Fast Track to China – Possible?
There’s a discernible buzz among Australian small and medium-sized businesses in the tourism, lifestyle products and food sectors about China. It’s the sound of people sensing opportunity and finding ways to engage their companies. In the background of all this excitement, there’s also the dull drone of the Band-Aid clique – those who want to get on the Chinese bus for free.
Lately, when you pick up a paper, read a trade journal or speak with small-business owners, you quickly sense that everyone is excited about engaging with China. Such outward-looking activity is invigorating local business and stimulating an innovative buzz.
When she’ll-be-right doesn’t cut it
However, there also seems to be a clique of business owners and managers that think it can Band-Aid China strategy, cobbling together a sort of she’ll-be-right approach with attitudes like this:
• Can’t I just hire someone who speaks Chinese?
• What if we just translate our website?
• Lets put an ad in the local Chinese newspaper
• My friend is Chinese. I’ll get him to set up a Chinese social media account for me.
Let’s look at each one of these attitudes and see what’s wrong with them.
Can’t I just hire someone who speaks Chinese?
Speaking a language is only one part of the challenge. In the case of Chinese, there are multiple dialects depending on where the Chinese speaker comes from.
For example, Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong and Guangdong province. A Cantonese speaker, unless trained, wouldn’t ordinarily speak Mandarin. Jeannie, my administrative assistant, for example, is from Hong Kong and can’t converse in Mandarin with the rest of our China Blueprint team unless we are speaking English. Similarly, Shanghai has its own dialect as do Dalian, Fuzhou and Xiamen.
Sometimes business owners assume that when you hire someone with another language, the package includes cultural advisor, social media, risk and media manager, marketing manager, business administrator and graphic designer.
This person quickly assumes many hats simply because the language is different. The business owner assumes that whatever that language speaker is doing must be right because there is no way he or she can understand it any case – it’s a serious leap of faith.
From my experience in learning Chinese, I really appreciate the difference between our two languages – it’s not just words, it comes down to culture and experience. Saying the wrong thing, misleading customers by accident or failing to connect can all have devastating effects on businesses.
What if I just translate my website?
Simply translating your website is not a problem, so long as it’s done well. However, what a translation fails to recognise is your business’ brand strategy for Chinese customers.
As an example, I had a client who wanted to sell car wax in China. The virtues of the product in Australia were that is was a DIY product and that it was quick. When it comes to car ownership in China, DIY is not an attribute: if you can afford a car, you can also afford a cleaning service (it’s really cheap).
Furthermore, the Chinese consumer would think if the product is so good, surely it can’t be that simple to use. There is a high level of risk aversion in the China market and anything that appears too good to be true is usually pegged as fake.
The point is that the product features for this product in the China market had to be reprioritised. Simply translating your website, does not pay attention to such a brand strategy, it simply puts your English strategy into Chinese – which in this case would be a recipe for failure.
Let’s put an ad in the local Chinese newspaper
Quite often I see the attempts of local companies at advertising in Chinese magazines, newspaper and on news channels. The ads fail to deliver because they are usually placed in the wrong advertising channels, targeting customers who are not there. They also do not present a compelling offer or a call to action.
There are hundreds of news channels targeting a local Australian Chinese audience, each with its own unique customer demographic, interests and distribution channels.
To get bang for your buck, you need to choose carefully and present more than just eye candy. You need a compelling offer to get your Chinese audience out of the mainstream channels and into your store.
My friend is Chinese. I’ll get him to set up a Chinese social media account for me
Mixing business with friendship at any level is risky business. Setting up tools such as websites and social media accounts are time consuming and very reliant on personalities, meaning the conversation is very one-on-one.
When you ask a friend to set up your social media account in Chinese, how will you manage to determine brand essence and tone of voice, get your brand message across, how questions are answered accurately and in a timely manner, how complaints are managed (this is a public domain) and who holds the passwords.
I personally would have thought the last point was a no-brainer, but have spoken to countless organisations, including government ones, that have completely entrusted one individual with the social media account assets. When that employee has left – and there has been a number of cases where they left abruptly – all the account passwords go with them. The account basically stops and there is not a lot that can be done.
Join us next week to discover the five positive strategy tips that will get your business buzzing with Chinese market engagement.