Marketing is a science. It evaluates the relationships in and around consumer preferences and behaviors. Those preferences encompass needs, wants, and demands. Many of the Tips have discussed meeting unmet needs. But sometimes, patients might not know what they need. Thus, we have the additional step of creating a demand for something in which the demand previously did not exist. We also have to appeal on occasion to consumers’ wants to promote even greater demand for our good or service, because if the demand is based only upon the needs of a few, we might not generate much sales activity. In addition to marketing theory that encompasses the well-known Ps (product, price, place, promotion); we can also borrow from theories in related disciplines, such as in health behavior, to help us market a service.
Hoay Tan et al used the theory of planned behavior to develop consumer intentions for using new value-added pharmacy services (VAS).1 The theory of planned behavior (TPA) incorporates several variables aiming to predict the likelihood of someone staying with the same behavior or making a behavioral change. As such, the researchers asked questions of panels of patients that included components of the TPA, first gathering their general understanding and expectations of VAS; then their attitudes toward VAS (eg, advantages, disadvantages, positive and negative feelings); subjective norms (the opinions of others about use of VAS); and perceived behavioral control (factors that make it easy or difficult to use VAS), along with some demographic information about the study participants. The participants described some advantages such as convenience and difficulties such as confusion about how best to approach and use the VAS; they reported that their family members favored their use of VAS; time saved for certain VAS such as mailed prescriptions and text message reminders; inhibitors such as lack of knowledge about the potential advantages to use of VAS; and vastly different expectations from various participants about the nature of the VAS.
Pharmacy managers need not conduct formal, publishable studies to inform the marketing of an existing or new service. But they can and should consult the literature to see what is already known (or at least, suspected) and can draw upon solid, well-proven theory (in and sometimes outside of marketing theory) to help them develop appropriate messaging for current and potential customers.
Additional information about Marketing Theory can be found in Pharmacy Management, Essential for All Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.
1Hoay Tan CL, Hassali MA, Saleem F, Shafie AA, et al. Building intentions with the theory of planned behaviour: A qualitative assessment of salient beliefs about pharmacy value-added services in Malaysia. Health Expect. 2016;19:1215-1225.