Gone are the days when marketing your business was simply hanging a sign outside the store and placing an ad in the local yellow pages. Today’s fast paced world has created a myriad of marketing avenues. Not every option is going to work for small business and what works for one company or industry may not necessarily work for another. But the time has come where every small business is at a severe disadvantage if they don’t create an online presence. Pharmacy is no exception.

Talk to your current customers and ask them when was the last time they thumbed the yellow pages, looking at all the ads before making some sort of buying decision. You may be surprised, how few people currently use this once essential resource. In fact, many people now turn to the internet as their first tool in making a decision about where to purchase goods and services.

OK, so the internet killed the yellow pages. Where should you put those resources? Some of your marketing dollars need to be used to build an online presence. But there are all sorts of options begging for your attention.

The number one thing you need is a website as the cornerstone of all your online marketing. For some people, this may be a no-brainer while others may believe you can get by with some other platform such as a Facebook page or one of the “free” websites you can get through various companies.

You need a website, which is built your own domain, because it is like a piece of online real estate that you own, and have control over. This point is so critical I feel the need to restate it. You need a website on your own domain because it is like a piece of online real estate Рyou own it and you control it. What do I mean by on your domain? Your primary presence online needs to be built on www.mybusinessname.com not www.Facebook.com/mybusinessname or www.mybusinessname.freewebsiteprovider.c­om

When a company creates a Facebook page for their business, who owns that? That’s right Facebook owns it. And Facebook is constantly changing the way the platform works, how it displays and how people can interact with it. If you have a Facebook page it can be a powerful tool and you may develop a large following, but in say 2 years if they choose to eliminate Facebook pages completely, you have then lost all that work in building relationships. Also if you mistakenly violate Facebook’s Terms of Service, they can shut down your page without notice. The same can be said of any other service, or social media out there. Although they can be great tools, the bottom line is you need to have something you can control.

OK, so now you know you need to have website on your domain. But you need to make sure you have the right kind of website. Not all websites are created equal and the decisions you make during the design process can greatly affect your results and long term costs.

The first thing you want is to make sure your website is designed using a content management system (CMS). A CMS platform an application used to create, edit, manage and deploy web pages. The content of these pages can be text, pictures, graphics, audio and video.

Today there are several CMS platforms available for website creation. Make sure your website designer will use a CMS platform and provides access for you to update and edit the content of your website. A well designed website will often have two distinct parts. One part will be information that does not change often or not at all or “static”. This is usually information about the company’s history, service, mission, privacy policy etc. The other part will be dynamic or frequently changing.

The dynamic portion is like blog page on your website. This is a page that allows to publish content on a regular basis. As each new piece of content is written, the previous ones are pushed down the page. Business owners can use this for all kinds of content. For a pharmacy, this can be community health updates, seasonal health information such as allergy season, special events happening in the pharmacy such as flu clinics or special promotions by the pharmacy.

Once you have a website in place you may then add a social media presence. But make sure your social media activity is designed to bring people to your website. Remember, that you do not own these other online resources. The only property you truly have control over is your website. Your social media needs to attract people to your website and ultimately to your business.

So there you have it. The core of your online presence needs to be a website hosted on your domain with a content management system in which your webmaster gives you access to make regular posts and updates. All of your other online activity needs to attract your current and future customers to your website.