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Which Countries Should I Sample?

Hi there, Global Marketer! I hear you’ve decided to conduct market research to inform the launch of your exciting new medical device – that’s great! Properly-designed research can produce insights which will optimize your launch. As you begin to plan the research, one of the most important things you’ll have to decide is which countries to include in this effort. Here, I’ll outline a list of questions to ask yourself as you make this critical decision.

First – and this is an overarching question you should keep revisiting as you read through the list – what is my budget and timeline? This should have a clear answer. We don’t have unlimited funds and endless weeks to spend on research, so establish these boundaries early and don’t lose sight as you plan. If you have $30K to spend, you can’t afford a 7-country segmentation. If you need tight-turnaround results in August, it’s a gamble to include European markets who will be on holiday.

Next, what is the population whose opinions I’m trying to represent? In market research, we must construct our study sample to reflect our products’ target universe. Here, think first of the markets in which your product will launch, and prioritize those for inclusion in the study. Budget and timeline permitting, consider also including those which may be part of a second-tier rollout. Because a good portion of project costs are centralized, it is more economical to tack on additional markets to a study you’re committed to doing vs. conducting a separate study down the road.

In light of your business objectives, what type of primary research study will best address these objectives? If you are in the early planning stages and well-ahead of launch, a handful of qualitative telephone interviews in each key market might suffice. Or, if you are much closer to launch and have already done this qualitative exploration, a more robust quantitative assessment will be needed. But wait – should I consider secondary data/research, too? Absolutely, either as a complement to your primary efforts or a substitute in the markets for which surveys and interviews are difficult to obtain. While these secondary data or reports may be incomplete, inconsistent, or altogether unavailable in your markets of interest, they are worth exploring to ensure you’re well-informed.

Now, what level of precision do I need from this research? In other words, are you looking to develop country-specific strategies or can you settle for one that applies to the EU-5? If regional strategies will suffice, you must decide which market(s) will represent the region. Here, select the priority market(s) from that region from a business perspective, and/or consider Hofstede’s model of individual vs. collective culture. Countries Hofstede has identified as individual are those in which societal ties are loose, whereas the opposite is true of collective cultures. If all the countries in a region “look” the same across the six dimensions comprising Hofstede’s model, choosing one for the study will likely be a good approximation of the rest.

Good luck, Global Marketer! With these questions answered, you will be well on your way to a properly-designed global study.