Successful traction for a medical tourism startup is what qualifies the business as viable. Without traction, your business is a failure.

While there are many traction channels to pursue, it difficult for most medical tourism startup business owners to determine in advance which will work to get them the traction they need to succeed. This is because there isn’t a single way to test each traction channel to determine if it is the best one for your business.

Start by designing small scale, low-cost, low-effort tests

We don’t test to get traction. Instead, we test to find the best channels to get traction. with only a few hundred dollars to invest, you should be able to filter through small scale tests to determine which channel(s) have the best potential to score significant medical tourism startup traction.

For example, many hoteliers and clinic owners ask me to introduce them to medical tourism facilitators. They’ve read in LinkedIn and trade association propaganda that medical tourism facilitators will steer patients their way. While that’s entirely possible, it is but one of about 20 channels, and it doesn’t always work. In fact, before you can determine which medical tourism facilitators to partner with, you must first determine if they have traction for their own business. Most struggle getting traction because of the low cost of entry (a website and a cell phone), lots of apparent competition on the surface. As a result, there are probably 10 facilitators in the world that I would introduce to some hospitals and clinics – this week.  Chances are, next week, some could decide they didn’t gain enough traction to continue operations and close up shop.

Brainstorm, rank, prioritize, test, and focus

Theme and sequence hold a marketing strategy together the same way the phrase “and then” holds a story together.

There’s a step-by-step process I use with medical tourism startup clients that works like a charm to maximize their chances of getting traction for their medical tourism business. One thing we do in the brainstorming session is to study lessons learned from past success and failures I’ve examined around the world.  We can easily study failed startups because

You can instantly know if your medical tourism marketing strategy lacks theme and sequence by this signal: you begin developing your strategy based tactics, not based on an opportunity to offer something of value to an audience or community. We witness this over and over in medical tourism startups, from country to country. Most medical tourism startups have something of value, they don’t know how to get traction of the market to get customers to buy it – from them. Almost every failed medical tourism startup has a product. Most simply didn’t have enough customers to remain viable as a business or service line in a hospital or clinic.

The first step in the sequence of crafting an audience and community focused marketing strategy is to perform a market opportunity analysis. Your opportunity analysis process starts by defining and articulating problem statements.

  1. Your problem statement
  2. A consumer’s problem statement

No one wants to buy “cheap surgery”. because that’s not their problem. Their problem is pain, disability, fear of a dreaded condition they aren’t sure they have, or addiction of some sort.  Your problem is excess capacity that you have available for sale. If you don’t sell it, you don’t earn revenues. Without revenues you cannot sustain the business.

You cannot focus on your product at the exclusion of everything else. We’ll you can… but you won’t attract experienced angel investors and private equity investors or venture capitalists to your project. You have to prove to them that you can get traction to show that a significant market of consumers exists who will buy what you are selling. Otherwise, they can’t get their money back plus return on investment so that they can invest in something else and make more money.

Problem statements are not developed and validated overnight. I spend about three months doing the research, gathering feedback, testing behaviors against potential user responses, and collecting advice from thought leaders before tendering a completed deliverable that informs the client of the exact problems that their product solves. Those who skip this step, often do so at their peril. They don’t refine the product and end up trying to sell the same product every other medical tourism startup has to offer.

Does this take budget? Absolutely!

How much budget? It depends. Consider consulting time (face-to-face), desk and market research time (and travel), interview meetings (and maybe a translator and local travel (taxis, or car services), test development time, testing time and travel, and report generation and review with the client. Then any additional tweaks to the final report before delivery. A project of this magnitude, done properly, can range from 150,000€ to more than 300,000€, for a national strategy.

A single stakeholder hospital or clinic can take similar time and effort, but the scope is often smaller. Rest assured that you won’t get this kind of a problem statement for 5,000€ to 10,000€ – as one project owner in Tanzania was surprised to learn. That budget just barely covers the business class air travel to the client’s location for the initial meeting, not the meeting time itself. Most consultants won’t fly long-distance international flights in the economy section for health and sanity reasons.

Suffice to say if you don’t have budget to do a proper startup and get traction, and cannot afford the assistance you might need, you should reconsider and wait until you can. Medical tourism isn’t going to go away any time soon. It has the potential to bring 8-figure turnovers. Your other option is to move on to the next idea or abandon your entry and save yourself time, money and aggravation.

Gap Analysis

In that first month of research and opportunity analysis, part of the analysis is to take the data that is gathered together with initial validation to support truth behind both problem statements. Then, the next step in the sequence is to perform a gap analysis to answer these two questions:

  1. How are you currently succeeding and failing at solving this problem?
  2. How are other companies(local and distant competitors) currently succeeding and failing at solving this problem?

During the problem statement phase, you developed a brief answer to the first question. In this later stage, we develop a deeper understanding so that you can begin to envision the way to create your distinct medical tourism startup opportunity by solving a problem for a consumer, an insurer, an employer or a business partner (such as hospital or clinic and a hotel or airline, or spa that partners with a local clinic for missing services too costly to produce on site.)

In order to complete your analysis, you may have to purchase some data for reliable sources. For medical tourism, per se, there aren’t many. As consultants, we rely heavily on certain credible data sources and then apply our insight, experience and education to analyze it in context. I remember one consultant who made a big post on LinkedIn’s IMTJ Group that there was no medical tourism data . That’s never stopped me before.

I look for data I need in several places and then I have to piece clues together using my clinical background, decades of experience in healthcare and health administration. My data sources include, but are not limited to:

  • CIA World Facts
  • Nationmaster
  • Google Trends
  • Wikipedia
  • The Guardian Data Store
  • The Economist – Market Data
  • UN Stats – Millennium Development Goals
  • New York Times – Linked Open Data
  • BBC – Interactives and Graphics
  • WHO – Global Health Expenditure Database
  • The London Datastore of the Greater London Authority (GLA)
  • European Commission – Databases
  • UK Data Service – Census Support
  • – UK Governmental Data
  • Knoema
  • Better World Flux
  • US Census Bureau
  • Eurostat
  • The Pew Internet & American Life Project
  • Reddit Data Sets
  • Country National Statistics
  • International Monetary Fund Reports
  • Weatherbase
  • Gapminder
  • The Open Knowledge Index
  • Foreign Lobbying
  • Openstates
  • National DNA Database Statistics
  • Protected Planet
  • Freebase
  • Data loss database

It would be cost prohibitive to subscribe to all these that require payment to access what they have available. To remain lean as possible, we only subscribe for the time we will need access to the data for a particular client. That cost is passed through to the client on each project. Many of these are also available on Lexis/Nexis, by subscription. Others are completely free.

It is the mark of an inexperienced consultant or researcher who would look for or require prepared, spoon-fed, medical tourism statistics.  Then one must consider that depending on the age of the reports and the accuracy of the research to produce them, would that data be of any value.

To get traction, you’ll need good data to make good decisions. Otherwise it will be difficult to define your unique product and your distinctive approach to solve customer problems. then you’ll need an action plan, a pilot project to test the strategy and tactics, and finally a measurement system of key performance indicators to defend your go forward strategy and plan.