"To be honest, back then (2013) we didn't see Mindray as our competitor," recalled Niu Xiuhua, sitting in her office.
She is now Mindray's Global Marketing Director of Patient Monitoring and Life Support, known as Lady Hua by her colleagues, and Fiona by the customers. In the WeChat Moments of this tall and slim lady with shoulder-length curly hair, you may see photos of her working out in the gym or jogging outdoors. When giving lectures and demonstrations to the team, she would take off her beautiful bracelet and ring.
In 2013, Ms. Niu worked in the marketing department of a top-notch international medical device company, in charge of anesthesia machines and monitoring devices. As a former anesthesiologist with eight years in the medical device industry, Ms. Niu had absolute confidence in her assessment of the market's competitive landscape.
As her products possessed the largest market share, she only saw a few time-honored international brands as her competitors. At that time, Mindray had not even launched its anesthesia machine, and of course did not get her attention. Even when a colleague of global marketing pointed it out to her, she did not really take much notice.
Later, when she invited a well-acquainted expert to an event, he declined as he was going to the launch conference of Mindray's A7 anesthesia machine. Ms. Niu asked what the product was like and that was her first time hearing positive comments about Mindray.
Although it didn't bring her to Mindray right away, it turned out to be an important reason for her second career change.
Ms. Niu graduated from medical school for anesthesiology. Whether she was influenced by her family or just by her own plan, being a doctor was her ideal career. She believed that being a doctor is the only job that allows you to dedicate yourself to helping others, apart from being a serviceman.
After graduation, she started to work as an anesthesiologist at a Beijing-based hospital. During her residency, she worked a 24-hour shift every one or two days, dealing with all types of work.
Despite the long working hours, she enjoyed her job. Frequent exposure to emergencies required her to be always on hand to complete complex processes with her expertise and experience and work closely with surgeons to support operations. The young anesthesiologist found her job so fulfilling and rewarding.
However, a learning plateau occurred after the first exciting years. With busy days continuing, Ms. Niu started to be bored. "You see where you are today, and you see yourself in the same place in 20 years or 30 years." She thought about pursuing further studies but failed at the exam. That's when she made the first important choice in her professional life: turning herself into a professional medical device agent.
15 years ago, a job at a foreign-funded enterprise in China meant a good salary, well-established management, and advanced ideas. It attracted young people a lot. With full confidence in her ability and experience, Ms. Niu targeted companies like these. She worked for an agency for three years after she left the hospital, and then joined a top-notch international medical device provider.
For quite a while, she was the only agent of anesthesia device in China. She travelled around the country to promote the devices. Typically, she would be awake until 3am replying to e-mails. Despite a hectic schedule, she saw great improvements in her marketing skills. As she made every effort to advance, her steep learning curve was back.
In her fifth year at that foreign company, Ms. Niu was promoted to national product manager of high-end anesthesia machines and regional marketing manager for half of the Chinese market. She hoped to take up global marketing, to develop more insights into the market, to make an impact on the products or some disciplines. And that's when she met Mindray.
The previous indirect encounter changed her impression of Mindray's products, but she was not sure about the opportunities Mindray could offer her.
As Ms. Niu recalled, Mindray's marketing head convinced her with one question: "If you join this Chinese company, and top the Chinese market with your products, wouldn't that give you a greater sense of accomplishment?" Career advancement opportunities and challenges exerted a natural attraction to her. She left her enviable job and joined Mindray.
At first, she was regional marketing manager of North China, a smaller territory compared to her previous job, but she did not relax her efforts.
Working at her previous competitor, Ms. Niu grasped the market with her specialty and worked closely with other branch offices. It took her around one year to reshape the sales ratio of Mindray and imported brands in North China from 1:5 to 4:5. The anesthesia machine sales record she created for Mindray’s Beijing office in 2014 is still unbreakable.
In 2015, Ms. Niu was transferred to the Shenzhen HQ and took on more products. Mindray developed the N series Patient Monitors, SV series Ventilators, and A7 Anesthesia Machine with innovative efforts.
As Mindray enriches its portfolio, the marketing department pays more attention to branding and liaison with medical experts and KOLs. Ms. Niu sees such cooperation beyond commercial terms as it provides insights into clinical trends and needs, and thus inspirations for innovation. Besides, it facilitates academic exchange and promotes the medical device industry.
After COVID-19 broke out, the marketing department established a platform for experts at home and abroad to exchange their experience against the pandemic. Dozens of online seminars familiarized more foreign experts with this Chinese manufacturer.
Ms. Niu is now Global Marketing Director of Patient Monitoring and Life Support, in charge of global marketing for this product line. As her role expanded, she is actually having an impact on the products and even some medical disciplines. Ms. Niu is getting what she has long longed for at Mindray.
As of the third quarter of 2020, regarding the PMLS line, Mindray was the market leader in China for Monitors, Defibrillators, Anesthesia Machines, and Ventilators, and gained the third spot for Monitors and Anesthesia Machines globally. The very dream that motivated her to join Mindray is coming closer to reality.
image 1, image 2: Ms. Niu attending Anasthesia talks during various events. She believes that marketers must be sufficiently specialized to explain the clinical purposes of a product, and to have more meaningful conversations with clinical experts.
Ms. Niu has been with Mindray for eight years - her longest employer so far. In fact, she did not expect it when she first joined Mindray.
Now, the anesthesiologist-turned-marketing director is clear about where her team is going: professionalism. Professional training on Anesthesia and Ventilation products makes up a considerable part of work of the marketing team. Marketers learn the principles and latest trends in anesthesiology, as well as the developments in intensive care medicine.
Ms. Niu not only gave lectures but also demonstrated how to set up and operate the devices as well as OR routine of anesthesiologists in the mock OR. "We aim to build a professional team that is able to exchange with experts in the next two to three years (through training), " said Ms. Niu.
Marketing directors with clinical experience are rare. Looking back, Ms. Niu was thankful for her anesthetic practice as it instilled a rigorous attitude and the belief of lifelong learning that she carried throughout her roles as doctor and marketing director.