GAP Germany, Week 2 Business Blog

After a relaxing (but expensive!) weekend in Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland, we returned to Munich late Sunday night. The weekend left us refreshed and prepared for a work week (mostly) dedicated to preparing our slide deck and developing our market entry recommendation “story” for the client.

Monday was a national holiday in Germany, so we decided to redirect our focus from contacting more distributors, department store buyers and industry-specific organization (Chamber of Commerce and Industry, US Consulate, etc.) experts, to honing in on a clear direction for our strategic recommendation.

Side Note: As a team, we would suggest creating a similar “inflection point” for consulting-based projects; pick a time to cease the research phase of the project so that you can focus on delivering a solid recommendation/slide deck to the client. At a certain point, there are definitely diminishing returns gained from more (aka excessive)research and/or outreach. With that said, collectively choose that point carefully and thoughtfully and make sure you cover your bases!

On Tuesday, the import manager from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry unfortunately had to cancel our meeting; however, we were able to chat over the phone later in the week. His recommendations and advice were very similar to those of our previous contacts in Germany: securing a meeting with a distributor or department store buyer without visiting a large trade show, marketing your product prior to said trade show without having contacts in the intended city of entry with proven sales data in hand or a full assortment of product to show in the (unlikely) event of meeting with an interested buyer, is incredibly difficult in Munich, let alone Germany.

However, despite this less-than-encouraging feedback, we have at least received this same consistent market entry message from our in-country meetings and conversations. We believe that our market research, competitive shopping and meetings thus far have nonetheless adequately prepared us to deliver a quality, valuable recommendation to RG Barry.

(Another) Side Note: Make sure you do your homework beforehand! Spending time in Columbus and the first week in Munich researching the market, industry and potential meeting partners put us in a favorable position to deliver value to the client even without executing exactly what we hoped to achieve. Although we still plan on recommending a specific tiered market entry strategy, remember that it is completely okay to give the client an honest “do not enter/do not do it” recommendation. Initially, they may be disappointed, but, in the long run, they will be very happy that they did not waste time and money on an unprofitable or impenetrable market.

We are excited to review our first slide deck “draft” as a team on Friday and will adjust as necessary before our presentation next week. We have a lot left to accomplish, but are looking forward to a fun weekend in Prague until Sunday night!

Danke Schoen,

GAP Germany Team

 

Doing business at the tip of your thumbs

Mind if I get your contact information so that we can keep in touch?” Xiaoran asked one of the contacts at the end of our meeting.

Absolutely.” The head of the investment department replied, while taking out her phone, “Swipe me.

Swipe me? What does that mean? I quietly chuckled, picturing how a non-native Chinese may think of this conversion, if it were to happen in English.

Our contact was talking about WeChat. By “swiping”, or scanning a QR code her phone generated, we added her to our contact list. Even self-redeemed as a semi-proficient WeChat user, I was still shocked for two reasons:

  1. a WeChat QR code has almost replaced business cards in less formal meetings (instead of learning the proper business card handling techniques, we should be learning the navigation of this app);
  2. WeChat is now the unofficial, but most widely used communication method, for businesses, in addition to its personal uses.

Imagine a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Skype, and PayPal – that’s WeChat. Next, imagine sharing all these accounts (in combination) to a person you either have never met or have just met for business purposes. Now, conduct a networking conversation with this person via text messages, emojis, and occasionally audio messages. That’s one of the characteristics of Chinese style business conversation.

Modern Chinese business style can be summarized in these two words: Intimate and Instant.

It’s intimate – no matter how good you are with finding information on Google, you still wouldn’t get into that person’s WeChat account. In other words, getting that WeChat info is crucial to building a modern business relationship. Because of our team “insider (Xiaoran), we managed to get in touch with a number of strategically crucial companies, ranging from Suning, the electronic devices retailer giant in China, to various third party operation companies who showed interest in setting up meetings with the client directly after we return.
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It’s instant –  I haven’t found anyone else this dedicated to work almost 24/7. In my personal experience, it took me 90 minutes to go around three level of contacts (friend of friend of friend) to reach the person who can potentially help us, and six hours later, when I got off the train ride from Nanjing to Beijing, I walked away with a notebook full of the information I was looking for.

In addition to being an interpersonal communication application, WeChat also doubles as a marketing tool. Multiple contacts suggested that we consider WeChat as a promotion/marketing/research tool.

Now I wonder: is it the Chinese business style that created WeChat? Or is it WeChat that created the new Chinese business style?

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