Guest post by George Becker

Since the founding of his own company in 1993, experienced publicist George Becker’s clients have appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in the business section of The New York Times, and on NBC’s The Today Show.  In this LCB guest article, Becker points out some common market research and strategy pitfalls for Chinese companies seeking to expand in North America, and offers his own recommendations for how they can achieve success.

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Three decades after the beginning of China’s opening and reform, the stories of Western companies struggling and often failing to enter the Chinese market due to a lack of understanding of local characteristics have become commonplace.  But now that more Chinese companies are seeking to “go out” and expand their brands globally, the same can increasingly be said for the opposite side of the coin.  How can Chinese business executives and investors, running small- to mid-sized companies, successfully enter potentially lucrative North American markets?  How can they prepare an effective market strategy, and thus save time and money while achieving their growth aims?

To begin with, there are a number of misplaced assumptions and tendencies that will hinder the implementation of an effective market entry.  Here are just a few of these all-too-frequently occurring mistaken beliefs and practices.

Expecting to build market share by cost alone:

In a developed consumer economy like the U.S. or Canada, offering products that compete on low price alone is no guarantee of success. North American markets are mature, and the buyers and distributors are demanding and sophisticated.  Effective marketing and branding efforts are paramount even for products with great value.

Neglecting to consider geographic differences

Many Chinese investors sink their resources into over-saturated, high cost markets like New York and California without a solid business case for doing so.  For an example of contrast, consider second- and third-tier markets such as those in the American Midwest.  Many Chinese executives may be unaware that an estimated 80 percent of U.S. markets are within an eight-hour drive of Ohio.  Ohio is strategically located near Chicago, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Also, warehousing and real-estate costs are lower in these geographic areas.

Trusting the wrong sources for preliminary research into North American buying habits

Perhaps not too surprisingly, management will often do all of their preliminary research on target markets at headquarters in China, where access to databases about customer demand and buying habits may be limited or inaccurate. Results will likely be superficial and invalid.  For the U.S. market in particular, there is no substitute for research done on the ground, with direct access to customers and prospects through telemarketers, focus groups, even webinars. Taking the extra step to acquire local information is well worth the investment.

So having identified many of the challenges that Chinese companies face in going abroad, what are some steps that they can take to succeed in the North American marketplace?  Below are a few answers that I’ve identified over the years working with clients.

Top Recommendations for Successful North American Market Entry

  1. Use market research as a basis for creating brand “awareness.” This will help ensure your North American brand is one built on strength and durability.
  2. Hire experienced communicators – publicists and branding and advertising specialists – within targeted markets. These professionals know how buyers and distributors think. They know the territory. They have deep knowledge of what customers expect in new products. Their expertise matches any found on the East and West coasts – and their fees and operating costs may also come in much lower.
  3. Contact friends and associates who have moved to North America. They should have contacts and connections within local business communities; these contacts will have leads on branding and marketing experts. Still other resources are local chambers of commerce and business associations, including ones exclusively devoted to Chinese-owned enterprises.
  4. Get your feet on the ground!  Colleges and universities are starting to offer two-to-three week seminars designed for visitors from China.  These programs, with translators, as appropriate, feature lectures about business “basics” in North America, including sections on marketing and branding.  Also, many seminars will provide tours so Chinese business executives can meet their American counterparts.
  5. Attend trade shows.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for gathering information – about your competitors and your customers.
  6. Think twice about shipping equipment and building a booth at trade shows. In this era of easily-accessed webinars and online video sharing technology such as YouTube, it might not be worth the return on investment.
  7. Open a sales and customer-service office in business “incubators.”  Rents will be low, and these places often have tenants starting their own businesses. It’s an ideal location for sharing information and building your local network.

There are numerous opportunities in North American markets for small-to-medium-size Chinese companies that offer niche products and services that meet true need – and that can sell and service those products and services with the highest professional commitment possible. In the Midwest, this is especially true in the fields of health care, alternative energy and the auto aftermarket.

So Chinese executives and investors must prepare – and realize there are local resources available and willing to assist them every step along the way.  After all, establishing win-win cooperation with local stakeholders is a key factor in the success of any company seeking to expand globally.

 

CBS2George A. Becker is president of Becker | CMCA (www.becker-cmca.com), a full service marketing communications company, with offices in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Shanghai.

 

 

 

 

中国中小企业如何在北美市场获得成功 (翻译)

作者  乔治· 贝克

自从1993年创立自己的公司以来,资深媒体人乔治·贝克的客户就经常在华尔街时报的首页、纽约时报的商业版面、以及NBC广播的《今日秀》节目中出现。在LCB这篇特邀文章中,贝克先生给那些想要在北美市场寻求发展的中国企业一些市场调研及企业战略方面的建议和策略,而这些将有助于这些企业在北美取得成功。

 

在中国改革开放三十几年后,一些西方公司在中国市场上,由于缺乏中国本土气质而挣扎甚至失败的的故事屡见不鲜。但现在很多试图“走出国门”实行全球化品牌战略的中国公司也面临着同样的问题,正如我们常说的硬币的另一面一样。众多的中国中小企业业主如何成功的进入获利颇丰的北美市场?他们采取何种有效的市场战略,省钱省时地达到他们的发展目标?

首先,我们列举一些中国企业经常发生的错误,这些先入为主的观念和错误的认识阻碍了中国企业有效地进入北美市场。

期望仅仅通过低价策略来取得市场分额

在高度的发展的消费市场上,例如美国、加拿大,仅仅通过低价来竞争是得不到成功的保障的。北美市场是高度成熟的市场,经销商和消费者的需求是苛刻和复杂的。有效的市场营销和品牌战略是至关重要的,甚至对于那些本身就具有很强竞争力和使用价值的商品也是如此。

忽视地域差异方面的考虑

很多中国投资者在自身没有强大的实力条件下,把他们的资源盲目地浪费在过度饱和的、高成本市场上,例如纽约、加州等。相反,他们没有考略美国二三线城市的市场,例如美国的中西部地区。很多中国企业业主或许不了解将近80%的美国市场都在俄亥俄州八小时车程以内。俄亥俄州临近芝加哥、水牛城和匹兹堡,同时,那里的仓贮和不动产的成本也很低。

片面相信关于北美购买习惯的初步调查结果

这也许不足为怪,因为中国企业的管理层经常在中国的总部针对目标市场做初步的调研,在那里得到顾客需求和购买习惯的数据是有限的而且缺乏准确性。这些结果往往比较肤浅,甚至根本没有用。实际上对美国市场来说,实地的调研是无可替代的,需要直接接触顾客,通过电话推销员、焦点人群、甚至在线研讨会接触潜在的客户。总之,进一步获取更多的当地的信息是值得投入的。

 

我们已经了解到中国公司在海外发展所面临的诸多挑战与问题,那么我们要采取一些什么样的措施,才能在北美市场取得成功?以下是本人通过多年与客户合作积累的经验,给出的一些答案。

成功进入北美市场的最优推荐

1.  利用市场调研作为创造品牌知名度的基础,这有助于保证你的品牌在北美更具竞争力和经久不衰。

2.  在目标市场中,聘用经验丰富的市场推广者,那些资深媒体人、品牌和广告方面的专家。这些专业人士知道买家和经销商的想法,他们对这个行当轻车熟路,熟知顾客和经销商对新产品有何种期待,他们的专业知识足以适用于东西海岸,而且他们的收费和运营成本也相对比较便宜。

3.  与搬到北美的亲朋好友加强联系。他们通常会与当地商业社团有广泛的接触和联系。这些接触和联系将有助于树立品牌和打开市场。其他可用的资源包括当地商业和贸易组织,还包括中国企业的驻外机构。

4.  脚踏实地。北美的很多大学和学院已经开始开设为来自中国的访问者专门设计的两到三周的研讨性质的课程,这些课程配备翻译,这些关于北美贸易的基本课程既有针对性又有特色,包括如何做市场营销和品牌推广。而且,很多研讨课程会安排参观旅行,这将有助于中国企业的管理者找到合适的生意合作伙伴。

5.  参加贸易展会。这是一个收集竞争对手和顾客信息的绝佳机会。

6.  慎重考虑为商业展会而运输设备和搭建销售展台,这样的投资或许没有太大的价值。因为在当今,通过在线研讨会和在线视频例如YouTube就可以轻松展示你的产品。

7.  在“商业孵化园”开设一间办公室,销售产品、为客户提供服务。那里的租金很低,而且这些地方经常会有新创业的租赁者。这是理想的信息共享和建立当地关系网络的理想平台。

对于真正满足需求的那些生产小物件和提供小规模服务的中国中小企业,北美市场充满巨大的商机,供他们销售产品和提供服务,当然,这些产品和服务必须是高水准的和专业的。在中西部地区,卫生保健、可替代能源和汽车售后服务等行业尤其看好。

中国企业的管理者和投资者必须时刻准备而且认识到——当地的资源是可以利用的,这些资源愿意帮助他们在成功的路上走好每一步。总之,与当地有共同利益的合作者建立双赢的合作方式,是任何寻求走向全球化发展企业的关键要素。

 

CBS2乔治· 贝克 是Becker/CMCC(www.becker-cmca.com)公司总裁,专注于提供全方位的市场推广服务,在美国克利夫兰,特伦多和中国上海都有分支机构。