In addition to having a good product idea, which meets the different regulatory requirements in different markets, a well-planned market entry is the basis for a successful product. However, many companies are moving too fast. This article outlines important planning steps that are exemplified by medical supplies.
Structured way of working
The market for healthcare products is changing and thus its requirements. For medical technology companies, there are always new opportunities and challenges to be able to enter the market with their products. New product ideas emerge every day, but only very few succeed in entering and establishing themselves in the market. Many innovations fail in advance due to insufficient planning, incorrect assumptions, or a clear definition of a target group. A structured approach is necessary so that a product does not fail due to an insufficient market entry strategy.
Define a strategic base
Step 1 – Vision
First and foremost, the vision and business idea must be defined. Is the company rather an innovative pioneer that aims for market leadership in a particular niche, or is it a follower that with improved me-too products changes the existing market?
Step 2 – Priorities
In accordance with the strategic priorities, the budget is then determined, the financial and human resources are clarified and the time frame for entering the market is determined. For a new digital therapy app, for example, it makes sense to quickly establish yourself as a pioneer, even at the expense of the first profit – before the competitors establish themselves.
Step 3 – Positioning
The next step is to define the product’s positioning and the specific target segments (eg hospitals, health centers or medical practices). In addition to the potential as e.g. the current market size and its growth, additional evaluation criteria such as competitor analysis or costs to enter the segment should be taken into account.
Step 4 – Pricing
Different pricing and sales models are possible for the market launch. Government and private insurance can in some cases cover the cost. Private payment can also be an option to gain a foothold in premium markets. Which is currently happening, for example, for skin screening apps.
Map the road to the market
Step 5 – Target customers
The target customers are identified within the defined target segments and prioritized using different rating criteria. An example: consumables used by hospital staff are included in the department’s total budget and are ordered after central purchasing. It is then important to assess the potential (eg previous sales, growth) and availability (e.g. loyalty) to prioritize this customer group.
In the case of aids prescribed for therapy and which are reimbursed by health insurance companies, the prescribing medical groups must be given priority. When the users / patients for a product have been clearly defined, it is a good idea to map the so-called patient journey to understand how often patients consult which doctors and who prescribe.
Step 6 – Sales model
Direct sales via intermediaries and mixed variants – there are different options for the sales model. Direct sales are the better option if you have your own sales department and if you already have contacts with the target customers.
Setting up a new sales organization should be considered if access to customers is concentrated in a specific part of the market (e.g. purchasing groups for hospitals, pharmacies and shops for medical devices). Distribution via intermediaries enables entry into a market without own distribution resources. Entry into foreign markets can then take place without high investment costs and with less risk.
When evaluating distribution channels and partners, not only the costs but also their access to the target customers are crucial: if your own product is presented as a second or alternative product by a large partner, it may be more meaningful to market the product with smaller partners as their primary product.
Step 7 – Communication mix
In markets for medical aids, in addition to direct processing of target customers, e.g. the prescribing physicians, their influencers are also taken into account. Depending on the product, it can be opinion-forming researchers, health insurance companies, health care professionals, health care stores or others.
Once the target customers and their preferences have been identified, relevant information and channels must therefore be selected. It is important to fine-tune the multi-channel mix for each target group: when are the communication measures implemented via which channel and how are they related? For example, is a new product presented to the doctor in person or may an online training offer be appropriate?
Although planning for the first six months before and after launch is central to the start-up campaigns, the communication measures must then be continuously adapted to the changing demands of the market; so-called Closed-Loop-Marketing.
Step 8 – Roadmap
The roadmap chronologically lists all the measures that are necessary for
market access, such as listing in the catalogue of medical aids, contract negotiations with health insurance companies and others. The purpose of the roadmap is to map out what steps are being taken and when to expand in the market.
Create necessary structures
Step 9 – Organization
The established marketing plan then affects the requirements of the organization. The questions that need to be clarified are how the work with the marketing channels should be managed and which sales organization is required to process the target customers.
Step 10 – Infrastructure
The next step is to ensure the necessary infrastructure to enable communication and channel control.
Step 11 – Processes
Roles for different tasks before and after the launch as well as the interaction between the different company functions (e.g. marketing and sales in the home country or internationally) must be defined using prescribed processes.
Step 12 – Skills
From the roles needed to succeed, the knowledge and experience necessary for the company and external experts can then be derived. Some positions may need to be filled or employees must be trained.
Overall, the planning of a market introduction is a complex task that should not be underestimated but taken seriously. In general, it can be said that a concentration of resources in a market with the lowest barriers to entry is always meaningful in the first step. From there, you can then gradually expand to the next segment.