Western European engineering is prized in China for its quality and innovation, but despite increasing levels of demand, many firms remain unable to access this potentially lucrative market. How should specialist engineering companies go about selling their products and services to China? What are the best, most cost-effective routes into the market?
Understanding the Market
China is a very different market from those found in Europe or America, and assuming that things will be the same or similar is a common pitfall. Organisations such as the UKTI and the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) can provide initial assistance, e.g. help with research, facilitate meetings and identify potential partners. With a basic understanding of the landscape, you and your partners can then plan a strategy for reaching customers and winning contracts.
Online Market Entry
Web sites can work well as a relatively fast, low-cost way to gain market visibility, but it isn't as simple as putting up a Chinese-language version of your main site and watching the enquiries flood in. For an online presence to be effective it needs to be properly localised for Chinese cultural norms and may be very different from your English-language website (grants are available for this).
You will also need to give proper consideration to website promotion, just as you would in your domestic market - if a site isn't being found by users then it doesn't matter how good it is. Optimising for popular Chinese search engines such as Baidu and Sogou can bring you visitor traffic, but it is important to carry out research into which keywords Chinese surfers are actually using - bear in mind that translations are not always literal.
On the Ground
Unless you set up your own office in China, you will likely need to work with local partners to make direct contact with customers. Business in China is still very much based on trusted connections; a partner who knows and is known by the major players can open doors for you. Also, consider how you will service any enquiries you generate - your customers will need a point of contact, ideally in the same time zone and fluent in Chinese. Contact services / virtual offices are available to meet this need (Backbone can provide this and there are also services run by the CBBC).
Contact us for more information regarding on methods of Chinese market entry appropriate to engineering and manufacturing firms.