Market Research in Worldwide Emerging Healthcare Markets:
Understanding Your Company’s Opportunity
Steven J. Fuller, InforMedix Marketing Research, Inc.
InforMedix Marketing Research provides customized market research to manufacturers and
marketers of medical supplies, equipment, and pharmaceuticals.
Proprietary studies identify customer needs, clarify the purchasing process, and define best
practices in new market development and product introductions.
Steven Fuller, President of InforMedix, is a highly experienced project manager, moderator,
and analyst in the healthcare field. Areas of key capability:
focus groups with physicians
in-depth interviews with medical professionals, administrators, and
advisory panel discussions with key opinion leaders and influential
InforMedix serves clients ranging from start-ups to industry leaders in the Fortune 100, in
the US and abroad.
Why Should You Try to Sell Into an Emerging Market?
For manufacturers who arrive on the scene at the right time, with the right solutions, emerging
worldwide markets can be significant opportunities for overall growth and added profitability.
Emerging markets sometimes have a need for products and services that were new in the US and
Europe several years ago – and have already survived the test of time, with any start-up problems and
usage risks ironed out long ago. With these development costs already behind them, manufacturers can
look to emerging markets as a way to re-invigorate sales when the home markets have leveled out.
In other cases, these markets are being under-served by products designed for the US, European
markets, Japan, or another more advanced economy. The manufacturer who comes to understand local
needs, and is able to adapt or invent products to serve those particular needs better than competitors is
in a position to dominate the marketplace through customization.
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Simply engaging with a local manufacturer or distributor can also serve to create a relationship for the
future, and avoid the challenges that might develop years down the road when a company finds itself
entering an emerging market second or third, after competitors have placed their stakes.
How Will Market Research Help You?
Few manufacturers these days have the resources to take the risk of setting up foreign sales operations,
without knowing what they are getting into. Unless your company is already an established player in a
foreign market, it may be difficult and costly to learn about the country’s healthcare practices, product
needs, and financial and regulatory constraints.
Formalized market research – such as a series of personal interviews with decision-makers and buyers –
offers some significant advantages over these two options:
You can learn specifically about opportunities for your own particular product or service
areas. Interview questions will be custom-written so that you learn more about local needs
for the solutions you are able to provide.
You reduce the risk by acting on information that comes from many customers’ viewpoints.
Independent market researchers start with a neutral point of view, and gather information
from many product users, a range of decision-makers, key users in several parts of a
country, and cover more than one market segment in studying marketing opportunities.
More information flows to professional market researchers than to investigators who are
also trying to sell product, to expand their job scope, or balance the depth of their
investigation with their limited internal budget.
Interviewers are able to truthfully present themselves as eager students, ready to learn the
good and the bad, the risks along with the rewards, the mis-steps as well as the successes of
others. Skilled interviewers use this “independence” to their advantage, and sometimes
hear and report surprisingly frank and useful comments from their contacts.
You can get apples-to-apples comparisons between several targeted markets, by supporting
a consistent market research plan. When a series of questions (like the ones presented at
the end of this article) are discussed with respondents by independent interviewers,
conclusions will vary primarily due to differences in the markets themselves.
When a company is planning entry into a number of new markets, it will be important to
understand the subtle distinctions between customer needs in those markets. Market
research irons out the differences in information that result from using multiple methods,
different printed sources, various consultants, and so on.
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Concrete Steps to Developing Your Emerging Markets
Customized market research investigations begin with a discussion of goals and methods, with everyone
interested in new market development:
sales and marketing management
heads of business development
product development executives.
InforMedix Marketing Research participates in (and often moderates) these early discussions so that a
realistic set of objectives, timeline, and budget are established.
InforMedix can efficiently propose a project methodology, a discussion agenda (like the one shown at
the end of this document), and a communications and reporting plan to meet the needs of your
Respondents are identified, interviews are scheduled, and transcripts are prepared. Interviews are
normally conducted in native languages, with simultaneous translation to English.
Interim conference calls ensure that the characterization of each targeted market is in line with goals –
which may evolve as information is gathered incrementally.
Besides a written report, InforMedix provides on-site presentations of results, web-enabled presentation
and discussion of findings, and follow-up review of findings to answer new questions that may arise
from the initial presentations.
Definitions: What is an Emerging Healthcare Market?
This term is used loosely to describe countries that are exhibiting increasing growth in purchasing and
usage of a product of interest – and are crossing over from a point where the market is too small or too
difficult to work in, to one where conducting business there yields a new and attractive marketplace.
“Emergence” among markets for medical products, supplies and services is normally associated with
growth in affluence of the population, increasing stability of government structures, and policies and
attitudes that promote better healthcare than in the past.
Emerging markets are most relevant for out-of-country manufacturers when the population, buying
power, and standards of healthcare begin to justify an organized sales and marketing effort.
Here are some recognized definitions of emerging markets, with links to their sources.
BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India, China
(Source: Jim O'Neill, Goldman Sachs Asset Management)
Goldman Sachs / Jim O'Neill
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CIVETS: Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa
(Source: Deborah Stokes “The Decade of the CIVETS”, Business without Borders, May 7, 2012)
Deborah Stokes: The Decade of the CIVETS
Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South
Korea, Thailand, Turkey
(Source: Walking the Global Tightrope: Balancing the Risks and Rewards of Med-Tech
Globalization: Axendia Inc., 2012)
Axendia Report: Risks and Rewards of Med-Tech Globalization
Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Egypt, Hungary, India, Indonesia,
Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa,
Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam
(Source: International Monetary Fund: Sovereigns, Banks, and Emerging Markets : Detailed
Analysis and Policies, April 2012)
IMF - Sovereigns, Banks, and Emerging Markets
Note: Research has shown that countries are often comprised of both …
a) geographies and segments with simpler needs and lower spending power, and
b) geographies and segments where medical product usage is already advanced, and may be
on par with the leading economies of the world.
Powerful segmentation schemes have been developed for selling the right product to the right customer
in home markets for years, and emerging markets will benefit from the same kind of understanding of
diverse customer needs.
Market research initiatives should take this into account: it is an error to evaluate product needs within
a large and technologically advanced metropolis (where medical market research most frequently takes
place), and then extrapolate the findings as if they represented outlying and poorer areas of the
country. Of course, the reverse is also a mistake.
How Can You Enter an Emerging Market?
The high-risk / high spend approach is to simply set up a US-style sales office and try to call on foreign
accounts to sell medical products or services just as they are promoted in their home country. There are
probably some places where this method succeeds, but a budget-constrained and risk-averse
businessperson will not willingly go down this path in many foreign markets.
More successful methods involve careful testing of the waters, integration with the local ways of doing
business, and pinpointing and solving the needs of patients, physicians, and buyers in the new market.
Some examples of these more careful approaches to new markets are listed here.
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1. Used / Refurbished products
2. Lower-cost, defeatured versions of current products
3. Loss leaders: entering the market by offering current products at low prices
4. New products designed around country-specific needs and usage patterns
5. New products designed to meet the needs of many different emerging economies
Sales and Marketing Strategies
1. Contract with an in-country distributor
2. Establish a local sales office and sales / distribution network
3. Partner with an in-country manufacturer / marketer
4. Acquisition of local producers
What Do You Need to Know?
Seven Key Market Research Questions
If you have a product, service, or product line that you are considering for placement in a new market,
you can greatly reduce the risks of this venture by understanding how things are bought and sold, and
what challenges will arise as your team enters the new market.
InforMedix Marketing Research works with questions like the ones presented on the following page, to
clarify “how things work” in unfamiliar markets. InforMedix typically conducts a series of individual
interviews to gather this type of information. Frequent contact points:
Purchasing Managers / Buyers
The result of these interviews is a fully-detailed report and presentation, specific to a market and its
segments, and relevant to a particular product or service line. The goal is to pave the way for a low-risk,
lower-cost and efficient entry into markets that were once foreign and have become prime sales and
InforMedix Marketing Research, Inc.
Lombard, IL USA • 866-596-3636
Steven J. Fuller
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Seven Market Research Discussion Questions for Emerging Markets
1. What are the Unmet Needs in this New Market?
o Current Patient Evaluation and Pathways of Care
o Competitive Products and Services in Use; Acceptability of Your Own Current Products
o Key Challenges, Inefficiencies, Medical Risks, Reasons for Morbidity and Mortality
2. What Kinds of Facilities Will Be Our Customers?
o Non-Hospital Care Sites
o Other Types of Customers
3. How Does Product Evaluation and Purchasing Work?
o Purchasing Methods and Decision Makers
o How to Engage with a New Customer Site
o Vendor Selection Factors
o Product Selection Factors
o Pricing “Tiers” and Budget Approvals
4. Where Does the Money Flow?
o Patient payments, Insurance, Government subsidies
o Payment for Disposables and Services
o Payment for Capital Goods
o Purchase / Lease / Rental Contract
5. Who Does What in this Medical Marketplace?
o The Role of Company Sales Representatives
o The Role of Distributors
o The Role of Hospital / Facility Administration and Purchasing
o The Role of the Government and its Agencies
6. What Else Can We Do to Facilitate Use and Purchasing of Our Products/Services?
o Multiproduct Contracting
o Ancillary Support Services from Vendors
o Local Manufacturing
7. What Else Do I Need to Know About Doing Business Here?
o Regulatory Environment
o Relevant Cultural Issues
o Attitudes Toward Foreign (e.g. US) Based Vendors
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