How do you sell medicines and pharmaceuticals in your country? In my country Nigeria, it is mixed bag of outlets in the retailing of  over-the-counter  consumer pharmaceutical products. One of such retail outlets used for selling medicines in Nigeria is on-board, moving, commercial luxurious transport buses. This is illegal though, but the drug marketers who sell through this outlet use storytelling as their main marketing weapon to woo customers and get good patronage.  And this method has plenty of lessons to offer professionals who want to use storytelling to sell more.  This is my story.

The sale of pharmaceuticals and medicines outside registered pharmacy and patent medicine shops is outlawed in Nigeria. But the business on-board moving vehicles still thrives especially for medicine marketers who sell an array of drugs, food supplements, multivitamins, etc, on intercity luxurious buses.  And they have caught my attention because they use storytelling a lot to push their wares.

These marketers employ good knowledge of psychology, consumer behavior, sociology, corporate messages and marketing evangelism which they convert to engaging consumer stories to win the patronage of the travelling public. And they compliment this strategy with available and affordable over-the-counter pharmaceutical products. How do these drug marketers ply their trade to get heavy patronage?

They tell value stories about their products on offer. They demonstrate how to use the medicines and their effects in humourous ways which cause  plenty of laughter among the travelling public. To do these effectively, the marketer positions himself strategically in one of the front row of seats,  just behind the driver’s seat. This positioning gives him maximum visibility and effective reach of his sales talk and demonstrations.

The passengers in the bus are his customers. He has a specific time and distance to do his sales pitch and sell, before he disembarks at the nearest toll gate or bus stop. Immediately the driver manoeuvres the 52 -seater  bus into the traffic, the merchant gets up, backing the driver and facing the passengers, he clears his threat and bellows…”Pr-a-i-s-e the Lord!” “Alleluya” the passengers chorus in response.

If the response is not total, the marketer praises the Lord again and anchors it on questioning note…”Amen?”  Amen!  comes the response. With this sales entry, he arrests the attention of the passengers with a spiritual tie. He praises God on behalf of everybody in the bus and prays for a safe journey. Amen! The passengers chorus again. That takes care of their spiritual needs.

Then the marketer spells out the travel instructions and guides of the bus company concerning luggages, brief stop over’s,  how to disembark from the bus  at specified destinations, and the travel route for that journey. Then he introduces himself and the pharmaceutical company he represents. He extols the reputation and global reach of the company and explains how the drugs came into Nigeria. Then he launches into telling the value stories of his medicines and food supplements, one at a time, never two at the same time. He does not tell you straightaway that his medicines are effective for particular diseases. No, he uses issues of life to tell real life stories about people, on either bad health in the family or malnutrition of children which causes protruding belly if it is a multivitamin he wants to sell.

As he does that, he cracks jokes, laces the story with humour, mimics the voices of children and anxious mothers, and demonstrates as tells his story. The passengers roar with laughter. He has arrested their attention and gotten them relaxed and interested. Then he zeroes in on the medicines proper, their make up, nutrition information, other content, dosage, expiry dates and all.  Listening to him, you will think he is a qualified nutritionist or a pharmacist. Sometimes, any disease or solution he mentions, he translates into the three main Nigerian languages…Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba.

“You did grandpa,” Emeka conceded reluctantly. “But I thought you will give me some breathing space. I am trying to adjust to the weather here and we are still in camp, neck deep in our orientation programme.

Then he moves into packaging. Still demonstrating, jerking, dancing and cracking jokes, he brings out the contents of the packs mostly in sachets of capsules and tablets. He discusses pricing, offers his prices and compares it to prices in shops. He tells you that as an itinerant drug marketer, he does not pay shop rentals and so his prices are lower.

He even offers to break bulk into smaller units for unit prices so that the greatest number of passengers on board can buy his products on offer. It is at this point that he calls out for those interested to buy. Still reeking with laughter, many hands go up brandishing their money. As the marketer sells, he thanks those who are buying and urges the rest to reconsider and buy, and get value for money. If there is consumer resistance, he excites the passengers with another fascinating story. If that fails, he tells them he is a family man with a wife and children to take care of, and urges them to patronize his products.

Lastly, he closes sale, thanks all the passengers profusely and prays for a safe journey and God’s blessings. Then he disembarks at the nearest toll gate or police checkpoint. This is marketing storytelling par excellence and a good demonstration of the power of storytelling. It is a winning strategy for today’s marketplace, if only you can learn from it and use it to promote your business and improve results.

Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as, and He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at

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