There’s a looming million-dollar question in the minds of many a business, the answer to which is perhaps a gateway to millions of dollars - ‘How to market and sell to people in China?’ The topic is oft-debated by foreign companies seeking to profit from the huge potential of the country, but making it sound either impossible or ‘easy-peasy’. The somewhat promising reality is, however, seldom discussed.
Although East-West cultural differences continue to present challenges to foreign enterprises wishing to sell in China, there is no reason why a company with a flexible, patient and ‘all-ears’ approach shouldn’t succeed in the Chinese market. In this regard, companies that try to understand the variations in Marketing & Sales approaches and integrate them into their strategies stand a higher chance of success.
If you’re a business striving to enter or sustain in the China market, here are some pointers worth keeping in mind:
- Why is the Chinese market so attractive?
China is poised to become a lynchpin for global economic growth over the next few years. Many Western companies are thus, realigning their global strategies to lay more emphasis on China and other Asian markets.
The best part for UAE nationals is that they have a visa-free entry into China (a policy that came into force in January 2018 in view of strengthening bilateral relations and opening new avenues for trade and tourism between the two countries). This makes it all the more favourable for businesses based out of Dubai to travel hassle-free to China.
- Restrictions on advertising in China:
It is vital for a business / marketer / salesperson to know the legal restrictions on Advertising in China and how it affects marketing strategies. The People’s Republic of China amended its Advertising Law in September 2015, with the new policy prohibiting the use of superlative adjectives and their Chinese translations in advertising. The use of marketing phrases like ‘the highest’, ‘the best’ or ‘most powerful’ are prohibited. Here is a non-exhaustive, representative list of Chinese marketing terms (translated to English) that are banned in China:
- Words associated with ‘the most’
- Words associated with ‘number one’
- Words associated with ‘first / national’
- Words associated with ‘level’
- Words associated with the notion of a brand
- Words associated with false / authority related expressions
- Words which mislead or trick consumers
- Words which overtly seduce consumers
- Words relating to time
The degree of punishment for violations can carry fines anywhere between 200,000 yuan (USD 31,000) and 1,000,000 yuan (USD 151,000). Worse, there’s a risk of having the business license revoked. So, this sure is one place you don’t want to go overboard with the content/copywriting.
- How to reach the Chinese audience?
In this report on reaching the Chinese audience, B2B International indicates that the best way of reaching the Chinese is through Conferences/Exhibitions, Email and Website, while the mode they least prefer to be reached out to is via Phone.
- Catch them while they travel:
Irrespective of the industry, attending exhibitions, conferences and trade shows events can be a good way to crack success in China. These events are an excellent way of making initial contact with them, gaining their trust and moving a potential sales relationship forward quickly.
- Leverage on Festivals:
E-commerce festivals like Double 11, Double 12, Wine Festival and 618 are a big deal in China. As a precursor to festivals like Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Women’s Day, Christmas, etc. promotions, sales and discounts extend across various platforms. On these sale days, everyone is selling, and everyone is shopping in China. If your business runs on the e-commerce model, participating in these festivals is a great way to showcase your brand.
- Play the Social Media card:
Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are blocked by the Chinese government but other social networking sites (different from those commonly used in the West) are popular. LinkedIn has a large community of English-speaking Chinese business people, while other Chinese language business networking sites like Tianji and Wealink are becoming common. WeChat is yet another networking platform that favours both B2B and B2C marketing.
Choosing to delve into marketing in these forums may involve dedicated resources to translate press releases and discussion topics into Chinese, but the effort is worth it.
- What makes the difference?
Many try, but only some succeed! In our opinion, it is perfectly achievable for a Western company to make it big in the Chinese market with the right approach, attitude and strategy. Keeping in mind the marketing basics (the 4Ps - Product, Price, Place and Promotion) and adapting these to the local environment is the first step:
- Be patient and consistent when applying the marketing basics to the local market. Results won’t come overnight, especially in a difficult market like China.
- Be flexible and listen to understand and address the local market needs. The Chinese do not want to buy a product/service straight off a Western shelf.
- Focus on building relationships. The Chinese thrive on it.
- Be methodical in your approach but don’t let it turn into a dogmatic process. The Chinese are meticulous people, placing a high value on structure and discipline.
Ready to kickstart your journey to China? We can help chart out your course, to make it a seamless and fruitful one. Already established your presence in China and have deeper insights? Your understandings will be valuable learning for all of us. Let us know in the comments below.