Magazine Article | April 19, 2011

Feature Article: 3 Keys To Retail ISV Growth

By Mike Monocello, Business Solutions magazine.

Like many ISVs (independent software vendors) and solutions providers, Computer-Rx caters to a niche market. In this ISV's case, its main focus is the independent pharmacy market. Also, like many ISVs and solutions providers, Computer-Rx sells its software direct, with no help from a reseller network. While selling direct to a nationwide customer base can be daunting, the ISV has developed a sales and marketing strategy over its 29-year history that appears to be successful. That is, if you consider 25% sales revenue growth in 2010 a sign of success. Roger Warkentine, president of Computer-Rx, can attribute his company's growth to three things — customer support that leads to referral-based sales, trade show marketing, and price-friendly versions of his software.

When it comes to customer support, Warkentine is a firm believer in human contact. In the ISV's case, 99% of incoming calls are answered by a human, not an automated attendant. To pull that off, 22 Computer-Rx employees currently staff the ISV's help desk. The ISV has another 20 employees who double at the help desk and in hardware support and training. Additionally, it's the ISV's goal to solve customer problems in that one call. To accomplish this goal requires Computer-Rx to have both tech-savvy and pharmacy-savvy employees on staff.

Having only three salespeople requires Computer-Rx to be very strategic when it comes to marketing. After years of trial and error, the ISV has found trade shows to be the most effective way to market the company and obtain leads. In fact, apart from a few monthly leads via the Computer-Rx website, the majority of the ISV's leads come from trade shows.

The final key to Computer-Rx'growth was creating a new version of its software. At first, the ISV had two flavors of its software — a back office application and a POS application — both of which were built to provide very specific functionality needed by those in the pharmacy business. However, missed sales and customer conversations led the ISV to learn that a scaled-down version of software might gain acceptance in the market. "We tried to pigeonhole customers into the same category, and that wasn't a good move for us financially," Warkentine explains. "We found that our full POS application was too expensive for a large segment of our market. We either had to lower our price completely or offer a cheaper package for that group."

So, a few years ago, the ISV began offering a scaled-down version of its software which strips away some of the advanced functionality of the full POS software package. Adding the scaled-down version was a great move financially. Today, about half of the ISV's customers are on the platform.

It's true that the actions Computer-Rx has taken with its business are specific to the niche in which the ISV lives. However, it's also true that other ISVs serving their own niche markets can apply these practices to their own businesses. Will 25% sales revenue growth result? There's only one way to find out.