In the third part of the Anderen Ltd series Selling food to China can be Child's Play we will look at the some of the options for Engagement. This is all about getting to know the market and for them to know you.
You will remember from part one that we suggested that successfully selling food to China is like a complex jigsaw puzzle.
Once you have dealt with the compliance, meaning that you are market ready, the next piece will be to develop and promote a strategy that effectively engages with the market.
You will need to look at this in two ways.
Obviously you will need a direct approach to potential dealer/Importers - these are the buyers who will make up your supply chain and routes to market
Your market research will have shown that imported food is a booming business in China and as a result buyers are continuously looking for new products. They will want to know that they can sell your product to end users and this means it must be market ready and there is a need for development of brand awareness.
This is where you need to introduce your product to end users.
For many UK manufacturers the challenge is often that consumers will not be familiar with your product. They may not know how to prepare or serve it. This could mean that they are reluctant to buy. So a big part of your initial strategy should include education. In addition you should promote the prestige of buying a high quality UK product. Wherever possible make your product part of a wider experience
So how can you effectively promote your products in China?
An obvious start is to jump on a plane and attend an exhibition such as FHW in Guangzhou and have face to face meetings.
This is a great place to start as you get a good idea about the market and the Chinese approach. It is even better if you are market ready
This sounds obvious,but many companies simply arrive at exhibitions ill prepared and are often then disappointed when they don't convert a typically large number of enquiries into real business. If you attend a show you need to prepare well and build in a follow up strategy which has to be better than sending an email thanking someone for visiting your booth and adding a quotation in English
Everyone likes free samples, and this especially applies to the Chinese. Dealers usually need samples to do their own market research and giving consumers samples helps to develop your brand and create market awareness, but try to build a feedback mechanism when you give things away as part of your ongoing market research.Also make sure that your samples are in date. Out of date samples are a real turn off. Getting samples of non-compliant product into China is possible but is expensive and takes along time to organise so needs additional planning
Nowadays one of the most effective ways to break into the China market is with an on line presence. China is moving ahead in this area at a much faster pace than in the West.
Remember that you are selling to the Chinese and so your information should be in colloquial Chinese, in a Chinese style and hosted in China. This speeds up downloads and helps to avoid problems with the Chinese firewall.
You can produce a web site, but be careful of simply cloning your English site or having only a small percentage of copy in Chines. This is frankly a waste of money. If you go down this route then you should consider a bespoke site.
A more effective and economical option is to have a presence on an established web portal such as Food2China, which has access to a data base of over 100,000 professional Chinese buyers. This is like a mini interactive web site with daily engagement.As a portal it is well optimised and generates a lot more traffic than you are likely to get on your own web sit. The cost of setting this up is relatively modest but like all web sites it needs to be managed with regular updates of content.
Social networking is another area where China is full steam ahead. Whilst the sites you are familiar with such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube are currently banned in China, there are alternatives such as WeChat that are very strong. Like all social networking,to be effective it will need to be well managed strategy and again posts need to be in colloquial Chinese.
Another rapidly growing way to work online is via E-commerce sites. The Chinese buy a lot of food online. This gives you the ability to supply end users via fulfillment arrangements - something that is becoming one of the fastest routes to the whole of the China market.It is however something to consider for the future as fulfillment houses and on line stores want to sell product that is fast moving, especially in the food industry where expiry dates can be relatively short. This means that you need to create brand awareness and market demand first
Many companies have the idea that they need an agent for China - often they are persuaded that this agent should be exclusive, but remember that most agents have a limited reach and look for quick returns. They have a lot of choice of companies to work with but usually, in common with agents worldwide do not much loyalty unless they make a big return.International agency law makes it difficult to off load a poorly performing agent and so we rarely recommend having an this arrangement for China as it can seriously restrict your access to the market. It is far better to have a managed distribution network. This will mean that you can have presence across a wider geographical area and also a much wider access to the various sectors within the industry.
If you do decide that an agent is the best option then you should always take time to do due diligence - first make sure they are a real company and not simply a chancer working out of a bedroom, find out if they have a presence in the right sector for your product and also the regions where they are strong. The last thing to do is sign up the first person who comes along wanting to be your agent - yes that does happen and it rarely ends happily.
So with so many options to choose from which works best and which one should you choose. First ask yourself if you definitely want to succeed in China. If the answer is YES then it should be all of them or as many as your budget will allow. No single way is ever going to do a complete job. Having an integrated approach is which covers a variety of engagement routes is by far the best approach because this gives you better coverage. Also remember that change happens in China rapidly and so you need to have the flexibility to develop new marketing methods as they start
Our specialist team can help you to develop effective strategies as part of a fully integrated marketing system working within most budgets
If you are serious about succeeding in China contact Anderen Ltd today. Our team is ready to help you to build your business in China based on firm foundations.
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Tel: 01782 326027