web that we have no patience with web sites that don’t deliver what we expect. Consumer attention spans have shortened to the point that your homepage, or landing page, may only have 3-5 seconds to persuade the consumer that reading your copy is worth their while. Stunning graphics, pop-up videos and photo galleries may be visually impressive, but if they don’t deliver what the potential customer came to find, you will have wasted a lot of time and money and lost an opportunity (see 17 Things People Absolutely Hate About Your Website).

Think about some of the sites you visit most frequently. Is the navigation simple? Can you easily find the information you want? Do you know who and how to contact if you need more information or help? Does the content provide you the information you need without taking you on a cyber adventure? Chances are it does, or else you have learned over time how to overcome bad design to get what you need.

Do This First

Before you begin doodling with design ideas, take the time to give some deep thought about what your business does, who it serves, what a customer looks like (we will talk further about developing a customer persona in future posts) and what you want them to do when they arrive at your page. This is not a five-minute exercise. This takes some deep thinking. Drive to be as specific as possible. Consider these high-level examples and then consider how you might make them more specific:

High-level Objective: Help customers better manage their medications
Specific Objective: Provide personalized assistance to Medicare beneficiaries to help them understand what their medications do and why they are taking them and helping them communicate about their meds to their physicians.
More Specific: Providing individualized medication management and compliance services to dual eligible beneficiaries in home and community-based care programs.

So, you may ask, if I limit my objectives to such a narrow definition won’t I be missing a larger potential audience?
Yes, but you are targeting a very specific group of individuals who want exactly what you are offering. Remember, you get no prizes for visitors, only for buyers. The more focused your efforts the more likely you are to attract actual customers.

Next up: Web Site Design Basics: Making Early Choices

Starting at the end

Beginning a project of any kind is almost always the hardest part. That’s especially true in LTC Pharmacy Business Development. Imagine the last time you bought a piece of furniture that you had to assemble. You opened the box, dumped out all the pieces and began to wonder whether it would ever resemble the finished product shown on the label or showcased in the store.
Whether you’re expanding your business or working to attract more customers you face the same problem: where do I begin?

Start with the commercial

In the business development process, you need a vision and you need for your team to see and understand the vision. You need the photo of the finished piece of furniture or the box the puzzle comes in before you can go to work to recreate the picture. I never quite appreciated this until I came across one of the most successful corporate videos ever made. Corning Glass, the inventors and manufacturers of Gorilla Glass, produced A Day Made of Glass in 2011. The five-minute video immediately went viral, eventually running up more than 26 million views on YouTube. Amazing, especially since the video had no narration and the only text consisted of titles describing the kind of glass being demonstrated. What this video achieved was to communicate a vision about what the future could look like with the innovations coming from Corning. Millions of people apparently thought this future was pretty exciting.

Make Your Own Commercial

OK, you probably don’t have a million dollars sitting around to make a video like this, but you can begin by pretending you are making that video. Most videos begin with a storyboard, which is a series of one-page mockups of elements of a story that, when stitched together, create an outline of the finished project. At this point, the process isn’t as important as the idea. We will discuss the craft of storyboarding in a future article, but remember that you need to be able to help others (and yourself) see what life could be like if they adopt your solution.

This may sound difficult but it’s definitely worth doing. The best ideas are useless unless you can effectively communicate their benefits to the people that will buy and use them. Steve Jobs understood this. The video of Jobs introducing the iPhone in 2007 is a lot longer than 5 minutes, but it represents a crystal clear explanation of the problems Apple was trying to solve and the solution they built to solve them.

I know you really want to get started inventing right now, but force yourself to take the time to create the commercial. The process will pay huge dividends in the future

Thanks for checking in


What are we doing?

Many of you are long-time subscribers to LTC Pharmacy News, our newsletter that focuses on policy, regulation and industry developments in the Long-Term Care Pharmacy industry.

Involvement in healthcare policy provides a unique view of where healthcare, and especially long-term care, is headed. I think we all know that the future of LTC is probably less focused on nursing facilities and more focused on assisted living and home and community-based care. Also, we know that competition in LTC pharmacy is heating up. Whether we work as consultant pharmacists or manage pharmacies, it seems that our competitors never rest.

Despite, or because of, all the changes in healthcare this is an exciting time to be in the LTC pharmacy industry. Never have there been more opportunities to grow and more options to market our services.

This site is focused on moving away from the theoretical and directly to the practical aspects of transforming your business to discovering profitable opportunities and searching out customers. We will offer unique content to help you evaluate new lines of practice and implement marketing strategies that put the full complement of digital marketing tools at your disposal.

Best of all, we will help you do this yourself, without the help of high-priced consultants.

Ready for some fun?

Let’s get started.