Marketing Plan for an independent Pharmacist-facilitated medication information website
(Tentatively called mypharmacist.com)
by Olufemi Williams, Pharmacist
January 17, 2019
The plan is to bring a healthcare service product to market in the form of a medication information website. Customers would be able to set up their medication profile and have their medication related questions answered by pharmacists. First year projected sales forecast is $359,880 while total fixed and variable marketing costs are estimated to be $217,799.10. The highest fixed financial burden of this project would be the Pharmacist’s salary which can range from $80,000 and $120,000 per year at this level. This service product is a contribution to better healthcare worldwide. The service product may not be profitable in the short term but we expect it will be profitable on the long run from loyal customers and brand awareness.
Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are unwanted drug effects that have considerable economic as well as clinical costs as they often lead to hospital admission, prolongation of hospital stay and emergency department visits. Several epidemiological studies have been conducted that give an indication of the frequency of ADRs and the related healthcare costs in clinical practice. Such consequences include drug-related hospital admission, prolongation of hospital stay, and emergency department visits.
The impact and the management of ADRs is complex and in the USA may cost up to 30.1 billion dollars annually. ADRs may trigger prescription cascades when new medications are prescribed for conditions that are a consequence of another medication, which is often an unrecognized ADR. Examples include the use of antipsychotics in Parkinson’s disease patients treated with dopaminergic drugs or the use of anticholinergic drugs for urinary retention in Alzheimer’s disease patients treated with cholinesterase inhibitors. This increases the costs of pharmacotherapy as well as compounding the risk of further ADRs. (Sultana et al)
So what can be done to address this major issue of adverse drug reactions? Pharmacists are highly under-utilized professionals who spend up to 5 years of intense clinical and pharmacological study. They have so much to offer but not enough time to interact with their patients. Mypharmacist.com is an effort to enable more frequent patient-pharmacist interactions to the overall benefit of society and the subsequent reduction of the economic burden of adverse drug reactions.
The website will contain medication related educational material and links to reliable websites as further resources. The website will offer membership packages for Pharmacist-patient interactions and pharmacist-healthcare professional interactions on medication related topics.
An important feature of the website would be to offer instruction on creating a personalized medication profile that would check for drug-drug interactions, drug-disease interactions, drug-food/beverage interactions, and drug-allergy incompatibilities.
Our organizational vision for this product is to use it as a tool to empower people to take control of their health care and educate them on the safe and responsible use of medication. Based on this vision, our objective is to get this tool into as many hands as possible at an affordable price. We would therefore proceed to analyze the current situation under the following six areas; (Peter & Donnelly pgs. 16-19, 2018)
1) Cooperative environment – In order to bring this product to market, we would need the involvement of various departments and outside vendors. First, we would need our IT department to create a functional website including hosting. We would need Pharmacists from different departments to facilitate the test marketing phase. A strategic alliance may need to be formed with a vendor who has an existing system for setting up medication profiles to reduce the cost of setting up and maintaining a system in-house.
2) Competitive environment – There are many pharmacies that offer medication therapy management especially to the elderly. Most of these pharmacies target only patients with Medicare insurance. Our target market would be those who are younger and willing to pay without insurance. Our offering is not the elaborate medication therapy management proposed by Medicare and will offer one on one time between pharmacists and patients via email. We are not particularly bothered by competition because the more organizations that have this product, the better the public health and hopefully this would lead in part to the reduction of health care costs as a whole.
3) Economic environment – Our initial offering is almost free and the state of the macroeconomy should not be a problem. We have also created a possible business opportunity for those who are interested in being affiliates. We believe this would get the word out and educate the public that “prevention is cheaper than cure”.
4) Social environment – Americans are very health conscious and are known to seek out health related information on the internet via search engines like google and social media.
5) Political environment – This includes the attitudes and reactions of the public, social and business critics, and other organizations. We do not expect any negative attitudes as long as we deliver on our promises.
6) Legal environment – There are many federal, state and professional legislations around health related websites. We will make sure our website and other offerings are legally and professionally compliant.
Marketing objectives – Since this is a new product, the pharmacist may not have existing customers, therefore the initial marketing objective is brand awareness in the target market we decide to select. The second objective is aggressive affiliate recruitment.
Target markets – To determine our target market, we would go through the process of market segmentation. This is the process of dividing a market into groups of similar consumers and selecting the most appropriate group(s) for the firm to serve. Our market segmentation process will follow the model suggested by Peter & Donnelly (2018)
1) Delineate the pharmacists current situation – As a startup company with a new service, we have to carefully assess what our opportunities are and how much we want to invest in the marketing of the venture.
2) Determine consumer needs and wants – Peoples health needs are simple. Those who are healthy want to stay healthy, those who feel unhealthy want to feel healthier and those who are ill want to get better and not worse. We know people need information about their medications and we intend to create the desire for medication information. We are going to provide a service that they did not know they wanted. My favorite quote form Jeff Bezos is “No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it.” (Amazon.com Annual report 2017)
3) Divide markets on relevant dimensions – We will follow a post hoc segmentation approach using already available research findings. Based on a 2012 survey of U.S. healthcare consumers, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions has created six broad buckets that capture the essence of various health consumers. (Parmar 2013)
• Casual and cautious: are not engaged in their own health, have no immediate need to consume healthcare services and are cost conscious. They make up 34 percent of the U.S. healthcare consumer
• Content and compliant: comprise 22 percent of the U.S. healthcare population and they are happy with their physicians, hospital and insurance plans. They tend to comply with and follow care plans
• Online and onboard: this 17 percent of the healthcare population are keen to learn about health online. They are happy with their healthcare but looking for alternatives and for new technologies
• Sick and savvy: because of their conditions, they consume significant healthcare products and services. They also communicate and partner with their physicians to make treatment decisions. They comprise 14 percent of the U.S. healthcare population
• Out and about: these independent 9 percent of the U.S. healthcare consumers believe in looking for alternative healthcare options and prefer to customize the services they wish to consume
• Shop and save: These are 4 percent of the U.S. healthcare consumer group and actively look to save money. They are also willing to switch product and services for better value.
These different consumer segments have different priorities and attitudes when it comes to health and wellness, and how they view the products/services they consume. (Parmar 2013)
4) Develop product positioning – We are positioning this service as a medication information service with accessibility to the specialists who are professional pharmacists. It is positioned as being more personal than the available websites and more in-depth than calling up your local pharmacist.
5) Decide segmentation strategy – We may go with mass marketing with no segmentation since we plan to actively create the service awareness. Or we may want to target customers who can use computers, who are health conscious and have the time and patience to set up a medication profile. As we get feedback from customers, we will adopt the benefit segmentation approach. Along the psychographic segmentation we will target innovators since our service model is fairly new. We will also target experiencers who like to try new things.
6) Design marketing mix strategy
Marketing mix – This consists of product, promotion, distribution and price
Product – This is a membership website with online access to a pharmacist via email for answers to medication related questions.
Promotion – This would initially start with social media marketing, email marketing, and affiliate recruitment for marketing.
Distribution – All information would be delivered online through the website and via email. There would be very limited use of the phone or print.
Price – The initial offer is set for $29.99 for information on setting up the free medication profile and up to 30 days of personal medication related question and answers with a US licensed pharmacist. It would also include an opportunity earn income by becoming our “Health ambassador” (affiliate). This low price strategy is chosen to attract a wide variety of markets. We would create upsells or increase the price based on market response.
Marketing research – Our market research would be a continuous process and we would rely heavily on customer feedback.
Implementation and control of the marketing plan
The website functionality is going to be a number one priority and the links must work properly. The affiliate recruiting, social media marketing and email marketing will all run simultaneously. The effectiveness of each tool is going to be measured by having unique landing pages with trackable stats for each landing page in terms of engagement and conversion rates.
The third party websites we would be directing our customers to would be continuously monitored for relevance and up to date information. The marketing message would be evaluated continuously based on effectiveness. Print marketing would only be used after exhausting all online options. We will work continuously with the pharmacist to make sure they can deliver on our promises. We will also encourage feedback for our affiliates on what the market needs and wants.
An independent pharmacist is planning to bring a healthcare service product to market in the form of a medication information website. Customers would be able to set up their medication profile and have their medication related questions answered by pharmacists. Since this is the marketing of a service and is mostly intangible, the correlation between the marketing message and the service provided is of the utmost importance.
The highest financial burden of this project would be the Pharmacist’s salary which can range from $80,000 and $120,000 per year at this level. To reduce the need for financing, Pharmacists would be employed on a temporary basis as needed at the beginning of the project. Affiliates would only paid on a commission basis and would be recruited from Clickbank or similar affiliate websites. This is a pharmacist’s contribution to better healthcare. There may not be short term profitable but we expect it will profitable on the long run from loyal customers.
Financial analysis (estimates)
This financial analysis is being created based on arbitrary sales forecast of 1,000 one time customers per month = 12,000 per year
Sales = 12000 x $29.99 = $359,880 per year
Website creation, hosting and other marketing maintenance $359 / year
Affiliate commissions at 33% of sales price $199,600
Affiliate management $1 per sale + 0.75% of sale = $12,000 + 2699.10 = $14,699.10
Social media and email marketing = $2000 per year
Total marketing cost per year = $217,799.10
The initial marketing cost does not leave much for salaries or profit, however upsells, price increase and brand awareness will create long term profit.
Amazon.com 2016 Annual report (Rep.). (2017, February). Retrieved March 3, 2018, from http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File?item=UGFyZW50SUQ9NjY2MjA0fENoaWxkSUQ9Mzc0MDUxfFR5cGU9MQ==&t=1
Parmar, A. (2013, February 4). There are 6 types of healthcare consumers; Which ones would you like to target? Retrieved October 13, 2018, from https://medcitynews.com/2013/02/there-are-six-types-of-healthcare-consumers-which-ones-would-you-like-to-target/
Peter, J. P., & Donnelly, J. H. (2018). A preface to marketing management (15th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Sultana, J., Cutroneo, P., & Trifirò, G. (2013). Clinical and economic burden of adverse drug reactions. Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics, 4(Suppl1), S73–S77. http://doi.org/10.4103/0976-500X.120957