China: A land of Internet Marketing Opportunity
I recently had the chance to go to China to work as an online marketing consultant for some fairly large businesses seeking to gain a footing in . I found that this had been a major trend in China. Chinese companies can certainly sell domestically, but are having trouble penetrating international markets. The ones that are successful overseas gain prestige back at home and abroad, which furthers bolsters their credibility as a truly international company.
Challenges: Marketing for Chinese Companies
First and foremost, you need to realize that in China, . Most of the time my Western clients do not require to see me face to face in order to sign up for my services. I prefer to work online in the digital nomad fashion, it gives me freedom.
In China, however, I had to set up some contacts in the real world, with real world meetings. This is the natural order of things. The Chinese prefer to get to know you first before they are willing to do business first. So this means a lot of tea drinking and karaoke salons. Be prepared.
The Internet Divide
The internet in China is a different universe from the one that we are used to in the West. Marketing channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube essentially do not exist here. Instead they have their own variants with their own specific quirks. Wechat is the de facto marketing channel for domestic audiences. Other channels include, Weibo and Taobao (an online super giant retailer that makes Amazon look small).
Translating domestic marketing approaches for the west can be difficult.
Internet speeds in China can be a point of friction when establishing an effective workflow. Always pay for the fastest internet you can afford. Thankfully broadband prices are not as terrible as those in some countries in the west (ahem Canada!) so cost will not be an issue. I pay about 30$ / month for my broadband and it is the fastest I can get. Most importantly there are no silly bandwidth caps on broadband internet, which is a refreshing change from the incessant throttling and price gouging from back home. You can expect maximum speeds are about 10 mbps for typical copper cable broadband. Some exclusive properties in big modern cities have fiber optic internet with speeds exceeding 50 mbps!
The good news is that the Chinese government is extremely forward thinking when it comes to Telecom infrastructure. The three main Telecom companies (China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom) are all partially owned by the government and have a mandate to install fiber optic internet all over the country. Contrast this to the US where the telecom companies have taken government money to upgrade the network and subsequently. This is what happens when you have corrupt politicians and unlimited funds for lobbying.
VPNs in China
It goes without saying that if you decide to set up shop in China, you will need a VPN to get access to the full uncensored internet. Can you imagine not being able to connect to Facebook? Google? Youtube? Twitter? Well the harsh reality in China is like this and it is unknown if the internet will become unrestricted anytime soon. In the meantime you can buy a . It is a fairly cheap and effective solution to get around the Great Firewall in China.
But beware: Not all VPNs are made equal. Especially for use in China! The firewall here is a constantly shifting and evolving piece of technology that seeks to stamp out encrypted channels such as your VPn connection. It is not uncommon for a VPN to be working one month and then fall under attack from the internet filter and be completely useless the next month. So with this in mind, it is important to get a GOOD VPN for China.
Here is a list of VPNs that I found offered services specifically for those in China:
I also stumbled upon a great business startup blog in China () that did a pretty thorough . According to them, the best vpn for China at the moment is VyprVPN. I myself have tried VyprVPN and it seems to do the job. Speeds are a bit slower than my non-VPN internet but still respectable.
China is a land of skyrocketing economic progress and there are many opportunities to become an online consultant for one of the many Chinese companies seeking to attain broader exposure in the global market. I highly suggest taking a look into this field, as the boom periods will not last forever!