How Foreign Companies can Benefit from Attending Trade Shows in China
Companies utilizing trade shows and exhibitions as business development and marketing platforms with potential clients and buyers attending, is not a new concept at all. Moreover, nowadays with advances in social media marketing and internet technology such as webinars, Google hangouts, and video conferencing, the value and benefits of marketing and developing business through exhibitions may be questioned by some. However, in fact, whether you are an employee of a large multinational enterprise or an entrepreneur, there are significant benefits one can attain by actually physically attending such events.
Benefits of Exhibitions in General
One of the main benefits of attending a trade show or convention is consolidating the purchasing process down from a timeline of weeks to a single day. According to a survey conducted by Skyline Exhibits and EXPO Magazine, 88% of those polled stated that trade shows are “an important part of the product sourcing and buying process.” In the same survey, 91% of those polled stated that these events “are essential for comparing products and meeting suppliers in person.”
The environment of a trade show itself presents a platform for vendors to compete for your (attendees) business. By simply walking around, attendees can immediately compare numerous companies’ products, prices, and services. This can also be a fast and efficient way to discover the current market trends of one’s interest.
Attendees can also get experience at negotiating as well as acquiring confidence in purchases. Being at a trade show allows attendees the ability to see the products and solutions firsthand and actually touch and work with various products while comparing and contrasting all in one day.
The “Only in China” Experience
Attending trade shows in general is an excellent opportunity for product comparison, a hands-on experience, and networking in general but what are some benefits of attending a trade show in China exclusively?
The venues of most trade shows, conventions, and exhibitions in China are held in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guanzhou due to the fact that most of the Chinese headquarters of domestic and international enterprises are situated in those main cities. One may think that the mind set and business etiquette of Chinese people who live and do business in these international cities may be more inclined towards the “west” and different from the stereotypical “Chinese” ways. The answer is, no. Having face-to-face contact and building a good relationship is the key to success in the Chinese market regardless of the industry. Relationship is called “关系（guanxi）” and without good “guanxi,” the odds will not be in one’s favor. In China, it is important to trust all the people they do business with such as their suppliers, partners, clients, etc. Therefore, it is best to attend trade shows in China with someone who can speak Chinese in order to avoid any language or cultural barriers. It is also extremely important to appear professional, act friendly, be polite, and have a lot of business cards with you but these factors are pretty much given facts and are not limited to China.
Another important factor which may seem a bit odd to westerners is the barcode, WeChat, and business card culture in China. WeChat is a mixture of WhatsApp, Facebook, and Internet banking all combined in one app. As of June 2016, it has been proven that WeChat has 806 million active users. One can do anything, and I mean anything on WeChat. The Chinese text, call, reserve plane tickets, reserve movie tickets, browse for coupons, do their internet banking (wire/receive money), pay their bills, top-up their metro cards, and use the timeline one WeChat called “moments” to write posts, post pictures and comment, share locations etc. Also, every store or restaurant you step foot in in China has their own “barcode” in which consumers can scan via WeChat and receive news letter and coupons. Yes, Chinese technology is on a whole different level than the rest of the world. Furthermore, adding people on WeChat is not like adding people on Facebook or following people on Instagram. It is very common to ask for someone’s WeChat ID when you first meet, whereas asking for someone’s Facebook on the first day you meet may seem a bit desperate or socially awkward in the western world.
In addition to the barcode and WeChat culture, another factor to keep in mind is the different business card etiquette in Asia. In China, Japan, and South Korea, you must hand out and receive business cards with both hands. After receiving the business card, you must look at it and show your interest in the person’s title and occupation. Then, do not put the business card away straight away but rather, hold on to it until you are finished discussing to that person. Never accept or handout business cards with one hand or put business cards in your pocket. It is very disrespectful and can negatively affect your “guanxi” with that person. It is also very common in Asia to have bilingual business cards. Thus it would be smart to have bilingual business cards as well to show your respect for their culture.
So what does this mean for attendees of trade shows in China? This means that you should make a WeChat account before attending and having your personal WeChat barcode on your business card would be even better. Also, remember the Asian business card etiquette and show your interest and be understanding of their culture. Not only will this make the Chinese exhibitors feel happy that you know about their culture and their outstanding invention, WeChat, but it will also help establish the first important foundation of building a “guanxi.”