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The Challenge of China

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China has once again topped the list of Australia's two-way trading partners, so it's no surprise that David Thomas, CEO of Think Global Consulting and BRIC (Brazil Russia India China) expert, believes that now is the time for Australia’s small and medium exporters to develop a China strategy. "Every company in Australia should have a China strategy. The strategy could be to do nothing, for various reasons, but at least it's based on some sound decision-making as opposed to saying it's too hard," he says. "I sense there's a lot of focus at the big end of town, particularly the resources sector, and I don't think there's enough focus at the small end of town. While we're good at digging stuff out of the ground and shipping it to China, we're also very good at doing it in a very efficient way and it's the efficiency China needs." Think Global, along with Incite Management Group and China Blueprint, is running the 88 Day China Marketing Challenge, a program designed to take businesses from strategy to implementation over a three to six month period. Thomas says businesses aren’t taking China seriously enough. "The aim of the program is to provide a framework, a structure and a little bit of urgency around encouraging Australian small business to engage with China. It's basically an end-to-end program that's designed to get some real results as opposed to some nice conversations," he notes. "There are lots of people thinking about it, lots of people talking about it; I don't see too much urgency in terms of actually making things happen." Incite will help participants develop a business and an export plan, and advise them on running a better business, bringing discipline into the mix. Think Global shows businesses the various opportunities and provides participants with a vision of what China could be for them. Then China Blueprint gives businesses hands-on experience, allowing them to build a network and implement the strategy. Thomas says the reason for this three-pronged approach is the lack of direction many businesses experience when thinking about China. One of the mistakes is not doing enough research. "They get on a plane, they have some meetings and they never really do the research. As a small player, if you make a mistake it could wipe out your whole business. It has to be done properly." And that research must generate real feedback about your business and your product or service, he believes. "We want the program to be results-focused from beginning to end. The only meetings we want people to have are those that contribute to that. While there will be some meet and greet-you have to have that to build relationships-we also want to mix that with detailed research so people can see how their product and their service will do in China." Participants don’t need to sign up to all three stages, but they do need to set some goals, notes Thomas: "Our determination is that they get the support they need to achieve a sale or a business transaction or a partnership, something they can say was a tangible result from doing the program." The 88 Day China Marketing Challenge will run from between February to September 2010. For more details, see www.thinkglobal.com.au/88day_challenge.html

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