Wow! Did we get a chance to have an awesome interview today! We went international and sat down to speak with Dan Stepel, a consultant and LinkedIn Evangelist in China. He was able to give us some amazing insights into Chinese culture, business, and how the people are approaching the new world of social media.
Dan was born in Newark, NJ but for the past ten years he and his wife have lived in China. He began as an adjunct professor, but is now a consultant for Sharpening Axes China, which has cliental like Coca-Cola.
We discussed for a while why there are some companies, like Starbucks, that seem to flourish in the Chinese market while others falter. Dan pointed out that these companies seem to ‘get’ China. For example, Starbucks did not just bring over their most popular drinks and try to get the Chinese to drink them; rather they did a great deal of research and developed a line of drinks in line with the Chinese palate. Starbucks China now serves things like tea flavored coffee. Once a brand is then established in China, a company would have to work really hard to destroy it.
It is interesting to note that in China there is a strong notion of everyone having their place in society. Therefore, even though Starbucks is expensive in China, they do have a strong cliental among certain demographics in cities who are expected to take advantage of such amenities.
Along the same line, we discussed how Apple is currently outsold in China. Steve Jobs did not really enter the Chinese market with a real strategy; he just brought his products to stores and tried to sell them. The company lately has developed such a strategy, and Dan expects Apple to really grow its Asian market soon.
China is also starting to really participate in social media, and they are taking it very seriously. People are working on developing their online personas: displaying their personality and skill. They are also learning the value of pre-call research. They are using social media to get introductions and learn about companies before trying to make a sale.
It was really interesting to hear a bit about social media and social media on the other side of the world. To hear the rest of whar Dan had to say go back and listen!