5 tips for doing business in China

Shawn Zhao
Shawn Zhao
July 19, 2017

If you are considering expanding your business into China, congratulations! China is one of the world’s leading markets for consumer goods and is on track to becoming one of the biggest global markets by the end of 2017.

Key factors that drive success in the Chinese market are agility, patience and focus, all philosophies that align with their way of conducting business – however, their methodologies often differ greatly from the way we are used to doing things in America and Europe.

Looking for some quick tips on doing business in China? Here are our top 5:

1. Be localized

The Chinese market is huge, there is no question. There are boundless opportunities to connect with a public who is eager for new services and solutions. Always keep in mind that no matter how great your product is, it needs to be branded appropriately for your intended audience. Your advertising, website, social media channels (keep in mind that the Chinese are very tech-savvy), marketing messages, business emails, and keynotes should all be in Chinese. What’s more, China uses different social media platforms, so make sure you have a presence there as well.
Make sure you connect with a good translator who is well-versed in marketing in order to ensure your message and your solution stand out and get noticed. Check out competitors – especially the most successful ones – to see what they are doing, and go one better. Communication via WeChat is a good strategy, as the Chinese aren’t fans of Whatsapp. Remember to “like” their posts in ‘WeChat Moments’, and stay on top of what they post in general – always food for discussion at a later date (see #5, below).

2. The art of bargaining

The Chinese are used to going a few rounds at the bargaining stage. When your Chinese colleague doesn’t take your ‘no’ for an answer and keeps chasing after you, don’t panic – it’s part of the dance that makes doing business in China so unique. Expect that it will take a lot of time to build mutual trust and an interpersonal relationship. This is of high importance to them, and so you should take it very seriously. Be patient, and play along. If it all works out, it’ll be worth it. Note also that a firm negative is almost never used, so instead of saying “no”, say “I’ll think about it”, or “it merits some further discussion”, “maybe”, or “we’ll see”. Be aware of this tendency when processing their responses as well, as a statement like “it’s not a big deal” may actually mean there are problems that still need to be worked out; in other words, don’t be so intent on chasing a black-and-white yes-or-no answer.

3. Keep the big picture in mind

You may run across frustrations in terms of regulatory processes, regulations, approvals and licensing. Remember, government policy plays a major role in all business dealings, so be sure to align closely with local and national regulations. It’s also important to choose your partners wisely. Aligning your brand and your company with the right stakeholders can take your product to the highest levels of success, but taking a deal that is ‘too good to be true’ can often backfire. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll come to know whose reputation is worth hitching your wagon to. Look at your partner company or distributor very closely to ensure there are no red flags in their background, and that there is nothing in their portfolio that can potentially harm your chances at success. Staying above-board is key, as is being patient. With the appropriate foresight and research, your venture stands a much better chance.

4. The ‘Mianzi’ (face)

The concept of Mianzi, or ‘face’, represents an individual’s reputation, status, or position of prestige that they hold in relation to the rest of the group. This long-standing culture of deference plays a major role in how companies are run and how business is conducted; it’s a clear hierarchy that demands that ‘face’ be given to the decision-maker. Supporting and respecting this position is always a good move on your part. Keep in mind also that the underlying culture is merciless towards failure, so curb your tendency to – even jokingly – criticize or dress down your Chinese associates for any reason.

5. Small talk is important

Expect to spend some time on small talk prior to getting down to business, as this is standard operating procedure for Chinese businessmen. Popular topics include art, travel, scenery, hometown, landmarks, food, clothing, sports (basketball and soccer games) are good topics, as is recounting the positive experiences you have had while in China. Avoid cultural or political discussion, including Tibet, Taiwan, animal cruelty or human rights issues. A little bit of chit-chat can put you on firm ground to begin your negotiations.

Payoneer supports your success in world markets

If you are interested in expanding your business into China, Payoneer is here to support your global growth. We work with Amazon, Wish, Tradedoubler and other leading brands to make secure and fast payments to Chinese businesses and professionals.

Request a demo today.

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