L-SPARK’s Founder Focus blog series highlights how the company founders in our Incubator and Accelerator programs deal with common issues and questions in relation to entrepreneurship and startups.
This week Anthony Mar discusses the benefits of using channel partners to market his software, based on his own experiences. Anthony is CEO of Cliniconex, an automated patient communications (APC) solution that integrates with popular electronic medical records (EMR) applications. The software assists in appointment scheduling and minimizes patient no-shows.
For early stage companies, leveraging channel partners is an incredibly effective way to market and sell your product. It is also a useful strategy to market and sell a software offering that serves as an add-on or can be integrated with existing products. For example, we offer patient reminder and survey solutions that are integrated with EMR software used to run a doctor’s office. An EMR is a combination of customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), tailored for the needs of medical offices.
Going to market in healthcare, not the least as a startup, is challenging in so many ways. Developing new relationships with medical offices is crucial to developing customer growth. Yet medical offices are busy places. With the industry evolving around them constantly (as budget growth declines and healthcare policy and regulation adjusts) they are going to get busier and not able to devote time to new vendor relationships.
The key for us is to leverage existing relationships with the ideal partner being the EMR solution vendor. We don’t rely on our website as much to secure customers, although our inbound marketing strategies do net prospective customers. Rather, we put more of our focus on providing EMR vendors with sufficient information and demonstrating our value proposition so that their sales and account managers are able to identify potential APC customers and explain the benefits effectively.
One of our main goals within the L-SPARK Incubator is to develop and expand our list of channel partners, as well as improve the way we work with them. We firmly believe (and we have the data to back it) that this will pay dividends in growth and revenue.
More generically, there are three benefits to working with a channel partner – and these benefits are not restricted to healthcare:
1. It will help your software gain credibility.
If you’re looking for early adopters or your first batch of paying customers, having a channel partner to recommend your product will be extremely useful. A word-of-mouth referral from a channel partner will make potential customers aware of your product and be more likely to trust it.
Before approaching a channel partner, present them with a case study outlining some of the benefits of your software. This will bolster your reputation and provide tangible reasons to choose your software over a competitor’s.
2. Channel partners will sell your product for you.
If a channel partner has moved beyond referring your product and is actively selling it, it’s already a huge step in the right direction. This means that a third party is legitimizing your software and confident enough to sell it to its existing customer base.
Take time to organically build relationships with potential channel partners. Attend conferences, network at industry events or examine your current professional network for potential connections.
3. It’s more difficult to be overtaken by a competitor.
Once a channel partner has invested the time in fully understanding the features of your product, it’s hard to be replaced, even before the first customer comes on board.
If the sales and marketing teams understand how to sell your product, they have invested their resources in understanding your value proposition, and so are unlikely to switch to selling a competitor’s software.
As a final thought, channel partnerships are the way to go when there is limited opportunity to develop customer relationships, when your solution is new to the market or in a very competitive market, and there is alignment between your solution and the partner’s solution. We are very excited that L-SPARK has leveraged their network and resources to significantly help us improve our channel relationships.