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Beyond the Pitch

First Connect Experts Help Ardina Reach B2C and B2B Customers

Since last July when Ardina’s affordable healthcare solution went live, Shaun Young, CEO, has been spending his days “in the trenches” with customers.

Ardina-SolutionWith years of experience in retail and consumer healthcare, Young has extensive contacts in the industry. As a former vice president at Cardinal Health, he also has a strong network of regional business connections.

And he’s not at all shy about knocking on doors.

“There’s nothing like talking to new people, getting referrals, learning and getting customer feedback,” Young said, “talking with people and understanding what they need is the only way to grow a startup.”

…BUT

“If entrepreneurs think market validation and product development are challenging, just wait until they start trying to sign up customers,” Young said. “Everyone focuses on product/market fit, but even with a great market fit, you need a solid distribution strategy.”

Legwork, Leverage, and Leads

Ardina provides healthcare benefits that people can actually afford to use, in order to help families and individuals with high annual deductibles stretch their out-of-pocket healthcare dollars.

“We have product market fit because everyone wants more affordable and more convenient healthcare,” Young said. “Ardina is not insurance. Instead, think of Ardina and health insurance like you think of AAA and car insurance. We help our members stretch their out-of-pocket healthcare dollars by giving them access to more affordable and more convenient healthcare”

Ardina engages in business-to-consumer (B2C) sales primarily through its friendly and easy-to-navigate web site (myardina.com). “We found that our service resonates at the individual level, particularly with people who get their insurance plans through an insurance exchange,” Young said.

As Ardina signs up new customers, Young is straightforward, about his experience with building a customer base from scratch.

“We’re getting it,” he said, “but it was tough with lots of ups and downs. Despite what every startup founder told me, I really thought that Ardina would be different. That we would launch the website, talk to people, and they would sign up. But I learned that there aren’t any shortcuts. Once you get past friends and family, it really does take ‘seven touches’ before someone converts.”

Ardina engages First Connect experts to for multi-channel sales strategy

“Rev1 got us in front of a lot of large employers, human resources executives, and healthcare systems,” Young said. “I was able to meet a lot of people through a combination of Rev1 and networking.”

To reach prospective customers, Young engaged ContentVia, a sales & marketing agency that’s part of Rev1’s First Connect/Expert Network, to hone the lead generation and messaging aspects of Ardina’s business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategy.

“We wanted to reach small employers with one to 20 employees,” Young said. “ContentVia’s helped cold call small businesses, up to 10 a day to test and perfect our messaging. They also helped with branding, events, marketing and selling.”

ContentVia

With the results from ContentVia, Ardina recognized that the most receptive employers were companies that did not offer health insurance benefits to their employees.

“Content Via helped us hone in on that customer segment,” Young said. “Now we are working with numerous Chambers of Commerce, including Columbus, Dublin, and Marion Chambers, to reach those businesses.”

Based on feedback from those small business owners, Ardina has partnered with licensed, insurance agents to offer free enrollment support to any employee signing up for health insurance on exchanges. And Ardina is expanding its offer to provide its members with fee-free Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) through Telhio, the largest credit union in Central Ohio

In less than a year of operations, Ardina can serve customers in all 50 states. The firm has been received with enthusiasm and is being observed with interest by investors and others in the entrepreneurial community. Ardina has been featured in the business section of The Columbus Dispatch and was recently named by Metropreneur as one of the Top Five Best New Columbus startups for 2015.

Ardina-TipsFourth quarter was Ardina’s busiest season so far.

“Open enrollment is when people think about benefits,” Young said. “We did open enrollment events at Rev1, the Columbus Idea Foundry, and local Chambers of Commerce. For anyone who signed up for health insurance on healthcare.gov, Ardina is the perfect complement.”

Ardina is a great example of how Rev1 and the Columbus business community wraps around a new company and a great team to help that startup gain new customers.

And there’s nothing more important to a startup’s success than first customers.

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