Gerry Spitzner

Always Begin at the End

For many Pharmacists, the process of launching a new patient service begins with the lightbulb moment when they conceive of a breakthrough idea. Very often, they are so passionate about the idea that they believe its merits will be self-evident to prospective customers and patients—that the innovation is so obviously superior it will sell itself.

Just because there is a need doesn’t mean there is a market

As a result, far too many people run around spending time finding solutions to problems that don’t actually matter. What some entrepreneurial thinkers do is they will go and develop a cool product or idea. But just because it’s a cool product or service doesn’t mean it can be a good business. They’ll develop solutions that don’t necessarily have a market problem.  And then they leap to the designing and doing of the service and hope that it sells. Creating a service, pushing it out the door and hoping it sells itself is not a business strategy. You need a better compass than that.

Always establish a market first; then a product or service to match the market pain point

I remember the first time I read Stephen Covey and learned the power of Habit #2 of “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”: always begin with the end in mind.  Covey said, “if your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.”

In every planning endeavor…always begin with the end in mind…which means; Begin with your ideal customer/patient/stakeholder and work backwards from them; identify the outcomes and outputs they want, the applied benefits they seek. Then create your patient service to deliver it; the processes and the inputs in your business model needed to carry out your patient service.

Planning is important; but testing is essential

When creating a patient service get the business model in front of customers and key stakeholders as quickly as possible and get them involved. There are a variety of sources in your organization that will provide you with the customer information you require. Here are few suggestions:

First, potential customers are already going somewhere else for their Pharmacy needs, so you will need to answer; “Why are they going to come to me?”  In answering this question and developing your plan; begin by talking with customers and stakeholders about what they want, and about what current pharmacies in the area frustrates them. Ask physicians what they are having problems doing or getting for their patients. A proven method that works well is to conduct a focus group or a one to one informational interview with key stakeholders. Ask questions whether the proposed prices are reasonable, how they would like to be reached, and then perhaps some personal information, such as likes and dislikes, that would help your Pharmacy serve them better.

Second, engage all of your customer contact employees. They have potential to collect amazing information about your customers every time they speak to one. A simple way to conduct this research is to be an active listener. For each customer service interaction, define the learning outcomes and design a list of questions that will get the information you require. Your questions must be designed with the customer perspective in mind. You don’t want to force why or why not questions on the customer; you want them to be a natural extension of the dialogue taking place. So, for example, when a customer complains and says they do not have enough of something; invite the customer to take part in creating your future. Present your organization as eager to learn, always anxious to do better for them. In addition, learning through observation is an effective way to get valuable customer information. You don’t always have to ask questions; coach everyone in your organization to watch, learn and record what they hear and see.

Third, use your website or social media channels to gather information about customers. With today’s technology it’s easy to get analytics at little to no cost. What kind of information are they seeking? Are customers researching product information? Do they want to buy something? Are they looking for a contact? Every message coming through your website Contact Us button or comment on social media can yield substantial results. The reply needs to get back as soon as possible. A quick reply will earn you the right to ask for more information from the customer.

One of the hardest parts about business development in professional services is finding the time to do the ground work.  It’s too easy for immediate client needs or business management to get in the way.  Unfortunately, marketing activities build on each other, so neglecting them will have compounding effects that you often don’t see until it’s too late.

If you get the customer involved in the development of your patient service; what you’ll tend to have is something that’s informed by customers’ needs and wants, and you’ll have something which will probably attract customers that will pay you.

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