How to Take a Product to Asia
Have a client that has a product that is being used by major metropolitan cities (B2B) and wants to break into the Asian markets. The competition is fairly stiff with everyday household brands you would recognise.
What's your suggested route of outreach that will get other major metropolitian cities in Asia to take notice?
So far I have optimisation of keywords for the solution with geo-modifiers, maybe some PR outreach (has anyone done PR for Asian companies?), and a lot of content development. I also feel after that's done that they will need heavy PPC.
Appreciate any responses from agencies or individuals who've branched out into the Asian markets.
Hi Justin, I'm afraid that it's pretty hard to answer without knowing a little bit more about the product. You say it "is being used by major metropolitan cities (B2B)" - does this mean literally that the municipal authorities use the product? Or do you actually mean it's being used *in* major metropolitan cities?
You also mentioned "everyday household brands" but I'm guessing you mean brands that we all recognise, rather than household products, since you referred to B2B.
If it's being used *by* major metropolitan cities, there are various countries where anything you do online will be next to pointless. I have a lot of experience in Philippines, as well as some past exposure to Indonesia and Cambodia, and can tell you that in these countries it's all about relationships. Being pragmatic about this, it's rare that probity guidelines and competitive tendering procedures will operate in the ways you might hope and expect. Indeed, most purchasers already know who and what they want before it gets as far as advertising the requirement.
As Lisa has mentioned, Austrade provide some great support for an exporter who is geared to start selling into foreign markets. Certainly worth hooking up with them.
Beyond that, I would be very cautious to avoid the pitfall of considering every Asian country/city as a single market. It's important to research and understand each country thoroughly, and devise a strategy for each market. Depending on the product, you may achieve more if you partner with a local agent who already has a strong network of contacts and a client base amongst the Government agencies of their country.
You can look at markets from the perspective of culture but also economic strength, wealth/GDP/household income, consumer trends and sophistication, buyer behaviours, law and order, business regulation, Government corruption, and more.
When you consider each country in this way you will see that, for example, Singapore differs dramatically from the poorer countries in the region. It has strict law and order, low levels of corruption, and the highest wealth per capita in Asia.
By contrast, Philippines and Indonesia have a 'boys club' of elite oligarchs who tend to get first dibs on most Government contracts (despite the official stance of open and transparent tendering processes). Indeed, far from making the purchasing process fair and honest, a tender can often be your worst enemy as tenders and requests for quotation are carefully crafted to eliminate as many applicants as possible. Only yesterday I heard of a public-private partnership (PPP) under negotiation, that required tenderers to have successfully completed 5 PPPs and 35 deep-bore wells previously. Why 35 deep-bore wells? Almost certainly because various potential applicants have only done 30.
What I'm suggesting is that any strategy to market products to metropolitan cities (local and national Government agencies) in the poorer developing countries will require you to build a network of contacts in the region, and will require you to know and be known with the right people. Any online advertising will be virtually irrelevant.
If you're selling to major corporates in the region, your chances are slightly better but essentially the same advice still applies.
If you're selling to smaller business, particularly tech startups and innovative new businesses in Information Technology and the digital space, then certainly online marketing could work well for you - but you'll multiply your effectiveness exponentially if you get in front of people. The best way to achieve this would be to obtain speaking invitations for seminars, conferences, expos, and local meetups. Once you've got your first one, the rest will become easier. A great place to find these opportunities is to connect with co-working spaces, and join the right Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups so you can stay abreast of those opportunities. It only takes 1 presentation in front of the right audience and things will start to roll from there.
If you don't have the resources to do all of this in region, I'd focus my attention on finding a handful of influencers within each country and winning them over. You could, in essence, delegate a lot of the influencing to them if they love your product and are happy to champion it for you.
Of course, if the 'influencer' is a journalist in the media, we then call this PR - and that's a great way to go about it to. Get some users on to your product (even if you have to give it to a few for free), get their testimonials, use them as a case study, find an exciting storyline, and pitch it to as many journalists as you can.
In most Asian countries the one common theme is that endorsement goes a heck of a long way. Whether that's endorsement by the business owner who knows the City Mayor, or whether it's endorsement by a celebrity, or endorsement in a popular publication, you need the backing of the most influential people. Without the endorsement of the right people, you're dramatically reducing your chances of success.
Hope this helps. Feel free to reach out to me directly if I can be of any more assistance. I spend most of my time in Asia, currently in Philippines, though will be back in Melbourne late September.
If you are in Austrralia one things I would suggest is to speak to the Austrade representative in your capital city. They are normally very well connected and are able to guide you in the right direction. You may also like to participate in some of the Asian chamber of commerce networking groups that exist. Alternativey as a next step I would look into the trade fairs there.
Greg Vekar BDM/Design consultant at Vekar Design
You sound like someone who has not explored "Asia". Do you mean East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia? This is the largest and most diverse location in the world. That's grouping 4.4 billion people as a market segment. I suspect you mean South East Asia, or ASEAN. About 8.5% of the worlds population. This is a future economic block not acknowledged by Australian businesses as a greenfield. If you mean China, that horse has bolted.
Unlike Australia, foreign products face greater obstacles entering most ASEAN countries from protectionist policies. Some of these are not documented. Having a strategic local partner is critical. Other countries have established agencies or departments to assist smaller businesses. AusTrade tend to be focused on primary resources like produce and minerals. Get in touch with them, they are good people - limited by a ministry focused on retaining the rural vote.
Working with different cultures can be a mine field. High context, low context, risk adverse, power distance, it's fascinating and challenging. Do keep this in mind with your packaging and marketing. Asia is a continent of contradictions. The middle class is booming here. Status is of utmost importance.
Distribution channels are complicated. If you're a small operator, contact niche stores in affluent locations that suit your target market. Selling a cleaning product worth a days income in a less affluent area would be crazy. The supermarket chains tend to favour local products or the multinationals. They are fascinating, as they reflect the trade partnerships that have been successful. For instance, China and Hong Kong are dominated by Australian products. Less so in ASEAN. The products are dominated by countries with trade deals (lower import taxes).
On your side is the good reputation Australia has with Asia. That's a bit of a surprise when considering the lack of soft power influence Aus initiates when compared to the EU. Australian products are desired because of a perception of quality from strict regulation. Let's hope this is maintained, lowering quality standards will destroy this.
Sitting in on your comfortable chair is not going to get much traction. You will need to meet your buyers, build relationships. Are you expecting all your consumers to use the internet in English? They may be fluent in English, but this will not be their primary language. Using digital marketing is important, but it's not going to lock in deals. You have to sit down, share some tea.
Tony Eades Director of Strategy at BrandManager
I would suggest a more targeted approach to such a big market such as Asia. Firstly identify the buyer persona, not just the audience demographic - this profiling will help to determine the best medium to reach and engage with the market. If you are an unknown brand in the region you need to build some credibility with content - use educational content via blogs, social media posting and targeted, location based PPC (including Facebook ads).
Driving traffic to a website or landing page is only the start - the lead, especially in the B2B space needs then to be nurtured. According to Forrester Research as much as 80% of online prospects are not 'ready to buy'. Using marketing technology like HubSpot you can track the buyer activity, determine where they sit in the buyer journey and then 'personalise' the experience to nurture them to becoming a customer.
We're adopting this approach right now with a Med Tech company who is rolling out a first campaign in Malaysia.
From the experience, I have had with clients branching out into the Asian market there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration prior to pushing digital advertising:
1. Proof that the products are selling well in Australia
Because Australia is seen as an influencer to the Asian markets, having visual proof and testimonials that the product is viable in Australia will help position it as a viable product in Asia.
2. Taking a "top down" approach
Finding a large partner to build a Joint Venture partnership with by potentially offering them a share of their business in exchange for their influence in the new market you wish to break in to.
3. Taking a "grass roots" approach
Personally heading to Asia and building your brand by building small partnerships and using avenues like Alibaba to engage directly with your consumer (even if that is a B2B client)
4. Engaging a specialist
Finding a Rep or and Asia relations specialist to represent your interests in the Asian market can be a great way to help you build your connections and sell your products.
5. Digital Marketing
It sounds like you have spent some time on tailoring your digital assets to be viable in the Asian market. Without knowing what your product is it is hard to recommend solutions. However, seeing as it is a B2B solution, perhaps using LinkedIn as a means to reach potential clients could help engage the right audience.
Hope that helps.
Working in Asia is filled with loads of potential pitfalls in terms of cultural issues and language barriers. All of the channels you mentioned may be the right idea, however, I would recommend having someone on the ground who knows both the Aussie and Asian cultures and can bridge the gap.
I recently met a guy called Warren Liu, who specialises in exactly what you are taking about. Here is his details...
T +61 2 8667 3064
Let him know that James and April from https://theonlineco.net/ recommended him, hopefully he remembers us from the CMO conference.
I hope Warren can help on your Asian adventures!
Ask A.S.P.A - Australia South Pacific ASEAN Chamber of Commerce for some advice.
Establish track record with the existing customers and get credible refernces
Ensure competitive advantage on a global basis
Hire Asians or people with experience in doing similar business in Asia to marketing executive positions
Partner with a multinational company who has syergy with your product and is already having presence in key Asian companies