When we first started this blog, the media was obsessed with “doing business in China stories.” Nearly every week there would be a good first person account from someone recounting what it is/was like to do business in China. I often found those pieces quite helpful as they tended to deal with on the ground specifics and I always feel like I am channelling Ronald Reagan by taking the example of one business and extrapolating it to a massive and diverse country.
Here is a partial list of some of those posts:
- China Polyester Writ Large.
- Fake Pens In China Write/Writ Large
- Barbie In China Writ Large
- China Suburbanization Writ Large
- Designed In Raleigh, Made In China
- Chocolate Fortunes. China’s Consumer Market Writ Large And It Ain’t Easy….
- China Truck Manufacturing Writ Large As Global Trade Microcosm.
- World Of Warcraft As China Metaphor.
- One Small China Restaurant Writ Large. Really Large.
Most importantly, we always love it when someone with real on the ground China business (not China law) experience sets forth some of the same China maxims as us.
Today’s “writ large” post is by Jeff Holtmeier. Jeff is the Managing Partner of China-US Business Development Corporation, a Cincinnati-Beijing-Shenzhen Consultancy with whom my firm’s China lawyers have worked on a number of matters. Jeff recently assisted a medical group in getting its innovative eye care product into China. Having worked with a large number companies that have sought to do the same thing, I can vouch for how difficult that is. Selling product or services to China’s medical industry is far different than selling a consumer product and I thought it would be informative to have Jeff explain how he and his team pulled this off.
So without further ado, I give you Jeff’s brief case study on getting through to China’s hospitals.
Selling your product or service in China is a challenge that typically requires a combination of market demand and market knowledge. Sometimes it also requires meeting the right people. This is particularly true when your product is aimed at a relatively closed market like hospitals.
In late summer 2013, a small, fast-growing medical technology company from the Midwest sought my company’s assistance in developing the Chinese market for their diabetic retinopathy telemedicine platform – an innovative cloud based software platform that allows remote diagnoses of a person’s risk of diabetes-related blindness. What both distinguishes this platform and makes it so promising for China is that its tests can be performed by any qualified retinal specialist from a smartphone, tablet or PC. The company had already found success in the U.S. by selling to primary care medical providers, and was looking for something similar in China—where an estimated 140 million people suffer from diabetes, and many of the nearly 20,000 publicly operated hospitals have neither the access to sophisticated technology nor the available retinal specialists to interpret the massive volume of images.
We began by researching China’s diabetic population, and quickly determined that the best potential buyers for my client’s product would be ophthalmological hospitals. But our client could not simply walk into the hospital and ask to talk with its purchasing department, so I spent some time researching the target hospitals and identifying the key decision-makers, and then worked my Chinese contacts for proper introductions.
Through “a business associate of a business associate,” we set up a meeting with one of China’s most respected doctors of ophthalmology and his colleague, the director of one of the largest eye institutes in China. (No matter how large the organization in China, the top executive always makes the decisions.) The doctor liked our product and he liked us, and he subsequently invited us to present my client’s product to his hospital’s executive team. He also made personal introductions to other leading Chinese ophthalmologists.
Later, one of these ophthalmologists introduced my client to the chairman of a large eye hospital in Henan. The hospital’s chairman loved the product and the following day asked our client to provide a MOU for their consideration, which we delivered two weeks later upon our return to the U.S. Less than six months after our initial contact with the hospital in Henan, my client’s company licensed the use of its first platform in China.
By identifying a large, untapped customer base, by being willing to spend the time and money necessary to get proper introductions into a relatively closed industry, and then working to secure meetings with key the decision makers, my client is well on the road to success in China.