After seeing a record quarterly sales of $7.8 billion in the third quarter, Lenovo hopes to continue its channel momentum by boosting its partners’ footprint in the health-care market.
According to Lenovo’s Director of Channel Marketing David Rabin, the health-care industry is one of the most lucrative vertical markets for solution providers today. So much so, Rabin said, that the market is projected to hit the $77 billion mark by 2014. "Health-care has been one of those industries that, through thick or thin, has been thriving," Rabin told CRN.
Good things, of course, don’t always come easily. A solution provider’s entrance into the health-care market poses a number of challenges, Rabin said. First, the general uncertainty surrounding health-care funding has led to a sense of confusion or ambiguity within the industry as a whole.
"A key challenge [for VARs] is that every day or every week or every quarter there is talking about how funding is going to flow," Rabin said. "The partner community, as well as manufactures, and other IT buyers are struggling to really figure out to harness that."
What’s more, Rabin said, some long-standing, successful health-care segments are simply resistant or slow to adopt new technologies.
Cognizant of these challenges, Lenovo has launched a three-pronged strategy to facilitate its partners’ entrance into this specialized, yet increasingly profitable, market.
As its first partner-aiding step, Lenovo has sifted through its product portfolio to pull out those that would be most relevant and lucrative within the various health-care market segments. The health-care industry is one of the most segmented vertical markets out there, Rabin said, so establishing a scaled-down, hand-picked portfolio specifically tailored to those segments eliminates the need for Lenovo VARs to start from scratch.
"Within health care, you’ve got point-of-care needs, picture archiving, communications systems, ambulatory care, large hospital groups… you’ve got a lot of different sub-segments within healthcare," Rabin said. "So what’ve done is try to simplify how we communicate our portfolio to the partner community, into those various segments."
The Lenovo ThinkPad tablet, for instance, resonates particularly well within on-the-go health-care segments such as point of care, where a mobile tablet is more of a replacement, rather than a complementary, device.
"In very simple terms, we’ve taken a product portfolio with, which all of our iterations and variations can have hundreds of models, and really streamline it into the 10 or 15 that we believe are the most relevant to healthcare," Rabin told CRN.
Nancy Bast, director of vendor relations at Paragon Development Systems (PDS), an Oconomowoc, Wisc.-based solution provider, feels Lenovo’s streamlined product portfolio and attention to the health-care market’s evolving needs, help both PDS and Lenovo assert their relevancy within the vertical.
"With their new tablet product, as well as others recently announced, Lenovo’s commitment to the changing health-care market is only increasing their relevance in this space and within our company," Bast said.
The second way in which Lenovo plans to give partners a leg up in the health-care space is through its marketing kit. Containing general overviews of healthcare market segments, Lenovo’s participation in the various segments, product listing, and pre-made sales materials arm partners with the product and industry details they need to reach their customers.
Lastly, Lenovo is launching a series of programs and training initiatives to ensure thorough partner communication and continued education. As part of the program, the PC maker offers solution providers bonuses for bringing in new health-care customers, while a series of health-care webinars and advisory councils help keep partners' up-to-speed on industry shifts and trends.
Bast emphasized the importance of VARs fully understanding the health-care industry before putting a foot in its door.
"As a reseller in this market, you need to show your value and truly understand the healthcare industry in order to sell effectively into it," Bast said. "With close to 20 years experience in this space, we are very comfortable having the conversations and helping those in IT be better for their organization as a whole."
The need to drive costs and increase efficiency scales across all verticals, Bast continued, but seems especially pertinent within the health-care space.
While Lenovo prides itself on the thoroughness of its three-pronged partner enablement and continued education program, this isn’t where the health-care journey ends, Rabin said. Rather, the PC giant plans to keep the momentum going.
"I would call all of this 'phase one,'" Rabin said. "Companies are always evolving. We are always figuring out how to deliver the best programs and products and solutions to our partners." Phase two of Lenovo’s health-care initiative will kick off in spring of 2012, he said.
The PC giant has attributed much of its recent success, including the sizable Q4 victory in which it beat out Dell to become the second largest PC-shipper in the world, to its partners. "For us, this validates a strategy that we employed about two and half years ago, which was primarily a 'channel-first' strategy," Jay Parker, Lenovo’s vice president of North America consumer and SMB businesses, told CRN.
At the end of the day, the success of a channel-driven company like Lenovo lies largely in the hands of its partners, Rabin told CRN. This vendor-partner relationship becomes even more critical when a revenue-rich industry, such as health care, is there for the taking. "I know we want a piece of that, I know our partners want a piece of that, and we want to go get it with them together," Rabin said.