You can't fight millions of dollars in marketing from corner drugstores and gigantic online pharmacies. But you can educate pet owners, find products you sell with the lowest prices, and build your own online pharmacy.
Editor's note: Some content in this story was drawn from CVC sessions with practice management consultant Shawn McVey and practice management consultant Denise Tumblin, chief author of Benchmarks 2015: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. Both speakers appear at CVC Virginia Beach May 12 to 15, 2016. Benchmarks 2015 also includes advice on performing practicewide SWOT planning.
Many of you practice owners and practice managers have seen a drop in pharmacy revenue from veterinary-clinic-only treatments now sold at big-box stores. And the human pharmacies down the road selling pet medications. And, yes, the online pharmacies.
We at Veterinary Economics know there is never an easy solution, but there is a solution:
> Building or working with a third-party vendor to build your own online pharmacy page with good prices and client convenience?
> Reworking your fees over time to focus on services requiring your expertise and less on products folks can buy everywhere else?
> Performing price comparisons and showing clients they get a better deal at your clinic, thanks to promos and extra doses of some parasite preventives and long-term medications?
> Maybe all three?
No matter what you decide, some creative brainstorming with as many smart people at your practice couldn't hurt. That's right: It's time to SWOT this problem. The frustration-fighting, opportunity-identifying process of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) has helped many a business owner puzzle out next actions. Steal away at least 30 minutes, get yourself a fresh piece of paper (or an open tab on Word or Evernote or a management meeting or an all-hands staff meeting), and let's SWOT on … your pharmacy revenue drop.
What do you do well, and where do your skills shine? Think about advantages you have over online pharmacies and the corner drug stores. As you list these strengths, decide how you can demonstrate that you're really achieving what you say you are.
Your weaknesses limit your practice's performance, holding you back somehow. For each weakness you list, you must decide what to do about it. Will you tolerate the weakness? Manage it with some kind of work around? Or is this something you're going to change?
Opportunities are situations outside of your practice that you may be able to exploit to create positive results. After your team makes a list of possible opportunities, you'll prioritize them to decide what to pursue first. Which idea offers the greatest potential reward for the least risk? That should be at the top of your list. Ideally, you want to take advantage of your opportunities and develop them into new strengths.
Some problems are outside your direct influence, and yet they still could hurt your business. You can't control these problems, or you would. But you should talk about how best to respond to each risk.
If you need inspiration to think about opportunities and threats when it comes to online pharmacies, start with the Related Links below. And remember, if you're going to take action, be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attained, Relevant and Time-bound) with your goals. A big fan of holding onto your pharmacy revenue, Mark Opperman, CVPM, explains good goal-setting in this classic article.