The enigma that is China is for some too complex a market to attempt to do business in and there is no denying with a different language, a different culture not to mention a different political system it’s not the easiest of prospects.

With an economy that is now recognised as the second largest in the world can we really afford to ignore it? Shouldn’t all businesses with an interest in exporting at least investigate the potential opportunities that this huge economic powerhouse can offer ?

Having spent considerable time myself investigating business potential all across China here are my top 5 tips I wanted to share with anyone who may be interested in or attempting to do business there.

  • Do Your Homework

    There is an abundance of advice available through organisations such as your local chamber of commerce, the CBI, UKTI, CBBC and many more. Use these as your first step in understanding more about the market and how it may be an interesting proposition for your product or service.

    You must ensure that you fully understand where you could add value to the Chinese and how that could make a difference for them. When your desk research is complete (a great way to get a detailed insight into how your product and or service may be interesting to the Chinese is to commission an OMIS – overseas market intelligence report) and your comfortable that there is REAL potential worth investigating further then a trip to the market is essential as its only then that you will fully understand all the complexities of doing business there.

  • Language & Its Use

    “YES” during a business discussion only means “I hear what you’re saying” – do NOT mistake it for “Yes I agree with you”!

  • Be Precise In Your Message

    Make sure the translator you use to explain the points important to your business fully understands the message you want to get across. A good and experienced translator is essential when explaining your product or service to a potential customer. The more time you can spend with your translator getting them to understand your business message / products the more chance you will have in delivering a clear and focussed brief to potential customers.

  • Go Native

    Understanding the culture and letting the Chinese see that you respect their country and culture will go a long way in making that all important first step in the long process of ‘ Guanxi’ – the building and development of relations that can be trusted – our equivalent would be ‘people buy from people’.

    ‘Word of mouth’ is an important part of the selling process in China, so making a good impression is imperative if you hope to succeed.

  • It’s Not Just What You Know

    Who you know in China is hugely important. It’s a country that moves at a fast pace and understanding who influences the decisions that may have an impact on your business has never been as important as it is in this market.

    Traditional marketing and advertising methods aren’t nearly as effective as they are in western markets and will never work as a standalone approach. You must invest in spending time networking and developing relationships with people you’ve identified as having the possibility of making a difference to your success in China, ‘it’s not just what you know but who you know’ has never been as relative as it is in the Chinese way of doing business.

Always remember that wherever you choose to do business it will require focus and resource. If you want sustained success you must be prepared to invest first to reap the rewards later.

Above all – if it doesn’t feel right then it usually isn’t!