China has undergone a transformation from a country dominated by what we would call a working class population to people who aspire to have the same standard of living they see on American sitcoms. The rise of the middle class in China is great for foreign business.
But successfully tapping into the Chinese market involves more than just taking out an ad, and waiting for orders to come in. Here are four steps to get you started, from making sure your product has a market in China to marketing and communication.
The value of consumer goods imported into China in 2014 was nearly US$2 trillion according to the government, so chances are your product will find a market. According to the statistics, beauty products are booming, and the demand for high-end consumables such as name brand bags and clothing and jewelry is also growing. Tariffs on these products are low, which encourages importation. China’s growing middle class means status items and emblems of the ‘good life’ are in demand – gourmet food and wine, for example.
Free trade agreements between China and some western countries mean 95 per cent of exports to China are tariff free. Exports to China will benefit, and in return western countries will pay less for electronic products and clothing. But you will need help even beginning your business. Join your local China Business Council, find out which Chinese cities your state has a trade office in, and get in touch.
The key to marketing your product in China is localizing your advertising content. Rather than have your English ads translated word for word, you need to include the nuances and familiar expressions that Chinese people expect to find; expressions that reassure them you are a reputable company. These expressions, known as chengyu (成语), include “a sharp stick points out” (as we in the west might say “to come to the fore”). Using the right language shows your business is engaged with Chinese culture.
You don’t have to learn the language, although if you are serious and have the time, it helps. Communication will be key to business success, so you need to set up a 24/7 system. Documents will be exchanged, translations made, and the good old fax machine will be invaluable.
But what about when you’re not in the office? Instead, get a virtual fax machine via eFax. You can fax from your PC or mobile using the eFax Mobile App and receive faxes too. It works by using Email-to-Fax technology, so you attach documents to an email and use the internet to send faxes, no new phone line required.
To use an English chengyu-style expression, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Doing business in China might seem slow at first, but the rewards for those who persist will be great.