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How to Do Business in China


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Experiential marketing expert Wee Teck Chan has found a few Chinese proverbs useful when planning events in the Mainland.

There’s a lot an event planner can learn from Chinese proverbs.

地利人 – God willing, given the right time, place, resources, and people, things will come to pass. This Chinese proverb means that things will happen when the elements and conditions of success are aligned. I used to think this was cosmic bullsh*t, but after having spent 11 years working in China, I have come to believe it bears a certain truth. This is especially true in our industry and the ecosystem we operate in. We engage with client and partner organisations with multiple stakeholders in different departments who don’t necessarily communicate internally. To do well in these challenging circumstances, understanding the motivations of collaborators and clients is extremely important to achieve success and build long-term business relationships.

先做人,后做事 – You have to learn how to be a good person before accomplishing your goals. This is another golden nugget of advice that I learnt during my early days in China – and which still holds true today. The ability to speak Mandarin is not enough to achieve success in a market like China. One needs to understand the culture and psyche of the Chinese consumer, especially when, as event planners, we are in the business of creating engaging brand experiences.

China is a fragmented market with consumers in different tier cities who have different aspirations and motivations to purchase. Event planners need to go beyond the “how” and “what” and address the “why.” Why will consumers choose our client’s brands over others? Helping brands to establish and maintain an emotional connection with consumers is key. Data insights are critical here.

整合 – Integration. Integration is huge in China and the way consumers attain product information and make purchases has changed drastically. The ability to understand the UMOT (ubiquitous moment of truth) and apply this to the planning of events is essential.

Planners must understand and engage with every single touchpoint that a consumer will experience during the path to purchase. An effective brand campaign will leverage both social-media platforms and live communication/activation to capture the UMOT in the right context.

Perfection by trial. One of the biggest differences in mindsets of Chinese corporates is the willingness to experiment and the speed at which new products and services are launched in the marketplace. Speed to market is penultimate, hence the usual processes or steps towards completion of tasks might be shortened. Event agencies need to adapt to this mode of collaboration and delivery. If not, you risk not being able to move at the same pace as your clients in a market that is very fluid in nature. 

Wee Teck Chan is director of integrated engagement at MCI Group, based in Singapore.

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