Managing a Challenging Market Entry
American Internet companies have found China an extraordinary challenge. China's netizens have gone from newbies to sophisticates almost overnight, and are now among the world's most demanding users; China's sharpest entrepreneurs are studying the success of their foreign counterparts, duplicating their services in Chinese, and then tweaking their sites to match China's market at disconcerting speeds; and each day regulators in Beijing are more convinced that China's Internet should belong to Chinese companies. The result has been a chain of spectacular failures as one US web giant after another leaves China behind, often to the tune of opprobrium at home and in Washington for venturing into China in the first place.
Seeking to become the exception to the rule and understanding that market savvy and wise communications would be key success factors, a major US online services company approached Allison+Partners early in their China planning process. The challenge: help the company enter the Chinese market in a way that won over local audiences, avoided regulatory censure, and proactively addressed the concerns of American users, activists, and legislators.
Partnering with the company's chief communications officer, Allison+Partners helped our client craft a strategy to capture market attention without either upsetting Beijing or prematurely tipping-off potential competitors. We provided insight and direction on working with activists and staffers on Capitol Hill to address their concerns before the client actually entered China. We helped develop internal and external messaging that was consistent across all audience groups. And we guided senior executives - from the CEO on down - with market insights and advice designed to help them develop a gut feel for the market.
Eight months later, the client not only has a thriving online business in China, but also has earned praise from users, China hands and analysts for executing one of the wisest and best-received market entries by a US Internet companies ever.
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