Since its inception in 1994, Alan Rudy's Express-Med Inc. has experienced a growth rate of 150 percent--a far more robust rate than the industry average. The Col-umbus, Ohio-based distributor of medical supplies has increased revenues from $1.4 million in 1995 to an estimated $22 million in 1997.
The company, which sells diabetic supplies such as insulin, syringes and test strips, as well as respiration medications, wound-care supplies and supplies for incontinence, has hit upon one of the tried-and-true prescriptions for mail order success: built-in re-peat customers. With some health-care products, such as diabetic supplies, repeat orders are almost a guarantee. While a mail order clothing catalog has to constantly come up with new fashions to entice consumers, providers of health-care products are often expected to deliver the same products clients need indefinitely.
But according to Rudy, 34, taking repeat customers for granted can poison a business. Express-Med customer service reps concentrate on building relationships with customers, contacting them when it's time to reorder and following up with another call after an order has been shipped.
Although customer service and repeat business have helped boost business at Express-Med, Rudy says they aren't the key to the company's success. The real secret? "The reason we're successful," says Rudy, "is we're equipped to handle insurance payments." Since many pharmacies don't process insurance claims on diabetic supplies, Rudy claims customers can save up to $100 a month on supplies for which they would have to pay full price at a pharmacy. As the success of Express-Med shows, companies in the fast-growing prescription drug/medical supplies category must be prepared to handle the insurance end of the transaction.