A campaign against drug rebate kickbacks isn’t something you’d typically think would have much relevance to small businesses in other industries.
However, a recent effort by a Florida-based small business pharmacy advocacy group, SPAR (Small Business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform), is offering a glimpse of how small, challenger businesses can fight back against much larger and more powerful organizations—and win.
The founding of SPAR dates to a Trump administration Executive Order to prevent the drug rebate kickbacks passed between prescription drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Essentially, PBMs, which work with health insurance companies, negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to receive a portion of a drug’s list price every time that drug is dispensed. These “rebates,” which the PBMs receive, are factored into the cost of a drug’s final cost to the patient, which leads to steep price increases for consumers and patients.
When PBMs and pharmaceutical companies launched heavily-funded lobbying campaigns against this new rule, organizations like SPAR stepped up to protect consumers.
Here’s what small businesses, underdogs, and other challenger brands can learn from how SPAR positioned itself to succeed.
SPAR was founded by Kevin Duane, a pharmacist and independent pharmacy owner in Jacksonville, Florida, who also runs a series of volunteer medicine clinics for underserved communities.
Frustrated by seeing his Medicare patients spend more while receiving less coverage on their medications, Duane and other Florida independent pharmacy owners took action by forming an organization that would focus on educating citizens and advocating for its members across the state.
Takeaway: Having a strong mission, and passion for that mission, are critical if your business is a challenger or newcomer to an industry. Without that passion, fighting the important fights will be draining and difficult.
SPAR utilized an extensive advocacy campaign to amplify the voices of the small business pharmacists in their fight against the PBM machine.
When an investigative piece on the PBM system broke in the Tampa Bay Times, SPAR capitalized on that news, which led to securing bi-partisan legislative support for SPAR’s efforts to keep prescription drug prices affordable and secure more transparency in the drug pricing system.
Takeaway: Investments in digital PR pay off. By partnering with a digital PR agency and engaging in a solid campaign, you can amplify your message and reach a much broader audience.
The problem SPAR is tackling is complex and removed from most people’s daily lives—even though health insurance and drug prices affect everyone in the U.S.
By undertaking extensive education efforts with consumers and elected officials, SPAR was able to show exactly why their mission mattered. That’s what won them success in the state legislature.
Takeaway: Your brand may not be trying to affect legislation, but if you’re a newcomer to an industry or a small business, you’re going to have to show your customers why they should choose you over other brands they already use. This is where messaging and content marketing are so important. By delivering content for customers at every state of the buying journey, you can be sure you reach them with the right information at the right time.
Small businesses and challenger brands have huge opportunities to demonstrate their value and gain market share, if they use that challenger status wisely. And that’s true whether you’re protecting low-income patients, or developing the latest lifestyle app.