China’s health care sector continues to develop at an incredible rate: spending is projected to grow from $357 billion in 2011 to $1 trillion in 2020. From pharmaceuticals to medical products to consumer health, China remains among the world’s most attractive markets, and by far the fastest-growing of all the large emerging ones.
It is not surprising that multinationals are flocking to take advantage of the opportunities, but long-term success is certainly not guaranteed. The overall outlook for China’s health-care market is optimistic however multinationals will find it harder to compete with a more distinct separation between success stories and failed attempts to crack this lucrative market. Late entrants may struggle so now is the time to invest.
The Healthcare Market is Booming
The healthcare market in China is booming with 350 million middle class consumers dramatically changing expectations and values when it comes to healthcare. Private healthcare has become a necessity for discerning Chinese that highly value this most important aspect of life.
Healthcare products are in vogue in China with ‘international’ products the most highly respected, indeed foreign offerings in this vital industry are often associated as a byword for quality. And when it comes to healthcare this quality is absolutely key.
Chinese customers can now pay more for healthcare with GDP still growing by 7% year on year and average levels of wealth amongst the wealthiest 350 million consumers growing by 10% per annum. These figures indicate there will be no slow down in this market as the Chinese avidly embrace international health products in new and interesting ways. Indeed Vice Premier Li Keqiang himself said the health-care industry has now entered “uncharted waters.”
Digital in China is the Answer
Digital in China is the answer with over 900 million Chinese connected online what you have is the world’s largest, yet closed online system. Chinese platforms dominate and must be utilized by savy health care companies to grow their visibility and reputation as well as their product range and associated health benefits. Digital marketing is also the most cost effective method offering substantial Return On Investment.
30% of the total search on Baidu is linked to health..
Yes it’s true, there is a huge culture of searching for health related products, Baidu (China’s Google) is the number one source for health product searches. Indeed 75% of all online research is conducted via Baidu and your portal to mainland China.
Consumers want good quality of services, how do they decide this?
Your visibility on Baidu is a huge indicator of the quality of your product and company, especially considering the importance Chinese place on researching via this search engine. Baidu visibility is best achieved by ranking highly in the natural search results.
The answer is SEO. To rank highly in the natural search results over time by generating backlinks, optimizing a quality Chinese website and creating original Chinese content. This determines your placement in the organic results, the highest quality, most serious customers are attracted in this way, It is also the number one method for cementing and reinforcing your reputation in China, which of course in this sector is the greatest priority.
There is a big problem of trust in China
Many local, Chinese healthcare companies have cheated Chinese consumers, often with disastrous effects. There was a huge case in China where an individual was searching for cancer related care yet found inaccurate and wrong procedure information advertised by a Chinese company on Baidu. After this Baidu have really clamped down on healthcare product quality offered via the platform, particularly in the paid results. It is highly advised to seek advice on Baidu promotions in light of this incident.
It is more important than ever therefore to establish a strong reputation and reinforce your own quality reputation in contrast to this problem of trust and poor quality local services. In the health care sector this is a very real problem and quality must be improved in terms of product offering and instilling that reputation in the minds of consumers. There was a strong backlash against local companies (after the aforementioned incident on Baidu) with international healthcare now leading the way for those able to afford it.
Your E-Reputation is Everything
When it comes to healthcare the Chinese research more extensively than in any other sector. It is therefore vital to develop your e-reputation on forums, in the e-media and on Baidu’s related platforms in order to instil trust, respect and build a quality, loyal customer base.
There are a host of dedicated health care forums where consumers visit for advice and to discuss product recommendations. Here you need to create a positive sentiment that is from user to user, not just from your company itself. Chinese testimonials, references and topics linked with recommendations are all vital. You also need to manage any potential negative comments or posts about the product from aggressive, local competitors.
Working on forum community management is a great way to boost your reputation and also rank highly in Baidu’s search results as these forums are highly ranked themselves, related content will thus appear on relevant keyword searches.
Branding on WeChat
WeChat has over 860 million active monthly users with the average user spending 1.5 hours per day on China’s number on social tool. Brands evidently also have to develop a presence here.
Branding is everything in China. In this environment trusting brands is the most important factor when it comes to long term success. A good start for health brands is to set up an official WeChat account. They can then use this as a launch pad for sharing quality content and building their following.
This following on WeChat are often highly engaged with official accounts so expect interaction with consumers, many questions and discussions around your offering. Official, service accounts allow for weekly posts that are ‘pushed’ to followers, they appear in their message feed as a notification, this also increases interaction and legitimizes your offering.
WeChat has become a necessary platform to develop a ‘mini site’ on, this site needs to be built in HTML5 and optimized for WeChat’s format. This site can even be linked to a WeChat ‘store’ where health products can be sold via your official account. Consider your WeChat page your ‘shop front’ in China as well as an informative page for prospective customers.
As WeChat is a closed network (users can only see your posts if they follow you) traffic can be driven from your official website (optimized on Baidu) to your WeChat store/account to increase consumer engagement and sales figures. This is also an effective way to build your following.
Exposure in the Chinese Media
A huge part of any new health brand launching their product range in China is their degree of coverage in the Chinese media. You need to develop quality Chinese PR to achieve this coverage.
Chinese Portals for media dissemination are a must as well as quality copywriting. Content needs to be tailored and adapted to the Chinese market linguistically. Direct translation into Mandarin Chinese does not work. Exposure for health brands also needs to be targeted at the right communities. E-news sites such as sohu.com, 360, Tieba and News168 all have threads devoted to health care and livelihood. Having your PR content featured here is also beneficial for your Baidu ranking.
Community Management; Take Care of Word of Mouth
In China content going viral amongst targeted communities is highly possible because users are highly engaged and simply because of the scale of the Chinese internet. Take care of user to user interaction whilst community feedback needs to be monitored and accessed. There is no point engaging in intelligent marketing if you do not filter relevant prospects from this.
Focusing on forums, social media, Baidu visibility and PR all together is the right combination for building a community around your health brand and using this as a launch pad for sales. Visiblity and reputation in China is everything.
HealthCare Marketing Agency
We are a dedicated marketing agency solely focused on the Chinese market (our Agency Website). We specialize in launching brands in the Chinese market with a focus on long term ROI and sustainable growth. Please contact us for an in-depth consultation about your business opportunities in China.