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The staff at A Woman’s Place, the women’s center retail shop at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, originally had an official opening scheduled for the end of August 1998, but held a "silent opening" in July to give themselves time to work out the kinks of ordering products, handling customer requests, and learning new skills as operating cash registers.
"We were shocked at how quickly word got out that we were open. We quickly saw a steady stream of patients who came to us after nurses told them about us," says Beth Allen, RNC, IBCLC, manager of the perinatal lactation center and A Woman’s Place at Northside Hospital. "In fact, we began to wonder what was going to happen after our official opening."
What happened was a terrific success story of an enterprise that had significant start-up costs that included the purchase of initial inventory and renovation to make the space more retail-oriented. It is predicted that it will recoup those costs in a six- to 10-month period. Additional revenue will purchase additional products for the store and support education, says Allen.
Marketing a women’s center retail shop is not difficult and doesn’t require much money, says Allen and managers of similar shops.
The key to success is word of mouth, so make sure the staff and physicians who interact with your target patients know about you and your services.
Some low-key marketing activities that produced positive results were:
• Open house for nurses, physicians, and hospital employees when the shop is first opened or whenever significant changes occur such as new product lines.
• Tabletop advertising cards for display in applicable physicians’ offices. Primary care physicians and obstetricians were asked to display them for Sharp-Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Children in San Diego, says Susan K. Toth, RNC, BSN, CLE, manager of women’s education for Sharp Healthcare.
• Window or other displays in the hospital lobby or women’s center. Displays should advertise a variety of products.
• Fliers to nursing departments, social service departments, educational instructors, and physician offices.
• Articles in employee and physician newsletters.
• Newspaper articles generated by press releases to local media outlets.
• Fliers in new moms’ discharge packets.
Of course, word-of-mouth is the best advertising. The only way to ensure good comments about the shop and repeat customers is to provide excellent customer service, says Allen.
High quality products, a wide variety of items, well-trained staff, and a comfortable environment all lead to satisfied customers; and satisfied customers lead to more customers.