Marketing to execs and bosses in China’s hinterlands: don’t let the scenery fool you

Recently I ran across a company that went to the inner provinces of China…they were hoping to sell a B2B concept to executives and managers in their field.

The sight was disconcerting to them: an infrastructure that appeared underdeveloped compared to the US; austere buildings and facilities.

So they made an assumption — maybe these people will feel intimidated by technology, such as computers and powerpoints. Maybe we’re better off stripping all of the technological “bells and whistles” out of the sales presentation, and instead just keep it simple.

Yet, those dusty desks and concrete block offices sometimes belie the true reality.

We’re talking about a country here where 442 million people own a mobile phone (Chinese) — more than the entire US population. While that’s only about one-third of China’s population (over 1.3 billion people in total), it’s still nothing to sneeze about. Computer usage isn’t that much farther behind, with over 100 million users. Plus, China’s 2005 statistics point to a more telling story: computer usage increases with salary (Chinese).
What does this mean? Well, next time you’re visiting General Manager Wang’s office and you find his housekeeping not up to snuff, don’t assume he’s still living in the technological stone age. Chances are — like most of the general managers I met — he owns at least one car and sports a top-of-the-line notebook computer. He has not only heard of Microsoft…MS Office is probably part of his daily routine.

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