Local pharmacy reaps benefits of promotion strategies class

Release Date: 1/3/2012

When Ward Lee of Clarksville Family Pharmacy was approached by Professor Deborah Sisson about participating in her "Promotion Strategies" class, he was pleased by the opportunity. Nonetheless their class project - designing a personalized marketing plan for his fledgling business - surprised him. In a good way.

"It was clean, concise, very well presented, and it hit right at the heart of what we're going for," says Lee. Clarksville Family Pharmacy opened its doors a little over six months ago. "The three students set up an appointment, came in one evening, sat down and asked me questions, toured the store, got a feel for what it was we're trying to do, and then went out and did a great job of picking up on that and running with it."

Marketing 4113, also known as Promotion Strategies, is a course taught at University of Ozarks which emphasizes the planning aspects of marketing businesses. Topics typically include the development of objectives and budgets for the promotion task, advertising, sales promotion, and publicity, as well as the techniques of personal selling.

During the fall 2011 semester six groups of students, divided in teams of three, developed marketing plans for half a dozen real businesses - U of O Career Services, Wiederker Winery, DeWitt Auto Sales in Garland, Texas, Arkansas 4-H, Presbyterian Village in Little Rock, and Lee's Clarksville Family Pharmacy.

The teams presented their marketing plans during early December. Four of the companies targeted - Arkansas 4-H, Presbyterian Village, Career Services, and the pharmacy - sent representatives to attend the presentations. Lee attended in person.

For the pharmacy, the three students who made up "DCM Advertising Company" - Andrea Dankert, Eric Carles, and Alex Murcia - developed a multi-stage marketing plan to address the background of company, its strengths and weaknesses, its competitors, a campaign theme, and objectives and strategies, including a timeline for initiating them. The group's presentation emphasized Clarksville Family Pharmacy's excellent customer service, homey atmosphere, its great location, and its combined 90 years of experience.

They also came up with ways to address the fact the pharmacy is new, a smaller store with a limited marketing budge, suggesting such relatively low-cost solutions as advertising in the Yellow Pages, direct mail, and radio advertisements - including the idea of arranging an interview or call-in show with a local radio station to promote the pharmacy's existence. Added to this mix were more contemporary solutions, such as enhanced Facebook ads, a regularly updated web site for the pharmacy, and even crossword puzzles to be left at appropriate area businesses - bringing in the completed puzzle would win the customer a prize.

To integrate the pharmacy into the life of the community, the student team recommended participation in community events like the peach festival, the country fair, and local sporting events.

"They picked up the concepts we were trying to use, the customer service and community orientation," said Lee. "They came up with some fresh ideas we had not, and I was really pleased with it." He added he plans to meet with the team next semester to pursue several of their ideas, especially the expanded web site. "That was something I had thought about but hadn't had time to do," Lee said, "and in fact don't know how to do. That's one of the advantages of dealing with younger people who are more tech-savvy than us old guys!"

For team member Alex Murcia, the most interesting part of the project was being able to work with a real company and put to work all the marketing knowledge he's learned at Ozarks. "I was surprised to realize how many companies in Clarksville have a lot of potential," he said, "but their owners/managers are unaware of how to maximize their opportunities. However, I also realized experience may be a company's best asset."

Murcia, a senior Management Administration and Marketing major from Costa Rica, said the project gave him a "sneak peek" at what he plans to do with his future. "To me, this has been one of the best courses I have taken at Ozarks," he said. "I was able to work with my team, do research, analyze our company's competition, and come up with a promotional campaign for a real business."