From time to time, owners of small and mid-sized companies in the United States have approached me with the question: "We have excellent products/services/technology, can we make some money from China with them? By the way, though we can't afford to set up a China-team to handle all the work, challenges and potential headaches, we'd still love to explore the opportunity." I get it. What they mean is, they want to collect checks while leaving the hard work and stress to someone else. I am glad that these companies' owners have this idea. Why not?
First of all, I want to reiterate that it is important to make a plan for China as soon as you believe you have something unique to offer. Committing to the sale and distribution of your products in China is an excellent starting point. It may not be as hard as you think.
Minimally, you can add the Chinese language to your website and support Paypal or credit card payment. Chinese are searching for things to buy all over the world. At the same time, more and more Chinese students are attending U.S. colleges and universities, estimated 250K enrolled, not to mention those Chinese who live and work in the U.S., who constantly share their shopping experiences with their friends and relatives back in China. The mobile application WeChat makes sharing information cross-border much faster and easier. Not infrequently, friends and family in China send me messages via WeChat asking me to help them check out products such as omeprazole, ballet shoes sold at a tiny store in mid-town Manhattan, and Vitamix blenders, some of which I have never heard of and wondered where they got the information. Therefore, if you cannot afford to make any other effort, please try one thing: put up a Chinese language website and it might bring you some pleasant surprise.
If you want to take one step further, the next thing you can try is to engage someone to put together a simple on-line distribution plan, if you have consumer products. Companies with services or technology may need to consider a different route. Chinese consumers like to scout market places like Amazon and eBay for products. Market places that facilitate international transactions offer windows to showcase and sell your products.
However, not surprisingly, being in China and working with a local team that understands both ecommerce and brick & mortor distribution has proven to be the most productive way to tap into the China market. And, it is a great time for small and mid-sized companies to sell to China. Internet and mobile platforms offer much leaner and more direct distribution and marketing channels for companies of all sizes. Unlike the old days when multi-nationals with more marketing budgets dominated the market, today "Chinese playing field" is more level and small companies with limited marketing budget have all the chance to be successful. As long as you put together a prudent, executable plan, size of your company does not matter, any more. More and more examples of small companies successfully selling their products into China, many of which have small presence in the United States.
One last thing, before pursuing selling and distributing your products in China hire a lawyer to register your trademarks in China. It will not cost much and it will prevent the potential theft of your trademarks.