In our previous post, we mentioned that there are some significant differences in the Western and Chinese styles of attractions business. Believe it or not, as different as the Chinese are, more often than not, they have adjusted their work style to try and meet you half way. To meet this important market the rest of way, here are some guidelines to consider when pursuing or working on a project in China.
1. A shift in mentality
Perhaps the biggest hurdle that one faces in entering a rapidly changing foreign market is that a lot of the knowledge and strategies that had been developed over many years in working in the industry don’t seem to apply. This can be extremely frustrating and, therefore, it becomes all too easy to blame the client for their naiveté and for not doing things the “right” way. To properly gauge the situation, however, one must take a hard look at their own approaches to see if perhaps their work processes should be modified to best suit the needs and culture of the market. It’s important to remember that, more often than not, it is much easier to adapt oneself than to try to force adaptation unto a potential client or market.
2. Be accessible.
One of the best ways to bridge the geographical and culture divide that exists between East and West is to be easily accessible to your potential (and current) Chinese clients and to do so on their terms. Look at your current marketing material and protocol in handling Chinese inquiries. Can potential clients easily contact you? Can they call someone who speaks Chinese or do you expect them to write to you in English via the email address on your website? What seems easy to you may be viewed as a barrier to them. Yes, you may have successfully conducted business in Japan, India, even Korea, and were able to do so effectively through corresponding via email in English. But the reality is that when doing business in China, communication is much more effective through phone conversations in Chinese than through emails in English. It is simply a function of the manner in which your potential clients prefer to communicate, and you can easily adapt to accommodate this.
3. Voicemail, email and texting
It may be frustrating, but many Chinese don’t like to use voicemail or email (even though it’s printed on their business cards). Don’t be surprised when days have passed and they haven’t replied to an important email from you. When that happens, the easiest way to get the information you need is to pick up the phone and call them (or better yet have someone that speaks Chinese call them if you don’t speak Chinese).
Don’t worry, your clients won’t be offended because it’s 9:00 at night. A lot of Chinese business is conducted around dinner tables and through mobile phones. Unlike Western business, where one refrains from calling in the evening or weekends, it is less of a concern in China. You may also be surprised at how much business is conducted via text messaging. It’s not unusual to see suit-clad businessmen and women tapping on their mobile phones like American teenagers. They’re not typing an email, but exchanging a text message. If you need a quick, simple response and are having a difficult time connecting to your client, next time try to text them. This is not to say that email doesn’t play an important role in communication, as more and more people use email, especially the younger generation. And, of course, emails are used heavily after the project starts for day-to-day correspondence and document transmission.
In our next segment, we’ll talk about the importance of outside help to your communication process.