During the commercialisation process, entrepreneurs may consider developing a presence in various international markets. Before embarking on this journey, it’s crucial for the foreign company to understand a specific country’s culture, market need and customs, that will ultimately assist a new medical device to be tailored and distributed within a new jurisdiction. Even if both the countries are in the same continent, the cultures and business etiquette may be vastly different. For example, Hong Kong (being an ex-British colony) has more Westernised customs, compared to countries such as Japan.
Here are several things to consider when engaging with others in the international market:
Familiarise yourself on the customs and business etiquette of your target country.
Many large international companies are familiar with engaging with foreign companies, however; local customs and cultures are still very much present. For example, in Japan, politeness is a key aspect of Japanese culture. The Japanese may shower praise for your product, but may have no intention of doing any business. Often using an interpreter will allow the Japanese to be more forthright, as they are not rejecting you directly.
Gather historical data and understand the country’s currency and pricing mechanisms.
Spend the first month doing business in your chosen target country aggressively networking and information gathering. Know the market value of your target country, do not assume this will be similar to your home country or other countries. Not understanding the value of your product, means foreign distributors may markup your product without passing a fair percentage to you. By comparing your home market statistics, you should also be able to extrapolate some reasonable revenue forecasts, that may be useful during the contract negotiation process for new distributors, etc.
Become an expert on the country’s laws governing business
Understanding a foreign market – particularly non-English speaking countries, can be difficult. Find local representation if possible or even set up a local office to manage and monitor the performance and relationships with local distributors, suppliers, etc.
Conduct Market research
For medical devices this may involve contacting Key Opinion Leaders in a specific medical field and asking them to provide feedback or to trial your device in the field. This may serve as useful development feedback and to identify the needs of your target market.
Compare with your competitors
How have others in the medical device field entered this target market? What obstacles did they face? How did the company approach the new market? What can you learn from their process?
At Inner Maven we have launched countless Australian products into international markets such as the USA, Europe and Japan.