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Case study: F&P Healthcare marketers taking it to the world

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is helping save lives around the globe with its constant drive for R&D. Its marketing and sales network provides the framework to make that happen.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is helping save lives around the globe with its constant drive for R&D. Its marketing and sales network provides the framework to make that happen.

F&p healthcare marketing

F&P Healthcare senior vice president sales and marketing, Paul Shearer. PHOTO: Tony Nyberg

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare has achieved what many Kiwi technology companies can only dream of – the creation of a global market for its products, which are sold in over 120 countries through its own distribution network.

Fisher & Paykel entered the healthcare market in 1971 with a unique respiratory humidifier system for use in critical care.

Through continuous R&D, it’s introduced some major innovations in respiratory care, acute care and the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). Its products and therapies save premature babies, provide life-saving breathing assistance and offer a better night’s sleep for the 5-10 percent of the population with OSA. But spending millions on R&D without a robust marketing strategy is pointless. Today 99 percent of its revenue comes from offshore sales. This, says Jon Clausen, marketing and clinical manager for Respiratory and Acute Care, is largely thanks to its carefully established sales and distribution network, with staff in more than 30 countries.

Half of the F&P Healthcare marketing team is located in New Zealand, with the rest spread around the world. Individual marketing teams in each country manage pricing, promote products and support the local sales force.

“Our New Zealand marketing team plays a pivotal intermediary role between the R&D and sales divisions,” says Clausen. “Over a period of 12-24 months, our marketers receive extensive training and become extremely knowledgeable about a particular product or therapy.”

As subject matter experts, they can help the company’s R&D teams by passing on feedback from the sales teams dealing with clinicians.

Senior vice president, sales and marketing Paul Shearer says the company has some great programmes to educate the marketing and sales teams. “It’s exciting to be developing new technologies, new products, new applications and opening up new markets,” he says.

“There are lots of opportunities for our marketers to grow in their roles and move into other roles that become available through the growth of the company.”

Shearer joined F&P Healthcare in 1990 when the company had little more than 50 staff. Its products were being sold overseas mainly through distributors and one of the opportunities was to take back ownership of the company’s markets and set up direct sales organisations. Over the past two decades he’s played a vital role in establishing a highly effective global sales channel, and it’s an opportunity he’s relished.

f&p healthcare marketing“What makes Fisher & Paykel Healthcare exciting, especially from a marketing viewpoint, is that we’ve got scale, infrastructure and capital behind us, so we can develop our own products, create the messaging around them and then sell them to the world, all in-house,” he says.

“There aren’t many companies in the New Zealand tech sector that have scale, global brand awareness, control their own sales channel and have customers in more than 100 countries.”

The global nature of the business is a highlight for Shearer. In 1991, he headed overseas to help set up Fisher & Paykel Healthcare sales operations in Australia, the UK, the critical US market and then France.

Clausen says the distribution network is second to none and allows F&P Healthcare to better control the sales process. The company now has more than 550 people around the world actively involved in sales, marketing and distribution. “We’re in a very enviable position,” he says. “We’re developing the product and crafting the messaging, sales approach and collateral here, then our sales teams around the world are ready and waiting to take the new product to market. That allows us to get our product out to the market quickly.”

Shearer says a major challenge in converting a market from distributors representing your products to establishing your own sales organisation is to tailor the right business model to suit the market environment. In some markets it made sense to go direct, but in other, more complex markets, a unique business model solution needed to be implemented.

“In the United States, we strengthened the relationship with our long-standing distributor by placing clinical people into the market to support the sales process. This resulted in increased sales for both organisations. During that time we also established our own Homecare sales team to sell our OSA products directly to homecare dealers. Revenue in the United States has now grown to represent 40 percent of our total business.”