What Not To Do In China | Why Do Western Companies Get It Wrong?

We read a lot of information online about how to approach the Chinese market and how to ‘get it right’ – and we have to say, there’s a whole lot of information out there which says a lot of one thing, and a lot of information that says something completely different. We have to wonder how much of it is actually correct?


After reading a considerable amount of literature on the efforts made by Western businesses to ‘crack’ the Chinese market we have discovered that there are varying degrees of correctness among the common thought patterns, and also a fair degree of contradictory information out there.

As an countermeasure to this we’d like to take a moment today to take a look at how we get it wrong – in the hopes that it helps us to differentiate between right and wrong when approaching a Chinese firm for business.

As a western business it can be a bit of a cultural shift between the two approaches for relationship building. The common thinking is that in China there is a big focus on respect and a slow relationship built on mutual trust and understanding, and for some reason (according to a lot of the literature) that’s a hugely different thing to the Western world? We don’t think it’s all that different – but the WAY in which we go about attaining that trust and respect differs.

So we want to take a look at some of the mistakes Western countries make in the hopes that it helps you to grow. These tips for building your business were brought to you today by the virtual and serviced office leaders, Servcorp.

It must be noted…

We can immediately point out that some of the key ‘mistakes’ that are made by Western companies in their marketing and sales approaches can be explained by understanding that any Chinese business trade taking place is only new. As such the solutions that are being provided are in reaction to new problems, and so the marketing and sales are as yet unrefined for the Chinese market.

Mistake One – Focusing on product and price, instead of promotion

Many Western companies who are entering the Chinese market look at channel research and will look at the price that the market they are entering can sustain. These Western companies will have a pretty good idea of what kinds of products will be appealing to the Chinese market, but won’t know how to refine the products.

Takeaway: It would be better for a Western company to place equal consideration on how to communicate a product to their target market

Mistake Two – Thinking they know best

Western businesspeople have a nasty habit of thinking that everything they do is superior to the Chinese competition. Not always, but sometimes. We need to remember that marketing is about the satisfaction of a need, and if there is a need that’s different in China – guess what? You have to change the value proposition too.

Takeaway: Instead of trying to ‘re-educate’ Chinese buyers to a product, change the value proposition to meet the market’s existing needs.

Mistake Three – Marketing isn’t important in China

Often, Western companies will overthink the importance of relationship building and will even see it as a substitute for marketing, instead of a complementary service alongside it.

Takeaway: Do both. Marketing and great relationship building together are your tools for success.

To sum it up

When approaching a Chinese market, use your commonsense approach and be sure to examine the market carefully and objectively. Being objective is the best possible way to ensure that you aren’t going to miss anything, and will put you on the path for success.