Marco Klein+Partners is a communication agency that produces audiovisual content for international clients, mostly in Europe. When CEO Marco Klein decided to try his luck on the market in communication in China, he soon found out that the vibrant and dynamic business community of Shanghai has its own ways and rules for conducting business.
Marco Klein’s business, based in Amsterdam, has been successful for years in producing audio-visual productions, commercials, AV tutorials, in-store television, company news bulletins and presentations. The company employs 30+ professionals and has its own film and sound studios and video editing and animation facilities. “As I was convinced that AV is a universal language that everybody understands, I took up the challenge my client MediaMarkt offered us. They opened a store in China in 2011 and I was happy to become their local AV-partner for the production of, for example, in-store videos.”
International and Chinese clients
The first step was to hire a local computer animator. In 2012, when the business from international clients showed growth, the company settled officially as a WFOE, rented an office and hired more staff (now 8). Klein adopted a routine of flying to China frequently. Two years later, his China operation is doing well, thanks to a growing number of international and Chinese clients. “Video is important on the internet, that shows tremendous growth numbers in China. Almost half of our business in Shanghai is online video.” Klein’s USP is quality. “There is a tremendous amount of video in everyday life in China, but of a low technical quality. By offering ‘European quality’, we have an edge over many competitors.”
Local business mentality
In hindsight, Klein admits that he had to learn the local business mentality. “I had to adjust my standard presentation for China, to make it more appealing to Chinese. I noticed the importance of credibility, so I included the brand names of the equipment we work with.” And: a European track record is worthless in China. We needed a local track record and have been working hard to build this with event videos, internet AV content, instore TV and company presentations.” As Klein found out, clients don’t come by themselves. “I learned to present our business multiple times to clients in order to gain their trust. When I am in Shanghai, there are often 20 presentations in a few days. I learned to invest all of my time in talks – there is no way around this. Patience pays.”
On the other hand, Klein insists: things can go really, really fast. “A ‘yes’ can mean instant business, and a lot of it. Seven days a week. You can get a call on Saturday afternoon from a new client that wants a plan on his desk the next morning. That is Sunday morning.”
Klein warns ‘newbies’ in China’s communication business arena. First: “Be prepared to negotiate long, hard and often, mainly about cost issues.” Second: “Accept changes, all the time. Making a deal and signing a contract is great. A deal for three company videos may change into two, or even five or six! Just take these changes as they come, and do like the Chinese do. Which brings me back to the first time I visited Shanghai. The vibrant business society really struck me, I wanted to be part of it. I know now that success in China depends a lot on focus and willpower.”
A sample of Marco Klein + Partners work: this short video explains how to establish a WFOE in China.