If you’re thinking about selling your healthcare product on the Chinese market, your timing is impeccable! In addition to lowered restrictions against, and a new outlook on, Western medicine, the healthcare/pharma market in China is growing at an impressive rate. In 2011, Chinese consumers were spending nearly $360 billion a year on healthcare; by 2020, that’s expected to have skyrocketed to $1 trillion.
With an estimated 350 million smokers, and a projected 250 million senior citizens by 2020, as well as a younger generation that is increasingly concerned about health issues, this growth is only going to continue.
That means countless groups and institutions are analyzing just what strategies work best when it comes to healthcare marketing in China. One intriguing study proposes some unexpected methods, including store display locations, or using aspects of language like classifiers (short words that denote something about an object) when planning print ads and other visuals. For example, the study found that products tied to words that contain the classifier ba (graspable) tended to get a more positive response from test subjects if they were being held by a hand in photos.
The study offers a lot of food for thought, but even if you decide to incorporate its findings into your marketing campaign, there are other strategies that you absolutely must follow when it comes to breaking into and succeeding in the Chinese healthcare market. Here are a few:
– Use digital marketing. Although China’s internet is heavily censored, with different social media platforms and online culture than what most Western-based companies are familiar with, it plays a huge role in nearly a billion potential consumers’ daily lives. Not only can you use sites like Baidu and WeChat to build up visibility and share information about your products; doing this can also help you build trust with Chinese consumers, which, it turns out, may be the most important strategy on this list.
– Establish trust. Chinese consumers don’t automatically trust pharmaceutical or healthcare service providers. This is due in part to a history of local companies providing false information about the benefits of their products, including one company who mislead consumers regarding its cancer drugs, via the website Baidu. As a result, middle- and upper -class Chinese consumers tend to turn to foreign medical companies – but yours will still need to take a reassuring, trustworthy approach. Specialist website Marketing to China recommends keeping this in mind with your advertising, as well as giving things like word of mouth and customer reviews an important place in your social media and other online presence. Get to know healthcare forums – these are a popular way for consumers to gain trustworthy information not tied to companies (and have recently undergone new legislation to prevent potential corruption issues).
– Gain media exposure. Many Chinese news channels have segments devoted to healthcare, and according to experts, it’s vital to have your product’s launch and other information shared in these places. The script, visuals, and other details you provide will need to be localized – that is, translated into the way people really speak locally, not a stiff machine or direct translation. Marketing to China advises working with a Chinese PR expert, who will know and have contacts at the major news outlets and can tell you what’s expected.
– Understand how your product is perceived. Speaking of “what’s expected”, before you get started on these other steps, there’s one thing you have to do that may not seem so obvious. Visibility and trust are major issues for marketing in China, but is your product even something that is used or understood in the Chinese market, to begin with? While Western medicine and healthcare products are increasingly popular, not all of them are perceived the same way. For example, while the Chinese market offers many sanitary napkin options, most Chinese women are unfamiliar with tampons. If you learn that your product is perceived this way, too, your marketing campaign will have to involve patient education.
Diving into the Chinese healthcare market could bring your company immense success. But always remember that healthcare advertising in China is about more than what’s on the surface. No mere marketing strategy or machine translation will suffice. You’ll have to form a team of talented translators and transcreators, and local PR experts, not to mention do some research of your own, if you want to succeed.