Want to do business in China, UK ELT's number 2 market?
Our annual China Roadshow is popular with members who want to create more partnerships. This year it visits three major cities – Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen - over six days in November, meeting agents from each region pre-selected by our partners the British Council.
What do members think of the Roadshow? We asked Tregarran Percival, business development manager of UKLC and Nicole Kennedy, sales director of Studio Cambridge.
Nicole says they wanted to get back into the China market, and as a major summer camp provider thought it would make sense to try the Roadshow. "It was so good for us, producing excellent results, that we went back for more in 2017 and have booked again for 2018."
Tregarran says the Roadshow exceeded his expectations because the standard of agents was generally high, and although many were smaller operators they often sent very large groups. "I really think it is the best event for schools who want to recruit junior groups from China."
Nicole adds: "The quality of the agents was what surprised us – there were very few irrelevant meetings, and they were well-informed, engaged and already produce for the UK."
"Invigorating. It's always stimulating to go to China – the market seems to be developing at breakneck pace, and you come away bursting with ideas for new groups and products," says Nicole. Both praise the "excellent organisation", which for Tregarran is particularly important "because it's such an endurance event".
He adds: "The agents do not stick to the meeting schedule very well, so you soon get used to dealing with agents in waves."
"It is a steady stream, but you do get moments to catch a breath between meetings," says Tregarran, while Nicole adds: "It was very busy in Beijing – agents were queuing at the table. There were sometimes lulls in appointments in other cities."
"Print some simple Mandarin language materials or company introduction to save time, learn to exchange business cards the Chinese way, and prepare to be flexible with your programme design. Get a WeChat account – I would find it hard to work with Chinese agents without one," advises Tregarran. He adds: "The Chinese idea of Guanxi means they really do focus on relationships, and it is hard to convert interest in a meeting into students at your school without a lot more time spent on follow up by email and WeChat especially."
Nicole says: "If you haven't been to China for a while, be prepared for big changes in the market – the agents are sophisticated and experienced. If you can, be flexible –agents are looking for new and different products, not just the same-old, same-old. If you can offer bespoke, it will help."
"Absolutely. Travelling with other members and English UK staff is also a great help – members more experienced in the Chinese market can be great sources of information and support," says Nicole.
"We have formed a number of very productive partnerships relationships from the roadshow. It really was the second and third years where it has really 'borne fruit'," says Tregarran. Nicole adds: "We got business from the first workshop, but interestingly, it took a couple of years for other relationships to develop."