Choose Your Flavor: Three Major Verticals and How to Approach Them
Successful distributors aren’t measured by a single technology or product, but rather the customer experience they provide. In other words, are they a true marketing value-add, blending together consultative help, creativity and resourcefulness, or just another option? Those who position themselves as experts become specialists in their chosen vertical—and as we’ve seen in the medical community, specialists earn more for their time compared to family practitioners.
Now, the decision to target one, three or five verticals is personal. With multiple variables at play, there is a great deal of gray area. While being able to offer a wealth of experience in one field has its benefits, your business could take a significant hit if your market of choice is regulated or easily influenced by outside sources. However, this much is certain: Distributors who venture into new markets unprepared risk not only their reputations, but, by extension, the reputations of those who know the niche.
Avoid this by researching your market(s) of interest. To help you along in the process, Print+Promo consulted with proven experts in three key verticals. Here, they expand on end-user needs, the sales cycle and hot-button issues.
1. HEALTH CARE
A major health care provider, consisting of several hundred locations, was ailing from an ongoing problem. Its individual business units were unable to buy on their own, which created issues with brand integrity and inventory obsolescence. Wise, and its distributor partner, had the remedy: a web-to-print program.
“It solved the problem with brand integrity, as all the artwork requirements were controlled by their corporate office via templates,” explained Bob Saunders, vice president of sales for Wise. “By ordering via the web, some items were still ordered in large quantities and then released as needed, while other products [were] printed on-demand. The result was a multi-year contract worth over half a million dollars per year for the distributor. Additionally, it opened the door for even more opportunities, specifically in the promotional products arena.”
This is nothing new for Wise. The Alpharetta, Georgia-based supplier has been providing business forms and print-related services for more than 47 years. In regard to the health care market, the company offers a wide variety of custom products, including insurance and claim forms, prescription pads, encounter forms, immunization records, billing forms/statements and medication records. Distributors also can take advantage of Wise’s prescription pad stock and imprint program, available for order via the printer’s website or through its customer service department.
When it comes to the $2.2 trillion health care sector, distributors should think beyond doctors’ offices and look toward hospitals, physicians, dentists, labs, hospice centers, urgent care centers, emergency departments, long-term care facilities, pharmacies and home care. As for decision makers, Wise recommends material managers, information technology directors/managers, human resources, laboratory managers, pharmacy managers, department heads, marketing, office managers, finance and purchasing/procurement managers.
End-user needs vary in this market, though Saunders pointed to some prevalent items:
- Contractual pricing—price matrix
- Inventory management
- Standardization of product by location
- Warehouse and distribution of product—and, in some cases, pick and pack
- Web-to-print solutions
From prescription tampering to a failed Trumpcare bill, the health care market certainly isn’t lacking in excitement. In fact, this vertical is in a constant state of change. Providers are challenged with new regulations and compliance requirements whose effects trickle down to medical forms and documents. Security features for prescription forms, or barcodes to ensure privacy and track patient care, need to be error-free and consistent.
Despite this activity, some distributors are hesitant to target this vertical. Saunders said a misconception surrounding electronic medical records (EMRs) is partly to blame. “Even as more and more health care organizations are implementing EMR systems, many of them have not decreased their reliance on paper-based processes,” he insisted, adding that long-term care and rehabilitation markets, for example, have not been affected in the same way as major hospitals. “Many health care professionals say that paper is still a primary source for tracking information within their organizations’ daily activities, citing reasons such as: paper is too embedded in the culture; technology adoption is too expensive; and switching to an electronic system requires too much training and would disrupt care delivery.”
Saunders warned of other challenges as well. “... Customers in the health care market have been traditionally slow pay, so you should definitely take that into consideration when entering the market,” he noted. “Also, be mindful of warehousing requirements and the ever-changing legislative and legal requirements.”
The Selling Process
This vertical requires nurturing and patience, as clients here are known to commit only after trust has been earned. “Our experience is the medical market may have a slightly longer selling process, but the good news is most larger clients are contractually bound,” Saunders shared.
According to him, referrals are always helpful when trying to prove your worth. For distributors who don’t have existing relationships in the health care market, referrals from customers with similar business models may work as an alternative.
Another way to gain trust is to be transparent with the entire supply-chain relationship. “By example, we have been involved in several strategic partnerships in which we play an active role in the selling process with our distributor partner,” Saunders said. “It may involve disaster recovery plans, plant tours and, in some cases, joint meetings with the end-user client.”
Wise’s involvement in the reseller partnership doesn’t stop there. The company has created marketing collateral for distributors to use as an additional sales tool. Designed for market newbies, the distributor-focused sell sheet contains a brief summary about the industry, along with applications sold, target audiences and decision-makers.
The other sell sheet is directed toward end-users. “Distributors can personalize [the end-user sell sheet] with their contact information,” Saunders said. “It’s a great piece for them to review and leave behind with customers and prospects.”
When selling to this group, it is important to remember that each customer is unique, and, chances are, requirements will differ. As Saunders reminded, the needs of a 600-bed hospital are much different than those of a long-term care facility. Get to know your customers by asking thoughtful questions. Saunders offered the following examples:
- What do you like best about your current systems and workflow processes? If you could change things, what would they be?
- What has prevented you from implementing these changes?
- What is the decision-making process? What is your role in the process? Are there others that will be involved in the decision making?
Distributors also should be ready to answer questions. “Customers like to know you’ve done this before,” Saunders said. He offered these tips:
- Tell me how you’ve implemented a similar solution in the past.
- Are you willing to provide referrals?
- We use Ariba and require all suppliers to participate in this network—have you done this before?