Editor’s note: “The Angel Connection” is a regular feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. LTW asked consultant Bill Warner to share advice for entrepreneurs seeking angel investors and/or venture capital investment. He is chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over 100 members throughout the Southeast.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – I bet you thought you would have one value proposition for your product or service.


You need to tailor your message for every point along the marketing and sales food chain. What is exciting to your distributor may not be what excites the store you sell your product in.

I. Figure out your value proposition

With your understanding of each point along the food chain, determine what value proposition would have meaning to each of them. For example, an integrator would view having a complementary product to their existing product suite as a valuable business relationship. From the ultimate buyer’s point of view, they would see value in your product and service, in the context of that suite. A distributor wants to know how much of a discount they can get and how quickly he can move the product. So, you have to describe your value in terms of speed of acceptance of the product and support that you would provide the distributor in selling your product. Offering sales training, marketing campaigns to pull the product, and having a support line would all be perceived as having high value.

Intel and others call this “feeding the ecosystem.” You can think of the distribution channel as an ecosystem of organisms that live in mutual harmony because they complement each other with what they need to live. In the business world, it’s the creation of win-win relationships that are needed throughout your distribution channel so that they all live in complementary harmony.

II. Create marketing push and pull

Now that you have the value propositions figured out and know how your distribution channel works, you have to put it into motion. The new product needs a launch campaign to raise the initial awareness. This calls for such things as press releases, industry consultant briefings, early customer testimonials, reference accounts, announcement events and customer road show seminars. It’s the starting gun for the race to revenue.

Simultaneously, you have to initiate marketing campaigns that create the awareness of your product to the various buyers. This can take the form of advertising, if that is the right way to reach your buyer. A website with a call to action that offers something to potential buyers could be the right approach. A telemarketing campaign to reach potential buyers introducing your new product could be the right approach. Mail or e-mail campaigns may be the way to go. There is no one right answer, but there are usually several wrong answers. In creating your understanding of the buyer, you determined how they buy. So, you simply need to focus your marketing campaign wherever that is. If the buyer finds information about new products from trade magazines, you have to be there. If they get advice on new products from consultants, you better make their consultants real smart about your product. If they buy from selected retail stores, you will have to make the stores aware of the product.

Don’t forget the players in the food chain. They have to become aware as well. You will need to make sales calls on wholesalers, integrators, distributors and other channel partners. You will need to structure a business relationship that ensures the movement of your product through their companies. So, their awareness is of equal importance to that of the ultimate buyer. These channel partners have to have seen the product, gotten their training and have inventory on hand, as you launch the product. So, timing this work with your launch is important.

III. Nurture the ecosystem

Your marketing and sales effort has to address the whole food chain and it is in your best interest to make sure that this ecosystem is really working. No, you are not Mother Nature, but not far from it. You probably don’t own any part of the distribution channel, but you do have to structure the relationships in a way that all the participants make money. The kinds of things that have to work well are:

• Consistent discounts, avoiding channel conflict

• Competitive pricing

• Good return for value added

• Sufficient sales and support

• On time delivery

• Consistent product availability

• High quality

So, keep you your ecosystem well fed.

About the author: Bill Warner is the managing partner of Paladin and Associates, a business consulting firm in the Research Triangle Park area of central North Carolina, and is the chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast.